A team is more than just a collection of individuals. When people work on a shared task, a set of group dynamics develops that can enhance or diminish their ability to get things done.

If we look at a team through the lens of resilience, we can see that each person on the team brings their own predispositions for adapting to change. Some people bring a lot of positive energy, others focus more on the negative. Some are extremely focused, others are easily distracted.

When the team encounters change and needs to respond, the effectiveness with which it can do so depends on its ability to use its combined energy wisely and well to manage disruption, stay on task, and generate results. If the team’s energy is lifted by its more positive members, the prognosis is better than if energy is drained by the more negative individuals. The same is true for each of the other resilience characteristics–if the team can bring its most positive, focused, flexible, organized, and proactive energy forward, it is more likely to thrive in turbulence than if energy is drained by negativity, diffusion of purpose, inflexibility, lack of structure, and aversion to risk.

What makes the difference? Why do some teams leverage resilience strengths easily while others can’t seem to do so? The primary difference is in the group dynamics. If the team is oriented around a shared purpose and members value each other, are aware of their own resilience strengths and weaknesses, and operate skillfully to ensure that each resilience characteristic is brought to the table when needed, the team can generally find its way through the turbulence.

The team I work with is a great example. I am strong in several characteristics, but less so in the flexible/social and organized ones. One member sometimes has challenges with the positive/world characteristic, and others share my weakness in the organized characteristic. We are able to discuss these differences and coach and support one another. And as we search for a new team member, we are clear that the organized characteristic is an important element for them to bring. Because we are clear about our shared goals and value one another, we are able to leverage our strengths (at least most of the time!) when we encounter the unexpected.

We’ve just finished a pilot in which we helped several practitioners analyze the group dynamics of their teams to help them identify places where they could strengthen their approach to change. It was fascinating to see how the teams differed, both in the mix of personal resilience characteristics that were present and in the group dynamics. We’re hoping to continue to explore this issue with more teams over time.

What about you? As you think about the teams you’re on, what resilience strengths are present? How effectively do you leverage these strengths when the team encounters turbulence?