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5 tactics to help direct managers boost employee resilience

Building resilience is critical for your employees to handle the uncertainty and changes that are bound to cross their career paths. That’s easier said than done, though. Luckily, there are ways to build a more resilient team – and the pivotal figures in this regard already work at your company. We’re talking, of course, about direct managers.

“In most companies, direct managers play a key role in boosting employee resilience at work,” explains Eric Junes, Sr Talent Sourcing & Development Expert at SD Worx. “The problem is that they wear various caps at once: they need to have their team’s, company’s, customers’ and own interest at heart. That’s a tough balancing act. But with the right tools, insights and behaviours, they can adapt their leadership style to become people managers rather than just operational managers.” Here are five tactics to achieve just that.

#1 Create meaning and foster engagement

A clear purpose that goes beyond themselves makes employees feel more connected with their team members and the larger company. Direct managers can help their teams feel this sense of connection and belonging to add to their resilience. This can be done by encouraging employees to contribute and participate in day-to-day team meetings and team building activities, but also by regularly providing them with more context and concrete insights into how their work helps to put the company’s mission and vision into practice.

#2 Focus on accomplishments

Acknowledging good work and successes is an impactful – yet often neglected – way to increase employees’ resilience. When kudos are given, it keeps a team motivated and makes them feel appreciated. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore setbacks and struggles. It’s equally important to talk about the obstacles and difficulties faced by your employees. By bringing these out into the open in a positive and encouraging way, you help boost collaboration and provide a sense of psychological safety within your teams.

Post-challenge debriefs, when handled constructively, can also be beneficial to employees’ resilience. They encourage team members to reflect on the experience while fostering group discussions where colleagues learn from one another. Consequently, feedback on struggles and failures is framed as a learning opportunity or as insights for improvement. This avoids employees feeling blamed or judged. It also makes them focus on what could go better in the future rather than what went wrong in the past, bolstering their resilience in the process.

#3 Play to your employees’ strong suits

Confidence and resilience go hand in hand. The more confident employees feel about their skills and work, the more resistant they’ll be to stress. As a direct manager, be sure to identify the individual strengths of each of your team members and put them in roles and positions that allow them to capitalize on these strengths. Of course, this also ties in with the previous tip: by making an effort to recognize and reward a job well done, you help build confidence – and thereby resilience – in your employees through the power of positive reinforcement.

#4 Outline a path for growth

Some employees – especially newcomers and entry-level workers – benefit greatly from a framework for growth to rise above challenges and develop professionally. By outlining what it takes for them to excel at their work and grow into highly skilled and successful team members, direct managers can provide employees with clarity and security on where their careers are going. The clearer the path forward, the less anxious employees tend to be – which, in turn, enhances their resilience levels at work.

#5 Lead by example

Experiencing and sharing positive emotions – such as joy, enthusiasm, curiosity, agreement and calmness – is a key contributing factor to building one’s resilience. Of course, with regard to feelings, a lot depends on your employees themselves. However, as a direct manager, you’re able to steer the emotional direction your team is heading in and you can foster a supportive culture.

When facing obstacles, missteps or adversity, make sure to keep a positive mindset, a problem-solving attitude and an optimistic view of the future. That way, through your leadership style, you serve as a role model when it comes to focussing on the future, dealing with issues, being empathetic and creating trust – which are all building blocks of resilience.

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