Embedding SMEs’ resilience skills for success during times of significant change

After months of working from home, most teams have developed and implemented productivity hacks and become masters of the mute button. But SME leaders should not ignore the toll the pandemic is taking on the mental health of their teams.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians reports having high levels of psychological distress.

Leaders have been exploring the best way to respond to these challenges, from replicating the office culture to upskilling their workforce. Successful project delivery has never been more important, and one of the best things a business can do is help its staff develop their resilience.

Resilience is one of the critical ingredients for successful project delivery as it helps individuals find the mindset to complete the project, whatever the challenges. But what does it mean to be resilient? And how can SMEs develop and embed resilience in their people?

Famous psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said that “between stimulus and response there is space, and in that space is our power to choose our response.” This space is where resilience lies, and there are four crucial skills leaders can leverage for success.

Leadership

Ensuring employees have the correct information and are empowered to make their own decisions is key to building confidence and reducing stress and is essential for creating resilient individuals and a resilient workforce. Leaders need to set the tone from the top to be truly effective

Role model leaders create a culture to inspire their people to reach out to others for information, motivation, support, and resources. The pandemic has introduced a tremendous amount of uncertainty, so crucial leadership skills – including being open and transparent with teams about change – helps to reduce stress, assisting employees to focus on quality work and remain productive.

Communication

The shift to remote working has been stressful for the majority of employees. Challenges include juggling work alongside childcare and homeschooling, social isolation and the ability to find quiet places to work. Ensuring leaders are equipped with the skills to have open and honest communication channels with teams and individuals is essential to help prevent burnout. Ensure that processes are in place to support and enhance resilience.

Excellent communication skills enable leaders to adjust resources, reassess priorities, and ensure that the team understands how and why their skills are used to achieve the end goal. This capability helps to build resilience and confidence.

Create healthy boundaries

Resilient environments do not happen by accident or overnight: leaders must address team effectiveness and establish boundaries as an integral part of the process.

Establishing agreed-upon ways of working and norms of behaviour helps leaders define those healthy boundaries to create a dynamic and supportive environment, ultimately helping to deliver improved project results.

Training and development

Getting a steady stream of feedback on team well-being can help to nip problems in the bud. Gather input during team meetings or use anonymous surveys to allow people to speak their minds. However, leaders must act on this feedback for change to occur. Putting processes in place to support team resilience is essential, coupled with robust training and development.

As SME leaders increasingly experiment with agile ways of working to deliver projects, the team needs the correct skill sets to understand and identify the best ways of working, recognizing how to use the right skills in the right way at the right time.

The pandemic has brought about change and disruption on a significant scale. However, the workforce also experiences constant and ongoing smaller-scale disturbances. Leveraging project skills to boost resilience amongst SME leaders and teams will help organisations respond to such challenges more effectively.

Author: Ben Breen is managing director, Asia Pacific, and global head of construction at the Project Management Institute. 

This article was first published on Inside Small Business, a sibling publication to Inside Franchise Business Executive.