It’s one thing to step outside of your comfort zone. Managed well, you can learn a lot from almost any challenge – as individuals, and at a team or organisational level.  

It’s another thing to really struggle through something which was unplanned and which might have dire consequences. All without knowing whether, or how, to get through it, and crucially, what awaits on the other side. 

No team wants to be in that position … but sometimes the shit just does hit the fan. 

On occasions, the challenge itself is what leads a team to become unstuck. Sometimes, it’s the aftermath. Regardless of when it happens, trust is lost, people leave or are exhausted, lessons are not learned and there is no moving forwards. 

And yet, there are plenty of difficult, tricky or uncomfortable situations that do bring people together in such a way that they come out the other side stronger as individuals and as a team. 

These situations or challenges might not be colossal in themselves, but the consequences may be. They may consist of common day-to-day challenges in a team, like getting a funding proposal together on time, or coping after key people in your team have left the fold. Or something far greater. They may be one-offs or a series of small events which build over time. Whatever those events or challenges are, you obviously want to come out on top and not let them sink the team

So what’s the difference? What makes an event into something that breaks or strengthens a team?

I believe there is huge importance in how you handle things afterwards. In other words: what you learn from a challenge 

As an example, I have recently worked with a couple of teams from large charities. Before getting stuck into the main body of work that we were doing, we looked at their successes over the last year. The reasoning for them was that they had had some really tough times over the last year. They wanted to celebrate the good stuff (and not dwell on what had gone wrong). They wanted to learn from the challenge they had overcome. 

One of the key things these teams had in common was a “triumph over adversity”. The feeling that getting through some really tough times had made them stronger in the long run. While the tough situation might not be have been fun, the end result was a sense of unity and solidarity experienced from all facing the same challenge, and working through it together. 

A lot of the time, I’m asked to facilitate after the event: firefighting done, pieces (mostly) picked up. The team is entering the ‘moving forwards’ phase. Now is the time for a conversation to work through what happened. Likewise, it is also time to collect up the ‘lessons learned’ for good use in the future.

Taking the time to look back before jumping forwards makes all the difference.

People often don’t realise it at the time, but that shared experience is the foundation of building resilience and strength in the team. Moving forward from a challenge is about recognising the successes to remind everyone of the good stuff. Understanding the things the team does do well together. It changes the thinking from ‘that was awful’ or ‘it was their fault’ into a much stronger and more positive ‘we did it once, we can do it again’.

It is also important to find space to build on that the great sense of being in this together during times of trouble. Solidarity is one of the things that helps a team to trust each other, to understand each other and to continue to collaborate effectively. So let’s not waste this opportunity to solidify the solidarity!

After all as a team, when working on a plan, solving a problem or defining a vision, collaboration is key. 

You might not want to go through another challenge again. But, in business, as in life, you can’t plan for everything. It is key to create a strong team before the next ‘thing’. That way, you and your team will have a fighting chance of coming out on top the next time something doesn’t go your way. 

Get in touch to see how we can help you learn from a challenge and build a stronger, more resilient team.

Read more about our Dynamic Debrief Workshop which specifically focuses on learning the lessons from a project or challenge so that your team retains trust, builds resilience and moves forwards with ease and efficiency. 

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