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Leading Agile Teams: How to Foster Resilience and Innovation | MUA

Leaders are seeing increasing value in professional skill sets like resilience and agility, and these same qualities are what they should be working to emulate. If you want a team of agile individuals, it’s important to lead by example and foster a positive, innovative culture within your team. This is already a challenge but with extra pressure during a crisis or amidst change and it can be even harder to ‘walk the talk.’ Here are a few things to consider implementing into your leadership handbook and the positive effects they can have for you and your team.

Encourage Discourse and Discussions

The point of a team is to collaborate, be innovative, and promote creativity. In the whirlwind of change and uncertainty, leaders tend to lean on what they are familiar with. At times, they’ll make knee-jerk decisions based on preconceptions instead of analyzing the individual factors that are unique to a situation. It can cause stress initially, but taking the time to pause and invite collaboration can be well worth the few extra minutes it may take.  

According to research from McKinsey “Leaders need to shift to a creative mindset of discovery, which is about playing to win, seeking diversity of thought, fostering creative collision, embracing risk, and experimenting.” Instead of working to avoid failure, leaders need to be open to finding multiple wrong solutions in order to find the best one for that specific problem. A team willing to have open discussions in search of the best solution is one way to get there.

Direction Over Destination

As Greg Anderson said “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” This applies to life overall and also to individual aspects of it, such as the business world.

It can feel important when working towards a solution to be focused on only that, the solution. But so much more discovery can be made when looking at all the different possible solutions, the way your team is problem-solving, and what similar issues you could prepare for or solve with a few minutes of topic diverted conversation.

Encourage team members to offer creative solutions or ask questions about existing processes. Bringing in expertise from different areas can widen the scope of your initial direction and offer new opportunities. Leaders should facilitate their team to work with a specific vision not just toward completing tasks or hitting objectives. The direction leaders choose to move their teams in should be clear and communicated. Team members should understand and agree that the direction they are moving in is progress otherwise, the work will be disjointed, and the team will feel they are working without true purpose. If the direction isn’t solution-oriented, improving efficiency, increasing functionality, or unlocking new insights, you might need to go back to brainstorming.

Prioritize Personal Growth

To be able to effectively lead a team, you need to have a clear understanding of how you personally cope with stress, define progress, handle feedback, and your overall strengths and weaknesses. Being fully in tune with yourself allows you to help your team through awareness of your needs, their needs, and the balance of the two. This kind of self-awareness isn’t something that comes overnight. Being retrospective and reflective through daily journaling is one way to understand yourself on a deeper level.

In time, you can use the information you receive from self-reflection to identify areas you want to work on or gain a better understanding of. Touching on the previous concept of direction focus, look at your personal growth the same way. As one McKinsey article puts it, “Thinking of yourself as a living laboratory helps make the task of leading an agile, ever-shifting company exciting instead of terrifying.”‍

You, your team, and even the organization you are part of will benefit from you prioritizing your personal growth. At first, making these changes will feel awkward or unnatural since they aren’t what you are used to doing. But in time you will see and feel the benefits through your own adaptability, your team’s newfound creativity and agility, and a conviction of self.