Leaders who encourage their employees to learn have more resilient teams

Uncovering the important role of leadership and employee voice in the resilience process.


In today’s complex business environment, a team’s capacity to bounce back from adversities or setbacks is increasingly valuable. This team resilience capacity has been proposed as a potential asset for work teams to maintain performance in the face of adverse events.

To better understand the antecedents and consequences of team resilience capacity, scientists from the Rice University and the University of Windsor have developed a resource-based model that delineates critical team inputs and outputs of resilience capacity. With the help of this model, scientists determined what makes employees more resilient and fosters learning in the workplace.

They found that the teams tend to be more effective and resilient if their bosses encourage employees to take risks, make suggestions and learn from the process. In other words, leaders who encourage their employees to learn on the job and speak up with ideas and suggestions for change have more effective and resilient teams in the face of unexpected situations.

Scientists specifically examined the interactions of 48 teams from five Canadian technology startups.

Danielle King, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Rice, studied what makes employees more resilient and fosters learning in the workplace said“Understanding what organizations can do to help employees become more resilient is the focus of our work in my WorKing Resilience Research Laboratory. In addition, this research project offered an opportunity to uncover the important role of leadership and employee voice in the resilience process.”

“Creating a work environment centered around learning and open communication is helpful as teams grow and take on new tasks. However, leaders must reinforce this workplace culture with positive language that signals openness and a focus on their development.”

“Knowing that you have a leader who is focused on learning and not just on performance outcomes is critical. It’s also important for them to be intentional about communicating this regularly to employees, as it can make all the difference in building more resilient teams. Leaders need to reward a learning mindset verbally. For example, when a boss responds to an employee who makes an on-the-job error by saying, ‘Great, now you can learn from this experience,’ rather than berating them for making a mistake, it makes a big difference.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Kyle M. Brykman et al. A Resource Model of Team Resilience Capacity and Learning. DOI: 10.1177/10596011211018008
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