Follow These Steps To Build A Resilient Team

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We are all doing more with less in our workplaces.

Change and constant challenges have become the new normal. VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) is now a constant that both individuals and teams are having to manage on a daily basis. Teams can either demonstrate agility to manage this environment or they can basically get stuck in the mud.

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Being Resilient at work is about creating SUSTAINABLE success rather than simply coping over the short term.

It involves the capacity to:

•      Create a climate that promotes cohesion and allows all members to manage the pressures of work while staying physically and mentally healthy.

•      Adapt to change and collectively respond and learn from unexpected setbacks such as changes in job role, workload or working arrangements.

•      Be proactive and anticipate and position for future challenges together.

To achieve these capabilities as a team all members of the team need to take responsibility for their personal resilience and mental toughness.

However, investing in the resilience of individual members alone does not guarantee a resilient team. If you put a group of very talented musicians together – soloists in their own right, this does not mean they will be able to instantly work together in an orchestra to play a beautiful symphony. It takes a lot of hard work before they can play together in harmony.

We need alignment with those we work with.

•      A sense of purpose

•      Having support

•      Being able to engage in self care

•      Taking accountability and responsibility.

An organisation needs to consider a systemic approach to team resilience. This includes:

Individual factors

•      If we all work on our individual resilience we can make a difference,

•      But the team we work with and the leader we report to can either promote or detract from our resilience.

•      As a result, a focus on individuals alone can limit the sustainability of any changes we attempt to make.

Team Level Factors

•      Resilience at a team level is not simply the sum of the resilience of each member.

•      Collectively we need to develop an environment that fosters resilience.

•      Including – creation of a shared purpose, mutual support and accountability.

•      Without this alignment and cooperation, we can work against, rather than for, the resilience of those we work with.

•      We also need to promptly attend to counter-productive behaviour.

Leader Level Factors

•      Leaders have substantial impact on their team.

•      A leader can promote, or detract from resilience through role modelling.

•      A leader directly influences the work place climate.

•      Are leadership practises supported by their actions.

So what are the components of a Resilient team?

•      ROBUST – having shared purpose, goals and values and the skills needed to do the job. Being proactive when issues arise from the team.

•      RESOURCEFUL – Harnessing team member strengths and resources and building a culture of continuous improvement.

•      PERSERVERENCE – Staying optimistic and having a solution, rather than a problem focus. Persisting in the face of obstacles.

•      SELF-CARE – Promoting and deploying good stress management routines and being alert to overload in members. – Supporting work-life balance.

•      CAPABILITY – Continually building capacity through accessing networks and supports. Seeking feedback and building on what works.

•      CONNECTED – Caring for colleagues as people and being co—operative and supportive with each other.

•      ALIGNMENT – Aligning and developing the talents of team members to create the desired outcomes. Sharing and celebrating success with each other.

So how can you commence having a conversation with your team to build resilience?

Step 1 Recognising what you currently do well that creates resilience and then map these against the 7 components.

Step 2  Rate the teams overall performance in each of the components.

Step 3 Start to formulate a plan determining both team strengths and areas worth further exploration.

This is just the start to having a proactive conversation between leaders and team members which can result in significant benefits for team resilience.

Want to know more about building team resilience and mental toughness? If so, contact me at for more information on team sessions and strategy.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.



Could Social Anxiety be Related To Character?

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As a Psychologist, I am always considering new ways to approach the assistance I provide to clients. I often find anxiety and more specifically social anxiety an issue which impacts many and from time to time we can all experience different levels of these symptoms.

It was therefore with great interest that I reviewed this recent article from Ryan Niemiec in Psychology Today about the potential relationship between social anxiety and character strengths.

Take it away Ryan:

When you hear the phrase "social anxiety",” you probably think of negative-oriented words like fearful, scared, and afraid. Mental health professionals who diagnose social anxiety disorder will look for a “persistent social fear,” “fear of performance situations,” “fear of being around new people,” "fear of embarrassing oneself,” and a “fear of being criticised by others.”

These represent a deficit-based approach—it is exclusively looking at what's wrong or weak. This is an unbalanced approach, yet still remains the mainline approach used in psychology and counselling and across the medical field in general.

Is this the only way to look at social anxiety?

A new study says, “No.” One of the important findings to emerge from the science of character is that not only do human beings have 24 character strengths that boost well-being but that these strengths are not always used to our benefit. It is possible to overuse any of your character strengths. For example, if you use too much curiosity by asking your shy colleague one too many questions, they might start to view you as nosey and bothersome. Conversely, you can underuse your character strengths. For example, if you never give money to an important work charity, year after year, your colleagues might come to view you as low in generosity or underusing your strength of kindness.

Back to social anxiety disorder. How might the underuse and overuse of character strengths be operating here?

Pavel Freidlin and Hadassah Littman-Ovadia, and I investigated this question. We developed a new test called Overuse, Underuse, Optimal-Use (OUOU) Survey of Strengths and gave it to people with and without a social anxiety disorder. While there were many interesting findings, one in particular stuck out to me. It turns out a unique combination of six overuses/underuses of strengths could be used to identify people with the disorder from those without (with over 87% accuracy!). This is the first actual study of character strength overuse/underuse to be published.

Here are the six overuses/underuses, along with an explanation of why they are relevant to social anxiety (they are not listed in any order of importance):

1.) Overuse of social intelligence

What it means: You are analysing your thoughts and feelings too much. You might also be quick to over-analyse the intentions and actions of others.

How this relates to social anxiety: You are probably giving extra attention to your nervousness and worry and less attention to more balanced thoughts and other feelings (such as excitement, interest, and hope). For example, you might see a hand gesture or expression on someone’s face and come to an immediate conclusion that they are thinking something negative about you.

2.) Overuse of humility

What it means: You have little interest in talking about yourself or any of your accomplishments. When people praise you for doing something good, you feel uncomfortable and awkward and say little to nothing.

How this relates to social anxiety: Humility is an important strength and can have social benefits. However, too much humility in certain situations can lead to depriving others of learning about you. If people can’t learn about you, it’s hard for them to connect with you, which can subsequently contribute to sub-optimal social situations.

3.) Underuse of zest

What it means: If others perceive you as coming across without even a moderate amount of energy, you might be perceived as uninterested or lacking in enthusiasm. Zest is one of the character strengths most connected with happiness, so in some situations, you might even come across as “unhappy.”

How this relates to social anxiety: In order to contribute to social situations, you need to express energy. If you are bringing forth too little of energy, you won’t contribute as much. This underuse feeds your “avoidance” mechanism which is a problem because "avoidance of fear" is a hallmark feature of all types of anxiety. Socially anxious people avoid what they are afraid of, which further perpetuates the cycle of anxiety. Underuse of zest feeds this process.

4.) Underuse of humour

What it means: In some social situations, you are especially serious and don't smile, joke, laugh, or see the lighter side of things. While that might be appropriate behaviour at times, there are situations where humour is particularly important—take, for example, socializing with friends or co-workers at a restaurant.

How this relates to social anxiety: Socially, humour and playfulness are kings (or queens). People generally want to be around funny or playful people. They want to laugh and have a good time. If you underuse humour in social situations, you are essentially eliminating one of the main pathways to connecting and socializing with others.

5.) Underuse of social intelligence

What it means: You are not particularly attuned to your own feelings or the feelings of others. You pay little attention to social cues, body language, or the circumstances of the social situation you are in.

How this relates to social anxiety: Social situations often require a subtle and nuanced level of awareness of feelings and circumstance. People unaware of their own feelings, unable to speak appropriately to those feelings, unaware of how others might be feeling, or unaware of how to query and discuss others’ feelings are at a significant disadvantage. Furthermore, those who sense this reality within themselves are prone to feel more anxious about this disconnect. People with social anxiety may also misinterpret cues or misread body language, further contributing to the problem.

6.) Underuse of self-regulation

What it means: You have some difficulties in managing your reactions to others or in managing your feelings or personal habits. You may come across as lacking discipline (in your speech and behaviour).

How this relates to social anxiety: The best social interactions involve a balanced back and forth of questioning, sharing, and communicating. If your self-regulation is particularly low in these situations, you may appear insensitive to others. This can impact the interaction and contribute to anxiety.

Taking action:

1.) The first step is awareness. If you or someone you know suffers from social anxiety, what is it like for you (or for them) to look at anxiety in this way? The best course of action with this new research is to reflect on how you might be overusing or underusing these particular character strengths in social situations. This will lead you to new insights and ideas for taking action.

2.) Think about social anxiety from the lens of overuse and underuse. This does not mean you have to get rid of deficit-based thinking or attending to symptoms and other parts that feel “wrong” about you. Instead, you now have an empowering language and a new lens for looking at this challenge.


There are different subtypes of social anxiety disorder that have not been addressed in this article. These are quite wide-ranging, for example, there are social fears involving eating in restaurants, giving presentations, and using public restrooms, to name a few. Thus, the overuse/underuse of these character strengths will need to be adapted accordingly.

Remember, this is a new study so it is important to have these findings replicated in additional studies. If these findings above are also found in future research, this could lead to new treatment approaches to this relatively common and painful condition.

Check out the full article here.

Want to know more about gaining strategies to understand your character strengths. Send me an email at to enquire about building your potential to maximise and manage your strengths.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Wellbeing Strategist, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing. You can find her at or


Is Resilience Enough?

Building resilience

Building resilience

Everywhere you go within organisations today, leaders are discussing opportunities to increase their resilience and that of their team. Leaders want their teams to be able to “bounce back” and manage adversity much more effectively. Many are preaching to us about creating resilient individuals and a resilient workforce. But is resilience alone really enough?

Is it simply enough to recover after adversity strikes? Is it enough to simply “survive”? Or should we be setting the bar much higher? How can we actually THRIVE in a constantly changing environment? The current VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) landscape we live and work in means that we not only have to respond when adversity strikes us, we have to be able to thrive within a landscape where challenges and change are constant. The question is, are leaders and their teams equipped to deal with this “new normal”? Leaders need to be confident to be able to manage constant challenges and “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. For this we need more than resilience, we need Mental Toughness.

Mental Toughness incorporates the concept of resilience but adds in two very important additions. These additions are our confidence and our ability to not only manage and thrive in challenging circumstances, but to see challenge as an opportunity.

A Mentally Tough individual is focused on making things happen without being distracted by their own or other peoples’ emotions. Research demonstrates high mental toughness explains up to 25% of the variation in attainment with respect to performance. Mentally Tough individuals are generally more engaged, more positive and have a more “can do” attitude. They also report higher levels of well being, better stress management and less bullying and are more positive to change.

Mental Toughness can now be measured using the MTQ48. This is a valid and reliable psychometric tool which only takes 8-10 minutes to complete and provides a profile of overall mental toughness as well as scores on the 4Cs of Control, Commitment, Confidence and Challenge.

Leaders now have the opportunity to enhance their skills to embrace change and challenges and thrive in a VUCA environment and in turn, they can then assist their team to build these characteristics through dedicated training and coaching.

Want to know how to build your Mental Toughness and that of your team? Send me an email at to enquire about coaching and training to develop Mental Toughness in your team.

So What Is Mental Toughness?

So what is Mental Toughness?

Mental Toughness is a personality trait which is emerging as the key to understanding how people respond to stress, pressure and challenge. The research shows us that mental toughness is a key factor in resilience and sustainable performance. It can in fact account for up to 25% of the variation in an individual’s performance and is a significant factor in wellbeing.

There are many exercises that you can do to help you develop your mental strength. Try these on for size.

1) Evaluate your Core Beliefs – We all develop core beliefs about ourselves, our lives and the world around us. They build up over time, based on our experiences and interactions with the world. You may be very conscious of what they are, or have minimal insight – but they are there. Sometimes these core beliefs are inaccurate or unproductive. If you believe you’ll always fail when under pressure or during a test, then it is likely that you will never believe you will succeed and probably never really try. These beliefs can in some way, become self-fulfilling prophecies. Think about identifying some of your core beliefs and “put them on trial”. Look for beliefs that are black and white or make you “catastrophise”. Very few things in life are “always” or “never” true. Could you modify your thinking and core beliefs? It can be hard work – but oh so worth it.

2) Make your ANTs your PETS – We all have ANTs in our heads – don’t panic, I don’t mean the little creepy crawly kind, I mean Automatic Negative Thoughts. These thoughts sap your confidence. We don’t often actually spend much time thinking about how we think. But increasing awareness of your thinking habits is hugely helpful to build our mental toughness and resilience. Thoughts such as “I can’t do anything right” stop us from reaching our goals and our potential. Catch your negative thoughts and turn them into PETs – Performance Enhancing Thoughts. Now notice we don’t call them Positive Enhancing Thoughts. We don’t want to just look at the world through rose coloured glasses. We want to be optimistic for sure, but realistically so. Is it actually true that you “Can’t do anything right?” What other evidence exists for you getting it right quite a bit, in fact a lot? Usually in life there are never only two options, left or right, black or white, right or wrong. We always have a few shades of grey. So could we put a slightly different slant on our ANTs and question them, explore options, alternatives? Could we enhance our performance by changing and managing our thought? Perhaps ANTS are actually just termites in disguise and they can’t stand the light of reason, because they are not reasonable.

3) What is within your circle of influence – Do you waste your mental energy ruminating about things that are outside of your control. Worry is a complete waste of time. All it does is steal your joy and keep you busy doing nothing. Save your mental energy for productive tasks such as solving a problem that is within your control or setting goals. Make a conscious effort to shift your mental energy to something productive. The more you practice expending your mental energy wisely, the more habit forming it will become.

So try these strategies on for size, just for starters. There’s a lot more you can do.

Are you interested in measuring your own Mental Toughness? The MTQ48 is the world’s first valid and reliable psychometric tool measuring Mental Toughness. It measures 4 key areas relating to:

  • Control – believing you can control your destiny

  • Challenge – seeing challenge as an opportunity

  • Commitment – being able to stick to tasks

  • Confidence – having high levels of self-belief

Contact Michelle Bakjac at Bakjac Consulting on 0412047590 or if you would like to assess and build your Mental Toughness.