Recruiting for Resilience

Published: June 3, 2014

When the leadership team completed the assessment of their culture, they reached the conclusion that the most effective teammates were the ones most aligned with the energy of change. Conversely, those who struggled with change seemed to be directing their efforts toward resistance rather than their job tasks. They created drag on otherwise promising aerodynamics.

As a relatively small team passionately committed to delivering excellence within a massive bureaucratic organization, nearly every day was greeted with an unexpected challenge. In addition to their routine administrative and strategic tasks, leaders faced the continuous attack on the morale of a workforce tiring of pushing a boulder uphill. They had signed on with a clear understanding of the agency mission but the constant disruption of crisis-level interruptions took a daily toll. In this environment, sustaining engagement required a constant reminder of the underlying purpose for doing humanitarian work.

Acknowledging this norm was liberating. The team’s best chance for sustainability was to recruit for resilience. Workers of otherwise equal talent are quickly differentiated by their passion for conflict and change. Some are wired to seek sameness while others are built to adapt. A team stocked with nimble, adaptable, flexible talent would be most likely to stay poised under pressure.

Not everyone can do every job. Magic unfolds when the right people are plugged into the right roles in a workplace culture that aligns with their purpose. This makes the leader’s job simple: anchor the mission, model accountability, endorse creativity, embrace change, reinvest in new circumstances, repeat.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.