In the State Department, I experienced several crises ranging from civil unrest to natural disasters. They usually involved long hours, high risk, and stress levels that were off the charts.
After each crisis was over, we would usually pick up where we left off, thinking everything was back to normal.
But it wasn’t business as usual.
People who had performed admirably during the crisis were struggling and losing focus. Teams that bonded during the emergency were fracturing one or two years later.
While resilience appeared to be high during the crisis, it quickly eroded afterward, leaving individuals and teams struggling to return to regular life. Teams that were cohesive and effective in the emergency started to splinter one or two years later when there were staff changes.
That’s why leaders must emphasize fostering individual and team resilience after a crisis. A focus on resilience will help minimize the harm caused by traumatic events and will contribute to the team’s return to normal functioning as quickly as possible. People and groups may even grow from the experience.
Here are some tips for fostering resilience after a crisis:
Take time off. Remind yourself and others to schedule time off work as soon as possible after the emergency to reconnect with friends and family or pursue a passion. Taking time off will also help people process the events they just experienced.
Discuss the impact of the crisis. Encourage staff to discuss the personal impact of the crisis. People respond to a crisis differently, and it is essential to hear their stories. Many people tend to suppress the strong emotions a crisis evokes, which is counterproductive. Instead, encourage colleagues to share their feelings.
Do not prolong the urgency. It is easy to stay in crisis mode even when the emergency is over. If a crisis continues for longer than a few months, it is no longer a crisis but the new normal. Intentionally mark the end of the crisis.
Include new staff. Staff who experienced the crisis have a shared story, and new arrivals in the organization need to hear the story to feel part of the same team. Use memorial ceremonies or other group events to ensure that everyone understands how the crisis impacted the group.
Acknowledge success. Recognize the hard work and sacrifices people made during the crisis. Be generous with awards.
Ask for help. If you are struggling to recover from the crisis, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. Encourage team members to seek assistance if they need it.
Share what has helped you and your team recover from a crisis in my blog comments.