Building Resilient and Well Teams with Psychological Capital

Patricia Grabarek & Katina Sawyer

We’ve all faced a lot of challenges and adversity over the past few months. Having to demonstrate flexibility in the face of unforeseen challenges? Feeling burnt out from the rapid pace of change you’re experiencing?

Psychological capital can help you enhance your ability to recover from setbacks and improve your wellness at the same time. Luckily, there’s a simple and virtual research-based intervention to help you and your teams develop this important resource.

Psychological capital refers to a set of resources a person can use to increase their success. Employees that have high psychological capital outperform other employees. In addition, employees high in psychological capital are less likely to burnout and have higher well-being. Thus, it can be incredibly important for businesses to help build psychological capital in their team members.

While there’s still research to be done, we know that supervisor support and company culture can increase it.

What is Psychological Capital?

It includes four different resources:

Self-efficacy refers to a person’s confidence in their ability to control outcomes and overcome difficult challenges. Someone with high self-efficacy believes they have control over what happens to them.

Optimism means a person’s expectation of positive outcomes. Simply, those high in optimism believe things are going to end well.

Hope is made up of two parts – agency and pathways. Agency is the motivation to succeed in a specific goal or task. Pathways are the way to accomplish that task. People with high hope put more effort toward their goals and come up with alternative ways to meet their goals when the first try doesn’t work.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenges, risks, and failures. Resilient people can adapt to changing and stressful situations effectively.

People with high psychological capital believe they can control their future and that things will work out in the end. They work hard to reach their goals and adapt to challenges and change. When facing failure, they bounce back quickly and change their approach to make sure they don’t fail again.

This may be particularly important for small businesses, given they are more vulnerable to changes in the market. Small businesses may also lack material or people resources that make it easier to solve large-scale issues. Cultivating the right mindset, leveraging the people and resources you do have, can help.

Developing Psychological Capital

Importantly, you can learn and develop psychological capital. It’s something that can be trained surprisingly easily. One intervention was developed back in 2006 and has continued to find support in several subsequent studies.

Use the steps below to implement this simple intervention to develop psychological capital yourself and in your team. This intervention typically lasts two to three hours. Spend the first hour or so working individually and spend the rest of the time brainstorming as a team (virtually in a video call works).

1. Developing Goals

The first part of the intervention is all about creating realistic goals. Write down three specific, realistic, and achievable goals for the near future. After setting the three goals, pick one to focus on for the following exercises. These could be goals that you want to attain individually or within your group, depending on your needs.

2. Goal Achievement

Now that you’ve picked a goal, spend some time thinking of different ways you can achieve the goal. What do you need to do to reach your goal? Also, think through various obstacles and things that might get in your way.

3. Obstacles

After understanding the obstacles, think through possible ways of overcoming them. What can you do when you face obstacles? What do you need to consider?

4. Sub-Goals and Resources

Then, focus on creating sub-goals and identifying resources. What are some smaller goals that can help you achieve your bigger goal? Meeting that first sub-goal will help you feel accomplished and get you moving in the right direction to meet the bigger goal!

Finally, list out all of the resources available to help you achieve your goal. Think of all the people and things that can help you meet your goal.

5. Group Brainstorming

As a small group or team (around four to five people), share your goals and plans with each other. Share all of the different ways to achieve your goals, your potential obstacles and ways to overcome them, and your sub-goals and resources. Spend time discussing everyone’s goals in detail.

Everyone should provide constructive feedback and different perspectives on how the goals can be achieved. Keep it positive but make sure you are actually providing each other with new ideas that can help make goals more attainable.

Finally, you should end this development exercise with what is called ‘positive brainstorming’. Share positive phrases, thoughts, and quotes that can help bring inspiration and support when facing challenges to meeting the goals. Everyone should write them down and keep them handy for when you actually begin the work to achieve your goal.

Doing this intervention from time to time can really help your team continue developing their psychological capital. It’s a few hours that can lead to greater wellness, improved adaptability, and higher performance. This exercise is particularly useful for teams that are operating lean and don’t have giant corporate budgets - like small businesses.

The key to psychological capital is that you can grow it using resources you already have, for free - making it the perfect tool for small businesses on any kind of budget.

Workr Beeing applies the science of workplace wellness to create happier and healthier employees and organizations. Both PhDs in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Dr. Patricia Grabarek and Dr. Katina Sawyer, launched Workr Beeing to promote wellbeing at work, across industries. As a small business, Workr Beeing strives to deliver research-based resources, for companies who need them most. Check out their podcast and their free course on Managing Stress in Uncertain Times for more tips on how to improve your and your organization’s wellness.

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