A Workout for Your Inner Strength: How to Build Resilience on the Job

Three LA tech companies share how they cultivate resilient teams in the workplace.

Written by Avery Komlofske
Published on Oct. 20, 2021
A Workout for Your Inner Strength: How to Build Resilience on the Job
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A record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in the month of August alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor — and there are nearly as many reasons for leaving as there are people who left. The more interesting question is: What makes employees want to stay?

People’s priorities around work have shifted in the last year and a half. For many workers, this has led to seeking new opportunities elsewhere — a phenomenon that economists are calling The Great Resignation. People are more likely to leave their jobs now than any other time in recent memory, and leaders need to seriously consider how to make their employees want to work with them.

In times of great stress, the key factor in preserving a team is having resilient employees. Resilience is generally defined as the ability to endure, adapt and grow in the face of difficult circumstances. A resilient employee will not only cope effectively with stress, but may even be able to use it as an opportunity to learn about themselves and take steps forward in their personal and professional development.

As leaders, it’s important to remember that resilience is not inherent; rather, it is a skill that can be supported and developed. Managers who communicate transparently with their teams, support the mental and emotional health of employees, and create a sense of community can help build that resilience and secure a lasting team that anyone would be happy to work with.

The best way to learn how to cultivate resilience for your employees is to look at how it is already being done successfully. To get a snapshot of those success stories, Built In LA reached out to StackCommerce VP of Merchandising and Operations Gina Ban, Prodege Senior Director of Technology Peretz Hildeshaim and Kernel VP of Engineering Gabe Lerner to learn how they help their employees hone their resilience skills. Through empathetic and honest leadership, these individuals are preparing their teams to solve current and future problems in healthy, productive ways — and creating a workplace everyone can be proud of in the process.

 

Gina Ban
VP of Merchandising and Operations • StackCommerce

 

How do you, as a leader, model resilience for your team? And what does that look like in action?

Building resilience in teams is like deciding to walk up a mountain. It’s tough. It’s rarely a straight path up. It often takes much longer than anticipated. And you do it all for a future you can only visualize. Plus, it requires a ton of humility, self-awareness, optimism and a generous dose of resourcefulness.

As a leader, I model resiliency for my team by creating frameworks to develop confidence that’s rooted in competence — all while strengthening the team’s overall sense of connection. In action, this looks like in-depth training and playbooks so teams know what to do in uncertain situations. It also means we have weekly discussions that tie back the work we’re doing to the larger org vision. Plus, we set up regular team bonding events to keep us laughing and connected.

 

What are some actions you take to keep your team engaged, happy and motivated to come to work every day (all of which are crucial on a resilient team)?

I firmly believe that happy, engaged and motivated teams are created when trust and respect is built as a two-way street. I won’t always know when someone feels overwhelmed or disengaged — I need my team to surface those feelings to me — but it’s my job to help ensure that open communication is possible. So I set up weekly 5/15s where we do a gut check on how they’re feeling and why, and I uphold my side of the bargain by using that information only to help find solutions and not to distribute blame. I need my team to know that I trust and respect them as the professionals — and human beings — they are.

 

I firmly believe that happy, engaged and motivated teams are created when trust and respect is built as a two-way street.”


When people feel connected and trust their colleagues, it’s easier for them to weather the challenges that come their way. What are some activities your team does to strengthen camaraderie and support resilience? 

Since we’re still fully remote, we have virtual team lunches every two weeks, and we round robin on the host. We each take turns thinking of a fun game to play or a topic to discuss. StackCommerce also gives us a budget to host bi-annual team outings. We’ve used that budget to rent a yacht for the afternoon or spend a day at Disneyland.

Trust and connections aren’t just built through team events, however. They’re built upon everyday actions. To create those connections and establish trust, we have brainstorming pods and open-door policies so that everyone knows we’re all here for the same goal, that no questions aren’t worth asking and that no idea is inherently bad. We work to exemplify one of Stack’s core values: one team.

 

 

Peretz Hildeshaim
Senior Director, Technology • Prodege LLC

 

How do you, as a leader, model resilience for your team? And what does that look like in action?

Showcasing vulnerability and honesty, using phrases like “I don’t know” or generally admitting to errors goes a long way in showing how imperfection is part and parcel of being human. I want employees to feel safe in their imperfections — this is important for an employee’s ability to grow and maintain a healthy psyche.

 

What are some actions you take to keep your team engaged, happy and motivated to come to work every day (all of which are crucial on a resilient team)?

It’s important to express gratitude and appreciation for the big and even the small things — this tells employees that what they do matters!

The best form of expressing appreciation is by showing meaning to an employee’s given work. I do this by relaying information on the success of a project to the one who has worked on it, whether in the form of graphs showing improved metrics or stories indicating the greater context of their work’s value.

In fact, the very first of our core values is to “give back,” which is pretty much the center of almost all we do, given that we operate numerous consumer rewards websites. Giving back is natural to us!

 

I want employees to feel safe in their imperfections — this is important for an employee's ability to grow and maintain a healthy psyche.”


When people feel connected and trust their colleagues, it’s easier for them to weather the challenges that come their way. What are some activities your team does to strengthen camaraderie and support resilience? 

We have monthly team retrospection meetings where we collect input from the team. It’s divided into a few categories: “highlights,” “recognition,” “low lights” and “lessons learned.” This is a safe space where empathy is cultivated — it’s not just about being tactically effective to improve the “low lights.”

We also organized a few tech-focused book clubs. It’s not just about tech, it’s about a space for individuals to connect in a setting outside of the daily grind. We see it as important to form relationships with those who don’t directly work with each other.

 

Gabe Lerner
VP of Engineering • Kernel

 

How do you, as a leader, model resilience for your team? And what does that look like in action?

Having flexibility and redundancy is crucial for a team. If a system is too rigid, then any one thing that goes wrong can break everything. Our system starts with little things, like having a local development environment so team members can be productive without the internet, and ample-run books and documentation so anybody can step in to fix a problem if a key person is on vacation. Next, we remain flexible on priorities; there’s no sunk cost fallacy if something more important comes up and we have to adjust direction. We also make sure to bake in buffer time for testing and unknowns into every feature, and are careful not to overcommit ourselves. If and when the environment changes, we’ll be ready for it!

 

What are some actions you take to keep your team engaged, happy and motivated to come to work every day (all of which are crucial on a resilient team)?

A lot of engagement comes from eliminating friction and constantly increasing ownership and responsibility. We first remove all annoyances, whether that’s promoting office comfort like snacks and ergonomics or choosing overnight shipping on hardware so that people aren’t sitting around waiting. We reduce meetings in favor of just talking to one another. A lot of the time, nobody’s telling you what to do or how to do it. It’s up to you to use the transparency in company information and your best judgement to decide, plan and execute. As an employee of Kernel, you see the big picture and are able to have a voice in achieving our vision. Everybody is excited to come to work every day armed with the best tools to solve some very challenging problems.

 

As an employee of Kernel, you see the big picture and are able to have a voice in achieving our vision.”

 

When people feel connected and trust their colleagues, it’s easier for them to weather the challenges that come their way. What are some activities your team does to strengthen camaraderie and support resilience?

We take every opportunity to work together on problems. Not only does this allow for everybody to contribute and bond, but it also allows for multiple people to be able to work on specific projects. That’s important to have so that the pressure isn’t all on one person to succeed.

On top of that, we end our planning meeting with stories about the weekend, enjoy the LA weather with outings and have blameless retros to improve our overall communication.

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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