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  • Dr Elizabeth King

Boosting Team Performance Under Pressure: The Surprising Power of Venting

Teams are increasingly shouldering immense challenges as they face pervasive disruption. Essential to achieving objectives and driving operations, teams often confront both environmental and internal adversity, which can surface unexpectedly, require swift responses, and pose threats to sustained performance. I'm delighted to share our podcast, "Navigating Team Resilience," which introduces a study focused on understand the challenges faced by teams, and how we might facilitate optimal performance and wellbeing.


The study, undertaken with business scholars and sailors, is grounded in real-time observations of an elite ocean racing crew during a high-pressure race. It identified resilience as being more than an inherent trait, but a dynamic set of processes encompassing coping, anticipation and learning.


The video observations provided a real-time glimpse into a surprising yet pivotal factor in resilience: the elements of quality relationships within a team. It showed us how team performance and the ability to ‘cope’ with adversity – external and internal, depends on more than maintaining positive dynamics.


In high-performing teams, this ability to adapt in the face of an immediate threat (environmental or internal) requires emotional carrying capacity, robust connectivity, and tensility—the capacity to withstand strain. In this case study, insight was developed during a difficult yet ordinary moment when performance was restored because the team allowed their leader to be human and to VENT. Specifically, we observed the importance of:


  • Emotional carrying capacity which enables a team to express a spectrum of emotions constructively. It promotes open communication and candid feedback, ensuring everyone feels heard and valued.


  • Connectivity which refers to the depth and quality of interactions among team members. Solid connections create a sense of belonging, enhancing individual engagement and overall team performance.


  • Tensility, or the capacity to endure strain, which showcases the resilience of team relationships. Teams with high tensility can weather adversity, supporting each other to rebound and even surpass pre-adversity performance levels.


We found that the quality of relationships within a team directly impacts its resilience and ability to confront and cope with adversities. Importantly, these relationships were built from task-related challenges, not separate teambuilding activities.


You can listen to the podcast on the Sport Psych Show run by Dan Abrahams: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-sport-psych-show/id1434313037?i=1000621342536



Supporting people and teams to perform involves a focus on how to navigate adversity – in this case it helped to let the leader be human and robustly express his frustration.


If this podcast speaks to you, I would be delighted to chat about team resilience, you can reach me at elizabeth@drelizabethking.au.


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