Growing Pains: Developing a Resilient Brewery Team

This is the third in our Growing Pains series, a look at how to survive the setbacks that sometimes accompany brewery growth.

Growth is always accompanied by change. This manifests in ways both large and small, but any kind of change — whether it’s expansion into secondary locations or a small adjustment to job descriptions — has the potential to cause ripples in the smooth operation of the brewery.

Change is difficult, but a resilient staff is better able to deal with those ripples, has higher morale, and is more capable of remaining flexible during periods of growth. In psychology, resilience is a person’s capability to “bounce back” and adjust to difficult experiences. This is not a personality trait, but a set of skills and behaviors which can be learned.

Developing a resilient brewery team is easier than you think, and is one of the best ways to ensure your team will weather the stresses of growth.

Support and Connection

Many of the strategies for developing resilience are the same as those for building a healthy, happy team. This is not a coincidence — people are more resilient when they feel supported and understood, and those who work in a place with high morale are naturally better able to cope with stress and change.

During periods of growth and change, it’s sometimes easy to let team support fall by the wayside. This is particularly true for breweries with an established, successful team; after all, confidence in your team’s abilities can sometimes breed complacency. However, resilience theory shows that this is when the little things — recognition of achievements, open channels of communication, and personal support — can have the best effect.

Another potential setback to team morale is focusing primarily on those members who are actively involved in the growth process. This is natural, given the importance and novelty of the situation, but it can risk destabilizing the backbone of your brewery’s success. Try for a balance between acknowledging the effort involved in both growth and the everyday running of the brewery. After all, it’s only through the latter that the former is possible.

Allowing for Flexibility

Resilience always requires flexibility. Buildings which are flexible are more likely to withstand earthquakes, after all, and the same applies to both organisations and people. While you can’t control your team’s responses to stress, you can build a team structure which can withstand almost anything that is thrown at it.

The first step is to trust your team members, and ensure they have everything they need to perform their jobs. This confidence is a critical component in creating flexibility, as it helps ward away the specter of micro-management. When team members are allowed to do their work without unnecessary interference, but also with guidance and support, they are better able to adapt on both a practical and emotional level.

The second step is to understand your team as individuals: people with different strengths and weaknesses, as well as differing needs. This allows for accurate flexibility — not “one size fits all”, but tailored to how your team actually functions. If you know that one person thrives under pressure, another requires more support, and a third occasionally needs time off to take their child to the doctor, you’re in a much better position to help them cope with changes and new demands in the workplace.

Showing Leadership

Brewery leaders are a key part of developing a resilient team. Not only can they help their team through recognition and support, but they are also an important model of resilience. Additionally, the goals they set have their own impact on a team’s ability to weather change.

How leaders respond to setbacks and stress plays a large role in their team’s morale. Someone who approaches these with realism and confidence will create a more resilient team than a leader who reacts negatively. Unrealistic optimism can also cause problems, both for their team’s morale and their practical ability to cope with problems they weren’t warned of in advance.

Setting the right goals can also encourage resilience. SMART goals are the golden standard, but following those criteria is only the first step. Particularly during times of growth, goals should be structured to guide your team. Relevance becomes increasingly important, as irrelevant goals can be distracting and frustrating for a team already under stress.

Avoid setting goals simply for the sake of them. Create benchmarks — both for individual team members and the team as a whole — in order to turn problem areas into opportunities for success and celebration. This last is an important consideration, as reaching goals only to see them go unacknowledged is a recipe for poor morale.

A Healthy Team

Poor health wears at resilience. Think of brittle elastic: instead of stretching like it should, it’s much more prone to snapping. Resilience is a factor in good mental health, but both physical and psychological health play into a person’s ability to respond to setbacks and change.

In the long term, providing health benefits — particularly health insurance — is one way to support your team’s health. However, there are other steps breweries can take to ensure their team is ready to take on any challenge:

  • Proactively support team members who require health-related considerations
  • Remain up-to-date on the best practices for workplace mental health
  • Avoid creating a culture which disapproves of time off or a healthy work/life balance
  • Provide healthy options when snacks or meals are supplied
  • Keep lines of communication open for team members who feel overwhelmed

Resilience allows for sustainable growth. Instead of pushing themselves to the breaking point, your team will be able to adapt with the changes and grow themselves.

It can take effort to encourage this kind of adaptability, but the tools involved — flexibility, leadership, and support — are techniques which will serve you and your team well.