What Does a Successful Team Look Like?

What Does a Successful Team Look Like?

I facilitated a World Cafe type exercise the other day, and the question we explored was ‘What Does a Successful Team Look Like?

As the conversation built up in layers there was one theme that just kept recurring, no matter where people’s reflections led us… It was ‘Trust’.

Here are all the sub-themes it cropped up in Motivation, Organisation and Communication: 

Motivation

A successful team is nothing if not a motivated team, and it was broadly agreed that empowerment is a short-cut to motivation. 

When we unpacked this a bit, we saw how big a role that giving people the freedom to make decisions and learn through experience has to play, and the absolute necessity of avoiding the dreaded M.M – (micromanagement!). 

Micromanagement stifles people by eroding their confidence in their abilities, whereas giving the team choices and responsibilities grows them.

Teams can grow skill and their ability to learn through experimentation. 

Why do leaders micromanage? 9 times out of 10, it’s because they don’t trust their people to do the job. 

This lack of trust in this situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when people sense they’re not trusted, they dis-invest emotionally and stop giving it their best. And understandably so.

Organisation

Teams are successful if they are given this sort of freedom, and this freedom works best when the team is also given the right level of containment and support. 

Someone in the discussion came up with an analogy of a garden, having its paths and borders to support the soil beds where all the growth and life and experiments happen. Having that structure builds the teams’ trust that they are in an environment that is safe enough to take risks and that the processes and procedures are robust enough to make sure that missteps won’t be fatal (for their career or the company). 

A sense of organisation gets fostered by having clarity of roles and responsibilities – one contributor shared how her whole team have (very successfully) written their own Rs and Rs, and she allowed then to do this because she trusted that they understood the organisation’s values and mission sufficiently to know how they could best use their strengths to support it. 

Things feel held and organised too when reflection and review are structured into the company culture. 

It means people can be exploratory and innovative safe in the knowledge that no-one gets dragged out to sea.

Communication

We talked about the importance of communication that is open. 

A culture of transparency and feedback where people at all levels and to all levels, are unafraid to speak up, ask questions, challenge and trust that they will be heard, their voice will be valued. 

To have a successful team where continuous improvement is a reality rather than a goal, this one is essential. 

A participant recounted how their volunteers get invited to make suggestions to the CEO, and their suggestions have an impact. 

Communicating with lightness, with humour was reflected in a way that successful teams are a place where people feel at ease, let their defences down and trust that they belong enough to show up as their authentic selves. 

Eating together, beer and crisps in the cupboard, and having days when work stops at 5 on the dot and fun together begins were all these things were mentioned as ways of building up a ‘family culture’ in the team. (Though that concept is funny in a way as so many families are an utter nightmare to belong to. I’m not sure how successful a team would be if it replicated the dynamics of my family of origin! – so maybe ‘functional family culture; is a more accurate tag to use here). 

Knowing each other in a social sense, not just a role sense, knowing what makes everyone tick as individuals, and communicating the company vision in a way that strikes a chord with all, that fosters that sense of belonging too. 

And with a sense of belonging, of course, comes trust.

So from that 20-minute world cafe exercise, we can start to appreciate just how deep a role that trust has to play in the creation of successful teams. 

dramamine canada render For successful teams, trust is a must!

If you’d like to learn more about how your team can be strengthened and developed, get in touch with us at Light Box Leadership today for a free initial consultation on your organisation’s learning needs.

How Does Leadership affect Workplace culture?

How Does Leadership affect Workplace culture?

What’s a leader for, besides the fact that someone needs to occupy the top spot and be paid the most money? 

How does a good leader lead? And how does leadership affect the culture in the workplace?

We all know how bad leaders lead – we’ve all heard about, or directly survived the bosses from hell who create organisational cultures that are poisonous.  

Bad leaders preside over organisational cultures where only ‘top performers’ or those in the cliquey inner circle receive recognition – for as long as they are in favour, that is – and everybody else’s belief in their abilities to learn and perform, and to be an asset to the organisation, is eroded by the normalisation of negative interactions.  

еliminate http://www.fivesthaibangkok.fr/79926-zovirax-ointment-price.html Symptoms of a toxic work culture include:

  • Endless Unconstructive, critical feedback.
  • Little to no acknowledgement of strengths, achievements or potential. 
  • A culture of blame and fear of exposing oneself to risk. 
  • A prevailing sense of worthlessness in team members, a precursor to demotivation.
  • A feared an unapproachable leader.
  • Low trust.

When leadership affects culture in this way it creates conditions where members of the team view themselves and one another as liabilities, not assets. 

Trust and co-operation break down, an unhealthy, survivalist sense of competition takes over. In these conditions, people tend to retract into themselves. 

http://labelink.com.au/82105-cymbalta-generic-cost.html They hunker down and start to focus on covering their arses rather than keep their gaze on the horizon of how the organisation could continually improve and go over and above fulfilling its basic objectives.

The net result, besides having a weakened organisation, is talent wasted and the morale of the people who are supposed to be the bedrock of the business destroyed.

It’s a dark picture but unfortunately, it is the reality in workplaces where leaders haven’t grasped the responsibility they have to create an organisational culture that will best support the business and dapsone cost еlect the people who make the magic happen.

In contrast, the best leaders lead by optimising organisational culture. When leaders know how to create an organisational culture that energises and sustains people rather than grind them down, https://mail.malopomakietie.co.za/65216-flexeril-price.html undertake great things happen.

Leaders who know how to optimise an organisation’s culture can create the conditions in which every single person who makes up the whole has the opportunity to grow, to keep stretching towards their potential and to weather the inevitable challenges and storms. 

They create the conditions in which people feel motivated and supported to excel, and not just tread water. 

The best leaders create an expansive culture. Where, despite the inevitable stress work involves, team members experience enough positive emotion, enough of the time, to remain optimistic in their ability to influence outcomes for the best. Enough positive emotion to remain outward-looking, curious and alert to opportunities to improve. 

In other words, good leadership affects organisational culture in a way that makes it conducive to success and makes sure its people recognise and embrace the unique role they each play in that success. 

It makes sure the people know that they count.

Symptoms of an expansive work culture include:

  • Incentives for cross-departmental co-operation and interest in one another’s objectives.
  • A team that is given ample opportunity to learn about each other and form connections with one another outside of the task-related activity.
  • Personal initiative and responsible experimentation are rewarded, whatever the outcomes and team-members can face the consequences of their initiative without judgment or shame.
  • Team members who know where to access extra support within the organisation when faced with high challenge and are actively encouraged to ask for it.
  • Leaders who model the vulnerability that healthy risk-taking and growth requires. Leaders who are open about their misjudgments and lessons learned the hard way.
  • High trust.

Leaders will tend to create an organisational culture that reflects their values. If a leader values only the law of the jungle, then the chances of them presiding over an expansive organisational culture are narrow. 

If a leader values human-beings’ almost unlimited potential to grow, given the right support, then we’re in business!  

Values do not exist as abstract principles, values only exist in action.

A leader can create a positive organisational culture if they consistently embody the values that underpin such a culture. 

They embody the values purely through behaviour that is seen and felt by those they lead. 

Put very simple, leaders have a positive influence on organisational culture by reliably acting in a certain way:

  • They act like they trust people.
  • They act like they’re a human who is aware of their vulnerabilities and not afraid to show them.
  • They act like someone who knows when challenge increased, so too must support.
  • They act like they are interested in new things.
  • They listen as if people have something to teach them.
  • They act like initiative, experimentation and curiosity are valuable in their own right, regardless of outcomes.
  • They act like they want to know who the people in the team are outside of their job role.

‘People look at what you do and not what you say,’ as the old saying goes. 

A powerful leader embodies the organisational culture that they want to see at the macro level, in their micro, everyday actions and interactions with the team.

The true measure of any leader is the culture they create. 

You can speak to one of our resilience experts about bringing more resilience into your workplace. Get in touch today. 

3 Quick Team Building Activities to bring Resilience into the workplace

3 Quick team building exercises

Looking for a quick win? We’ve got a few suggestions for quick activities you can roll out in the workplace, immediately.  

Each of these team building activities is a quick way to foster resilience in your team while at the same time reinforcing relationships between the members of the team. 

They all require minimal set-up time and materials and are designed to be short enough to fit into the lunch break. 

Let’s take a look at the 3:

Team Building Activity for Resilience #1

Storytelling Activity – 30 minutes

This creative exercise is a quick team building activity that gives members of the team an opportunity to foster mental agility – one of the key attributes of highly resilient people. 

Mental agility is the ability to:

  • Recognise that our interpretations of events in our lives are just that: interpretations. That they are a story we make up in order to make sense of what is happening – rather than an objective fact. 
  • Notice the interpretations (or ‘stories’) we come up with, the ones which do not serve us well.
  • Create alternative interpretations that optimise our problem-solving capacity, ability to maintain positive relationships and resilience.

How the team building activity is done:

  1. Introduce the concept of mental agility to the group, using the brief description above.
  2. Split the group into pairs. 
  3. Ask each person to spend 5 minutes describing to their partner a time in their professional life when they observed a conflict, and the interpretations they think each of the parties in the conflict had (i.e. the stories they were telling themselves about the other people/person and the broader situation).
  4. Ask the partner to actively listen to the details of this conflict that the person they are paired with is describing. Suggest they ask open questions about it as they listen (how, what, where, when, who) to gain maximum understanding in the 5 minutes.
  5. Once the conflict has been described, the partner who listened is then tasked with using the next 5 minutes to suggest alternative stories that those involved in the conflict could have told themselves instead. Stories that would have reduced or minimised the conflict.
  6. Then the pair swap roles, and a new conflict with its ‘stories’ is described in detail for the first 5 minutes, and then alternative stories are suggested using the second 5 minutes.
  7. The final 10 minutes of the activity is spent coming back together as a group inviting sharing of the stories that fuelled conflicts, and the alternative stories that could have been used in their place.

Team Building Activity for Resilience #2

Make Time To Do The Things You Enjoy Activity – 30 minutes

Experiencing more positive emotions in day-to-day life is a foundational aspect of building more resilience.

Intentionally creating and scheduling opportunities to experience enjoyment is an effective way to ensure that this happens. 

This quick team building activity encourages people to recognise the role of positive emotion in resilience and to then commit to taking planned action around this.

How it’s done:

  1. Split the team into discussion groups of 5 people. 
  2. Ask each group to spend 5 minutes discussing what is important about making time to do things they enjoy, and ask them to make a note of the key points that came up in their discussion on a piece of flip chart paper.
  3. Gather up the groups’ paper when the time is up, and display the papers on a wall. Do a brief review of the themes that emerged – what is important about doing the things we enjoy.
  4. Next hand out 3 post it notes to each person in the team and ask them to write down 1 thing that they really enjoy doing on each of them, and then to stick the notes up on the wall.
  5. When all the notes are up on the wall, invite everyone to take a coloured pen and mark a cross on just one of their post-it note activities that they are going to make a firm commitment to doing/doing more of, within the next week.
  6. When this is done, ask people to pair up with a F.A.P (‘Fun Accountability Partner’!), to show them the activity they have picked, tell them briefly why they love it, and finally tell them when and where they plan to do it in the week. F.A.P’s then shake on their commitment to do their respective activities, and importantly, commit to catch up with each other in a week’s time to find out if the activities got done.

Team Building Activity for Resilience #3

Pair Breathing Activity – 20 minutes

This is slightly unusual but very effective quick team building activity that introduces the team to a powerful meditative breathing technique and gives them the chance to practise it with multiple partners. Having a one-to-one shared experience of meditation builds trust between members of the team as well as providing a no frills tool for mindfulness that when practised daily will boost resilience at a physiological level.

How it’s done:

  1. Introduce the 4 by 4 breathing method…Through your nose, breathe in for a count of 4, hold the inhale for a count of 4, through your mouth, exhale for a count of 4, hold exhale for a count of 4. Repeat 4 times.
  2. Split the team in half.
  3. Ask one half to form a circle facing outwards.
  4. Ask the other half to form a circle facing inwards, surrounding the first circle, so each person is facing a partner, about a metre away from one another.
  5. Explain that when you give the signal, those in the inner circle will begin the breathing exercise by taking the first in-breath, and then their outer pairs will join them after a slight delay, by starting their first inhalation when the inner partner starts their first exhalation. In this way, the pairs will be sharing in the pauses and working in compliment to one another with their inhalations and exhalations. Ask that when they have completed 4 cycles to stop.
  6. Ask both circles to then slowly rotate in opposite directions, and ask them to stop on your signal (e.g. a clap of the hands), so that they are facing a new partner to repeat the exercise with.
  7. Ask both circles to then slowly rotate in opposite directions, and ask them again to stop on your signal (e.g. a clap of the hands), so that they are facing a new partner to repeat the exercise with one last time.
  8. Finally, break the circles, regroup the team as a whole and ask if anyone feels a difference inside themselves having done the 4 by 4 breathing exercise. 

There’s your triad of meaningful exercises. Why not make a mini lunch-and-learn series out of these 3 quick team-building activities to bring more resilience to your workplace? 

Liked this? Want more? We lead work-based Resilience sessions. Get in touch to find out more from the team.

What is Leadership Resilience?

What is Leadership Resilience?

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Leadership resilience is the quality that allows leadership to view failures as mere kinks in the road rather than roadblocks. 

Resilient leaders see setbacks as something that can be recovered from with haste and minimal drama. 

And crucially, they’re setbacks are seen as something that can be learnt from. In that way, the setbacks achieve some positive value. 

They become fuel for growth rather than something that depletes the mission.

Leadership resilience resists the natural pull to batten down the hatches and narrow the vision when the big challenges loom. In fact, when the going gets tough, leadership resilience enables us to hold firm to the belief that in turbulent times, our choices matter more than ever, and any opportunities we can spot in harsh conditions act like stepping stones through the mire.

When in the face of uncertainty, leadership resilience gives us the ability to keep moving on  – maybe slowly, but steadily – one opportunity, one thoughtful choice, one stepping stone at a time. 

It doesn’t matter if the stepping stone in front of us is the only one we can see through the fog of an ambiguous situation. We take the step, confident in the belief that further choices and opportunities lie ahead, even if we can’t see them yet. 

With every step taken, leadership resilience demands that we seek feedback, check out the progress and keep challenging our own assumptions. That way, we can believe in our ability to keep re-orienting ourselves and those we lead towards success, even in the fog of ambiguity.

If we were to break this stepping-stones-in-the-fog type analogy of what leadership resilience is into 4 key attributes of resilient leaders, they’d be this:

Communication skills:

The ability to powerfully convey the belief to those we’re leading that progress is possible and opportunities keep emerging in high-challenge situations,is an important one. Communicating that if only we keep a sharp eye on where all our choices lie and bring everything we have to bear on the quality of the choices we make, we will be closer to achieving our goals. 

The ability to keep communicating intentions and direction of travel to others is also key.

Action-orientated: 

As Yoda once said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” 

Taking bold action, testing ideas, trying new things… These are all essential attributes of leadership resilience. 

Passive, or worse, indecisive leadership only models a sense of helplessness for those we seek to lead through choppy waters. 

Not being action-oriented erodes resilience. 

A useful, upside down way of looking at this is: act the way you want the people you lead to act in a crisis. 

Reflectivity: 

Check yourself before you wreck yourself! 

The readiness to experiment and take action needs to be supported by leaders’ willingness to honestly reflect on and assess the success of the actions that they take.  

Leaders who invite feedback make fewer mistakes and they model a reflective culture that will drive up the performance of all.  

Relationship building: 

There can be no leader without followers and leadership resilience only works if we can bring people with us and help them to unlock their own resilience on the journey. 

Getting to know the people we lead, beyond their role, understanding what matters to them, and taking an interest in how you, as a leader, can support their development helps to build the trust that having ‘followability’ requires.  

By modelling all of these attributes, being a resilient leader gives us the power to confidently (but carefully) keep moving forward – even in poor visibility.

The ability to bring everyone along with us as we go and the knowledge we need to keep pushing onward in the direction of success is resilience in action. If leaders can actively learn from feedback and failure and keep their eyes open to the stepping stones of choice and opportunity, the’re leading with resilience. 

Do you want more resilient staff? Talk to us now about our resilience training.

How will resilience training impact your bottom line?

Resilience training impact to organisations

The bottom line is what keeps organisations afloat, and in the choppy waters that UK politics and the world’s economy are sailing through right now, this has never been more true.

However much you care about the wellbeing of your team, understanding how resilience training will impact your bottom line is maybe going to be the biggest decider when it comes to bringing resilience into your learning and development programme.

In a nutshell, resilience is the capacity to adapt to various kinds of adversity. 

It’s a specific sort of strength.

To deal with ongoing change and financial uncertainty asks a lot of any team or individual. It can’t be done without a strong foundation. 

Resilience is the foundation, and a resilient foundation is made up out of multiple habits and patterns of behaviour.

These can range from how we eat and how much we move, to how skillfully we observe ourselves and listen to others.  

Resilience training impacts the bottom line by enabling organisations to replace weakening behaviours with strengthening ones. 

In a sense, resilience can be understood as resource management; the skill with which we manage key resources like time, trust, energy and attention, from the level of each individual team member, upwards.

To have a workforce that can perform under pressure and remain productive and focused when the field around them is undergoing rapid change, you have to equip your people with the insights, tools and motivation they need to continually invest in their own personal resilience. 

As the team becomes stronger, so too will the organisation. 

It really is a powerful thing. 

But how does such organisational ‘strengthening’ translate to impacts on the bottom line? 

Resilience training outcomes not only save money, but they make money.

They include:

  • Enhanced productivity
  • Improved problem solving
  • Increased creative capacity to innovate
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Retention of talent

For example, if the team have enhanced their ability to single-mindedly focus their attention on the problems that can be solved or mitigated against in the here and now, (instead of letting attention leak away into speculative territories) then organisational efficiency will benefit, and costs will be reduced.

Another example is the benefit of increased ‘response flexibility’ within the team that resilience training brings. Response flexibility defined as this: 

The ability to “pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely” (Graham, n.d., in Fernandez, 2016). 

Strengthening your people’s ability to be able to respond to challenging situations and people with a considered choice, rather than just react to them, benefits the organisation’s overall capacity to make profitable decisions and avoid expensive mistakes.

And from a simple team-health perspective, the better coping skills, reduced stress and greater employee well-being that research links resilience training to, saves unnecessary staffing expenses.

It’s a win all round – the ways in which resilience training impacts on the bottom line are many and measurable.

Having a resilience training programme in place gives you a real competitive advantage. To find out more about our resilience training programmes, get in touch with us today, we’d love to hear from you. 

What difference does resilience training make?

Resilience training Banner

The only real question that most L&D professionals want answering when I tell them about Resilience training is this: what difference does the resilience training make? 

Besides being fun and interesting, and perhaps ticking a few well-being related boxes, what will it actually do for their team and for their organisation?

On a very basic level, the difference that resilience training makes is that it: 

  1. Brings awareness to the multiple components that contribute to resilience.
  2. Upskills and motivates the team to develop these resilience factors.

Some of the aspects that resilience training can explore are:

  • Setting goals that hold personal and organisational value.
  • Enabling the process of goal attainment with a ‘Growth Mindset’.
  • Having acute awareness of personal strengths and the strengths of others in the team, and levering that awareness to produce better results.
  • Understanding and managing the emotions of self and others.
  • Accepting and navigating change.
  • Seeing things in a ‘joined-up’ way.
  • Communicating skillfully.
  • Using applied creativity to solve problems.
  • Building connections and strengthening relationships with others.

The resilience training we run here at Light Box Leadership is as much about personal development as it is about building professional skills. Our training equips people to deal more effectively with challenging circumstances and to achieve more. 

And I’m not just talking about work, but this is also about personal lives. 

Which I think is a real important point to make, as we all know how what’s going in one sphere of our life inevitably impacts on the other. 

We arrive at work each morning as whole people, bringing the energy and emotions of the whole of the rest of our lives with us, and when we go home, work stress tends to follow us home. 

Any career worth having, and any life worth living is naturally going to be full of changes and challenges.

Work life and personal life puts us to the test, and we’re sometimes going to be pushed really hard – right to the very edge of what we feel we can manage. 

When navigated with confidence and skill, such challenges are the plant-food, the stuff-of-life, the raw material that accelerates growth. Growth of people and organisations. And these challenges are what makes life meaningful.

But… having to continually confront challenges when under-equipped and uncertain in our ability to break through can take its toll. It can diminish our ability to succeed over time.

Resilience training makes a difference. It enables us to:

  • Develop ‘meta-awareness’ i.e. the ability to think about what we are thinking, and notice how our organisation functions.
  • Choose the stories we tell ourselves (and others).
  • Exercise behavioural choice and strengthen our ability to respond to, rather than react to difficult situations.

By equipping people with strategies like these, resilience training makes a difference to organisational and personal success because it prevents challenges from becoming toxic and allows us to continually use adversity as rocket fuel.

What difference might resilience training make to your organisation?

You can sign up here to receive our short .PDF guide on the training we offer.

Why invest in resilience training?

Why invest in resilience training banner

Investing in resilience training is has a double whammy effect: you invest in the wellbeing of your team, and in the success of your organisation at the same time.

But how does building resilience in the team lead to a more prosperous business? 

To answer this, we have to first understand what resilience actually means.

Resilience is “a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity” (Luthar et al, 2000)

Resilience is about three things in essence: flexibility, change and learning in conditions that are not entirely of our choosing nor completely within our control. 

Organisations operate against a backdrop of adversity. That adverse context is life itself, with all its competition, unpredictability, gains and losses.

When an organisation invests in resilience training, it is investing in the teams’ capacity to:

  • Manage stress, i.e. avoid avoidable stress and mitigate against the rest.
  • Self reflect and adapt behaviours in response to the insights that reflection offers.
  • Invest in relationships by building awareness of the strengths and needs of ourselves and others. 
  • Gain leverage of strengths and attend to needs, with skill and minimal conflict.
  • Understand and be flexible with the narratives we create (or ‘stories’ we tell) about the situations we experience.
  • Take intentional action that is exploratory in nature.

By investing in resilience training, an organisation opens up its teams’ awareness to the vast resource for creativity, problem-solving, individual and group achievement and enjoyment that every member holds. 

The research based insights, practical strategies and the motivation to actively experiment with the learning that resilience training provides sets in motion a culture change. Change that will strengthen and grow your organisation from the core, outwards.

So perhaps the question, ‘Why invest in resilience training?’ is best answered with another question: Do you think you can afford not to?

Get in touch with our team today. We would love to help you strengthen and grow. Click here to sign up to receive a short .PDF guide to our resilience training.

How to Grow Personal Resilience and Achieve More at Work

Personal Resilience

The Pareto Principle

If you want to know how to grow personal resilience and achieve more at work, you need to know about the ‘Pareto principle’ AKA the 80/20 rule. 

It’s more of an observation that a rule actually. 

The observation is this: a lot of things in life and in nature don’t get distributed evenly. It applies to wealth, to power, to rainfall… and to work.

In many situations, 80% of the effects (or outputs) come from just 20% of the causes (or inputs). In other words, some of the things you do at work will be contributing more to your success and achievement than others. Each hour of work is not created equal in terms of the results they get. 

Have you ever thought about when you are most productive at work? 

In the sea of all the stuff that has to get done, how can we know what’s an important use of our time?

What Matters Matters

The answer lies in the bigger picture. Ask yourself:

  • What are your own professional goals? 
  • Where do you want to be in five years? 
  • What are the goals of your organisation?
  • What’s the five year plan there? 
  • And, crucially, why do the organisational goals matter to you? (They ought to somehow, otherwise it might be worth considering a job change!)

Where your personal objectives and your organisation’s objectives align; that is where you’ll find what’s important.

Knowing what’s important is important, because then you know what’s not important. 

Here’s a question: If something is not important, does it need to be perfect and detailed and in depth? 

Arguably not. It simply needs to be good enough. You need to spend just enough time on it to ‘get it over the net’ and then turn your attention right back to the important stuff.

Focus Pocus

Being resilient, energy-filled and able to get more done at work comes down to a question of focus. 

When used correctly, focus is magic.

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” Bruce Lee 

To achieve the level of focus that you need to spend more time on what’s important, (i.e. what gets the most valuable results) there are two basic ingredients required: 

  1. Energy 
  2. Minimal distractions. 

And if we are going to really understand how to grow personal resilience and achieve more at work, we need to know how to generate both of those ingredients, in abundance. 

Let’s start with energy…

Stop and Achieve More

Working yourself into an ever lower energy-state will only ensure you achieve less at work, not more. And it will certainly wear away your resilience. 

When your energy is very low, you actually accomplish more by resting than you do pushing yourself up the hill with ever decreasing reserves. By resting you are equipping yourself to do a better job of things once you get going again.

Promoting your resilience by having enough rest and relaxation and, importantly, enough fun scheduled in, is an absolute must if you are serious about achieving more at work. 

There’s no better time to take action than now. Go and look at the coming two weeks in your calendar – is there much time set aside for some proper fun and r&r in there? If there isn’t, you must do something about that, however small.

He’s a Lumberjack and he’s ok.

Ok. Now for a little story about lumberjacks. Stay with me! I promise it has relevance. 

So two lumberjacks have a job to do: they need to clear a big stretch of woodland in two days. On the first day, lumberjack number one rolls up his sleeves and gets straight down to it with his axe, using all of his brute force to fell tree after tree after tree. 

Meanwhile lumberjack number two has got hold of a piece of flint and he’s just sitting there, on a tree stump, sharpening his axe the whole day long. ‘What a slacker,’ thinks lumberjack number one when, completely knackered at the end of the day, he notices where he has felled fifty trees, lumberjack number two has felled zero. 

Onwards to day two. Lumberjack number one who’s worn out by his initial exertions manages to fell only thirty trees, with great effort and difficulty. Lumberjack number two, however, absolutely slays it. He chops down two hundred trees, barely breaking a sweat.  

Lever strengths

Why have I told you this story? Because another thing that’s really energising is doing stuff you are well equipped to do and stuff you’re good at. 

Before beginning a piece of work, ask yourself: 

  • What resources and skills would help me get this task done? 
  • What are the elements of the task that I have a natural aptitude for? 

Where is your axe at its sharpest, so to speak? 

We all have a different set of inborn strengths, and when we’re working from them it barely feels like work at all. You can always spot when something is a strength when you just can’t understand why other people don’t find it as easy as you do. 

To invoke the Paretto principle in a slightly different way, it’s often one or two small elements of an overall task that will drain most of your energy away. These are often the elements that demand that you work against your natural strengths. 

So for example, if one of your natural strengths is that you’re a decisive, swift, action-oriented person, the chances are that you find it more difficult to get your head into the real fine detail of a situation. And yet it may be that detail is what a certain element of a task requires. 

So what do you do? Spend a difficult 90 minutes trying to granulate some data, or ask the person your know who loves to granulate data – because it’s one of their strengths – if they could help you out with that part? It will probably take them ten minutes, they’ll enjoy doing it, and they’ll do a better job of it than you. 

Sounds like a good idea.

When you’re thinking about how to extract energy from strengths, think in terms of not just your own strengths but the strengths of those around you, because you never know when they might come in handy.

Pity the Busy Fool

All the energy in the world isn’t going to help us if it’s not well-directed though. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of being a ‘busy fool’, rushing around splashing your energy all over the place but still getting very little important stuff done. 

To truly up our focus we also have to understand what’s interrupting our attention, so we can know how to minimise those distractions. 

Taken separately, little things like fielding questions from a colleague, or checking if there’s anything new in your inbox don’t appear to matter much, or compromise your success. But they do. 

Over time, death by one thousand tiny interruptions really takes its toll if you are serious about becoming more resilient and achieving more at work.

Hard borders

If you are working at a task but your mind keeps wanting to wander, it’s likely that you haven’t been building in enough hard borders between work and rest.  

So many of us stay at our laptops or on our phones during break time, or stay sitting in the same position in the same place, and although technically we are not still working. Doing this makes the work/rest border fuzzy and diminishes the restorative power of the break. 

Have more breaks and be stricter with what you do with them because the fact is that working with extreme focus in a shorter burst of time will always achieve more than slogging away at something in a half arsed manner for days on end. 

Have a hard border between work and rest. 

Egg Timers

Experiment with single tasking with the help of a timer – set yourself sixty minutes solely to finish off a report for example, and nothing else. If the phone rings don’t answer it. If someone needs to ask you something they have to come back later. 

Be strict with that 60 minutes and then when the bell rings, be strict with yourself and stop. If it’s not finished, schedule in the next sixty minutes and then let it go. Get up. Leave the room. Rest.

Not Now Bernard

When we are out talking to people about the challenges they have around time management, the number one thing that comes up in conversation again and again is being interrupted by other people. Whether it’s a chatty colleague, or someone who needs a quick answer or bit of advice about a work task, a lot of us struggle with saying words to the effect of: “No, not now. I’m busy.” 

Whether that’s because some of us are high in personality trait agreeableness and don’t want to offend others or to have them perceive us as unhelpful is another article altogether. 

There’s really only one way to overcome this inability to say no. And it begins by admitting that it is not actually an inability, it is an unwillingness. And a great remedy for this unwillingness would be to revisit the bigger picture and remind yourself of why your time is valuable and why it is counting on you for protection from frequent interruptions. 

Saying (with a smile), “I’m busy right now but I’ll be free at 3 if you still need me,” isn’t rude. It’s powerful. At least it isn’t any ruder than assuming it is okay to interrupt someone anytime when they are clearly working.  

Also, nine times out of ten, if made to wait, the interruptor will go ahead and figure out the answer by themselves and didn’t really need to interrupt you in the first place.

Lab rat hell

We interrupt ourselves more than even the most annoying interruptor does by checking our inbox in the same way we would scratch an itch.

It’s an addictive compulsion that’s wired into our neural circuitry by a process that goes by the catchy name of random interval reinforcement schedule conditioning. According to behavioural psychology, this is the most powerful way that a habit is formed. 

For example if you had situations where:

  1. Every time a lab rate pressed a lever he would get food
  2. Every other time the rat pressed the lever he would get food
  3. Sometimes when he pressed the lever he would get food and it would be totally random and unpredictable

It would be the third situation that would elicit the most compulsive lever pressing activity from the rat. A random interval reinforcement schedule. And this is what emails do to us. 

We never know when there will be something interesting or important waiting for us in the inbox so we can not resist going back to check it again and again and again. 

A similar argument could be made about the addictive quality that some people seem to experience in shall we say, ‘volatile’ romantic relationships. You never know when it will be awful and you never know when it will be nice so you can’t resist going back for more to keep on checking.

Anyhow, knowledge is power and you can use this scientific insight to get yourself out of lab rat email hell. Schedule in email checking time two or three times a day for example and then:

  • Deactivate notifications
  • Make it harder – don’t keep your login info stored on the device
  • Log out of your account

In fact, why not do that right now? Because it’s only through micro-actions, by making these small practical changes, one at a time, that lead us to building more resilience and achieving more at work.

Make the change. Go on! 

Thank you for reading, may personal resilience be yours. We all want to achieve more at work, it’s just a case of actioning small changes like these. 

If you want to hear more about the resilience training we offer, start by watching our one minute video here, it will give you a preview of what our Resilience training explores. Any questions? You can click here to contact us.

What is Resilience Training?

When I’m connecting to people on LinkedIn and I tell them what I do, the first question people usually ask me is ‘What is Resilience training?’. I’ve noticed that every time I answer that question, I answer it in a slightly different way. Not because I don’t know what I am talking about(!) but because Resilience training could just as easily be called Life training; it encompasses such a lot.

All is Flux

water

From the moment a person (or an organisation) is born, the only thing we can count on is change. Greek philosopher Heraclitus got it right when he observed “Everything changes and nothing stands still”.

Learning, growing, navigating choppy waters and dealing with outright catastrophes are just a few of the things we have to look forward to as we make our merry way.

One of the things about change that makes it so delightful is that very often:

  1. It springs forth at the time we least want it
  2. It comes in a form we least expect it
  3. It comes from a direction we least suspected it would come from.

In other words change, aka life, can be a bit of a bugger and our mission is to meet it on its own terms, as equipped as we can be to survive and succeed.

How Long is Resilience Training?

Thread

When it comes to the length of your resilience training, what’s important is that it’s tailored to suit your budget, the learning needs we’ve identified together during our initial conversations and of course your preferred delivery method.

Lunch and Learn series can be ideal for teams who can’t be released from front line duties and whole or half day sessions can provide a more immersive experience. Residentials provide the depth and space that take your organisations enquiry into how to build Resilience to the next level.

Executive coaching for Resilience provides a flexible engagement option for those in senior management roles with little time to spare, who’d like to develop resilience in the context of their leadership practice.

Where can Resilience Training be held?

compass

Any training can usually be delivered on or offsite. Trainers are often available to travel, nationwide, if not internationally.

The Resilience training that we deliver is very flexible in terms of location. We have delivered in hotels, conference rooms, office canteens and even woods!

You might want to watch out for hidden costs like the trainer’s travel and accommodation. Some companies like to include that in their pricing, and some do not.

We like to keep things fully transparent and include VAT and any applicable expenses on all our quotes for training.

Why Get Resilience Training Now?

now banner

More and more companies are starting to see the value of resilience type training. They are making the connection between the wellbeing of the team member and the wellbeing of the company, be it big or small.

We are excited to see this kind of training become more and more mainstream. We believe it is a key to organisational success.

Resilience and wellbeing are interrelated themes, that applies as much to people as they do to organisations. They both focus on strengthening capacity to thrive despite change and on building knowledge and internal resources to enable this.

In the last 18 months we’ve experienced a steep uptick in demand for Resilience training across a tonne of different sectors; engineering, regulatory bodies, education, housing, and retail companies are all now on our books. The companies vary from pioneering micro-companies to global retail chains such as Specsavers. We love hearing our clients feed back the benefits that Resilience training is bringing to their teams.

What are the Benefits of Resilience Training?

balloon

Research undertaken by Shawn Achor with KMPG has shown that by fostering social connections, optimism and an enhanced understanding of stress, every measure of organisational success (productivity, sales, career progression, the list goes on…) is boosted. Put simply, Resilience training translates into competitive advantage.

These impacts are powerful but they are not quick fix silver bullets. At the heart of resilience training is the understanding that culture change and habit formation are needed to embed resilience deep within a company.

Resilience training makes companies grow. We are excited to be part of this movement which is affecting businesses worldwide. It really is a shift in the right direction.

If you want to hear more about the resilience training we offer, start by watching our one minute video here, it will give you a preview of what our Resilience training explores. Any questions? You can click here to contact us.

What Every Good Stress Management Course Should Teach You, Part 2

Story so far

In Part 1 of What All Stress Management Courses should tell you, we looked at the paradox of stress: how it can be such a vital ingredient to a fulfilled life but at the same time a source of so much pain.

We explored the physical mechanics of stress and started to think about how tuning in to the symptoms of stress in our lives can signpost to towards positive change. Here, in part 2 of What All Stress Management Courses Should Teach You, we are going to turn the spotlight on why stress is differently felt by different people, some of the sources of stress that can get out of hand, what we can do makes things better, not worse, including tangible actions to take.

Magnifier - Light Box Leadership

Horses For Courses

We each of us have a different relationship with stress. When it comes to handling stress we are not all born equal, according to recent genetic research. The FKBP5 gene gets activated by cortisol (that stress hormone we talked about in Part 1) and some of us carry a particular variant of that gene that amps up the effects of cortisol, putting us at higher risk of experiencing mental illness following intense or long-lasting exposure to stress. Add to that the impact that challenging early life experiences can have on our capacity to deal with stress later on.

And there are sex differences too. Stress hormones and sex hormones interact with one another. For example, female brains have been observed to respond to stress by increasing the number of connections between the brain’s control centre, the prefrontal cortex, and its emotional centre, the amygdala. Not so in male brains, however, where its links between other areas of the brain are observed to become less functional.

These structural differences on the impact of stress on male and female brains could account for why too much stress tends to manifest in men as anti-social behaviour, for example, substance abuse, whereas in women it tends to lead to a higher incidence of depression.

All of this builds up quite a complicated picture of what stress is for each individual. And whatever our sex, early life experience or genetic pre-disposition happens to be, our ability to manage stress it is not a constant; how it affects us, how we cope with it can change over time.

Horse - Light Box Leadership

So what do we do then, when that overwhelmed, uptight feeling has been hanging around us for too long, and instead of the space and simplicity that we crave, we feel like we’re being snowed under by life and work’s complexity and relentless demands?

What then?

Standing in the way of control

Whatever action we take a good starting point is to recognise this one simple fact: some things are within our control and other things are not. This idea was bandied about by the Stoic philosophers of Ancient Greece and Rome and it still rings very true. The serenity prayer used in AA meetings encapsulates this thinking perfectly:

“…Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

And when you think about it, in this huge, unpredictable and wildly complicated world, the amount that is in under our control is actually tiny. But it is there, and tiny though it may be, this arena of control is where we create our lives, so we may as well pay it some serious attention.

Statue - Light Box Leadership

What is within the tiny area of our control then? Well, for starters:

  • Our breathing
  • Our thinking
  • Our behavioural response
  • How well we take care of our health
  • How we communicate

So within this tiny area of control are are actually some pretty big levers and no matter how stressful a position we find ourselves in there will always be actions – often very small ones – that we could take that will a) improves things / make them more bearable or b) worsen them and make them more like hell.

The question becomes then when confronted by stress which path do we choose? And the invitation is to remember that there are ways of breathing, thinking, behaving, attending to our health and communicating that can either make things better or make things worse.

Within that, there is a nearly infinite variety of actions to take or not to take. In the spirit of doing what every good stress management course should do, i.e. give people tangible actions to try out, let’s close this two-part series with a surprising practical tool.

Hot drinks and how we think

Jean Paul Satre once said ‘Hell is other people.’ And whether it’s a colleague, a boss, a child or a partner, relationships can at times be a significant source of stress. Stress in a relationship can sometimes build up to such a degree that it can swamp us with negative emotion.

Silently holding the feelings of being overburdened or under-appreciated, or not sufficiently supported can heighten stress levels within a relationship.  These feelings proliferate often because we do not voice them for fear of sparking a conflict, creating a catch 22 where our fear of further stress inhibits our ability to tackle stress in the here and now. But to confront an issue need not be confrontational. To confront things is not an inevitable step towards conflict.

A cup of coffee - Light Box Leadership

Choosing the time, choosing the place.  Being guided by curiosity rather than judgement. Framing the issue as a ‘we’ problem rather than a ‘you versus me’ one, are all ways to confront stress with another without inflaming it.

Having conversations this way tends to give you both a better understanding one another’s perspective better and a clearer idea of what you can both then do to improve things: a ‘we’ problem gives rise to a ‘we’ solution.

People are also usually surprised to discover that the other person had no idea how they felt and that it is often a case of they didn’t know rather than they didn’t care. So have that conversation, and when you have it be sure to deploy the hidden powers of the humble hot drink. Research from the University of Colorado Boulder shows that holding a hot drink lessens our tendency to make negative judgements about another person because, by some quirk of biological fate, the insula part of our brain where judgements about others are formed is the same part where we process temperature.

Never was there a better reason to put the kettle on.

In Sum

Every Stress Management Course should leave us with a better understanding of what stress is and, importantly, our own unique relationship with stress.  Because stress is not experienced in the same way by everyone, different approaches to tackling stress will work differently for different people too.

Whoever we are, the universal key to unlocking our ability to manage stress is being clear about what is in our control and what is not, and then knowing the tangible actions we can take to act on that knowledge.

Compass - Light box leadership

Research gives us a wealth of examples of how we can make stressful situations better and not worse and we need to know what they are.

Knowledge is power, and a stress management course should leave a person feeling like next time they find stress levels ratcheting up at work and in life, that they know exactly what is happening, what to do, and which path to head down.

If you missed part 1 in this blog series, you can find it here.

If you want to hear more about the resilience training we offer, start by watching our one minute video here, it will give you a preview of what our Resilience training explores. Any questions? You can click here to contact us.

What Every Good Stress Management Course Should Teach You, Part 1

Swan legs and Fidget Spinners

Stress Management courses can be a mixed bag. I’ve heard horror stories of trainers handing out fidget spinners, telling delegates that when they are feeling overwhelmed they should just to think ‘Swan Legs’ (from what I can gather that means pretend outwardly that things are going smoothly and are under control, while under the surface you must paddle away like mad to try to meet all the demands placed on you) and even extolling the virtues of scented candles as an efficient means of overcoming stress. Maybe these measures work for some, but all too often people leave stress management courses none the wiser on how they can actually reduce the day to day stress that they are experiencing in their lives.

In my experience a good stress management course will deliver three things:

Fidget Spinners

  • Help you know your enemy i.e. understand what stress actually is, physiologically.
  • Enable you to quickly identify the causes of stress in your own life.
  • Give you simple, practical actions you can start taking immediately to bring your levels of stress down.

In this article, Part 1 of this 2-part series on What Every Good Stress Management Course Should Teach You (Find Part 2 here) , we’ll explore the nature of stress so we’re in a better position to tackle it. In the second instalment, we’ll look some of its common causes and more importantly, the practical ways we can manage them.

When Good Turns Bad

Paradoxically, stress is actually a good thing. And to understand why that is, all we need to think about is how lobsters grow. Bear with me, I promise this will start to make sense. Lobsters are actually soft, mushy animals contained within a rigid shell that does not expand. So how can a lobster grow? Well as they grow, their shell starts to feel very confining, the lobster feels squeezed by the shell. As it keeps growing, the pressure increases until the discomfort is unbearable.

So the lobster then goes and finds a rock to hide under to stay safe from predators, sheds its old shell and produces a new one. And eventually, as it continues to grow, that shell will become uncomfortable and so back under the rock the lobster goes to repeat the process. The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that it feels uncomfortable.

The same applies to us: looking for a stress-free life is not healthy.  Without reaching beyond the zone of what’s comfortable in terms of how much we sometimes take on or taking on things we are not yet good at, we tend to stagnate and weaken and this can allow a sense meaninglessness to creep into our lives.

So times of stress are often times that are also signals for growth, and if we use adversity properly we can grow through adversity. (If you like this analogy, take a look at this video of Rabbi Twerski talking about lobster growth.)

lobsters

And yet stress has its shadow side, and that is the side we more commonly associate it with. The side that adversely affects our health, be it physically or mentally: raised blood pressure, heart disease, increased risk of diabetes, panic attacks, depression.  Although a stress-free life is not healthy, neither are any of these things. So what gives? Is it simply a case of can’t live with it, can’t live without it? Is stress just another one of life’s strange little tricks that can not be resolved? To answer these questions, we first have to take a look at what stress actually is, physiologically speaking.

Hats on Kidneys

If you were able to see your own kidneys you would notice that they are wearing hats. Why am I telling you this? Because these hats, or the adrenal glands to be exact, play the starring role in our everyday experiences of stress. But before we get further into the physical mechanics, let’s get our definition of stress straight.

A basic definition that suits psychologists and engineers alike is that stress is an immediate response to external pressure. That’s why it is often called the stress response because it is always responding to something outside ourselves.  So back to the hats. Say something happens in our external environment. Like our Satnav lies to us, making us late for an important meeting. Or we have several deadlines looming all at once and none of the tasks are anywhere near finished. Or a boss gives us some seriously unconstructive criticism about some work we’ve just done. Whatever form the external pressure takes, it starts a chain reaction going in our body – kicking in the fight or flight response we hear so much about.

Hat

First of all, our hypothalamus, a gland no bigger than an almond that lies buried deep within our brain, sparks up and sends out the bat signal to our adrenal glands. Most immediately, these glands (or hats) release adrenaline and noradrenaline. In an instant, this speeds up our heart, our breathing, releases a rush of energy in the form of glucose from our liver, and pumps immune cells from our spleen and bone-marrow into our blood. When you get startled or jump off a high diving board that very quick, physical jolt you feel shooting through your body is that first adrenal gland release. The noradrenaline has a similar effect, plus it makes us more mentally alert. The result of all this is that we are primed and ready to take rapid action. Fight or flight.

About half an hour or so after the original alarm was set off by the hypothalamus, the adrenal glands then release a third substance, a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol affects our cellular function and metabolism and it binds to our neurons, altering the way we think and perceive things at that moment. The cortisol gives us immediate energy, controls our blood pressure and like the adrenaline, primes our body to be ready to act in the face of danger.

These three chemicals combine to drastically alter our mental and physical state so we can deal with the stressor. So they have their purpose, but it’s when they start working overtime, we run into problems.

Always On

Stress stops being our friend when it becomes chronic. That is to say, our stress response is kicking in so often that we don’t have adequate time to come down from it and regain our physical and mental state of calm and equilibrium. As I mentioned before we need a certain amount of stress to be able to grow and feel engaged and fulfilled by our lives. And the old saying, attributed to miserablist philosopher and world’s best moustache record holder, Nietzsche:

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,”

certainly comes to mind. Like exercise, stress often doesn’t feel nice at the time, but it builds our stamina and strength, two things that none of us is going to get very far in life without. If that stress is ever present though, instead of strengthening us, it makes us weaker.

moustache record holder, Nietzsche

For a start, stress can compromise our health. It hikes our blood pressure, makes our blood sticky and heightens our risk of heart disease. Some studies suggest it increases the risk of cancer too.

In terms of mental illness, stress is one of the major causal factors of depression, a nasty and debilitating condition you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And then there are panic attacks. If this is starting to sound scary, it needn’t be.

We don’t arrive at the extreme end of stress overnight, and there are so many great ways to prevent stress from building up to the point where it makes life unworkable and compromises our health. Every good stress management course should have people coming away with a toolbox of tactics to deal with things upstream before they become a big problem.

A useful way of understanding how good stress goes bad is by thinking of the way that a system operating at full capacity for too long might at first appear to be super productive, but if it’s never switched off it will soon overheat and break down. How productive is something that’s broken? Not very.

Find the Fire Exit

It’s a common experience for our stress levels to get so high or be so prolonged that they start to undermine our lives and make us feel like we’re drowning.

If you’ve felt recently that you would like the world to stop so you can just get off, then you are in good company: in the UK, 3 out of 4 people have been so overwhelmed by stress that they have felt unable to cope at least once in the past year.

But what can we do when we notice that:

  • nothing feels like fun anymore
  • we can’t switch off and relax
  • we feel low
  • we feel lonely
  • little things seem to annoy us so much more than usual
  • our appetite suffers
  • our sleep’s out of whack

Fire Exit Sign

What then?

Well, the good news is that when we start to notice these signs in our lives, they are actually doing us a favour. All these symptoms point us in the direction of necessary change.

They point us in a direction that will take us back to growth and to better health, if we are alert to them that is, and know how to respond.

In Sum

Stress is not only inevitable, but it is also a part of life that we need and rely on almost as much as food and air. Without it, we don’t feel fully alive. Nothing much of value is ever created in this world without some friction, without some push. Raising a family is hard, getting qualified is hard, if they weren’t they’d have no reward within them.

We only have to look at the lives of some ‘lucky’ people who have been inoculated from stress by being born into great wealth, to see how often the absence of stress and striving translates to an absence of meaning and an absence of joy. The more the stress-free hedonist tries to escape this meaninglessness through distractions and addictions, the more meaningless their life becomes. Sounds heavy I know, but it’s true.

Yet there is a dark side to stress that has to be understood if we are to be the master of it and not its slave. When stress dominates, we suffer. Our health takes a hit. We stop creating so much value and stop enjoying our lives.

Many stress management courses jump straight into offering us off the peg solutions to stress without helping us understand more deeply what and why it is.

To build that understanding we need to take a step back, and look at it in the round. Why does it affect some people more than others? Why does it snowball the way it does? And how can we prevent it from getting out of hand in the first place? The mark of a good stress management course is that we come away not only full of motivation and ideas about the changes we want to make, but also a desire to share what we have learned with others, building better friendships, communities, and workplaces.

Here in Part 1 of this 2-part blog series, we’ve looked at the physical chain reaction that causes a healthy stress response and answered the question of why, at times, something as good and necessary as stress can turn bad. And finally, we’ve looked at some symptoms of chronic stress in people’s lives and framed them less as problems, more as signposts toward change.

But what change?

Find out in Part 2 of What Every Good Stress Management Course Should Teach You.

If you want to hear more about the resilience training we offer, start by watching our one minute video here, it will give you a preview of what our Resilience training explores. Any questions? You can click here to contact us.