Without a doubt, the most common request I have received in recent months has been for programs to help with Resilience and Stress Management. I am thrilled that so many organisations and individuals are taking such an interest in the health and wellbeing of their people. As I mentioned in my last blog, the world of work has changed, and we need to ensure that we are adapting to it and looking after ourselves and the people we work with.

In September, I travelled with the Tasmanian Employer of Choice Roadshow to discuss one of my programs; Building a Resilient Workforce. I met so many people from a diverse range of businesses and industries, and all with the same desire to learn strategies to support themselves and others. I asked many of them who they consider to be a resilient leader. As a general rule, I found that Gandhi and Mandela were popular responses and occasionally I heard about individuals of whom I was not aware of, but who have demonstrated resilience in a way that resonated with the person I was conversing with.

The road to enhanced resilience is certainly paved with adversity. Resilient individuals and leaders are not happy and positive all of the time. The reality is that they have experienced difficulties or trauma and worked through it. Those that come to mind for me are usually; Nelson Mandela, Rosie Batty and Malala Yousafzai. However, my personal favourite is Ernest Shackleton.

If you don’t know Shackleton’s story, I genuinely think it is one of the most incredible stories ever told. In a nutshell, he wanted to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. Within weeks of arriving, his ship was crushed. There was no contact with the outside world. This was 1914, so no satellite phones! In a nutshell, it took nearly two years, however he ensured that everyone in his crew got home safe and well. It is truly the most remarkable story. In the most challenging of circumstances, he was able to keep everyone engaged, safe and focused. I often hear from people who express frustration with having to work with limited resources. Well, for Shackleton and his crew this was a serious lack of resources including food and shelter in below freezing conditions!

As a leader, Shackleton had a strong and clear vision, which then had to be changed in an instant from his personal goal of crossing Antarctica to focusing on getting every one of his crew home safely. Sometimes, we have a clear vision for an aspect of our work, career or life and then something happens which requires us to shift or completely change that focus. One of my favourite quotes is by Charles Darwin, who said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’.  Being resilient allows us to adapt and to look after ourselves and, just as importantly, to look after others when life throws us a curve ball.

Things have changed….

Things have changed….

Recently I read a book where one of the contributors worked with IBM as an external consultant over an extended period of time. As he recalls, in 1979, IBM generated 23 billion dollars in revenue and employed over 300,000 employees and yet, on most workdays, you could have fired a cannonball down the halls of the corporate head office at 5.15pm and hit no-one. Even the most senior executives worked an average of 35-45-hour weeks, took time off when they had minor health problems and enjoyed 5 weeks of real vacation with no interruptions. (Naturally this was before mobiles, laptops and the 24/7 connectedness we ‘enjoy’ today). Employees also took comfort in the belief that they could look forward to a lifetime of job security.

Those days, of course, are now a distant dream. And by way of example; in that same IBM office, employees work 60 to 80 hours a week, they keep working through most health problems, take almost no real vacations and naturally are not counting on any job security.

Yes, things have changed. The world of work has changed and continues to change at a rapid pace. Many employees are always connected and for a variety of reasons rarely take real breaks. Business needs and priorities can change in a moment due to both internal and external factors, and I hear regularly from employees that they are been asked to do more and more with less.

Now, more than ever, it is critical that individuals and organisations build resilience. Having a resilient workforce is about individuals, teams and organisations functioning well, both in normal operating conditions, as well as in times of stress and significant change. A resilient workforce has a protective barrier that enables them to stay healthy, work effectively and maintain productivity during periods of high pressure.

We know that change is constant, and as Charles Darwin noted ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.’

There is no doubt that the workplace can be stressful at times, and yet it is important to remember that for most people, their work is ‘a key determinant of self-worth, family esteem, identity and standing within the community, besides of course, material progress and a means of social participation and fulfilment.’ As described by Dame Carol Black.

So, what do your employees need?

There are three key factors:

  • A meaningful, flexible job with role clarity
  • A supportive manager and team that is respectful and communicates well
  • An organisation that is accountable, has clearly defined goals and capable leaders

If this is a topic of interest for you and your organisation, or if you are interested in our Building a Resilient Workforce program, please feel free to contact Rachel, via;