Blogs sign-up

Resilience training

Research based resilience training tools and techniques to cope with pressurized jobs and difficult life events

Leading with resilience in the face of uncertainty, surprise and change.

exposed-tree-rootsOrganisations today operate in highly complex, fluid and uncertain environments. The organisations typically have multiple change initiatives on the go, each with deep impact. As a result, uncertainty, surprise and change have become pervasive in organisations.

Unfortunately, the skills of leaders to lead in this environment, and team members to cope and recover well, are not equally pervasive.

The change initiatives are sometimes beyond the ability of leaders to manage effectively. Also, team members often struggle to cope, particularly if the changes don’t make sense to them, or they are not sure of their priorities or they don’t feel valued.

The challenge that leaders face is to make fast-paced and extensive change a normal part of working life.

The following Resilient Leadership strategies will help your team members to cope during uncertainty, surprise and change: Continue reading

How to develop resilience – strength for life

DrowningWe all experience difficulties in life, but sometimes it goes from “In every life, some rain must fall” (YouTube link here), to a flood. It can be caused by an unrelenting volume or pace of work. Or it can be caused by something deeply upsetting such as being retrenched or ending of a love-relationship.

When difficulties reach flood levels, some people are stretched beyond their limits. They don’t cope well. They feel defeated and sometimes spiral into hopelessness. Its’s as though they are drowning in a flood of difficulty and hardship.

In contrast, others cope and recover well. They manage to keep their experience of stress positive and struggle well. They are like a buoy in an ocean storm, submerged from time-to-time, but quickly bob up again. Continue reading

Stop living your life on autopilot!


Stop living your life on autopilot!

Have you ever drunk a cup of coffee or eaten a chocolate bar and don’t remember how it tasted? Or had to turn back unnecessarily on a journey because you didn’t remember locking the front door? Or tuned-out while your loved-one was talking?

These are signs you are living your life on autopilot. It’s really sad if you are so stressed, distracted and unaware that you miss out on much of your life.

To check if you’re living your life on autopilot, ask yourself if any of the following applies to you: Continue reading

Stop over-committing with two actions!

OverloadedHigh achievers commit. They volunteer for projects. They take over work from struggling team members. As parents they take over and solve problems for their children. As loving partners, they do more than their fair share at home. They do so much that they are superheroes! Then they commit again… and again, until they often become completely over-committed.

There is a significant downside to being over-committed. They often don’t fulfill all their commitments despite working themselves to the bone. They feel guilty about letting people down and breaking their promises. Their emotional and physical well-being and also domestic relationships suffer. Burnout is always close.

Continue reading

Stress as an Issue for Women

Stress as an issue for women

Stress as an issue for women

Stress is a normal part of our lives, and while men and women stress differently (read more here), a recent study found that women in the workplace reported higher stress levels than men. These women felt more under-appreciated, tenser and regarded themselves as underpaid compared to their male colleagues.

In my coaching practice, I hear the term “burnout” more and more. Cathy (name changed) was criticised by her manager that she was not tough enough and just wasn’t “producing the goods”.

Cathy felt that she was being unfairly held to a different standard than her colleagues. She tried hard to meet other people’s expectations at work and at home, but no matter how hard she pushed herself, she felt she disappointed them.

Continue reading

How to disagree with your boss

ID-10091466 (1) - Copy

When you know you’re right, and your boss is wrong, deciding whether to speak up is often difficult. You may feel that to be respectful you have to tone down your disagreement. And if you are to be honest, you’re going to hurt her feelings.

You don’t want to make things worse, but not voicing your concerns feels like you are agreeing. Right?

This dilemma comes up often in my coaching practice, and we have found a way of tackling it. Here’s what works:


Step one: Understand your motivation

Why do you have the feelings you do? Is it only about the issue, or does it also bring up other issues you are not happy about? Continue reading

Help! I am feeling overwhelmed!

Lost and Confused SignpostToo many people making demands on you, too much to do and too little time to do it do it in? Too many e-mails and too many meetings? Everyone wants a piece of you?

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. People working in organisations today seem to be increasingly stressed, having to achieve more with fewer resources.  In a recent Knowledge Resources survey, 80% of the respondents said their workload had increased substantially and most felt overwhelmed. This is in line what I have also found (more here).

You know feeling constantly overwhelmed is an indication of a dangerously high level of stress. You also know that high levels of stress will have severe negative impacts on you, affecting your productivity, your colleagues and your loved ones.

But if you’re like so many others, understanding the negative consequences of feeling consistently overwhelmed doesn’t automatically translate into knowing what to do to change.

Fortunately there are things you can do to help. Here are seven things that have helped leaders and managers I coach and may help you too: Continue reading

Develop mental strength with five powerful exercises


Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed? If so, you are not alone. I am often asked how to cope when you are feeling really vulnerable, but you have to be strong.

The answer, according to the highly regarded scientist Angela Duckworth, is to develop mental strength, which she calls “grit”. She has found that mental strength is what differentiates people who persist and achieve long-term excellence, as opposed to those who start off well, but lose enthusiasm and give up.

Also, she has found that mental strength is the best predictor of success in school, the military and corporate sales, rather than intelligence or even luck (more here).

Would you like to develop your mental strength? If so, there are five powerful exercises, based on Angela Duckworth’s research, which I have found to be very helpful. These exercises will help you persevere and keep motivated when dealing with big issues like unwelcome change and stress at work or home, or even sticking to a diet, a financial budget or a study plan (more here). Continue reading

Why is it so difficult to implement strategy?

You have a visionary strategy that will deliver competitive advantage. The executives are ecstatic …. but over time the strategy fails to deliver the anticipated benefits.

Why is it so difficult to implement strategy?

It’s because the real problem is getting people to implement the strategy.

The role of strategy engagement

We know strategy involves change. So we create people engagement activities, but on their own, they are not sufficient to ensure that strategy is successfully implemented!

The missing element: resilience

Continue reading

Why is it so hard to be a resilient leader during organisational change?

Surprises are the new normal

The Harvard Business Review recently stated that surprises are the new normal in organisations (reference here). When these surprises result in you having to implement unwanted and unsettling change, you need to be a resilient leader.

Being a resilient leader requires helping your team members stay task focused and productive, operating as thought it’s “business as usual” when it’s clearly not. Critically, you and your team members need to stress positive, and not allow any negative stress from work or life to influence each other.

What can you do if your team isn’t resilient, and doesn’t cope well with setbacks and unwelcome change? What do you do if they become demoralized, loose energy or resist change despite the usual change management activities (here)? Continue reading

5 things mentally strong people don’t do

We all want to be mentally strong to cope when bad things happen. But being mentally strong is not only for bad times, it’s for good times too. Being mentally strong is all about the way you interpret and explain to yourself the stuff that happens in your life. It’s an attitude you put into practice every day.

In previous Building Resilience Updates, I described what mental toughness is (here) and have also given the formula of how to be mentally strong (here). Now I am going to describe five things that mentally strong people don’t do and some give some alternatives. Continue reading

How to be mentally strong

Life is just not fair! That’s why we need to be resilient and mentally strong. I described what mental strength is in the previous Building Resilience Update (here), and I will now explain how to be mentally strong.

Stick with me as I give you some theory first.

At its core, mental strength is all about how we interpret the things that happen to us, as we make sense of our lives. What’s fascinating is that mentally strong people interpret the difficult things that happen in their lives completely differently to the people who are less mentally strong. Mentally tough people explain a negative event to themselves by: Continue reading

I’ve been robbed! I’ve been retrenched! I’m dropping out!

Last week started with a frantic call from a friend: “The security company called to say that my house has been broken into. The front door is broken and standing wide open. Please will you go and help?”

She was holidaying in Knysna, about six hours away. We rushed over to her house, to find drawers strewn about, and her flat screen TVs and jewelry missing.

Midweek I spent some time with two senior managers who had been retrenched. My brief was to assist them to find replacement income streams.

At the end of the week, I addressed a workshop on how the alarmingly high drop-out rate of first year university students can be reduced. Continue reading

What do you say to someone experiencing a really tough time?

Horrible things happen to everyone – relationship breakups, retrenchment, health crisis, children going off the rails, accidents, death of loved ones. The list is endless.

When something horrible happens to someone we know, we often would like to reach out to them. To say something appropriate to them. This is reflected in one of the principles of  Building Resilience: Reach out to others

That’s all very well, but what do you actually say, particularly if it’s to a person at work? We don’t want to use clichés, and also we don’t want to say something that may be insensitive. Continue reading

“Can building resilience help a person who has been hijacked five times?”

The question came from the HR Partner of a fast moving consumer goods company. Some of their staff distribute highly marketable consumer goods, and the threat of having their vehicle hijacked at gun point is real.

But hijacked five times — wow! I can’t imagine what that must be like.

I asked what the company was doing to assist these people.

“We use unbranded vehicles, change the delivery routes and also have installed vehicle tracking systems. We make sure that the people at risk know what to do in a hijacking situation. Also, we provide counselling for those who have been hijacked.”

And what’s not working, I asked? Continue reading

Which is more effective: “Stress Management” or “Building Resilience”?

“How do you keep trying to reach your goals in life, when there are so many obstacles?” The question came from a member of the Metropolitan Police Department of a large South African Metropolitan Municipality.

“You need to be resilient!” I replied. “Resilience is the ability to cope with setbacks, disappointments, unwanted change and even trauma. But more than that, it’s the human capacity we all have to incorporate the good and bad things that happen to us into our lives, and make sense of them.”

“With resilience we sometimes even become better not bitter; stronger not weaker. Fortunately it’s not some special magic that only a few people have, as it’s a human capacity that is available to all of us. You need resilience to overcome obstacles in life in order to achieve your goals.” Continue reading

Can stress really be good for you?

Last night I had a nightmare, like those I had when I was small. In the dream I had a terrible fight with someone. We were wrestling on the floor, and I was hitting this faceless person over and over again in the face with an iron bar. It was horrible, and went on and on!

I eventually managed to wake myself up, sweating and with my heart was pounding. Even though it was just a dream, it had felt completely real. I got out of bed and went to the kitchen to calm myself.

Sitting in the kitchen with the light on, drinking a glass of water, the nightmare receded and it got me thinking about my stress-reaction to the nightmare. Continue reading

The awesome choices we have every day

I recently spent two nights at a Johannesburg hotel, and had an amazing experience at the exit-gate of the hotel’s parking garage.

Concerned about Monday morning traffic, I was up early and was keen to start driving to the Building Resilience workshop (click here) I was due to facilitate. Payment for parking my hired car was to a teller in a booth at the exit-gate. You know how it works: you pay her, she deposits the cash into her teller’s machine, which in turn triggers the exit-boom to rise.

As I drove up to the payment booth however, I saw there was a problem. The teller was struggling to load a roll of paper for receipts into her cash machine.  As she battled, cars began to queue up behind me. After a few minutes, a driver leaned out of his window and shouted: “Come on! I am gonna be late!” Continue reading

Praising young children can be harmful!

I have four grandchildren, all under the age of three, and I am utterly convinced that they are the cleverest and dearest little children in the world. (It has been somewhat of a surprise to find that most other grandparents feel the same about their grandchildren!)

I have praised little Liam: “you are so clever to speak Thai as well as you do English”. And praised little Jake: “you are so clever to build that complicated Lego castle”

Praise like this is good, right? After all, it will make both little boys realise they are really clever and increase their self-esteem, so it must be good for them, right?

Well, not only is that wrong, but too much of that type of praise is actually dangerous for the developing boys, according to the highly respected scientist Carol Dweck. She found that too much praise boosting self-esteem actually results in class grades sinking rather than increasing! Continue reading

5 steps to reduce organisational change risk

All large-scale organisational change carries its own change management risk. Organisational change risk is associated with mergers, downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, major IT projects and Lean implementations are now well known and usually attempts are made to mitigate the change management risks. Yet large-scale changes and projects have a very disappointing record of not living up to expectations and delivering on their anticipated benefits! ( )

What causes large-scale projects to consistently fall short of their expectations? There are probably only two major reasons: technology or people. Let’s take technology first. Enough is known about IT design, structuring reorganisations, project management, and process re-engineering for us to assume that technology is not to be the problem that creates change management risk. Continue reading