Monthly Archives: February 2013

Finding resilient passion inside the machine

The capacity to bounce back after a set back: resilience is such a hot topic across the business world.

In our last blog Helena Clayton wrote about how making small changes can have a big difference. She illustrated this through the real story of how an exhausted CEO discovered energy, strength and bounce by re-discovering his passion for art. Re-engaging with Ansell Adams’ work revitalised his work and home life.

Bigger than your job spec

It is a short step from this story to muse, to hope, to know that many or most people in organisations have passions which make them come alive, which make them fully human, which make them bigger than their job specs.

How easy it is to only think of organisations as machines built from neatly interlocking job specs and fuelled by revenue. If thinking begets action then Gareth Morgan’s machine metaphor [1] will only get you so far.

A persistent feature of major setbacks and disaster are inspirational stories of leadership, resourcefulness, compassion, heroism and sacrifice. These qualities seem to gush forth regardless of job spec or position within an organisation’s power structure. And yes, there is an opposite side to this shiny coin. One conclusion perhaps is that we are all so much more than our job specs. For better or worse.

A disabled work place

So, what is it about the way we organise ourselves at work that masks who we are, reduces what we are able to offer, maybe even disables us? Why do we leave so much of ourselves at home? Why do we play avoidance games at work? Why are we all so disinterested and lacking in curiosity about one another? If we think of organisations as a set of human relationships, how constrained and disabled do these feel where you work?

And why does it take a major set back or a disaster for people to discover how resilient they are, or are not?

A leading and enabling role

How much does your organisation invest in transformation and continuous improvement where part of this is the pursuit of a target set of values? Is there an assumption that a list of words on a flipchart and some workshop effort will somehow enable these to be realised; and that this effort will deliver performance and deepen resilience?

How would it be if you could notice, value and enable what already exists? What could you do to unshackle what is already under your nose?

How can you as a leader create the right environment for your people’s highest positive qualities to come to the fore and be a resilient part of business as usual rather than as an exception in extremis?

Dave Stewart
The Fresh Air Learning Company

[1] Organisational Metaphors, Gareth Morgan, 1986

The capacity to bounce back after a set back: resilience is such a hot topic across the …

Small things, big difference

A guest blog from Helena Clayton, Director of Executive & Leadership Development, The Fresh Air Learning Company Ltd

We know that part of what makes us resilient is being able to draw on resources when we need them. Sometimes that means reaching out to others and asking for help. At other times it means going inside and resourcing ourselves.

Running on empty…

Working with a CEO, he had realised that while he was doing a great job of leading his organisation, he was feeling empty inside and it was getting harder and harder to put on a bright and brave face. In our coaching sessions, he said he he’d lost his spark and felt bored with who he was. He wondered how long he could keep up the pretence and felt it might soon impact his work.

In talking this through, he realised that it had been ages since he had done anything for himself, in particular things he used to love doing. He was spending lots of time at work and then there would be evening networking events. Then he’d spend the weekend with his kids at their various commitments as part of family life. He enjoyed all of that.

But there was nothing that he did that was for him alone. No wonder he felt dried up. And, as we talked, he identified his love of art and photography as something he’d loved, lost touch with, and greatly missed.

Matching the inside and outside…

A week later, I get a call.

Hey, Helena, guess where I am? I’m sitting in the car in Bristol and I have a gap between meetings. I’ve got my iPad out and I could do some work. But there’s an art exhibition round the corner…and I’m going to it instead!

Two weeks later and he’d also been to see Ansel Adams in Greenwich – also in between meetings.

When we met, he laughed and said he had his mojo back and was feeling so much more positive about life. Now his inside matched his outside. He felt much more able to tackle the challenges of work and he’d noticed he was doing more stuff with his kids. ‘Amazing,’ he said, ‘how such a small thing has made such a big difference’.

Try this now…

What do you love doing that you’ve lost touch with? What one small thing could you do to reconnect you with yourself? A small thing can make a huge difference.

Take a risk and do it now.

Helena Clayton
Director of Executive & Leadership Development Programmes
The Fresh Air Learning Company Ltd

A guest blog from Helena Clayton, Director of Executive & Leadership Development, The Fresh Air Learning Company …

Prepare for what you can’t predict

The capacity to bounce back after a set back: resilience is such a hot topic across the business world.

In our last blog we drew attention to the resilient nature of comedians. This week, we are thinking about adaptability.

Crystal balls and black swans

It’s impossible to predict the shape or size of your organisation’s next set back. But you can think about and plan for potential issues. Being prepared isn’t the same as knowing what’s coming. It’s about having the capacity to manage – to adapt – to whatever’s thrown at you. Especially the things you don’t know about. The Black Swans.

Goalkeepers and penalty kicks

We drew on the rehearsed and improvisational skills of comedians last week to illustrate aspects of resilience.  Let us now think about football goalkeepers.

They know penalties are a possibility; but they don’t know when, which game, or who the penalty taker will be.  They train for the generic possibility. And they draw on a combination of imaginal, mental and physical capacities to adapt and react to the unfolding reality of the penalty kick.

And when it is over, they rejoice or they pick themselves up, re-focus and press-on with the game.

The 7 Ps

Organisational life may not have quite such binary outcomes. Sometimes, of course, it does. Whatever, we believe that resilience has a lot to do with preparation.

In fact we are pretty clear that the old adage, oft used in the military, of Prior Planning & Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance lies at the heart of resilience. We are also pretty clear that Planning & Preparation does not just centre on a single “Plan A”. It is about planning and preparing the capacity to operate simultaneously on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels.

Dave Stewart
Managing Director
The Fresh Air Learning Company Ltd

The capacity to bounce back after a set back: resilience is such a hot topic across the …