Is Resilience just Pink and Fluffy Stuff?

I’m not a great believer the pink and fluffy stuff.  I don’t often dwell on well-being, mental health or mindfulness – probably because I was bought up to get through life as best you can.  But, I am a great believer in Resilience.  It’s helped me get through a few difficult times over the past 7 years.  So here’s my take on Resilience:

  • The ability to move forward in the face of uncertainty.
  • The ability to cope when even the carpet under your feet appears to be pulled away
  • The ability not to feel overwhelmed when things aren’t quite going to plan

Why we need resilience

At work – things do go wrong – it’s as simple as that.

And it’s important that when things do go wrong, we can continue functioning and achieve the best outcome. It’s all about being proactive and accepting that change will happen, staring difficulty right in the face and getting on with the next thing.

Sometimes a task goes awry or you’ve not really got the best kit for the job.  Other times, people are difficult to work with or lack the right skills. Resilient people overcome those difficulties, either the task, the tools, or the people.

The world is constantly changing.

The work you’re doing, the technologies that you’re using, the teams you’re working with, constantly shift and change, don’t they? Having a bit of resilience helps you manage that. Otherwise, it’s easy to feel a daunted.

To achieve our goals

Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in a situation where there’s no better way of doing things.  We’ve experienced this during lockdown.  A product is not available or it’s too expensive. So we have to improvise.

Think of all those Gin makers, who have moved to making hand sanitiser, Rolls Royce is making ventilators, Burberry making PPE and so on.

For the sake of our sanity

Right now as we face week 6 of Lockdown we need to show some grit. Sometimes we just have to take small steps, preserve mental energy and focus on the long term goal. For example, encourage your team to focus on how their clients are feeling rather than themselves.

Three Resilience Traits

The experts say, resilient people have 3 traits.  See what you think:

They Get Real

Many people believe that resilience is about having a positive outlook and that’s true to a point. However, positivity and optimism have limited use. They are morale boosters, but when things go wrong, a pragmatic, almost cynical sense of reality is more useful. Resilience is about being prepared for the worst that can happen – cos sometimes, believe me, it does.

When my back operation went wrong 6.5 years ago, and I lost the use of my right foot, I ended up in a wheelchair.  I hoped I’d recover but I knew deep down I was damaged for life.  Not good for a keen long distance walker!

They Find a Meaning

They say when the going gets tough – the tough get going. In a situation like Lockdown, a natural response might be to give up. But a resilient person will  analyse the situation so that they can make some useful meaning of it for themselves or others.

I give you Colonel Tom for instance.  Finding a purpose in Lockdown has inspired so many.  Tom’s story and many others who are helping others makes the current way of life manageable, removing those feelings of overwhelm about Lockdown.

When my back operation went wrong 6.5 years ago, I felt overwhelmed.  But actually, realising that there are millions of people like me in this world has helped me to find my meaning in life.  I am on a mission to get the UK smart working so we can become more inclusive!

They Make Do

My Mum used to say ‘Make do and Mend’.  It was a saying from the Second World War. Making do is the ability to continue with whatever you have to work with. Resilient people ooze creativity and have the ability to look beyond the norm. When difficult situations arise, resilient people carry on and look for solutions that others have not considered. They improvise.

Hey, and I improvise too.  I’m out of the wheelchair now.  I have drop foot, but I cope with a few nice pairs of boots with 2.5 inch block heels that tip my foot forward and enable me to walk – well perhaps hobble. My wardrobe is full of lovely pairs of Boots.

Take time to think about those 3 characteristics – how are you doing against them?

Listen to how your Mind Works

One of the positive aspects of resilience is that it is completely within our gift to change it. The first step is understanding how we process the world around us and then how we choose to respond.

As we try to make sense of all of the information that is thrown at us, we are often simplifying the data our brain is receiving.  But have you noticed that some people seem to make the same mistakes over and over again – they fall into the same old thinking trap. Once we are in these traps, we tend to get stuck.  It’s hard for us to respond in a logical, resilient way.

When did you last get caught in one of these thinking traps?

  1. Jumping to conclusions without having the relevant data.
  2. Tunnel vision instead of looking at the big picture
  3. Magnifying and minimising – Magnifying negatives and minimising positives.
  4. Blaming yourself when things go wrong.
  5. Blaming others when things go wrong.
  6. Overgeneralising instead of looking at the individual factors.
  7. Mind reading – Jumping to conclusions because you think you know what someone else is thinking – I bet you don’t – we’re all wired differently.

I’m pretty resilient, but I do have my moments. However, I think to myself, that’s fine, becuase an important part of developing resilience is identifying our strengths and our weaknesses.

Coping when the Proverbial happens

Next time you face a difficult situation or feel down about lockdown, consider these three thoughts:

Self Talk: That negative voice that runs through your head when confronted with difficult situations – and it causes you to fall into those Thinking Traps. Literally say out loud – gotchya!  The more you catch it out the more you’ll avoid that thinking trap in future.

Call out Adversity: Identify which events are likely to reduce your ability to cope.

Reaction: Each time you face the proverbial, stop, consider how will you respond to the situation this time?

Stop.  Take a deep breath and consider the best way to respond – before you respond.


Did you know that studies of resilience during traumatic events encourage keeping a routine to your day.  It’s much better for everyone’s mental health to try to keep a routine going, as much as possible.

Of course you’ve gotta take care of your body, eat, sleep, exercise and drink well.  I drink pretty well to be honest!  I like to celebrate each day with a cheeky glass of Prosecco and I am simply not ashamed of celebrating each day I am alive.

But hey, that’s me!  Now that’s the theory – what about the practical stuff?

Take back control

There are many things about Lockdown that are out of our control – but there are also things within our control that I have found impact my ability to be resilient.

  • Purpose: Belong to something bigger than yourself – whether that’s work or community related. For me, it’s banging the drum about smart ways of working that will make the UK a more inclusive workforce- but I also give you Colonel Tom & his amazing fund raising
  • Relationships: Surround yourself with a good support network. We all get a bit anxious – but some people will help you come back up fighting. I have a fabulous support network – who I support too.
  • Random acts of kindness: Being kind releases the feel good hormone, oxytocin, in your body & lasts for at least 24 hours – so indulge in some kindness to others and it actually helps you out too!


Scientists say when we spend a lot of time alone, we start to react differently, and the reason lies in neurology. We produce a neurochemical called tachykinin which makes us more wary of others. Perhaps it’s the survival thing kicking in – there’s no-one to watch our back?

  • Rituals are good during lockdown.  It’s much better for everyone’s mental health to try to keep a routine going, as much as possible.
  • The  main reason is people are juggling carer duties, home-schooling, and other family challenges so keeping a routine reduces “decision fatigue,” – that’s the overwhelm and exhaustion that can come from managing too many responsibilities.
  • Why not put a daily meeting into the diary for the next 4 weeks. Use your Distributed Meetings to enable RAOK – Get the team helping one another
  • Maintain workplace traditions – social aspect of work. For the first few days people loved working from home but after a while, social needs kick in.  If you always have Pizza on Friday – do it virtually


  • A report out today about remote workers says that Employees who get sufficient training about remote working  are five times happier (56%) at work than those who are not offered any support (11%).
  • Remote workers who have received training  are also more than twice as likely (45% compared to 18%) to say that they are more productive in the same amount of time when working flexibly
  • Run Virtual Away Days. We’re running Harrison Assessments with Clients – followed by a 2-hour virtual session of quizzes and fun elements. We build an action plan for self-help strategies to get the team through lockdown. One of our clients started a virtual Potato growing competition between her team on the back of the awayday!
  • Online learning. We’re building good value packages that give your team targeted learning including tips and techniques for getting through lockdown – delivered in short, sharp takeaways – on Trust, Running Virtual Meetings, Communication and Collaboration, Wellbeing.
  • Train the dry subjects but make sure it’s interesting. For example – Root Cause Analysis with the Titanic Story
  • Plan you Future Smart Workforce with your Top Team
  • Share these slides with your people so they know how to look after themselves


  • Don’t distrust your workforce. The etiquette is two-way trust and being really clear about what the outcomes of the work are, and what you want achieved – not hours worked.
  • Don’t rely on text-based communication. We’ve evolved to become an anxious species and tend to assume the worst when we don’t have all the information on the emotional intent in communication  Most of us write text-based messages as if we’re communicating face-to-face, but without those emotional cues – things can be misunderstood
  • When we are clear that getting the job done is the priority and customer experience is king – Remote working becomes self-regulatory. Make sure you are crystal clear that customer experience is king
  • Get to know your Team. Finding out what makes each individual tick is the key to building a working relationship that has trust at its heart. Make work fun! Run quizzes and questionnaires with your team.  Getting to know them on a different level will help you understand when they are happy or struggling with isolation – this could be so helpful during the coming weeks. Find out what personal preferences they have? Are they morning, afternoon or evening people? What are their most important values?


  • Use your Distributed Meetings to enable RAOK – Get the team helping one another
  • Leaders – you have a captive audience. Use your time to run video meetings with different teams to clarify the Business Goals and priorities.  You’ll be surprised by the differing views and perspectives and it will give you the opportunity to get everyone on the same page.
  • Run a virtual Town Hall Meeting with Employees and Senior Management Team via video call. Employees can ask any questions. It doesn’t have to be Coronavirus related – it can be something funny/personal or just a question about the business in general. This will be a big hit.
  • Ask everyone to contribute to collaboration meetings in advance with a summary of individual progress – it aids collaboration and often other offer expertise and support. That’s really crucial for team cohesiveness during lockdown.
  • Run a round robin catch up to make sure you include everyone and give plenty of time to ask questions. Look after the Introverts. The quiet ones.
  • Reflectors reflect – so allow them time to come back to you with comments and ideas the following morning
  • If you have master bakers/keen gardeners/Zoom specialists in your workforce, give them the spotlight – arrange a masterclass every week to do a live tutorial. We’re all radio presenters now!


There are three main qualities of a resilient person. Resilient people:

  1. Are realistic
  2. Find a meaning – however tough life gets
  3. Improvise

You also need to nurture your own relationship with the world.  Don’t forget to look after yourself as well as your team. Next time you face of adversity, stop and take time to consider your response.  Call out negative self talk and thinking traps so that you can begin to avoid them and maintain the best routine for your mind and your body through Lockdown.

And while you’re here – this a kick ass call to action for Leaders – you need to get your smart workforce model sorted for post lockdown.  Need a hand?