Early in my career as a Resilience Coach I attended a conference where the Chief Medical Officer for the SAS said, “What we have in the SAS is love for each other.” His words struck a chord with me and raised the question – When would you ever hear this type of comment in a corporate board room? How many Senior Executives in industry would say this of each other?
Advertisers know that emotional responses are up to four times more powerful than rational ones, and can therefore drive buying decisions in a more powerful way. Yet how many of us are willing to recognise and talk about emotions at work? Though many of us realise emotional engagement is a powerful tool, putting emotional intelligence, or more radically ‘Love’ on the agenda at a board meeting would, I imagine, be controversial because – let’s face it – kindness isn’t encouraged to be an effective quality in business.
In spite of the power emotions have over us we don’t always pay enough attention to them. I would like to throw the challenge out to UK businesses; Is the way we are working, really working? Is it time to recognise and work with the emotions of our Leaders and workforce in order to build sustainable long-term Resilience, engagement and health? We only need to look to sport or performing arts as an example. Emotions spill out onto the playing field. Elite athletes, players and coach’s know this. Steve Hansen, Coach of the New Zealand All Blacks said in a series called All or Nothing – “You have to ask yourself does the player need a kick up the backside or does he need a cuddle?”
Many of us have become well practised in what is perceived as more assertive qualities of a successful business leader. But we’re not born unkind. Kindness is innate.
“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela
And so, to the link with Resilience. In the UK we have typically been dealing with stress management reactively rather than proactively. Some years ago, the law firm Hogan Lovell announced in The Lawyer magazine, they would be reviewing stress management in the wake of a partner’s suicide. The Firm’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Carolyn Lee said, “Many corporations shy away from the topic of stress because they don’t want to be perceived as a stressful place to work.”
To manage stress in the workplace it is necessary to understand that it is not just the situation that causes stress but also the emotional importance we assign to an event or situation, which therefore dictates how we react to it.
If companies really want powerful and sustainable Resilience then they must be prepared to work with the emotional landscape of their workforce. We must treat the causes of stress at a deeper level, not just the symptoms in order to achieve sustainable long-term effectiveness.
In recent years, the ‘go-to’ strategy to deal with the economic challenges has been cost cutting and process efficiency, which often equates to asking more for less from our employees. It is no wonder that this often leads to low engagement, poor health, negative emotions towards the organisation we are part of, and absenteeism.
One of the most important assets in any organisation is its people. How many Leaders ask, “How do we create a resilient workforce?” If organisations took a more bold, innovative approach towards building Resilience and worked to make their staff feel truly valued (loved and cared for even) rather than simply lucky to have a job – what difference would that make? How resilient would the workforce become and how much might this raise emotional engagement and discretionary effort?
My personal view is that, as a nation, we cannot afford to ignore stress. We cannot wait until people reach out for health management options only when the pain has become so great, rather than pro-actively committing to sustainable Resilience.
Stress is inevitable, yet it is the effective and systematic management of stress – through committing to Resilience as a life long skill to be nurtured – that will set apart the top percentage who succeed in life. One of the keys to doing this is through emotional self awareness, regulation and positive adaption.
The ability to notice, be with and then if necessary, shift our emotional response to stress is key in stopping the damaging effects stress can have on our body. These skills can be learnt by pro-actively committing to building Resilience capabilities. By harnessing our emotions, we can keep our workforce in a place of performance and curiosity for innovation rather than stand helplessly by as they crash, exhausted and burned out!
If you are interested in organisational Resilience audits to identify systemic factors holding your workforce Resilience and wellbeing back, or in Resilience coaching to raise the Resilience capability, then do email me on firstname.lastname@example.org