My key take-aways from WOBI 2019, Superminds.

My key take-aways from WOBI 2019, Superminds.

By Katrien Audenaert Partner, The Resilience Institute Europe, November 28th 2019


WOBI – the world of business ideas- is a leading global business content hub. Their goal is to produce and distribute the best management media content to help companies and their top executives improve the way they manage their organizations. They strongly believe that knowledge is the ultimate competitive advantage. Organized in cities across the world, WOBI’s events gather thousands of senior executives to learn from the most influential business thought leaders and practitioners.

The speakers at the WOBI Forum NYC 2019 – Jim Collins, Simon Sinek, Dr. Janet L. Yellen, Guy Hamel, Marcus Buckingham, Zoë Chance, Kory Kogon, Randi Zuckerberg, Hal Gregersen and Ian Williamson- delivered excellent keynotes, full of interesting and often challenging ideas.

I went back home with 5 major take-aways:

–       Greatness or excellence is not luck or personality: it is a matter of conscious choice and discipline. It involves disciplined people, who combine humility with will and put themselves at the service of others. Take care of your people instead of your career and they will take care of you (Jim Collins).

–       When you operate in an age of uncertainty, in a VUCA world, there are no real answers. If we are stuck, questions are the answers. We need to compose conditions and wait for catalytic questioning: build daily disciplines to surface the right questions. Ask questions that make you feel uncomfortable, quiet, wrong, … Build good questioning patterns. If you have a challenge, instead of looking for answers, start with questions and your challenge will become much clearer and sharper. Try these question bursts with a buddy or with your team and you will be surprised! (Hal Gregersen)

–       Stephen Covey’s urgent-important matrix is not only about personal time management. Leaders should help their teams to getting things done with quality, by rewarding Quadrant 2 (important-not urgent) behaviors and keeping them out of Quadrant 1 (urgent and important) when possible (Kory Kogon).

–       Simon Sinek showed us how to live a life with an infinite mindset, even though our lives are finite. The goal is not to win the competition but to outlast the competition. It is a conscious choice based on the following principles. Advance a just cause: a vision that is so beautiful that we are willing to sacrifice for. Build trusting teams. Study your rivals because their strengths reveal your weaknesses. Build existential flexibility, this capacity to make a profound strategic shift. Have the courage to lead because the pressure to play the finite game is very high. Take care of each other: we have a lot of matrixes to measure performance but so little to measure trust.

–       Marcus Buckingham showed us that excellence has its own configuration. We cannot learn about it by studying its opposite. He blew me away with his ‘9 lies about work’. Using the example of Messi’s extraordinary dribble with his left foot in the Copa Del Rei in 2015, he showed us how learning comes from within and is done with passion, joy and love. Ask yourself: ‘what is my left foot?’ What am I really good at?’. Your strength is your opportunity: focus on what you are best at. Practice it. Know what you love and spend a week in love with your job. What are the current activities in my job that I love? What strengthens you?

I am already looking forward to the WOBI 2020!



Research Highlight: Vitality is a super skill

The statement “I enjoy vibrant, good health and high energy” separates the most successful 10% from the rest.*

What is vitality?

Vitality is both an output and an input. Those who wait for vitality to come from doctors, public services and luck will suffer.  Those who fail to invest in the foundations or take the decision to be vital fall to fatigue, illness and suffering.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score vitality with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What does vitality look and feel like right now?

Condition: Be fit, sleep well, relax and eat well

Discipline: Open and lengthen your posture to let energy flow

Caution: Be sure to rest, sleep and recover enough to revitalise

What you can do right now?

  1. Resist fatigue and apathy. Commit to the pursuit of vitality
  2. Lengthen your posture and exhale fully – head back and chin up
  3. As you inhale imagine energy flowing up through your body in a spiral
  4. Let your eyes sparkle with the crinkle of a smile

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Build all-round fitness
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Be playful and seek to extend your creativity

*Research from our sample of 21,000, click for full report.



Research Highlight: Optimism is a super skill

95% of the most successful 10% of people scored “I think and communicate with optimism” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’ (in a sample of 21,000).

The human mind is Velcro for the negative. Based on a high threat environment, a negative and threatening explanation might have been advantageous. Today, pessimism disables you.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score optimism with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: How can I explain this adversity in one enabling sentence?

Condition: Notice but reject the easy negative self-talk

Discipline: Think and express yourself with positive language

Caution: Our times are testing. This will take courage.

What you can do right now?

  1. Ask someone close if you are optimistic or pessimistic. Explore an example
  2. Watch the content of your thoughts. Notice the words you choose to make sense of a situation. For example: “This always happens to me”
  3. Explore different ways to express the situation. For example: “What could I do differently” Notice the shift from blame to responsibility.
  4. Be alert for positive news.  Some suggest that we aim to express at least three positive observations for every complaint.

In the background:

  • Fatigue, isolation and distress will reduce optimism
  • Sleep well, be social, relax and play
  • Nurture your positive emotions – joy, gratitude, appreciation, hope, kindness

Note: With the current social instability, political malaise and climate risk, the value and importance of optimism will increase. It is well proven that optimism can be learned and has wide ranging personal and economic benefits. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is proven an effective solution to depression. We use the term situational agility to describe the healthy and adaptive use of the optimism in key situations.

Own your joy!



Research Highlight: Fulfilment is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 91% scored “I am contented, joyous and fulfilled” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Sadness (disappointment), fear (anxiety) and anger (frustration) are easy emotional traps to fall into. Far too many indulge in these destructive reactions. They will leave you in perpetual freeze, flight and fight states. This is deep suffering and ineffective.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score fulfilment with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is the constructive emotion for this moment?

Condition: Be intolerant of complaint, frustration and blame

Discipline: Actively seek positive emotional expression

Caution: When necessary, tell your truth with courage and empathy

What you can do right now?

  1. In every moment – even the darkest – there is a positive response. In sadness there is learning and growth. In fear there is courage and calm. In anger there is tolerance and altruism. Be assertive in searching and expressing the positive response.
  2. Complaint spreads discomfort. Reject it. Frustration disables you. Reject it. Blame steals your power. Reject it. Respect, experience and name these negative reactions. They are real. Use the signal to say “NO”. Seek the positive angle.
  3. Learn to strengthen your positive emotions. If sad, seek the lesson learned. Be grateful. If afraid, seek calm presence. Be content. If angry, seek kindness. Be compassionate. If fatigued, seek energy. Be resilient.

Positive emotions are like muscles. If you work on them, they will get stronger. Even the toughest moments can be fulfilling. Enjoy your discomfort. Appreciate the moment. Strengthen your joy.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Work on connection with those who matter to you
Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Originally published in Programme Octave on October 17th 2019

Resilience at the heart of Transformation

Today’s world scene urges us all to accelerate change in the global economy and the society at large: economic growth is too slow, social inequality is too high and the Earth is suffocating. While no one can claim having the magic bullet for global challenges, one thing is clear: we need to transform the way we live, the way we work, the way we lead… we actually need to transform ourselves and be resilient!

“Let him who would move the world first move himself” Socrates

As is often stated by Bertrand Piccard, founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, solutions do exist to address global challenges in a realistic way. What is missing is the will to activate these solutions fast enough. Beyond, processes and ideas, individuals are the stoppers or enablers of transformation. As politics tend to favour short-term views, the private sector may well be a powerful lever to accelerate changes on a large scale. The recent launch of the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) by the OECD is encouraging: a coalition of 34 leading international companies – employing 3,5 million people around the globe – with a commitment to step upbusiness action to honour human rights throughout their value chains, build inclusive workplaces and strengthen inclusion in the economic ecosystems. An increasing number of CEOs and executives are ready to play their part and – as suggested by the growth of the B Corp movement – with approximately 3000 certified companies in the world – they aim to use business as a force for good.

This is a fascinating time and here is our opportunity: contribute, as a leader, to accelerate the transformation within our organisations leading to higher level of consciousness of all stakeholders and favour the emergence of a new paradigm. Proposing a strategic vision that is economically viable and socially responsible. That requires resilience! No doubt today’s leaders face challenges that require a different set of skills and a shift in attitudes. In his recent book “21 questions for the 21st century”, Yuval Noah Harari suggests that, in view of the unprecedented level of uncertainty, the best bet we can make today to be “future-fit” is to build our resilience. At the Resilience Institute, we do view Resilience as a learned ability to demonstrate the capacity to bounce back but also to grow from challenges, to care for others and nature, to develop talents and opportunities. Mobilising all of our resources – body, heart, mind and spirit – we are much better equipped to embrace transformation and inspire others on that path. It is about expanding the concept of sustainability to include the self: when you are more self-aware and committed to manage your personal resources properly, you are aligned; you develop a more integral view about others and become more conscious about the impact of your behaviours on the world.

Here are 10 best practices to strengthen resilience and prepare a solid ground for successful transformation.

Cultivating resilience leads to personal alignment and supports organizational “readiness” to embrace transformation with confidence. How is a culture of resilience created? Culture is shaped essentially by the behaviours of leaders. Leaders need to manifest the behaviours they want to diffuse in their organization.

Create calm and rejuvenate. Top athletes know well that a condition for high performance is regular, quick and effective, rejuvenation. This is a physiological condition for reaching high goals, sustainably. Likewise, leaders need to consider simple ways to integrate rejuvenation in a busy agenda.

  1. Take regular micro-breaks.
  2. Start a meeting by taking 3 deep and conscious breaths.

Cultivate physical energy. Transformation requires perseverance and energy. Next to regular exercise and healthy nutrition, restorative sleep is essential. As quoted by Matthew Walker in his book “Why we sleep” (2017): Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting.

  1. Avoid electronic screens before bedtime as they keep your mind alert. An hour on screen postpones the release of melatonin (the “sleep inducer” hormone) by 3 hours which at its peak will then be 50% lower. It therefore affects easiness to fall asleep and quality of sleep.
  2. Enjoy a 10-minute stretch when you wake-up.
  3. Consider walking or standing meetings.

Engage emotions. Positive psychology confirms that positive emotions have a signature that favours calm, energy, focus, creativity and engagement. Unfortunately, physiologically, humans tend to be negatively wired. It therefore requires a proactive effort to stimulate positive emotions in a team.

  1. Celebrate success or, at least, milestones to success.
  2. Demonstrate appreciation and provide constructive feedback (positive or progressive).

Train the mind and focus. As stated in the 2018 Global Resilience Report (The Resilience Institute, 2018), the ability to focus is the common thread between the most resilient people. While information overload puts us at risk of “infobesity”, controlling attention requires serious self- discipline.

  1. Switch off your emails one hour a day to focus fully on a task.
  2. Be more selective in the information you consume and produce.

Put your spirit in action. Ethics and value have never been more relevant. The young generation wants to work for companies that take a stand on the global challenges. According to a study by Korn Ferry (Korn Ferry & Hay Group, Executive survey 2016), companies focusing their employees on the organization’s purpose tripled annual growth rates versus the average in their sector. Having an authentic purpose can also help recruit and retain talents, attract consumers, and have a positive impact on the broader society.

  1. Be clear and loud about the purpose of the transformation. Share the “why” and articulate clearly an appealing long-term vision.

When shared and modelled in an organization, these practices foster a culture of resilience that can be a springboard to accelerate transformation. It gets to the heart of what may well enable us to thrive in the future: the idea that each business should be totally human and create societal value.

“Rough waters are truer tests of leadership. In calm water every ship has a good captain” (Swedish proverb).

Originally from Belgium, Alexia Michiels is the co-founder of The Resilience Institute Europe.After gaining a degree in commercial and consular Sciences, she works 10 years in marketing and media (Procter & Gamble, RTL Bertelsmann, World Federation of Advertisers). She then lives 5 years in China where she meets Dr Sven Hansen, founder ofThe Resilience Institute. She understands that resilience needs to be cultivated on a daily basis mobilising all our resources : body, heart, mind and spirit. She accompanies, in many countries, leaders and teams to face, with joy and success, the challenges of a world in transformation. Alexia is the author of the book « L’Elan de la Résilience » / « The Resilience Drive » (FAVRE, 2017).