30 Ways to Build Workplace Resilience

30 Ways to Build Workplace Resilience

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

Resilience in the workplace is a leading issue for boards, CEOs, and the People and Culture leadership.

The workplace drivers for resilience are clear:

  • People and teams in flow multiply productivity
  • Mental skills – specifically situation agility – are essential
  • Productivity requires emotional maturity and collaboration
  • People need support in wellbeing and lifestyle disciplines
  • Change and complexity require bounce and mental fitness
  • Solving digital overload and distraction are essential
  • Solutions for increasing anxiety and depression are urgent
  • Mental health is a lead safety concern

With over 20 years’ experience, our team has delivered resilience training and solutions to businesses, government, schools, competitive sports and entrepreneurs.

Here are 30 ways we have identified to build workplace resilience:

1. Start with the CEO and board.

Resilience is a strategic issue for all workplaces. There are critical risks if your people’s resilience fails and significant advantages to all aspects of human productivity when resilience is secured. When the CEO and board support and lead the initiative, employees are more confident in the approach.

2. Define resilience clearly.

Resilience is a learned ability, through practical skills, that enables our capacity to bounce in adversity, grow our master skills, connect with others and find flow in work. Having a common definition of resilience enables individuals and teams to build insight and activate the right response when required.

3. Frame resilience in the positive.

With the right skills adversity and challenge become a force for engagement, collaboration, innovation and organisational strength. Resilience is more than just bouncing back from challenges – it is a web of competencies that enable us to lead a safe, well and effective life.

4. Use resilience as a framework.

Integrate, align and simplify your people initiatives including safety, mental health, well-being, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership and high performing teams. Fragmented programmes can cause confusion and apathy when teams are already feeling the pressure. Using a common framework builds consistency and reliability.

5. Socialise the idea.

Involve your people in dialogue around the concept of resilience and the benefits.

6. Create enthusiasm for action.

Invite speakers and encourage people to share stories and favourite examples of resilience in action.

7. Offer all staff a Resilience Diagnostic.

A confidential, voluntary and secure assessment is essential. Ensure that each participant receives an actionable and educational report.

8. Examine the company aggregate report.

While protecting individuals, the data can be aggregated to show where your risks and strengths lie. This will guide your solution.

9. Engage the team in an effective debrief.

It is essential that each participant has the opportunity to understand what the report means and how they can use it as a platform to drive their resilience building plan.

10. Plan targeted workshops.

From your company report define the key points of focus and engage the right team to train and support your teams.

11. Make digital training and support available.

Workshops, videos, practice tips, self-assessments and a simple research resource can be on every device.

12. Encourage people to share with family.

Resilience is always closely intertwined with resilience at home. Let your people share resources with family.

13. Invite family to a workshop.

This can be a great way to build community and make a real contribution to the families that support your people.

14. Train leaders to support resilience.

Leaders must understand the concepts, learn to walk-the-talk in their own behaviours and explicitly coach for resilience.

15. Leaders must understand how resilience fails.

Be sure to train your leaders and managers to recognise the signs of resilience failure and make sure they understand the basics of attention disorders, autism, anxiety and depression.

16. Be sure your EAP is engaged.

Let your EAP provider know what you are doing and make sure your people know that support is available.

17. Don’t rely on a workshop to solve resilience.

Resilience can only grow when people are encouraged to practice the skills. Have regular training and learning labs.

18. Integrate resilience into team behaviours.

Expect team managers to understand how bounce, tactical calm, personal mastery, empathy, focus and flow support a team’s work.

19. Create and maintain rhythm.

People are not computers. We work best in short bursts of intense activity with brief effective breaks. Make sure the office supports regular breaks and disciplined bursts of activity.

20. Provide goal setting and tracking.

Modern apps and wearables allow people to set goals and track progress. This can be a powerful force for constructive change.

21. Remove junk food and sugar drinks.

Provide healthy options.

22. Organise fresh fruit bowls for each office.

Not expensive and powerfully symbolic.

23. Bring natural light into the office.

Natural light, plants, greenery and views lift productivity.

24. Encourage walk and talk meetings.

This supports rhythm, movement and and a deeper form of communication.

25. Send out weekly tips on practical actions.

Make the practice tips bright fun and visible in public places.

26. Encourage social activities around resilience.

Make it fun, social and sometimes competitive.

27. Campaign for resilience over at least three years.

Repetition and mastery matter.

28. Reward people and teams that achieve.

Look out for those who demonstrate success and celebrate their story.

29. Keep your leaders visible and active.

When your people see leaders paying attention to and working on their own practices you gain momentum.

30. Repeat the Diagnostic.

We recommend that the diagnostic can be done twice yearly. Learn what is working and keep improving your strategic resilience.

The Professional’s Pain

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

How to create a good and productive life

Professionals face the sharp edge of acceleration – productivity, technology and connection with meaningful work.  At the same time, they seek Eudaimonia (a good life). The pace has become overwhelming. How does one solve this paradox?

After 28 years working for Professional firms, here are some perspectives and solutions.


1. You are the elite operators of business

The 21st century professional is an elite business expert. Stacked with skills, driven by relentless targets and thrust into truly risky engagements, professional life has become tough. You can no longer rely on genes and intellect. You must master your biology (body, emotion and mind) and continually refine your skill to expert levels and beyond.

This takes training, coaching, courage and relentless discipline. You must professionalise your life, your family and your practice. There is no way back. Think. Act. Improve.


2. To accelerate you have to impose discipline and rhythm

As all elite performers discover, there is a required routine of life mastery. The key factors of high level fitness, daily contemplation, excellent sleep and smart nutrition must be built into your day. By the way, you have to stop the dumb stuff. For practical suggestions:

3. Learn from the elite operators of our time

Admiral Bill McRaven, Navy Seal and commander for 30 years has an inspirational speech at the University of Texas Commencement address. It’s worth a brief watch. Make your Bed is his book. Get curious about how people like Roger Federer keep going.

If you want to build this into your operating practice, your team and your leadership read Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. The leadership lessons are very powerful and the applications to professional engagements transformative.


4. Reflect on singularity. The answer is innovation

As cities and organisations accelerate and grow in a super-linear (exponential) way, we are reaching finite time singularity. In a nutshell, that means things are going so fast, the only way to avoid collapse is innovation. The cycles of innovation are compressing. This is the pain you feel. It is a sense that the improvements you make are absorbed in a flash. To explore this idea and the consequences for sustainability read Scale by Geoffrey West.

On one hand, professional firms have become their own worst enemies. On the other, it is the place to be for meaningful work, excellence and a fulfilling career. You are the elite. The science and practice are well worked out. Show bounce, courage, connection and creativity.

The professional’s pain is the crucible of success.

Team Flow on the Water

Team Flow on the Water

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

6 Principles for team performance


The America’s Cup puts talent, technology, fitness and team flow in the spotlight. This is complex team performance. Perhaps, we might apply these lessons in the workplace.

At speeds over 70km per hour, surfing razor-like margins on space-age technology, the challenge to each team is intense. Mastering the new generation boats is a testing learning curve. Teams now complete races 100% on their foils. No doubt these teams are matching the challenge with masterful skills. By definition they are operating deep in the flow zone.

Error, whether random gusts or tiny misjudgement, is catastrophic. Watch Emirates Team NZ pitch at the start or Nathan Outteridge skidding into the drink. Success demands that the team, coordinate to match their skills moment by moment as the challenges present.

It is exhilarating to watch. These teams are adding to what we already know about high performing teams. Here are some lessons in team flow we might reflect upon.

1. Creative ferocity

The boats press the edge of technology. Multidisciplinary teams collaborate from around the world innovate, test and deliver. It does not stop there. Team NZ had to reconstruct a functional rig overnight after destroying two in one day. Imagine what Oracle must have done to go from 8:1 down to win the 2013 Cup?

2. Deliberate practice

Sailing these boats is super difficult. Notice how the sailing has improved – even in the two weeks of racing. Thousands of hours have gone into learning how to master hundreds of specific manoeuvres in every possible condition.

3. Relentless optimism

Someone must lose and there will always be setbacks. Notice how consistently calm, measured and upbeat the teams remain. During the catastrophic pitch of Team NZ, Burling was calmly taking care of the crew’s safety. How did Spithill maintain his confidence at 8:1 down in 2013?

4. Fit for purpose

The physical excellence of these teams is stunning. Fitness, nutrition, agility, rested and focused effort come together. The creative application of cycling to the grinding out of hydraulic pressure is a new innovation being assessed. Training disciplines are well locked down with expert support.

5. Team communication

Commentators noted the relative quiet of Team NZ against Artemis. While Artemis chatters and commands continuously, Team NZ says almost nothing – appearing to operate on intuition. Either way we see the Google and MIT conclusions of short burst dialogue. What I notice is intuitive synchronised movement.

6. Goal commitment

Put all of this together over a four year campaign.  Engineering, strategy, tactics, teamwork and a massive investment of capital and time.  The degree of commitment to an extended team performance is deep and relentless. And they keep coming back for more!

Good luck Emirates Team New Zealand. Bring on the team flow.

Coaching for Team Flow

Coaching for Team Flow

A practice guide for coaching exceptional teams

We have worked hard to help people be better team members and leaders to be better at supporting their teams. Yet the team is clearly an organism in its own right. Team performance is in the spotlight. We know that team behaviours determine performance. How might the science and practice of team flow help us deliver results without compromising personal wellbeing and resilience?

The Context

First, when a team works well, it achieves extraordinary results. For those who have been part of an effective team the experience is ennobling and the memory is rich. An outstanding team can change the fortunes of an organisation or mission. They have enormous value and they are rare. Many, including MIT and Google, are asking what exactly determines team performance. McKinsey estimates that it is reasonable to expect a doubling of team productivity with a small lift in flow.

Second, as millions of jobs – manual, process and professional – fall to machines and artificial intelligence, good teams are one of the last bastions of human dominance. Those who can work well in teams have a greater chance of finding sustainable roles in society.

Third, working in a highly functional team is massively rewarding. From our hunting and gathering days, human work has often been done in teams. We are designed for teaming. We have survived and thrived as a consequence of the attributes required – self-mastery, empathy and perspective taking. Not surprisingly, to be on a good team is enjoyable, engaging and meaningful. We can become much better coaches of our teams.

Clarify thinking and assumptions

Performance traps: business is in the very early stages of applying the performance sciences. We frequently fall into the trap of performance as “always on”. Long days, missed meals, compromised sleep and abandoned families. Elite performers in sport, combat, arts and chess do not make this mistake. Teams who deliver the goods do not compromise on their foundations. They work in intense bursts and know how to rejuvenate fully. Their coaches (they all have coaches – often a coaching team) help make it possible. Teams must use science and deliberate, purposeful practice to succeed.

Second, elite performance is achieved through flow – not a desperate grind. McKinsey found that executives in flow achieve a five-fold lift in output. What we forget is that a day of flow requires at least a day of rest. Elite performance absolutely depends upon structured recovery, rest phases and careful preparation and conditioning. Teams must learn how to call downtime and enjoy “play-time”.

Third, there is too much focus on psychological safety. I don’t buy it. High performing teams are intense, demanding and vigorous. Read up on Apple, Nike or professional firms. Someone who needs psychological safety will not thrive. Resilience is a far superior mantra. Each individual must be confident that they can bounce, show courage, connect and create. They must be able to trust that team-mates can and will demonstrate resilience. If we focus on resilience, candour, respect, empathy and social skill follow. If we focus on psychological safety, people demand sympathy and justify withholding the truth. We want to think of our colleagues as resilient. Not vulnerable!

The Solution

To coach a team to exceptional performance requires deliberate focus on core skills. These are the skills we believe will accelerate team development in order of priority:

Personal Mastery: every team member must have the basic skills to take care of their life. Wellbeing – physical, emotional and cognitive – is essential. Make sure your teams have the basic skills, metrics and support to cultivate their resilience. Exceptional teams will endure periods of extreme pressure and must know how to maintain themselves through it and take the necessary time to recover and rejuvenate after bursts of intensity. Teams must learn how to support each other. In a pressure-cooker world, personal mastery is tough. Support of each other can make a big difference. Stay fit, sleep consistently, eat well and maintain the ritual. Daily stand-up meetings must be used as a personal check-in before addressing business.

Tactical Calm: every team member must be able to calm and focus through pressure and conflict. Conflict is necessary to extract creative problem solving. When a team member has emotional outbursts empathy, trust and creativity collapse. Teams that can maintain the calm, focused and connected state can thrive through chaos. Just as athletes and soldiers have specific training in how to stay calm in critical moment, so must teams. Pause, breathe out, stay curious and open, and respond calmly and firmly.

Empathy: a range of studies now shows that empathy is the single best predictor of contribution to team performance. We must be specific with our training of empathy. We can build empathy through very specific practices. At the base it requires a degree of cognitive empathy. Teams must increase their emotional literacy learning how to recognise, name and express the different emotions skilfully and appropriately. Second, teams must learn to pay attention and tune into the feelings (affect) of each other. Third, they must practice perspective taking. Learn to explore and express diverse points of view.

Build time in Team Flow: the flow state is super-charged and is the state of exceptional performance. In flow the brain is functioning in a very special condition – focused, immersed, connected and accelerated. Flooded with dopamine, endorphins and anandamide, thinking stops and real-time, accelerated processing takes over. Flow become more likely when teams engage directly and face-to-face. Communication is concise, direct, candid and expressed in short bursts. All team members contribute evenly. No one dominates.

Remember that flow is exhausting. Celebration, rest, rejuvenation and careful conditioning must follow before attempting to deliver another burst of flow.

After action review: well tested in military and team sport, we can apply this to our teams. After key actions, stop, reconnect and review performance with candour. What went well and what can be improved? How can we improve this next time? What specific actions can we each take to prepare, practice and execute next time around?

Time to practice: high performing teams create a culture of deliberate practice. Set specific development goals, make time to practice with support and use coaches to provide specific feedback and skill rehearsal. The focus must be on “how to execute like experts”. Research what experts actually do and learn to master these skills.

5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive

5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive

Dr Sven Hansen was recently interviewed by Sarah Stevenson for a feature called 5 Tricks to Be Happier and More Productive on Livestrong.com. The article explores five key resilience tactics.

  1. Focus Your Attention
  2. Set Clear and Tangible Goals
  3. Check in With Yourself
  4. Create Flow in Everyday Tasks
  5. Use Downtime for Creative Work

Make sure you check out the full article here.