Is it possible to achieve both performance and wellbeing ?

Is it possible to achieve both performance and wellbeing ?

Original publication in The HR Director in October 2019

Do you experience stress, frustration or a sense of stuckness in your organisation? This may be nothing to do with resistance from staff, but rather a normalisation of a low resilience level.

Whilst 95% really care about their performance in work, 77% compromise their wellbeing to deliver that. The aspects of wellbeing compromised most are mental energy, exercise and quality time with others. We know from previous research that the demand for resilience is high and rising, and this compromise of wellbeing is rising also.

The juggle, the busy-busy-busy, not having enough time with family, the over-coffee’d, sleep-deprived executive; these are issues we have normalised. They are only part of the equation. More seriously at the dangerous end of stress, there is a chronic long-hours culture, fear of being at risk of losing the job and the fear of damaged reputation especially amongst those who have been off already with stress.  These effects of long term stress are dangerous for wellbeing and of course to the individual’s performance in work. 

Stress triggers all sorts of behaviours. Procrastination is the number one impact of stress.  Other negative effects include short-termism, a demand for clarity (rather than developing skills in navigating ambiguous, complex situations), and a drop in empathic decision making.  Stress directly undermines performance.

These effects cause  ‘the mediocrity loop’,  a continual loop of coping to not coping back to coping again, where an organisation wobbles between feeling out of control, galvanises immense focus to  get back in control which ends in relief, only for that to be knocked back and the whole cycle to be triggered again. It’s an exhausting loop to run around, and has little effect other than maintaining the status quo.

Mediocrity is what you get if drive performance at the expense of wellbeing. It needn’t be like that. It is entirely possible to have both performance and wellbeing, both without compromise. This is what resilience gives.  Resilience is your ability to adapt, or your capacity for change. It is dynamic, going up and down according to context. Supporting resilience within an organisation means enabling each staff member to understand and develop their own resilience potential versus the resilience demand upon them. It means enabling teams to foster the conditions for their own collective resilience. Resilience delivers successful change. Indeed it drives high performance. Resilient leaders have higher capacity, better and clearer prioritisation, perspective, and  surplus energy that releases creativity and innovation. All these are needed to navigate our VUCA world successfully.

High resilience requires an investment into a set of resilience-enhancing habits day to day. These habits are not rocket science but they are rigorous. If your organisation wants to stop the rot of compromise to wellbeing and the negative impacts of stress, investing in resilience is an assured path. It’s a pathway to psychological safety, autonomy, time to think and the release of capacity towards risk taking and innovation.  It means understanding what resilience is and what it offers, and creating a culture that supports and extends it.  The results are transformative.  23% of our survey participants do not compromise either performance or wellbeing. They know what it means to drive both at the top of their game:

“I have always felt work is important to me and I want to do the best that I can.”

 “I recognise that to perform well I have to look after myself.”

“It’s part of my pride in myself”

We think these quotes from our survey say it all.

Written by Jenny Campbell

Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Wellbeing at work: CEOs are getting it but struggle to find the right solutions

Originally publicated in Benefits Pro on October 2nd 2019

Nearly all CEOs in a recent survey say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

CEOs are getting it: employee well-being matters.

So say 25 top executives, who responded to a qualitative survey by LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell.

“Employee well-being ranks number one, because your organization is only as good as the people that you have working for you, and their well-being determines how successful or unsuccessful you’re going to be,” says one respondent, Michael Colucci, CEO of Idilus LLC, a professional employer organization.

A CEO from an engineering firm responds: “I don’t believe that customers should come first, I believe that employees should come first. It’s a tenant at my company. It is a cornerstone of my company to have happy well-adjusted employees.”

Well-being programs are also becoming table stakes to attract and retain talent, especially younger generations. One CEO says that “employee well-being programs are becoming more of an expectation rather than a perk.”

The importance of employee well-being also impacts the bottom line, the respondents add.

“If my employees are unhappy or they’re going through whatever stresses that they are encountering at home in their personal life, they bring that in,” another CEO says. “If you have a big team environment that we work in…it can cause absenteeism. People who aren’t focused at work, it creates delays with projects so things get backed up at work.”

The respondents are also candid about their own struggles with significant work stress, though many say they are successful in “compartmentalizing that anxiety” – and hiding any signs of it from employees because of the “contagious nature” of workplace stress. As a result, nearly all of the CEOs say they feel some form of isolation in the workforce, and they recognize that this is a concern for their own well-being and work.

But that masking may not really be working after all, some concede.

“I’m sure they feel it when I have stressful situations because I put that back on them,” one CEO says. “They can tell by your disposition, you create a level of anxiety within the team concept that we have at our place and that affects them adversely because it makes them feel anxious or unsure about what’s going on maybe, within the corporate structure.”

While a majority of the respondents measure the success of their well-being programs using metrics such as retention of employees, satisfaction in their role and employee engagement, most of the CEOs agree that a comprehensive employee well-being index would be helpful to measure the level of employee engagement within the programs.

“Employee wellness is increasingly critical to business success and at the top of the agenda for many CEOs and even board members,” says Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s vice president of research, analytics and innovation. “But executives still struggle with methods to properly execute and evaluate that support. LifeWorks is positioned to address these concerns.”

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert 

What is resilience and How do we cultivate it?

What is resilience and How do we cultivate it?

We know that in an increasingly complex and changing world, resilience – the ability to bounce back, will be more important than ever. This year St Andrew’s has made a commitment to deepen our understanding on the theme of resilience.

At the beginning of the year, all St Andrew’s staff and Senior students had the opportunity to learn from inspiring resilience researcher, Dr Sven Hansen. Dr Hansen is the founder of The Resilience Institute. Our staff were engaged and inspired by Dr Hansen, and the articulate way in which he was able to explain research, science and give practical advice about enhancing resilience

What is resilience?

Listening to Dr Hansen broadened my own understanding of resilience. His message was that if a person is resilient, they can demonstrate four abilities – the ability to bounce back from setbacks; to grow and be enthused by change and challenge; the ability to connect and care for others in authentic relationships (not online); and the ability to find opportunities to experience flow (using their strengths to meet a challenge).

Resilience is about self-awareness 

Dr Hansen explain the process of resilience clearly in a spiral model. This model shows the stages that exist when a person experiences the inevitable ups and downs of life. When we understand how the stages work and identify where we are in the spiral, we are in a much better place to make good choices regarding our resilience. It is all about self-awareness.

Our young people are becoming less resilient

Dr Hansen also referred to Jean Twenge’s research on generational differences, to highlight the increase in anxiety and depression we are seeing in our young people. He emphasised that resilience was originally enforced by the tough and physically challenging natural environment humans lived in. In this world, life was about problem solving for survival. This is very different from today, where resilience is not enforced, it is a choice. And humans do not always make the right choices.

What factors cultivate resilience?

During his presentation, Dr Hansen emphasised the importance of seven factors in enhancing resilience. Some are physical whilst others are emotional and mental. 

These are:

    • Having the right amount of quality sleep at the right time (7–8 hours for adults and 8–9 for adolescents).
    • We should be building movement into our routines every day, as our brains and emotions are inextricably linked to our moving body.
    •  Being able to calm our bodies and slow our heart rate through good quality breathing is an important skill. Dr Hansen called this ‘tactical calm.’
    • Resilient people are emotionally intelligent. Dr Hansen acknowledged the importance of being able to name your emotions. If you can name it, then you can tame it.
    • Having a growth mindset about resilience is key. Fostering an inner belief that you can grow emotionally, physically and mentally is important. Dr Hansen explained how humans are biologically built to grow – from our muscles to our brain cells. It is our nature.
    • Our minds are increasingly hypervigilant and scattered. We can easily dwell on the past or worry about the future. Resilient people know the power of quietening their mind and focusing on the present moment. Their goal is to be in a state of flow – calm, steady and present. The ability to focus is a key asset factor in cultivating resilience.

Over 20 staff from St Andrew’s have been so inspired by Dr Hansen, they are forming an innovation and research group to learn more about the theme of resilience. As part of this focus, staff will be trialling the Resilience Institute app (you can read more about this resource here), reading academic articles, sharing ideas and connecting with academics at the University of Canterbury.


St Andrew’s College

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This week, when I feel frustration about something I have no influence on, I remember to use the BAM: Breathe, Accept and Move on.

While breathing out nearly instantly leads to activate the relaxation system, acceptance is a neutral acknowledgment of the reality. Letting go, you free energy that will support you to learn and move on.

How will BAM help you move on today?

How to Be More Resilient and Reach Your Goals

How to Be More Resilient and Reach Your Goals

We all have to endure stressful moments throughout our lives. At times, stress can feel debilitating and keep us from achieving our goals.

However, there isn’t a more satisfying feeling than overcoming a difficult situation obtaining personal and/or professional success. Resilience is the most important trait for those who reach their goals.

I recently spoke to Dr. Sven Hansen, Founder of The Resilience Institute, which caused me to reflect on the moments where I needed to show resilience in order reach a goal. After our conversation, I had an even better understanding of what it means to be resilient. The takeaways are especially beneficial to those who are new to entrepreneurship.

Understanding Resilience

Being able to preserve and adapt are important qualities of accomplished entrepreneurs, along with being key components of resilient individuals.

“We define resilience as the learned ability to demonstrate bounce, courage, connection, and creativity,” Dr. Hansen conveyed. “Resilient people are calm, energized, engaged, focused, and creative,” he continued. With the world currently undergoing a number of paradigm shifts, technological advances, economic instability, and with the emerging of cryptocurrency, it is vital for business professionals to prepare for operating in a fluctuating environment.

Dr. Hansen said, “The current reality is turbulence or VUCA. Our data shows high levels of distress in 45%, hyper-vigilance in 50%, and worry in 55% of our clients. Stress is reported to be the highest in 10 years,” meaning entrepreneurs and goal seekers are not being as productive, due to building stress levels. Resilience and stress management are  strategic tools for those who want to achieve their goals.

There is a belief that states one can develop and grow their resilience by training at the edge of their comfort zone. Dr. Hansen conveyed that practicing learnable skills such as personal insight, emotional literacy and attention control will help us become more aware of ourselves and those around us.

Entrepreneurs who become in tune with their emotions, facial movements, and how their biology influences the mind will be able to effectively build resilience. This level of self-awareness will help business professionals manage stress, remain productive in their work, and increase their efficiency.

Resilience & Success


According to Dr. Hansen, it is the key to success. “Productivity is a leading concern of governments, organizations, and economists. It is how we utilize our resources to create value.”

He expounded by making the following points on how we can be more productive by using resilience skills. He feels that we can all learn:

  • How to bounce back from adversity.
  • How to prevent resilience failure.
  • How to build the sources of resilience into life.
  • How to join the heroic and radical.

When speaking to him about the points, Dr. Hansen was able to give great insight to how this could help entrepreneurs achieve their goals. Bouncing back from adversity and staying cognizant of our resilience training allows us to remain productive and produce more value.

Successful and productive individuals will use the foundations of resilience in their everyday personal and professional lives. Whether one is challenged with something as simple as choosing a breakfast destination or is challenged with meeting a crucial deadline, using resilience skills will minimize our negative response to stress.

Inside Stress


According to Hansen, stress is not a useful way of describing a range of conditions that impact our performance. It is far more productive to define what kind of stress one is experiencing so that we can address it skillfully.

For example, instead of immediately diagnosing a condition as stress, look deeper into the situation. Individuals can feel overwhelmed, disengaged, and even disinterested with a task they must complete. These feelings could be the result of physical distress or depression, being able to apply true insight into a situation is half of the resilience challenge.

On the upper end of the resilience spiral are what Hansen describes as resilience assets. These skills enable individuals to fulfill their potential and be heroic.

“Heroism is built into our DNA. We are prepared to die for those we love and sometimes those we don’t. Radical refers to the cultural mutations we are able to provoke: populating the world, farming wilderness, language, war, transport, globalization, and so on. Today we sit at a frothy edge where many of these radical mutations are finding ways to co-exist simultaneously,” Hansen detailed when asked to explain what he meant by being heroic and radical.

Resilience Leads To Motivation

A lot to take in, right?

That’s precisely the point, building resilience and being cognizant of stress levels is not an easy task. However, it will become second nature over time. Individuals new to the business world will be able to utilize mental training in order to boost their productivity, limit stress, and make their goals easier to obtain.

Human beings are resilient by nature. Those who are able to harness learnable skills and become further resilient will give themselves an advantage over the competition.

Influencive- Walter Yeates

See the article 

Safetyism, Snowballs and fragile Youth

Safetyism, Snowballs and fragile Youth

Book Review: Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018

We parent, teach and support. We want the best for young people. What we are seeing is a collapse of mental well-being. At the same time, events of intimidation, violence and witch hunts increase.

Lukianoff and Haidt take us on an evidence-based and carefully considered journey through modern parenting, teenage mental illness and education. They describe how we are losing the pursuit of truth and growth. Society is being pulled apart by partisan politics and intolerance. Young people are not coping well with this.

Most importantly, the authors detail what we can do to improve this situation. What they describe is American but the signs are global. The solutions are practical and immediately applicable in families, schools, universities and societies.

The book is excellent.  Three ideas:


Overprotective society, parenting and education is depriving young people of growth. They are missing the opportunity to engage skilfully with truth, diversity, risk assessment, empathy and situation agility (the authors use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)). The i-Generation, born after 1995, suffers rapidly increasing rates of anxiety, self-harm and depression. They are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, relationships and politics.

The authors recommend using safety for physical risk only. They encourage us to help our youth take risks through free play, debate, conflict resolution and respect for truth. Social media must be limited – particularly for young women.


A school demands that student never touch snow because it may produce a dangerous snowball. Similarly, we have invited and expanded the concept of threat to include diverse views, free speech, “micro-aggressions” and “avoiding triggers”. Thus universities have, since 2013, experienced an alarming increase in mental illness and campus violence. Research from left-leaning perspectives is all that remains. Moderate views have been silenced. Social media helps us name and shame those who voice disquieting views. If that does not work, students increasingly resort to violence. All because someone touched the snow.


Young people are complex adaptive systems. Genes create a rough template upon which the challenges of life – most specifically play and direct social interaction – work. We must play and practice to develop our neural wiring and the skills required to thrive. Jean Twenge shows that teen development is now delayed by three years. They are physically safe but mentally vulnerable.

The authors recommend that we rethink and look for proven wisdom. Treat our youth as antifragile. They have specific suggestions for parents, junior and senior school and universities. Much is based on teaching young people to own and master their emotional and cognitive responses. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”


by Dr Sven Hansen