Webinar: Staying well while working remotely

Webinar: Staying well while working remotely

Some of the topics covered include:

  • How can people stay well during the lockdown? We discuss sleep, exercise, diet.
  • What are some skills that can help families at home? We discuss maintaining boundaries, impulse control.
  • How can people stay productive at home, if they are able to work remotely? We talk about environment, rhythm, focus, monotasking.
  • Have you seen examples of remote working going well? What are companies doing?
  • As a leader, how can I motivate and inspire my remote team?
  • What can companies do to support people remotely? We discuss training and communication.

Infographic: Staying well during the lockdown

Download the above infographic.

A Good Life: Science and Practice

A Good Life: Science and Practice


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

How people bounce, grow, connect and flow

Our life is a blaze of consciousness in an eternity of emptiness. Behind us is 13.8 billion years of an expanding universe. Ahead may be 2.8 (or more) billion years. Human life is a fraction of a billionth of time. So short and so precious. So meaningless and yet so real.

The transcendentals since the time of Plato have been Truth (science or logic), Beauty (arts or aesthetics) and Goodness (religion or ethics).

In 2018 we are poised on an unsettling edge. On one hand, there has never been a better time to be alive. We are healthier, living longer, richer, educated, and enjoying life in a way unimaginable to previous generations (see Enlightenment Now, Stephen Pinker, 2018). On the other, population pressure is consuming and cooking the planet. Social withdrawal, anxiety and depression continue to push one in four into mindless suffering.

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that keeps accelerating, we feel like we are clinging on. Some have given up, let go and feel disenfranchised (see Yuval Noah Harari TedTalk). Harari says belief in the global economy multiplied by liberal democracy has collapsed. Today, more people die from eating too much than from starvation. More people kill themselves than are killed by wars, crime and terrorism combined. The current prescriptions are not working.


We need a new story.

The Resilience Institute is delighted to release our 2018 Global Resilience Report. Our purpose is to help people bounce, grow, connect and flow. We aim to reduce suffering and enhance the physical, emotional and cognitive experience of life.

In this report, we explore measures of resilience in 21,239 people and see what changes after an intervention. We posed six questions based on 3,963 people who completed an assessment before and after resilience training interventions:

1. Can we bounce from distress and reduce suffering?

Depressed symptoms reduce by an average of 30% (29-86%)
Distress symptoms reduce by an average of 32% (28-82%)
Key improvements in insomnia, self-doubt, self-critical, stress symptoms and hostility

2. Can we learn to be calm, present and alert?

Stress mastery improves by 33.3% (27-70%) lead by relaxation and presence

3. Can we improve our physical wellbeing?

Physical wellbeing scores improve by 46.9% lead by improvements in health awareness, fitness, sleep quality and nutrition

4. Can we develop emotional skills and empathy?

Emotional intelligence scores improve by 25.3% lead by assertiveness, empathy, and emotional insight

5. Can we train our minds and make better decisions?

Cognitive scores improve by 35% lead by optimism, decisiveness, agility, and focus

6. Can we find fulfilment, connection and flow in work?

Noble aspirations such as compassion, purpose, fulfilment and flow increase this category score by 29.6%

Download the 2018 Global Resilience Report.

We will leave you to take your time exploring the full report and the data. In short, small and practical steps in the right direction secure a massive impact. On average the resilience ratio of participants before and after an intervention improved by 38% on our growth ratio.

We are hugely proud of our clients, their leaders and our teams. We have made a difference to human life. Suffering has been alleviated. People are growing at physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual levels.

Further, when people are resilient they take better care of others and make wiser decisions in life, business and nature.

Using an evidence-based approach (The True), an integral model (The Good) and an aspiring vision for the possibility of being human (The Beautiful), we are making a small steps toward a good life.


A good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Bertrand Russell

Mental Health: a leader’s guide

Mental Health: a leader’s guide


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

Early thoughts on a new test of leadership

Read our updated Mental Health Leadership article here.

Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.

The pressure is on for leaders to understand and manage the mental health risk. This complex topic will test our leadership skills. Three forces of change are driving this pressure and they are accelerating:

  1. Mental health problems are becoming much more common
  2. Health and Safety legislation clearly articulates a duty of care for mental health
  3. The way we work today is disrupting our wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental

Disaster mitigation and physical safety presents a direct, tangible threat we can engage – identify, prevent and minimise. Objective, measurable and simple. We are making progress.

Mental health leadership is obscure, subjective and messy to engage – uncomfortable, complex and threatening. The prevalence of mental health issues is rising fast and we have barely started. Some leaders may question their own sanity.

In the past, we could say that “he or she has a screw loose” and dismiss the problem to a specialist. This is no longer acceptable nor viable. Leaders will have to get their heads around the topic and work out how to manage the consequences skilfully.

Increasing Rates of Mental Illness

With alarmist reports in popular press and solid science to support it, we have to accept an increasing number of challenging behaviours, diagnoses, treatments and management issues as a consequence of what is called mental illness. In particular, leaders must understand the range of presentations:

  1. Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (or adult attention deficit)
  2. Social anxiety disorders including Autism Spectrum Diagnoses
  3. Anxiety disorders including “stress”
  4. Hostility disorders including impulsive outbursts of anger and destruction
  5. Depressive and mood disorders
  6. Alcohol and other substance abuse
  7. Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorders, Bipolar (mania) Disorders and Narcissism

Basic Medical Overview

Incidence is the probability of a disease. Prevalence, more helpful, is a measure of the condition at a point in time. It is measured as the number of people with depression out of the population. At present, just over 300 million people suffer from both depression and anxiety (World Health Organisation, Depression and other Common Mental Health Disorders, 2017). This is a rate of 4.4% for depression and 3.6% for anxiety. Both are more common amongst females. Depression increases with age while anxiety reduces with age.

Remember that these numbers are based on strict criteria and diagnosis. When experts discuss anxiety, figures closer to 20% are quoted (Anxious, Joseph Le Doux, 2015) and depression figures are closer to 10%, with only half being treated. Chronic stress at work is closer to 80% (American Institute of Stress, 2017 https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/), with significant regional and country differences.

A Framework to Understand Mental Suffering

Over the 20 years of our work we assess resilience through both the prevalence of healthy functioning and unhealthy functioning. We believe this is a very helpful way for leaders to understand how people cope under pressure.

We group resilience failure under four main headings:

1. Pressure Disorders

Pressure disorders are primarily cognitive. They start with overload and confusion which can result in cognitive failure – disengaged, attention disorders and distraction.

Leaders must consider:

  • Excessive workload or complexity
  • Long hours, shiftwork and travel
  • Poor sleep, nutrition, illness and pain
  • Morally challenging leadership behaviour
  • Excessive demand, performance anxiety through to bullying

2. Emotional Distress

Emotional reactions follow failure to achieve or to connect effectively with others. In withdrawal, we feel isolated and retreat. In vulnerable we lose the power of positive emotion to motivate and fall prey to negative emotions of sadness, anger and fear.

Leaders must consider:

  • Been seen to fail or feeling as if we have upset others
  • Limited support and love at home
  • Social anxiety through to Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Peer group pressure

3. Mental Distress

Mental distress starts with what we call distress (chronic stress). This is most often identified with physical symptoms such as tension, respiratory, cardiac, abdominal or skin disorders. People feel overwhelmed by pressure and experience anxiety and worry. This may progress into mild depressive symptoms dominated by sadness.

Leaders musts consider:

  • Distress symptoms – body, sleep, weight
  • Emotional outbursts – tears, panic, anger
  • Hyperventilation – sighing, breath-holding, mouth breathing
  • Health issues may be present
  • People may present as “not coping”

Under pressure impulse control disorders, often associated with anger or hostility, are much more common.

4. Psychiatric Diagnoses

Depression, diagnosed as unremitting sadness, loss of confidence, confusion, appetite and sleep disturbance for two weeks is the most common. Suicide takes 800,000 lives per year and depression has a massive cost to productivity.

Leaders must consider:

  • Sadness, low self-worth, guilt, hopelessness and tears
  • Confusion, poor memory, decision-fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance – early waking and oversleeping
  • Appetite and digestive disorders
  • Irritability, anhedonia (loss of joy), agitation

Alcohol and substance abuse is also common and can present in many ways. Schizophrenia affects roughly 1%, as does bipolar disorder. These can manifest as psychotic episodes. Borderline personality disorder, narcissism and antisocial disorders.

Supporting Bounce

Leaders have a duty of care to notice when resilience fails amongst their reports. Noticing these signs and considering what one can do appropriately to stimulate bounce is very effective.

For example: at Confused simplify priorities and give people a clear goal. At Disengaged understand how to establish rhythms, breaks and rejuvenation disciplines. At Withdrawn, reach out to a person and be sincerely interested. However, a leader’s job is not to be a psychiatrist.

While a better understanding and skilful bounce reinforcement is effective, it is important to know where skilled help can be found. That may be through human resources, EAP, coaches, psychologists or medical specialists. Our experience is that many leaders do not follow up. When someone is referred to expert help it is important to know that the event actually happened, how it is followed up and preferably some measures on how things have improved.

Powerful Conversations

When one of your team is struggling with a mental health issue it can be unsettling. Be brave and meet with confidence. You are an important aspect of recovery.

Some suggestions:

  • Be clear about time, location and agenda – give people time to prepare
  • Be really clear about the boundaries of your role, business needs, and the time lines for recovery
  • Listen carefully and question skilfully
  • Affirm emotional needs explicitly.


  • Appreciation (thank you for meeting, your work is appreciated)
  • Affiliation (you are a key part of our team, we want to work with you)
  • Status (your job and contributions is highly valued and important)
  • Role (we know you have worked hard and enjoyed your role)
  • Autonomy (ultimately the decision is yours)

Compassion Fatigue

We are seeing increasing distress amongst leaders who, while dealing with demanding roles, are taking perhaps too much of a supportive role with team members who may be suffering. The world of work is tough. Leaders must remain strong and resilient themselves. If we become too involved in the suffering of others we may suffer what is now termed empathic distress. The leader takes on the suffering of the team member. This will render you ineffective as a leader and will compromise both effective empathy and skilful support.

As we deal with more distress in the workplace, leaders need to step up to and take much better care of their own physical, emotional and cognitive resilience. Implementing a daily routine to support and sustain resilience is essential.

Read our updated Mental Health Leadership article here.

Find out more about our mental health training programme options and toolkit.

Further resources:

View Dr Sven Hansen‘s profile and follow his updates on Linkedin.

Growing Leadership Expertise

Growing Leadership Expertise

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

The All Blacks have famously mastered resilience through a model of Red versus Blue behaviours. In Red we are overloaded, confused and at risk. Think quarter finals against France in 2007. The All Blacks realised that they had to master the Blue state: calm, clear and skilful. The shift was drilled in practice, in matches and in after match reviews. It works – mostly. In many sports, it is a duel to see who can stay in deepest Blue.

Leadership Expertise Framework

RED: overloaded, confused at risk and reactive. We default to destructive behaviour. In RED, we are operating from our reptilian brain with too much drive from the amygdala. Behaviour is reactive, rigid and fails to grasp the opportunity.

YELLOW: under pressure but focused and working hard to establish new behaviours. The amygdala is still active but we are actively focused on the effortful execution of a new behaviour. This is very expensive for the brain, awkward at first, and exhausting.

GREEN: under pressure but calm, relaxed and skilful in displaying expert patterns. The amygdala is quiet. The skill is so well practiced that you are now expert. The brain is quiet and the flow of activity is effortless. In fact, you are in flow – fast, fluid and expert.


The Science of Expertise

A huge opportunity exists for us to explore and pioneer the science of leadership expertise – What Anders Ericsson calls deliberate practice. We have barely begun to exploit what chess masters, musicians, athletes and mathematicians achieve with deliberate practice:

  • Practice with specific objectives, quick feedback and intense focus
  • Practice out of your comfort zone and work your motivations
  • Know that practice will trump talent every time
  • Work with a skilled coach

Take for example, a customer failure debriefing with the person responsible. Insight and mastery is a journey through three stages.

RED: angry, frustrated, and shouting we bawl the victim out in front of the team

YELLOW: angry but focused we debrief in private and follow process with tense discipline

GREEN: calm, focused and caring for the person, we examine the cause together and seek resolution

As leaders, we make or break leadership impact depending on how well we master the testing situations.  When RED, we cause chaos. YELLOW is very difficult. GREEN delivers effectiveness – we have embedded expert skill into the process of leadership.

This is a journey of learning that demands incisive reflection, careful planning, deliberate practice, coaching, and patient mastery of the situation in focus. Deep learning occurs in the science and practice of resilience.


Define the situation

Rather than striving to be the best leader ever with all the skills, focus on the situation that can deliver the greatest gain. This may be a difficult colleague, board meetings, customer negotiation or media briefings.


Accurately describe your current level of performance

Let’s say you know the board doubts your ability on an issue. You are anxious and flustered in board meetings. At times you are RED, leading to stuttering, frustration and poor articulation of your plan. Sometimes you are YELLOW and it is really challenging to stay calm, focused and tuned into the board.


Visualise clearly the specific behaviour and outcome you seek

In the board situation, craft a clear vision for being calm, focused and tuned into the board. Feel what it is like to win their respect, attention and confidence. Hear your words clearly articulated around your plan with humour, flexibility and concern for their needs. GREEN.


Define and focus on the competencies you need to master

In this case, we are dealing with high level competence and complexity. A combination of tactical calm, empathy, presence and influence. Start with the highest impact change. Let’s say that is demonstrating deep calm and personal presence. This is your first practice point. Say that it is fluctuating between YELLOW and RED. The specific goal to practice is staying calm and holding your presence in an intimidating, high consequence situation.


Seek out strengths you can build on

Lean on a situation where calm and presence come naturally. You are at GREEN. Explore how you can take that skill and memory into the board situation.


Get a coach to rehearse, practice and drill the new behaviours

Find a coach or team willing to work with you in rehearsing tactical calm and presence under pressure.  Use role play and specific questions to be tested by the “board” while you work on holding calm presence during your response. Be prepared to drill the practice many times. Athletes do this all the time. Leaders far too infrequently. With practice, you will experience more GREEN and less RED.


Get feedback, define improvements and practice again

Engage the situation and find a “friendly” on the board to give you feedback. Take your learning back to the coach. Refine the focus, drill the detail and try again.

Step by step, master leadership expertise by moving from RED, to YELLOW and to GREEN – one situation at a time. Remember the long-term strategy. Pick your battles, conserve energy and don’t be afraid to confront the hard stuff.

From Strategic to Tactical Calm

From Strategic to Tactical Calm


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

The Single Most Important Skill of our Time


Take a look at the softness and peace in Federer’s face as he dismantles Nadal in the Australian Open with a blistering forehand. This is tactical calm.

We are distracted by meditation, mindfulness and various brain-training apps. These are helpful to build Strategic Calm. If you meditate purposefully and daily for a decade you will be a better version of yourself. The reality is that few of us do this. However, we can all be much better at tactical calm. It is simple, easily practiced and very gratifying.

What if you could master tactical calm in any situation that gives you grief? Would it be worth some purposeful practice?

The evidence, the methods and the tools are plain as day. Most of us “know” it really well. We are terrible at “practice”. Smart and talented people are leaving life, joy, money, deals, and relationships on the table. While they “know” about calm, they have never perfected the “practice” of tactical calm in key situations.

Failure looks like…

A senior colleague demonstrated this gap with disastrous consequences. Here was a seasoned professional who had absorbed, negotiated and dealt with years of tough situations. In his day to day work – even in conflict – he was skilful at staying calm and rational.

To his and our horror he froze at the start of a critical presentation to a large number of powerful and influential people. It was shocking. He bounded on stage, looked out at the audience – and froze. Surprise flashed into fear with teeth bared. His body went stiff. Nothing came from the movements of his mouth. Stage fright was a terrible experience for him. It was awful for the audience with career damaging consequences.

This is a critical situation where tactical should have been practised and mastered.

The very same situation strikes in traffic, bad news, teenage misbehaviour and conflict. Tactical calm is the doorway to impulse control (see Master your Anger).

The clear purpose of Tactical Calm

Tactical calm solves the failure of awareness, agility and decisiveness in the multiple minor challenges that confront us every day:

  • the space to give a warm and confident greeting
  • the freedom to give someone
  • the gift of your full attention
  • the preparation to hit the perfect shot
  • the nudge from frustration to creative solutions
  • the insight to pause and review an e-mail from different perspectives
  • the transition from anxious worry to calm deliberate action

The context is an accelerating pace of life, reduced relaxation (relaxation scores in our database dropped 30% in the last six years), uncertainty, and disruptive consequences. We are wired, tired and fired to be stupid.

The question is: “how fast can I get to my optimal biology for this situation?”

Most of us take a deep breath. This link explains why it is terrible practice. Never do or recommend it.

Tactical Calm secures adaptive biological changes

  1. Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
  2. Reduce inflammation and muscle tension
  3. Slow and extend the exhalation to relax the diaphragm (increase CO2)
  4. Trigger heart rate variability (see explanation)
  5. Activate the upper Vagus Nerve and Vagal Tone (Vagal Break)
  6. Reduce adrenaline and cortisol
  7. Increase testosterone and oxytocin
  8. Deactivate the amygdala along with fear, anger and sadness
  9. Reactivate the prefrontal cortex, insula and anterior cingulate cortex
  10. We know with clarity that we can do this in pretty much any situation with purposeful practice

What to do

Here is my tactical calm practice:

  1. Ask the question: “What is my state?” Often!
  2. Lengthen my spine and relax my face
  3. Exhale slow and easy through the nose for 6 seconds
  4. Pause until my mind drops into the body
  5. Inhale gently through the nose for 4 seconds
  6. Remember what matters and feel the love
  7. Repeat breathing cycle of 6 seconds out and 4 seconds in
  8. Engage fully with the situation at hand

Recently, I found myself feeling anxious in a large formal presentation during my introduction. At that moment, my Apple Watch Breathe App kicked in. During the introduction, I focused on breath and tracking pulse. I had time for three slow breath cycles. My pulse dropped from 78 to 56 beats per minute. I got up to do my thing.

Thanks Apple Watch.

Where is your Federer forehand opportunity and how will you apply your tactical calm practice?