How to Master the Top 5 Challenges Facing Leaders Today

How to Master the Top 5 Challenges Facing Leaders Today

Originally published on and reproduced with permission.

According to a Forbes article published at the onset of the COVID pandemic, people leaders across all industries are facing similar challenges for their teams and themselves. Using the Resilience Institute’s combination of Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow, leaders and employees alike can learn the essential skills required to thrive in an uncertain and changing environment.

But first, what do Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow mean when discussing resilience?

The ability to Bounce means to recognise resilience failure and to regain optimal function. In other words, when you aren’t operating at optimal performance, bounce is detecting what is happening and committing to getting yourself back on track.

We Grow when we look after ourselves mentally and physically via self-care, adopting and maintaining positive habits that permeate throughout our personal and professional lives. Ensuring good sleep and a healthy diet helps to give us a positive outlook, which translates into staying calm under pressure, countering negative thoughts and reducing impulsivity.

When we Connect we enter a state of union, be it a physical, emotional, cognitive or spiritual connection. With ourselves, others or even with nature, Connection is a powerful skill in the resilience toolkit that allows us to have heightened emotional intelligence (EQ), empathy and self-awareness.

We enter the Flow state when we have a strong concept of effective, engaging and skilful responses to challenges. In Flow you are “in the zone” and have deep focus, achieving optimal performance and situational agility. Like top athletes who get “into the zone” when competing, the Flow state sees us operating at our peak.


Connect and Flow. It’s essential that your team know and trust that you are empathetic to their individual circumstances, whether you front a team of one or one thousand. Empathy and Emotional Literacy are two facets of connection that all great leaders possess. Combined with Flow, you can practice Situational Awareness and Agility that lead to optimal performance. Some days are harder than others and if your team feels safe knowing that they won’t be punished on difficult days where they aren’t as productive, they will work to make up the productivity on their better days. It’s a balance of give and take, of trust and of Connect and Flow.


Bounce. Reduced revenue, reduced working schedules, redundancies. Some industries have been hit harder than others but very few companies have been immune to some sort of reductions. No one can have all the answers but it is possible to instill confidence in others even when you don’t know what’s around the corner. Tactical Calm helps people understand that panic and anxiety are not the only options in uncertain times. Just like how fear can easily spread from one person to the next, so too can calm radiate throughout the team. Even if events do have less than ideal outcomes, Tactical Calm and Bounce show your resilience.


Grow and Flow. By adopting a Growth Mindset and building a comprehensive Personal Plan you can be prepared for the interactions and opportunities that arise, regardless of whether they are in person, in a virtual meeting or over email. Just like how if you think of a red car you begin to see red cars everywhere (called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon or Frequency Illusion), if you prepare yourself for opportunities, visibility and influence then you start to see those chances arise and confidently step into them.


Flow. By finding your Optimal Performance and understanding Situational Awareness you can continue your personal development while still being empathetic of others. Personal success and emotional intelligence are not at odds with each other but are intricately linked. Equally, by demonstrating an ability to deliver on your objectives during times of turmoil can be an inspiration to others.


Resilience training. Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow are greater than the sum of their parts and a resilient team is one who collectively works together in all areas. With the right training, entire teams can help each other stay engaged and supported no matter what is thrown at them. What’s more, a team that has collectively gone through resiliency training together can use that common ground to remind and support one another with best practices.

Founded in 2002, The Resilience Institute has been training people and corporations Bounce, Grow, Connect and Flow by bringing together modern preventative medicine, positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and neuroscience. By delivering high impact, practical, evidence-based and integrated Resilience training, clients have built healthier bodies, achieved greater levels of emotional intelligence and have developed stronger minds, bringing their tremendous performance benefits of resilience to work.

Now with an app available on Android, iOS and the web, users can measure, learn and achieve their resilience goals from anywhere. With micro-learning video and audio sessions, daily goal tracker and an AI-powered chatbot, resilience training has never been more available.

How to Lead and Support Remote Work

How to Lead and Support Remote Work

Originally published on and reproduced with permission

Covid-19 has catapulted us into a strange new world of work. Many of your people are working from home. The initial novelty is wearing off. Business and team leaders wrestle with how to lead and motivate. People leaders wonder how to support people, manage risk and continue learning and development.

A New Reality Presents

Those of us thrust into remote work wrestle with family boundaries, find our daily routines upside down, and discover that sustained self-motivation is tricky indeed. We are confronted with rethinking how home can operate as a workplace. How do we maintain our team connections? How do we engage effectively through virtual meetings? Do we even want to continue to work like this?

Remote work has been creeping up on us with a boom in digital tools. The current crisis has accelerated the transition. As the cost savings to business become clear, remote work is becoming an inevitability. There are significant benefits. Office costs will fall, commuting time and frustration has collapsed, and the call for “work-life balance” has been answered. We are sorting through a messy transition. We are heading into the unknown.

The Risks of Remote Work

We are still coming to terms with the risks. Four present clearly:

  • Most homes are not designed for remote work. We work in bedrooms, try to focus amidst family activities, and negotiate the temptations of the kitchen and Netflix.
  • Our daily rhythms and transitions are upended. One can get lost in the dramas of home life and challenged relationships or sit for hours in front of a screen. Maintaining sleep, exercise, relaxation and work rhythms is even more testing. The discrete breaks of daily commutes, meetings, coffee breaks and office activity are no more.
  • The emotional connection, support and motivation provided by our work community has been replaced by virtual calls. Many feel isolated and lonely. The buzz of the human marketplace cannot be replaced by digital interaction. A sense of meaning will be hard to sustain without the messy physicality of human interaction.
  • The natural interactions of leadership, teaming and coaching as we move in and out of work tasks, have gone. Many remote workers will end up confused, overloaded or misguided. Leaders face deep questions as to how well they are providing direction, support and autonomy. Some may overperform and fatigue. Others may disengage and lose themselves in distractions – or worse.

Immediate challenges for Leadership

  1. What is the role of the business in helping people create productive workspaces at home?
  2. What should leaders do to make sure people are safe, healthy and well?
  3. What is the responsibility of leaders to support productive and resilient life rhythms?
  4. How do we train people for effective virtual presentation, empathy and influence?
  5. How do we rebuild leadership, teaming and coaching in virtual teams?
  6. What will training look like in a virtual and digital environment?

Opening up a laptop at home is the easy part. The hard part will be finding our way through these six questions. As the acute phase of Covid-19 settles, people leaders will need to make time to address and meet these challenges. It is going to be an interesting and creative advance into novelty.

We share offer some early thoughts and support here:

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 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 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, 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.