blog: news and opinion


Building resilience to face the challenge of uncertainty

31st August 2020

Uncertainty has always been a constant in organisational life, but COVID adds something new to the mix. The effects of uncertainty on individual members of the workforce include anxiety, and concomitant weariness, which seem to be an undercurrent in society at large. Many organisations have found that they’re slowed down by the inevitable precautions they need to take, and that they’ve lost some of their previous robustness, responsiveness and pace. They need more resilience – and nurturing it is one of the most important contributions a leader can make to equipping his or her team to negotiate a successful journey through uncertainty. This blog outlines some of the main contributors to resilience that leaders can usefully focus on.

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Leading in complexity and uncertainty

31st July 2020

Rather than it being the leader’s role to know all the answers, it’s their role to recognise that uncertainty and complexity demand a new approach to leadership:  an approach which means the leader can enable themselves and others to ask questions, to look at things from multiple fresh perspectives, to create an environment which is psychologically safe and compassionate enough for those around them to experiment, learn, experiment again, and to move with curiosity towards some answers and new questions. 

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Self-care for the leader

30th June 2020

I've been working with two leaders who are preoccupied with doing a very high-quality job at a time of significant external pressure and uncertainty – and both are experiencing extremes of stress, approaching burnout. Both are explicit that their performance is at about half the level of what they're used to delivering. Neither of them has been putting in place any boundaries or limits on what they’re asking of themselves, and both are struggling. They’re both trying to do the same job and deliver the same quality as pre-COVID, but in radically different circumstances – and it’s an impossible task. While there's no silver bullet resolution, there are options for changing approach. ‘Normal’ isn’t what it was - and we all need therefore to prioritise our self-care and have the courage to look through new lenses and do something different with what we see.

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Isolation, connection and leadership in COVID-19

31st May 2020

The isolation that has been a feature of life worldwide ever since the known beginning of COVID-19 in Wuhan is fundamentally at odds with the fact that human beings need to connect with each other in order to survive and to maintain our mental health. Dr Stephen Porges' polyvagal theory tells us that we can create ways of helping ensure that colleagues feel connected.  He recommends particular awareness that a lot of modulation in a voice – rather than monotone delivery – along with a friendly face, and open body language, maintain calm and nurture engagement.  Similarly, smiling conveys cues of safety and empathy because it involves movement in the muscles round the eyes which, in a smile, convey the message ‘I’m happy to be with you’ – and a sense of safety encourages both engagement and learning.

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Coaching through COVID

31st May 2020

Coaching through COVID is a pro bono coaching programme which offers a listening ear by psychologically-minded coaches to any NHS or care worker during and beyond COVID-19

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A high-performing team through COVID-19

30th April 2020

While it’s still early days, this programme is without question delivering value at a time of considerable stress, anxiety and exhaustion for NHS staff dealing with COVID-19. High-quality coaches at an advanced stage of coaching maturity are supported by teams of wellbeing and trauma specialists, and the core team shares a clear purpose, to which all team members are passionately committed. We are privileged to experience humble and inspiring leadership from Mark McMordie, constantly with an eye both on the present and the future, and with a focus on both the big picture (a systemic, creative and far-reaching view) and the operational detail to implement it, and attention paid to team members’ wellbeing and self-care so that we can sustain ourselves as well as the programme.  This is distributed leadership in action, with all team members feeling free and trusted to take initiative, and all working with agility and flexibility. The outcomes of the team ethos are showing in coachees' positive feedback.

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Pro bono NHS coaching for COVID-19

31st March 2020

In COVID-19, NHS medical staff are facing an encounter with an illness whose scale and rate of transmission is nothing like anything they’ve ever encountered before.  They are frightened, stressed, anxious, exhausted from working long shifts in a new, uncertain yet threatening context, and in some cases, they're traumatised. The pro bono coaching programme COVID-19 Rapid Response Coaching (C19RR), set up in mid-March, is a professional, high-quality coaching programme, supported by supervision, trauma specialists, counsellors and therapists, and is being rolled out at speed. It has started with a pilot at a large London teaching hospital, and demand is growing exponentially.

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Never enough time

28th February 2020

The underpinnings of clients' 'too little time' often turn out to be something from a completely different source, such as patterns related to taking responsibility, unclear priorities or unclear purpose, being distracted by the short-term rewards of 'helping', or aiming for perfection. The costs of striving to fit an unrealistic amount of work into too little time can include stress and exhaustion without ever feeling you've got anywhere. So struggles with time are often actually struggles with embedded patterns of thinking, behaviour and loyalties. Gaining insight into those patterns and so giving oneself more choice is the key - and fundamental to that is taking time for honest and courageous reflection, either alone or with a skilled coach.

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Seeking momentum

31st January 2020

For momentum to build and sustain, whether for growth, cutting costs or increasing profit or benefit, organisations need their people to be aligned in their purpose and focus, and they need their leaders to inspire them and keep them on track. Momentum seems to me not be a linear process, but rather a complex process – and leaders sometimes forget to what extent the pace and the momentum inevitably create disruption and turbulence, both of which inhibit the momentum. The effort to achieve momentum may be experienced as turbulence for some time before there’s any sense of things settling into a pattern, and particularly any sense of wellbeing with and within that pattern.  People struggle to build momentum while things feel turbulent or unstable: momentum and turbulence are uneasy companions. Leaders need to anticipate this process as part of their planning for the momentum they want.

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Presence and gravitas

31st December 2019

Leadership is at least as much about being as about doing - so a leader’s presence and gravitas help resource them to motivate and inspire others. Personal presence is most obviously about authenticity, integrity, non-judgmental awareness of, and openness to, all aspects of one’s environment (internal and external), and acceptance and self-acceptance. Gravitas results in impact and influence through the power of communication and the impact of relationships. It conveys a sense of authority, substance and weight, but also includes humanity and humour. Contributing factors to gravitas are presence, behaviour and expertise – and they are all necessary conditions. In other words, gravitas combines being with doing and communicating.

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