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The Watercooler: Roll with the punches


boxing glovesWhen times are tough the resilient roll with the punches and stay strong. It is, no doubt, an enviable trait, but it is also one that can be learned, says Michaela Loughney.

While a growing number of organisations are now recognising the benefits of tackling stress in the workplace many more have still to be convinced.

Resilience training is relatively new to the UK. It has traditionally been used in the US by organisations facing a period of change or ‘re-engineering’ to prepare managers, but in some cases staff as well, for the challenges they are about to face. However, because businesses must react with speed and flexibility in today’s changing environment, this type of training is no longer reserved for what used to be regarded as exceptional circumstances, it is required on a regular basis.

The ‘father’ of US resilience research is Professor Al Siebert. At the heart of his teaching is a surprising fact, that resilience, or the ability to ‘roll with the punches,’ is not wholly something you are born with and can be learned.

Photo of Michaela Loughney"While it is good to have goals and being too hedonistic is equally damaging, it is important we have a balance between only living for the day and wishing your life away."

The key to being really resilient is consciously living in the present. In the UK we tend to always be thinking about the future, about buying a better car, better job, better house and we don’t really spend time appreciating just what we have. While it is good to have goals and being too hedonistic is equally damaging, it is important we have a balance between only living for the day and wishing your life away.

There are six core skills to instil resilience in managers.

1. Optimism and how to learn to view life in a more positive way: This is based on the teachings of Professor Martin Segliman, who has developed techniques to help people rise above the pessimism and depression that often accompanies negative thinking and can be so emotionally draining.

2. Regulating emotions so that you can think rationally and calmly in stressful situations and see life as challenging but opportunity filled.

3. Engaging in effective relationships: Many managers when under stress and pressure retreat into themselves, which is the wrong thing to do as a problem shared really is a problem halved. It is vital that they develop supportive interactions with colleagues so that they can draw on their strengths in difficult times. However it can’t be a one way street, they must also make sure they give assistance when a colleague turns to them for help as well.

4. Solving problems effectively is key to a resilient approach and we look at how to re-establish perspectives after significant disruption and how to learn from past experience.

5. Personal resilience is vitally important for being a resilient manager. To do this you have to recognise what your skills and qualities are to build up your self esteem and you also have to look at what barriers you put up. For example some children grow up believing that they can’t make any mistakes at all and if one thing goes wrong then everything is wrong. This perfectionist behaviour is not very helpful for a manager who has to recognise that things will not always go to plan and adapt accordingly.

Many people have these kinds of philosophies on life and don’t realise that they have them but encouraging them to think more deeply and uncover their fundamental beliefs can be very freeing and really enable them to make massive changes in their lives.

6. Managers need to learn how to help their team bounce back and flourish after disappointments.

All the skills are also very valuable in their personal lives and can really transform their whole outlook.

Michaela Loughney has a Postgraduate Diploma and Masters degree in Applied Psychology. For the last 20 years she has worked as a consultant and has extensive experience in delivering stress management and resilience training. She is a consultant with In Equilibrium.


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