This month we divert our gaze from the Olympic flame (briefly) to focus on the all-important subject of survival – business and personal…
Economists will tell you that the number of bankruptcies is a lagging indicator of recovery: businesses run out of cash just as the economy picks up. One thing they don’t measure is people wearing themselves into the ground and unable to seize opportunities as we crawl our way out of the longest recession in living memory. We have observed exhaustion in bankers doing their best to rectify past mistakes and rebuild trust since 2008. They have since been joined by teams across all industries, facing similar battles every day, without the benefit of clear outcomes.
There is little sympathy if you are at or near the top. After all, isn’t that what all the bonuses have been about? However many of our clients are unsung heroes, doing their best to keep the show on the road against all odds. In practice many demonstrate unusual amounts of anxiety, exhaustion and depression. We observe high degrees of presenteeism: there in body but just shells of their true selves, soldiering on unaware, too scared and too committed to take time off to replenish. To quote one of them only last week: ‘I am working longer and longer hours, aiming for perfection and it is taking its toll on me, my life and my family relationships’.
So what are the business consequences? – Working with a leadership team recently, their psychometrics indicated in every case that, under pressure, their decision-making became compromised: either tunnel vision – trusting old repetitive patterns, or no decisions at all, just at a time when clear thinking and action are essential to business success. The research proves that optimistic individuals succeed and positive teams flourish. But in the face of all the setbacks and adversity is there really anything you can do?
Take Andy Murray as a topical example. How does he come back from last Sunday’s defeat? ‘As a victor’ is the likely answer: his own words, ‘I am getting closer’ demonstrate his capacity to bounce back from adversity and build for the future through optimism. What is absolutely clear is that he has focused on and made huge strides in building up his psychological resilience over the last year.
What is the connection with business? Most people are experiencing a similar level of disappointment that despite their best efforts, winning seems like an uphill battle. Exhausted, they do not have an outlet for admitting and, more importantly, dealing with these issues. Fatalism can develop – this is just a grim part of life to soldier on through.
We disagree. Just like Andy, people can learn to build their resilience, increase the speed with which they bounce back and rid themselves of wasteful anxiety, anger and depression without psychiatric intervention or lengthy sick leave for burnout.
This is an issue for leaders – you can’t afford to see your team fade away, nor can you function under par: those most stressed are least likely to realise till too late.
If you want to foster positive health and build resilience in yourself or others, act soon. The alternative is too wasteful and gives away your competitive advantage.
We have been running general resilience programmes for years, but this time it is different: we have now designed specific interventions to work with teams that are just about at the end of their tether. We call it Resilience for Heroes. Leaders can make a positive choice. Get in touch with us to find out more.