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Today’s politicians are fit for purpose. What does it say about business leaders and their responsibility to keep their business in shape?

As if a six-week campaign was not gruelling enough, I was astounded to learn that all three British big party leaders had campaigned until midnight and were scheduled to be pressing the flesh for almost 24 hours non-stop on the eve of the General Election. Talk about cramming for your exams! All have understood the first secret of resilience: a regular fitness routine and a healthy diet. Even often bleary-eyed Gordon Brown has weaned himself off kit-kats and started an early morning jogging routine as far back as November in preparation for the campaign. And look around us: it seems that from Sarkozy to Obama everybody is at it, except perhaps for avid armchair football fan Angela Merkel. Among our clients, we have a high proportion of very fit executives who, like politicians, understand that they can only thrive by having a high level of resilience – although many of them undo their good work in the gym by neglecting their sleep; as well as not paying attention to building up their psychological and social resilience as well. Now it is very good that they should be in great shape, but what is the best way to discharge their responsibility to deliver peak performance for the business as a whole? In Europe companies have generally less control on their employee’s lives than in America or in Asia: no compulsory drugs testing, no morning Tai Chi for example. So how can leaders encourage employees to build-up their resilience while not nannying them? Here are three suggestions:

  • Create a culture of resilience: You cannot implement what you don’t know. Build the right environment where employees can understand that their general well-being and performance at work and beyond will significantly increase if they focus on their physical, psychological and social resilience. Treat it as a deep change programme.
  • Lead by example: it is not about you being a lean fighting machine, it is about demonstrating resilience-building behaviours in areas a diverse as leaving work at a reasonable time, taking a walk to clear your head – and saying so – or always having a bottle of water on your desk.
  • Make good behaviours easy to choose: if you could guarantee a 1% improvement in performance, would be prepared to spend 0.5% of your salary mass on making your employees more resilient? Replacing biscuits with fruit at meetings, sponsoring a decent canteen, building an in-house gym, redesigning most jobs to allow so element of tele-working, giving employees access to a confidential stress line are all investments that will pay or themselves many times over.

One of our clients tells us: “I have two secrets: things never stay in my in-tray for more than a few minutes; and whenever I feel tired, I go for a run; no matter what time of the day it is!” I think he should enter national politics…

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