How connected does your team feel? Team resilience at work…

Ever worked in a team where you feel that no matter what you do, your ‘face doesn’t fit’ or that you were just a number?   Contrast this with the times you have worked in your favourite teams where you felt you felt connected and that you mattered as a person.  How do these two situations make you feel?

Resilient teams feel a sense of connection with each other. In the sixth of our 7-day blog on what makes teams resilient, we unpack the importance of team connection as a key ingredient of the team resilience ‘mix’.


What does a ‘connected’ team look and feel like?

In exploring this element of team resilience, the quote below summarise the key elements of team connection:

“Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.” – Deepak Chopra

Team connection links to team self-care and very simply a resilient connected team will care for each other as people, acting co-operatively and supportively with each other.  When we feel we are a part of something and belong, this in itself builds resilience.


What can we do to build more connected teams?


  • 1.Help people feel that they belong in your team

Being welcoming and inclusive is key but how does this look like in the everyday life of your team?  This can range from something as simple as how people greet each other in work to the opportunities you have in your team to sharing time to chat informally and know more about each other as people.  What do we do in our team to make everyone feel included?  Thinking about everyone’s experience of team life and how they are made to feel part of it is key to belonging.


  • 2. Promote a sense of organisational belonging

Our team is our immediate world in work but how are team members connected to the wider organisation?  In many workplaces this can be done from sharing the same uniform, branding through to social events and other workplace programmes any team can connect to.   Ensuring team members have some form of connection to the wider work of the organisation helps a sense of belonging.


  • 3. Identify what mutual team support looks like in your team

How do we really help each other out in our team?  Really connected teams will easily spot when someone is drowning not waving and readily offer support without being asked.  Sample ways we do this, sometimes even without thinking, include:

  • Helping a colleague with other work when they have a deadline.
  • Debriefing in a safe space if someone has experienced a hard day or difficult incident.
  • Sharing knowledge or perspectives you know will help a colleague.
  • Advice on how to navigate work politics or systems.
  • Just being there as a listening ear for emotional support when the chips are down.

A note of caution here is important.  Is an ethos of mutual support shared collectively across the team?  If not checked, you may find that naturally accommodating team members will eventually tire if shared support is one-way only with some colleagues; reciprocity is essential for the connected team.


  • 4. Enable ‘confident vulnerability’

Sometimes we carry things too long and struggle because we see asking for help as a sign of our own perceived inadequacies or lack of competency.  We may also find ourselves in environments when showing any vulnerability could lead to judgement by others.  Or, we may find that feeling below par or not on top of things at work is due to something major happening in our personal lives outside work.

To establish a culture in your team where ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’ and where team members feel genuinely comfortable sharing appropriately times of vulnerability takes work and ‘living it’ as modelled by team leaders.

Starting a conversation in your team about areas where they feel aspects of inadequacy and might need help from other team members is a solid starting point.


  • 5. Appreciate that people have lives outside work

Work-life balance featured as a key element of resilience in team self-care in our fourth blog.  Things happen in our lives outside work beyond our control which could require flexibility in our team and work life.

A connected team from camaraderie will have some shared knowledge about their colleagues’ lives and demands outside work.  During tough personal times, connected teams will accommodate and help colleagues.  Teams also however need to set a time limit where they can review flexible support to accommodate the personal to balance team performance and accountability.

However, we all remember those times when colleagues helped us through choppy waters and it is in precisely those times when we feel we are valued and cared for, the bedrock of a connected and resilient team.


To learn more to help your team…

For additional information on how team resilience workshops, team resilience assessment and team coaching could work for your team, click here.



 Leading for Resilience Workbook, Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience

Build Your Team Capability – Team Resilience at Work…

 ‘Feedback is the breakfast of champions.’

– Ken Blanchard

What exactly do we mean by a team’s capability?

A team cannot be truly effective if doesn’t cultivate feedback loops and access to different support networks outside the team to extend their existing capability.  Both shape the capability dimension of team resilience.  This is an aspect of team resilience we all know but how well do we collectively do it in our own teams?


What practical ways can you build your team’s capability?


  • 1. Ask for and act on team feedback

Without some way of finding out how your team is operating and against everchanging environmenal factors, your team runs the risk of becoming out of touch.

Identify first your team’s key stakeholders.  Team clients are evidently stakeholders but who else does your team connect with who are key  in delivering your work?  In addition to the customers they directly serve, teams may have a wide variety of  relationships both within and outside the organisation inclusive of other teams/departments, suppliers, sectoral and other stakeholders.

Think also about what  you currently have in place to gather intelligence from key stakeholders.  What do you not know but would like to know in stakeholder feedback about the team’s performance?

There may also be other ways of assessing team performance within their market or sector using quantitative data or other relevant benchmarks for your team’s sector.

Seeking feedback is one thing but also consider how you work in your team to respond and act on it for it to be meaningful and helpful to both the team and their stakeholders.

  • 2. Build team capability through networks

In demanding financial times where the recruitment of additional team members is not always possible to meet the team’s needs, the team may need to lever additional guidance, support or resources from other networks and relationships.  Support networks and relationships can have a variety of purposes for the team.  Sample networks a team could connect to include:

–  Professional bodies relevant to the team’s roles and work.

– Partnerships or networks relevant to your area of work or your sector.

– Communities of  practice which are sources of professional or technical advice.

– Networking initiatives or industry events  for teams / professionals working in your field.

  • 3. Develop team member access to support and advice

Having a number of ways for you team to build their capability is vital to building team resilience in this area.   Even the best team leader cannot be be all things to all people and the sole source of support for the team .

Discuss and raise awareness within the team of different sources of support available to team members from both inside and outside the team.  This could include identifying such things as mentoring, training, coaching, debriefing support, technical and industry advice to support their access to wider networks.

  • 4. Take responsibility for building your own professional networks

Take time out in your team to discuss what knowledge, skill and support the team requires and work then on developing useful relationships with other individuals or organisations.

Sometimes, making small connections with different networks or sources of support can make a big difference for the team.  For example, when I worked as a CEO, informal coffee meetings with a fellow CEO I had met through a leadership network for our sector  was an invaluable connection offering ongoing knowledge and mutual support.

If leading a team, know where you can go to personally connect for support and encourage teams members to explore and build their support networks.


To learn more to help your team…

For additional information on how team resilience workshops, team resilience assessment and team coaching could work for your team, click here.

Source: Leading for Resilience Workbook, Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience

Team resilience and team self-care – how good is your team?

Commenting on recent findings on wellness and self-care programmes at work, academic researchers in Harvard Business Review concluded that for workplace wellness we need:

‘… a totally different approach to workplace suffering. Rather than focusing on self-care, we need to be better at taking care of each other. This begins by framing employee distress as a collective rather than individual problem.’

Any time invested in individual self-care and skills is a great investment, however when we think of team resilience; team self-care is a collective affair.

Unpacking team self-care

A collective approach to team self-care goes to the heart of team systems. It is central to how the team supports itself to manage team pressures from a variety of sources; whether it’s long hours, difficult or complex tasks, workload or demanding stakeholders.  How a team deploys good stress management techniques together; how you are alert in your team to the overload of your colleagues and how you support the work-life balance are tenets of team self-care.


How can you take a true team approach to team self-care?

1.Establish a team culture of team self-care

How do things get done in your team when it comes to stress management and navigating pressures?  This is where we delve into the unspoken expectations of the team.  What boundaries do we believe in a set within the team?  Are long hours seen as a badge of honour?  Do we even talk about in our team what practically impacts our health and wellbeing in terms of how we work?

How you manage stressors in your team will be inevitably linked to roles and type of work.  Types of boundaries and practices many teams can look at which all flow into your culture of self-care include:

  • How workloads are set, monitored and reviewed
  • Flexible working conditions
  • Ensuring breaks and holidays are taken
  • How out of hours availability and knowing what is expected
  • Technology use – use of email and mobiles
  • How the team builds in recovery time after intense periods
  • Where and how people can have downtime during work breaks to destress
  • What team practices do you have in place to assist in stress management?
  • What’s in place to support employees through difficult times which impact on both their life and work?
  • How are team members supported by colleagues having come through difficult situations or encounters as a result of their work?
  • What specific skills training or support is in place to help the team navigate pressures as a team?
  • What health and wellbeing policies are in place and how are they practically used to support the team in their everyday work?
  • How do team leaders model approaches to team self-care to the team?

2. Regularly check on workloads

Work is live and sometimes unpredictable.  Discuss and put in place an approach in your team that regularly allows a review of workloads and factors in other challenges.  How well are tasks being allocated and shared?  Check and review all these expectations to have a shared team clarity on ways to prevent excess, flag and re-allocate workloads across the team.

It is also important to keep sight of performance in team self-care.  There may be some colleagues who provide a lot of open-ended support to others.  There also needs to be team accountability as part of self-care.  Where ongoing or additional cover provided by some team members but not recognised, reciprocated or managed can lead to resentment or individual team members constantly feeling put upon and requires attention to ensure a genuinely collective approach.

3. Develop team stress busters

Talk about and design strategies within the team to help with stressors (e.g., an expected and accepted way to flag to colleagues that you are feeling overwhelmed or having a colleague coffee and vent after a difficult meeting).  What can you have in place to help each other?

4. Think about specific techniques relevant to your team’s work

Some of a team’s work may be physically very demanding or for others emotionally draining.  Think about the scenarios you encounter in your team which have a deeper impact on health and wellbeing and target practical support actions specific to it.  For example, if you know that the next month is going to be psychologically difficult, how could you build in more de-briefs or external support for the team to process this rather than individually taking the emotional impact of their work home?

5. Recovery time – find it and build it into your team life

You wouldn’t expect someone who has run a marathon to get up and do it again the next day but yet we do this at work all the time.  Plan for and offset team peak times and schedules of real business with a period to follow of less intense work and/or downtime to enable recovery and rejuvenation.

6. Recognise warning signs and tipping points

Each of us reacts to stress differently in our workplace behaviours.  Converse and share honestly in the team how you each individually react to stress and learn about each other.  Find out in the team how you can give each other permission to alert each other to overload from behaviours you notice in each other.  Think about and identify practical ways about you then how collectively support each other when you do notice signs of overload.

7. Have a life…

‘Work to live, not live to work…’

We are more likely to feel a work-life balance when work does not get in the way of what is important to us such as caring roles we may have for our families; time with friends or a passion we pursue outside work. In a team, this can be recognising events or times important to colleagues and ensuring work is not detracting from participating in or enjoying these times.

Again, it is vital to note that this needs equity across the team to ensure that jobs are completed and healthy boundaries are in place to accommodate better balance for all team members.



 Leading for Resilience Workbook, Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience

(Harvard Business Review, 2022) available at  Harvard Business Review, 4th April 2022


Team Resilience at Work – Team Perseverance

What do we mean when we talk about team perseverance?

Staying optimistic, solutions-focused, navigating difficult curveballs and managing emotions within the team all contribute to team perseverance. It’s not all about the negative.  Teams which celebrate the good times and enjoy fun and laughter are also those teams who persevere.

How can you nurture more team perseverance?

Protect and nurture team leaders’ optimism

A team draws optimism from their team leaders and managers.  What happen when the team leader’s well is dry?  How are they supported to bring the optimism?  All team leaders need a genuinely safe space and support to work through their own doubts before they can bring it.  Creating this safe space for team leaders and managers is crucial.

Exercise realistic optimism

To maintain team optimism, you need to know what their job involves and the real issues they are facing and worried about.  We can wish for the best outcome as much as we want but if this doesn’t connect with reality, ambitious visions for a team instead becoming demotivating.

Know what you can control and make a difference in

Teams can find themselves thrown into fraught situations due to external factors (e.g., such as industry changes) which they cannot control.  Feeling powerless in such situations can quickly deplete team energy and resilience. Knowing what to persist with and how long is key to deciding how far you take something as a team or let it go when facing a set-back.

Think carefully within your team what you can collectively influence. Resilient, persevering teams work hard to focus on what they can do rather than is beyond their sphere of influence.

Harness humour

No matter how weighty or serious your team’s work is, if you don’t have ways within your team to help you lighten up or if humour is something which doesn’t feature, think again. Moments of fun and humour help a team persevere even in the darker moments. What are the opportunities in your team to have fun, lighten up and cement team connections?

Manage emotional contagion

In difficult times when team energy and motivation is low, negativity can quickly ripple and affect the whole team from only one or two cynical colleagues.

Vital to remember, creating the space for genuine critique is healthy and essential in teams and very different to the contagion of pessimism.  The ever-pessimistic teammate always has someone else to blame, quickly highlight past failures or always responds ‘that will never work’ at every new idea.

Be aware of and limit airtime given or your exposure to perennially pessimistic colleagues.  You may never change their mind but you can change how much impact they have on you and others.

The art of problem-solving

A team is collective of many assets, perspectives and talents.  If a team is to persevere and overcome tough times, spaces where the team can step back, discuss problems, ask questions.

There is a rich array of problem-solving and decision-making tools which teams can use to tackle problems together and bringing out the best in the team’s skills and experience. Think about how you can apply these in your team discussions.

How we about difficulty in our team makes a difference.  Rather than stay in the ‘this is dreadful’ space, kickstart solution-focused thinking with curious and powerful team questions such as:

  • What’s the first step we could take to fix this?
  • What have we done in other situations which has worked before and might help?
  • Who else can support our work in this?
  • What other inputs would be useful to move this forward?
  • What parts of this problem can we explore ideas on together now?
  • What could we commit to doing today in our meeting to shift things forward?

To learn more to help your team…

We work with teams to build their resilience and every team is different. For additional information on how team resilience workshops, resilience assessment and coaching could work for your team, click here.


Source:  McEwen, Kathryn, Building Team Resilience,(2017)

Is your team as resourceful as Aesop’s Crow?

On the hottest of days, the Crow dying of thirst, stumbled upon a pitcher of cool water.  The pitcher was high and had a narrow neck.  No matter how hard he tried, the Crow could not reach the water.

Then, an idea came to him. Picking up some small pebbles, he dropped them into the pitcher one by one. With each pebble the water rose a little higher until at last it was near enough so he could drink.

Aesop’s Fables are wonderfully short but everlasting on wisdom.  Just like Aesop’s Crow, we see often see impressive agility and creativity in teams.  Resourcefulness is another essential aspect of team resilience but what does it look like in everyday teamwork?

What makes a team ‘resourceful’?

A resourceful team will really harness team member strengths and resources whilst nurturing a culture of continuous improvement.  The team will also have effective ways of working that enable it focus clearly on priorities.

There are many things which help a team to enhance its resourcefulness as we can see below

How can you develop your team to be more resourceful?

An excellent starting point to gauge just how resourceful your team is this checklist of key questions to ask about your team.

  1. How do we optimise our team resources when work is unpredictable?  A team optimises resources best to it’s agreed priorities, not just what pops up.
  2. How do we manage underperformance in the team?  How do we use underutilised resources in the team?  Ignoring or glazing over team members not pulling their weight can cause resentment in the team. Fostering clear lines of individual and mutual accountability for results enhances teams.
  3. How we pull and share resources across our own team / with other teams?  Knowing the strengths, qualities and talents within our team to draw on is central to navigating challenge.
  4. What is our attitude like to change: are we nimble in responding to changes around us?   Rather than seeing people ‘for’ or ‘against’ change, talk as a team instead about how you can build flexibility to solve new issues and situations.
  5. How good is our team at creating a climate of continuous improvement?  Resilient teams not only look at how they adapt to change but also for how they can drive it. How do we process changes (e.g., political, financial, social, environmental factors) which impact on the team’s work?  Sharing ideas, innovations and review how the team deliver on outcomes is a key here.
  6. How do we manage our workloads? Unrealistic expectations about capacity to deliver can quickly demotivate a team.  Creating a healthy team environment where we can raise and safely discuss issues of capacity serves a team well.

To learn more to help your team…

For additional information on how team resilience workshops, resilience assessment and coaching could work for your team, click here.



Source: Resilience at Work TM


Team Resilience – the ‘Robust’ Team

Team Resilience at Work – the Robust Team

It’s a story many of us know but it’s a good one.  During a visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

It is an unexpected and memorable reply!  What the janitor’s answer demonstrated was a deep-rooted sense of shared team purpose.

What makes a ‘robust’ team? 

A robust team is aligned in their purpose and goals as well as being quick to adapt to change and work through setbacks.

What can you do to strengthen your team to be ‘robust’?

In leading your team, key things to observe to see how well the team:

  1. Understand the ‘why’ of their work.  Do they know both where their personal and team role directly helps the wider organisation?  How well do they link their team contribution to the success and impact of the whole organisation?  Knowing how their value, input and achievements as a team in this wider context helps team resilience.
  2. Know exactly why their team was created, who they serve and are accountable to.
  3. Work to shared values and mission. Do the team’s values actually influence how they communicate, make decisions and behaviours?  How are values shared and communicated within the team?  If you are leading the team, how are you living and modelling team values?
  4. Connect and work on shared goals. How are different team members’ effort, performance and time allocation on shared goals?  Are members of the team carrying others?  Is there accountability for delivering built in across the team?
  5. Are able to deliver on their purpose with the necessary skills and knowledge. A team’s capabilities and talent need to flex to meet shifting demands.
  6. Navigate team ‘skeletons’.  What elephants are in the team room which might stop the team from aligning and delivering on its purpose and goals? Resolving issues is not solely a team leader’s problem.  Promote where possible joint responsibility for resolving team issues.

In short, robust teams have solid intention with agility.  How would you rate this in yours?  In our next blog we will be unpacking the next vital team resilience factor resourcefulness!

To learn more to help your team…

For additional information on how team resilience workshops, resilience assessment and coaching could work for your team, click here.

Source: Leading for Resilience Workbook, Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience

A Powerful Team Resilience Framework to Help Any Team

Anyone who has led a team will recognise these ‘ 3 am and still awake’ signs:
• Mulling over that team problem
• Rewinding conversations with the team
• Phrasing emails you will compose on waking

This list could go on! What these signs are telling you is that you are most definitely under team strain. Hard-working team leaders can find it hard to recognise their own limits. They listen, absorb and try to resolve so many issues with so many.

These signs however are also warning signs that there could be a better way for everyone. Rather than a team leader simply gets better at navigating more, what if the team could?

What exactly is team resilience?

Team resilience – like individual resilience – is a layered and nuanced concept. The three key themes of resilience are:
i. Mastering stress
ii. Adapting to change
iii. Being pro-active

Our resilience can be challenged in many different ways. People and teams will also respond very differently to the same challenge. One of the best definitions of team resilience is:

‘‘The capacity of a group of employees to collectively manage the everyday pressures of work and remain healthy, adapt to change and be pro-active in positioning for future challenges.’ – Working with Resilience

A powerful framework to guide you and your team

We can delve even further below these key themes to explore the seven areas they cover which shape our team resilience at work (R@W); a teaser of the R@W 7 above!  In each of our next seven blog posts this month, we will unpack for you a vital factor of team resilience.

We want to spotlight what you and your team are already doing well for team resilience. We want also to offer you insights, tips and small steps to boost your team.  Later this week, we zone in on our first team resilience factor, the robust team!  Find out more from our next blog post on team resilience.

For more information on how we help overwhelmed teams build resilience, click here

Source: Leading for Resilience Workbook, Kathryn McEwen, Working with Resilience




It’s your goal but are you still aiming for it? Your checklist for goal setting.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” ~ Zig Ziglar

I can’t think of a better quote to get us all thinking about how well we decide and set goals for ourselves. In short, there is an art to goal setting. This is your quick guide to recheck your goals to make sure they stay motivating and true to you.

Check 1: Is your goal concretely outlined?

Be specific about what you want. A lot of coaching conversations can focus on unpacking broad goal hopes such ‘I just want to feel more fulfilled which could mean so many things. Starting to think in broad terms about your goal is good but it doesn’t help you set a focused course for action. Narrowing down to ‘I want to feel fulfilled in my work’ instead now starts to sketch your goal more crisply.

Check 2: Have you framed your goal positively?

Avoid negative language in describing your goal such as ‘I want to stop / quit / reduce / lose…’ etc. Negative words only amplify our human negativity bias. Negativity naturally grabs more attention. Negative goal descriptions will not sustain your motivation in the long run especially in times of challenge. Writing your goal in aspirational language does. Compare the two goal statements below as an example.

‘I should work less to stop missing out on time with my family.’

‘I will have a healthy work balance to enjoy spending more time with my family.’

On a bad day, I know which of those would work better for my goal ‘stickability’.

Check 3: Is your goal ‘worthy but dull’?

Some of the goals you have in mind may feel virtuous in your quest for a better you. Here’s a crunch question which will ultimately determine if you will stick with your goal. Does it actually excite you? Is it really in tune with your personal values and what makes you tick? If it doesn’t, ditch it. Set a goal which does. Dutiful can be admirable but it is never compelling.

Check 4: Does your goal engage your senses?

Following on from exciting, writing your down your goal should also trigger your imagination and wider senses. If you achieved your goal, how would it actually feel? What would you see? If for example your goal is to move to live beside the sea, think about waking up there and describe it. What do you see, hear, smell, feel and touch? By painting a vivid picture about reaching your goal you can feel more emotionally connected and invested in it.

Check 5: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?

What will tell you that you’ve reached your goal? Vague goals such as ‘being happier’ will not ultimately work if you don’t actually outline a definite measure or marker to show an increase in your happiness. This is where the SMART criteria come into play (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timebound). Have an end point which will without doubt show that you have triumphed.

Check 6: What does your goal need?

Aspirations are great. Not thinking through what you practically need to make that goal realistically achievable is already undermining your ability to reach it. You’re not to climb Everest with the idea but none of the gear. Think of what you might need to have in place to support your goal aspirations (whether time, money, skills or other people / resources) and factor it into your goal plan.

Check 7: Does the goal belong to you?

This may seem like an odd question but it’s a forgotten factor. Many of us have been in a situation where we find ourselves doing something not because it was our idea. We have entered into something to please someone, felt obliged or been nagged into it. I’ve done it, set a ‘shared’ a goal which never felt like mine and I struggled to feel a deep connection with it. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Whatever you are working towards, make sure it’s yours and that it ticks all of the above boxes for you and you alone.

Good luck with your goal!

Author: Maire McGrath, Director, FutureSpark Coaching

10 Resilience Tips for Tough Times

COVID 19 for all of us is the ultimate unknown and with rapid and constant change, we can easily feel overwhelmed. Not only professionally from coaching but personally, I have always had an avid interest in resilience and how people weather through seriously rough times.

Here are 10 practical tips, some of which I hope will help you to stay resilient in what are surreal times:

  • Focusing on what can control, not what you can’t
    ​Our resilience is most impacted when we feel that we have no control. When we experience crisis without an internal focus on what we can do or how we can adapt, we start to falter and doubt our capacity to cope.

    Look at your own immediate world, what practical things can you do to get some sense of control? In COVID 19 times this could be as simple as preparing good food, cleaning routines and re-organising work and life logistics as much as you can.When self-isolating under lockdown, set yourself a ‘project’ to do. Doing something pro-active, no matter how small, helps you regain some sense of control to build resilience.
  • Reframing and creating some meaning
    Reframing is key to resilience and it’s simply linked to that quote ‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’We already hear many people highlighting, even in this crisis, the opportunities for all of us to see/do something meaningful. This includes families spending time together at home, innovating new flexible ways of working or studying and a chance for all of us to pull together and support each other in our communities.

    Reframing can be powerful to view things through a different lens and act with a changed purpose.

  • Helping others
    ​In times of serious adversity, turning our attention to what we can do to contribute or helping someone else can also give us a feeling of purpose and meaning which improves resilience.We can do so many things for other people in these times.There are charities, local foodbanks or online community forums such as which you can link with to help neighbours and people in your community.
  • Taking a news break
    Be mindful of the amount of time you spend reading about, listening to, watching the news or browsing social media relating to COVID 19. Yes, it is absolutely vital to keep updated with public health information.However, if you are always immersed in it you run the risk of constantly thinking about it and very quickly becoming overwhelmed.Strike a balance and vary your attention to have a focus on other things and what you can do for yourself and others.
  • Keeping social connection
    Our lives have, for the time being, changed dramatically with social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown but this does not mean that we break social connection. We have so many ways we can still connect.Keep communicating whether it’s by phone, Skype or Zoom apps. Organise to have a group call with friends / family. If you know someone on their own, reach out and phone, email or message them. Another good way to feel more connected, especially if you are on your own, is tuning into local radio.

    A fantastic example here in NI is the U105 Lunchtime Bistro Show with Carolyn Stewart which is going the extra mile to reach out and connect us across the airwaves. We need each other’s company, however it comes, now more than ever.

  • Acknowledging your emotions
    We can reframe and be pro-active but to be aware of and acknowledge our natural emotions is also important. As well as talking with friends or family, there is another very effective way of processing how you feel with just simple pen and paper. Writing about how you feel by journaling can really help.Some of us may not want to confide in people close to us that we are feeling anxious as we want to appear strong or reassuring. However, we all need to process how we are and putting our feelings privately on the page can give us that emotional release valve.
  • Remembering your own strengths
    ​During big events, we can feel small and vulnerable. However, even in the toughest of times people can always amaze themselves. If you doubt your capacity to cope, just remember, reflect and note a really difficult time you had before and how you got through it.All us have skills, knowledge and qualities which we can dig into to keep ourselves going, remind yourself of yours.
  • Self-care and well-being
    We know and all need to strictly follow the public health messages. For resilience and well-being you also need to keep doing things you enjoy. For a lot of us, some of those things (e.g. such as going to the gym, bar or concerts) are not possible but there can be other ways to relax.It doesn’t matter what, whether it’s a long, hot bath, crafts, mindfulness, gaming, playing an instrument, writing, whatever it is, build it in. Doing small enjoyable things which distract you, reduces stress and boosts resilience.
  • Trying to be a ‘realistic optimist’
    People who are realistic optimists believe that even in the worst of times they can still do something to shape the outcome. They see the challenges but think about steps to deal with it.For example, I have my own business and like so many other self-employed people and businesses, we are on the ropes. However, even taking that first step to find out what is available to help your company or to just financially survive right now is starting to prepare.Being overly optimistic (i.e. sticking your head totally in the sand with ‘it will all be grand’ thinking) lessens resilience as when things do hit, you haven’t pre-empted anything to deal with it.
  • Raising your spirits with…
    Music, arts, culture, spirituality, inspiring stories or even remembering your granny’s wisest sayings can lift your mood. Watch your favourite film, listen to your most loved comedian, check out a TED talk or play those songs which always make you feel better.Wisdom, humour and some sense of light relief can truly help us through the darkest of times.If we forget what we value, love and makes us smile, we forget ourselves and what keeps us resilient.

​“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl

Written by Maire Grattan, Director, FutureSpark Coaching

7 ways to spark positivity as a leader

How much do you show positive leadership?  

Ongoing change, a myriad of competing pressures, uncertainty about future, the constant need to be inventive and agile are all part and parcel of leading. All test your ability to stay positive as a leader. Drawing on the wisdom of Kim Cameron, FutureSpark Coaching brings you 7 ways you can show more positive leadership.

1. Show an attitude of gratitude

Think about the last time someone showed real gratitude towards you. How did it feel? Positive psychology research evidences that gratitude has a powerful impact on well-being. Demonstrating openly to your colleagues genuine gratitude for their contribution or achievements assists significantly to enable a positive atmosphere and really encourages performance.

2. Be a positive energizer

Have you had an experience of connecting with a negative energizer, someone who sucks the energy from a room or conversation in record time? Remember it! Being over critical, inflexible and focused disproportionately on your own individual needs characterizes the core credentials of a negative energizer.

The energy you put out there as a leader is seen and felt. Create a crackle of positive energy by directly building into your interactions optimism and ways to enable the vitality of others. Alternatively, support the those who beam positive energy by encouraging them to have wider interactions across the team, giving them a platform to influence or supporting as mentor or to lead on an aspect of team or organisational development.

3. Be present and show compassion

Notice and acknowledge when someone is clearly struggling and experiencing upset or real difficulty – express some care and concern. People notice that you notice and will feel more valued as it helps to create a more caring working environment. In the words of Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

4. Pay more attention to strengths

Emotionally intelligent leadership will connect what a person wants, enjoys and is strong in delivering aligned with organisational goals. As a leader, you do not evidently ignore weaknesses and what could be improved. The approach however to addressing is all.

A good exercise to do is think about your leadership style. Question how much time you spend looking at the deficit in your team / organisation. How aware are you of organisational and team strengths? How much do you communicate with your team about their strengths? How do you combine this to give constructive feedback setting positive targets for performance based on strengths? Create the image of success highlighting what others should do and strive towards rather than only pointing out what they shouldn’t do or aren’t doing.

5. Communicate positively

If you have ever completed a 360-degree feedback, you will know that how you communicate as a leader usually takes centre-stage in shaping how others see you. Leading inevitably involves communicating on difficult issues and giving negative messages. Communicating positively in such circumstances needs your attention and awareness.

Keep communication as supportive and objective as possible. Faced with an issue, zone in on the facts and avoid judgement or subjective evaluation labels on the person ‘I think that you are…’ Focus on describing the action, event or behaviour not the person. Explain the consequences / reactions calmly and then offer or invite suggestions to resolve and move forward.

6. Connect purposefully

We enjoy and thrive in doing something which we find meaningful. What exactly does being meaningful entail? Something becomes meaningful if it helps us upholds our values, something we hold dear or live by, if it helps us achieve a personal goal or if it makes a positive difference to someone else or reaches out beyond us as part of a bigger picture.

As a leader, one of the great rewards of leadership is seeing someone fulfilled in work. When this happens, they have experienced work as purposeful: it has connected with something that is meaningful for them. Take time to see how you and your team connect your work to a purpose which has meaning for you. If you don’t know what is meaningful to your key team members and teams, get to know.

7. Build in one-to-one time

‘The only time I really see my director is when something goes wrong which I might be able to fix.’

This is not the type of comment an accomplished leader wants really to hear: the lack of value this employee feels attached to them is clear. Making time for regular one-to-one meetings with colleagues who are your direct reports is an investment. It builds relationships, clarifies expectations and unearths more about values and motivation. It is also a great opportunity to communicate supportively about development and performance. One-to-one time is a valuable two-way exchange and shows positive leadership at a very personal level.

Author: Maire McGrath, Director, FutureSpark Coaching

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