Keep Calm and Carry On


The definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It’s fair to say we are all experiencing new challenges not only in the way we continue to operate in business under lockdown, but how we promote physical and mental well being in our homes, our communities and workplace. While the benefits of cultivating resilience is not a new concept, it is certainly more important than ever before.

We spoke with Lucy Adams, CEO and Founder of Disruptive HR, to get her insights into what resilience means for individuals, organisations and leaders. Lucy has held board level HR roles for over 10 years, most recently at the BBC. She shares her experience on how to cultivate positive professional and personal practices, to keep spirits high and teams together throughout the global pandemic.

1. Seek the truth

Often in resilient organisations, leaders listen and genuinely want to hear the truth….

...whether the news is good or bad.

To create psychological safety in the workplace, employees from all levels need to feel safe to speak up about the issues they face on the front line, without fear of being judged or reprimanded. As we trial new ways of working, it's important to canvas the experience, advice and opinions from a diverse range of employees. Seeking input from both individual contributors and team leaders will provide you with balanced data to inform your next step. To build on success, we must first learn to recover quickly from our failures.

2. Communication is key, and a conversation is always best

During times of uncertainty, it’s key that your team receives clear communication on how challenges are being addressed before speculation can arise. As we encounter an increasingly ‘furloughed’ workforce, it's essential that employees continue to feel valued as team members and are aware of the bigger picture through timely and considered communications.

While broadcasts are an incredibly effective way to communicate with large groups of people, it’s equally important to use these opportunities to engage teams in two-way conversations, where their questions are answered, and their opinions heard. There are many ways to facilitate virtual Q&As and breakouts, where you can start meaningful conversations to harvest useful data. Reinforcing a culture of psychological safety, starting a ‘conversation’ will also help your team to feel ownership and participation in the journey ahead.

3. Pivot – think fast and have the ability to adapt

Most organisations plan for scenarios that may arise – business model disruption, financial volatility, reputational crisis. At the moment, organisations have to make decisions incredibly quickly and hierarchical procedures, originally designed to protect your organisation, might negatively impact your ability to respond in time.

While formal processes are important, now is a time to allow for greater creativity and imagination in how change can be implemented quickly. Sometimes making the wrong decision and learning from it is better than taking no action at all.

We are navigating a crisis that has forced us to think on our feet, to explore ways we can become more agile. There is no template or manual to get through the current crisis. If people in your organisation have a gut feel for the right thing to do and are empowered to make those calls and act on it, you will become a much stronger organisation. If your employees are passively waiting for a prescribed approach to be cascaded down from above, change may become problematic.

4. Routine and mindfulness

While you may think the benefit of routine is simply increased productivity while working from home, there is far more neuroscience than meets the eye. We are all experiencing a global crisis, with many people affected both physically and mentally. From a psychological perspective, when our environment is under ‘threat’, we activate the fight-or-flight response within the limbic system. This releases stress hormones which reduce our ability to concentrate, results in poor decision making, and lowers our mood.

As human beings, there are many things that we can do to trick our brain into believing that it is actually in a ‘reward’ state. By implementing a routine, we create certainty and foster an environment where we feel in control - ‘tricking’ the brain into believing that everything is alright. By creating this certainty and taking ourselves from a threat to reward state, we reduce anxiety, activating neurons within the prefrontal cortex - allowing us to think more rationally, to be more creative and to make better decisions.

While maintaining your physical energy is not rocket science – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, it’s also important to ensure that you keep up your emotional energy high. Mindfulness and breathing techniques are a great addition to any daily routine. We explored stress relief and breathing practices with Ruth Prowse in this week's Bitesize broadcast (where you can also find all previous programmes)

5. Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others

One good thing about this crisis is that we are genuinely all in this together. Whether you’re leading an organisation, a household or helping out within your local community, it’s important that we ensure that we give to ourselves, before we give to others. Set yourself up for success and develop your own resilience practice before supporting others. As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

If you would like to communicate creatively with your team, explore our guide on Engaging Virtually and get in touch.