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Why vitality trumps resilience

In the last few months, employees have had to upskill rapidly in practical terms – furloughing, new legislation, virtual working, new technology, revised health and safety policies, industry changes. Not to forget home-schooling.

There is an insidious disease among us – resilience.

In the last few months, employees have had to upskill rapidly in practical terms – furloughing, new legislation, virtual working, new technology, revised health and safety policies, industry changes. Not to forget home-schooling.

Prioritisation has never been so critical and so difficult.

Resilience training, however well-meaning, often creates the expectation that employees should dig deeper whilst simultaneously being put under more pressure. This is not sustainable or reasonable.

We need to start focusing on vitality.

Resilience has limits
High-performing leaders and teams are often exhausted, overworked and stressed. They rarely realise it because they’ve learned to suppress exhaustion and stress in a bid to be resilient. In the process of shutting down, they lose their vitality and vigour.

Last week, I sent an email talking about vitality. I asked people to hit reply if they were struggling to get out of bed. My inbox was flooded. People struggle on because they think they should.

The Mental Health at Work 2019 Report cites: “62% of managers faced situations where they put the interests of their organisation above the wellbeing of colleagues.”

Resilience has limits and employees are weary.

5 Steps to increase vitality
The following 5 steps will increase vitality so teams can flourish and achieve:

  1. De-stress
    Re-ground, re-connect and reduce stress together as a team and visibly witness the difference between emotional connection and disconnection in the team.

Being outdoors in nature honours social distancing, is a natural stress reducer and increases emotional connection. This step is often missed out in favour of defining strategic direction. If you don’t de-stress first, it will take longer to agree priorities.

  • Clarity of direction
    Now is a good time to take stock together as a team and reflect on how far you’ve come and where you are going next. Make sure everyone is on board. Help those who are struggling to reconnect.

Re-prioritise and let go of non-essential activities. Lack of clarity wastes time due to competing objectives. Be clear when you don’t have the answers and pull together to seek them.

  • Step out: Leaders of teams often want to show their support for the team. But in doing so, they get too involved in the detail. If this is you, step out of the way, let go of control and create space for your team to step up and make decisions without you.

When you repeatedly step in, the team learn not to step up, resulting in more work and more stress for you. If the direction, roles and responsibilities are clear, the team can take more responsibility and will feel more engaged.

  • Step up: When leaders let go of control, they create space for the team to step up and flourish. If the team are used to being guided top down, they may need support as they step up and take more responsibility.

Teams should agree on competing priorities and make decisions that serve the overall direction, without looking to the leader of the team to arbitrate.

  • Align: Teams can hold polarised views without creating conflict. Emotions need to be managed as frustration can occur when there are differences of opinion.

When teams have the maturity to see their differences as part of the process of change, they stop taking things personally and can lead each other more honestly and openly.

Vitality is critical
Business is entering a new phase. There is a desire to review the strategic direction and shift quickly. If you don’t re-develop the vitality and vigour of a team first, the strategy cannot be executed effectively without adverse impact on the team longer term.

Vitality comes when a team has a sense of purpose, their work is meaningful and the level of stress gives them the edge, rather than tipping them over it. Vitality is the first critical stage of recovery.

The expectation to be resilient shifts the burden of blame from employer to employee and is causing a mental health crisis at work. Teams and organisations must explore new ways to create a vibrant workforce, minimise stress and generate vitality so that everyone can thrive.

What you can do
Talk to your team about how they cope with change. Create space for people to emotionally reconnect and find energy about the future, no matter what it entails.

Business can solve all of the world’s problems if employees are full of vitality and vigour. We can and must create it.

Jude Jennison, Founder Director of Leaders by Nature Ltd

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