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wisdom is not for sale

There is no business school or philosophy programme that offers a course in wisdom. In fact defining wisdom is something of a challenge.
Sometimes you will hear adults describing a child as having wisdom beyond his years without really being able to define what it is that makes them say that.
Wisdom is a little like riding a bicycle. You can spend days in lectures about the mechanics of the bicycle, its aerodynamics, the physiology of cycle exercise, the psychology of cycling, the biomechanics of the sport, handling a bicycle, and so on. The reality though is that none of this will actually give you the ability to ride the bicycle.
In order to be able to ride one has to hoist one’s bottom onto the saddle, put your feet on the pedals, hold the handle grips and launch forth, often to fall off almost immediately. This will continue until one has mastered the art and wisdom of balance. This is something that no-one can teach one. It comes from studying at the University of Falling Off a Bicycle until you learn not to.
If you ask someone to describe balance they find it almost impossible to do so. They find it even more difficult to teach one how to balance.
Wisdom is the same. You cannot categorise, nor codify wisdom. It comes with experience, from exposing oneself to life’s trials, tribulations, challenges, joys, upsets, elations, sadnesses and successes.
What we can do though is to speed up the process of acquiring wisdom. The best way to do this is to provide the young with mentors. One of the biggest, most important, negative consequences of the dissolution of the extended family is the fact that the very young at best only have intermittent access to grandparents, aunts and uncles who, in the past would have given them the mentoring that is so valuable in the maturation process.
Today the young pretty much have to find their own way in life. A life that is hugely complex and one which abounds with many very visible poor role models.
This is where those that have lived life and are in the sunset period can play a massively important role in our society. They can take on the role of mentoring young people. They can provide a safe environment in which young people can explore their ideas and receive guidance on some of the most important and challenging issues they are confronted with every day.
We can bring the sunshine they so need in their lives. We can give them hope. We can build positive attitudes. We can help them acquire the most important skills they need to find their way on their journey through the valley of life. We can show them how the right values are much more important than great wealth, or fancy clothes and cars. We can show them how to really love life.
In short we have it in us to build a nation!
Tony Frost
tony@siroccostrategy.com

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Doing Good is Good for Business

It is quite surprising that there are still some who don’t believe in the inherent good for business, that is part and parcel of doing good as a business; or, if you prefer, from being a good corporate citizen.
Indeed there is much evidence that supports this notion both here and abroad.
Investors are increasingly finding that investing in businesses that adopt ethical and contributory business practices are a better long term, less risky and more sustainable investments than those which don’t.
Ask those businesses that arguably produce products like tobacco or arms, how complicated their lives have become in recent years because of the pressure and publicity associated with the harmful results of their products. Every element of their existence is under constant scrutiny.

At the other end of the scale since Unilever decided to pursue the fully sustainable and ethical route revenues have increased since 2008 from Euro40 billion to Euro48 billion in 2014 while in the process reducing water consumption by 32% in the same period. There are real and measurable benefits of going the ethical way! And organisations are increasingly finding that this way is the lowest cost of doing business in the long run.

So what do companies have to do to demonstrate their commitment to helping to create a healthier society and a more sustainable planet?

The very first thing that is required is for organisations to have really good hard introspective look at themselves and question hard what contribution they are making to the well-being of the community of which they are part and to the growth and development of the nation.
This is much more than the self-satisfying notion that we make profits, turn out well-educated students, or pay at least our fair share of taxes.
These are at the very lowest level of socially acceptable compliance and may just, only just, serve to ensure a continued licence to operate.
However world-class organisations do way more than this. They do not have a compliance culture which unfortunately is the reality for many organisations today, i.e. we do what the law requires of us, no more no less. This is a defeatist, minimalist approach and you will not find organisations that operate at the pinnacle of success with a culture like this.

The very best organisations set the standards, and automatically comply with the law as a by-product of doing so. Here the culture is one which asks how we can exercise leadership in every element of our business for the greater good of all.
This can be a very tough transition.
And one that Volkswagen is beginning to pay a very heavy price for not adhering to.
This type of culture will require the organisation to constantly challenge existing norms and standards.
It goes to the essence of the way we do and conduct our businesses, and involves the type of relationships we build with the society of which we are part and to which we should be contributing positively.
This should be done as part of our organisational mission and not as
begrudged add-on. Organisations have a massive impact on society. After all people spend 60% of their waking and conscious hours at work. The organisations for which we work cannot help but have an impact on the way we think and behave.
We must be deeply engaged in the national debate because for our organisations to be able to grow and contribute we need a nurturing environment within which to operate. The conversation has become far too adversarial and businesses do not seem to be visibly engaged in the process of building a new inclusive and vibrant country.
The mechanical implementation of illogical and unjust laws simply because they are laws is certainly not a solution even if it does more or less keep you one step ahead of the law.
In the bad old days there were many companies who did the right thing, broke the law if you like, as contribution to creating a more just society. Those companies who were part of the Sullivan Code are an example of this, but they were not the only ones.
When we do the self-examination these are the questions we should be asking of ourselves:
How do we use and develop all our employees to the limit of their talent;
How do we create a vibrant and healthy workplace;
How do we actively and constructively engage with communities around us;
How do we constructively challenge patently illogical or unjust laws
and regulations;
What can we do to build a better nation?

We should be reflecting on what the right thing is to do, and not only making certain that we do things right.
Many think that giving money and providing resources is what this is about. To do so is an important component but on its own giving money and resources is not good enough and is really only public relations.
Real corporate social investment is much more than that!
When an organisation really decides to go the Corporate Social Investment route it means immersion in every element of society to ensure that we are contributing to a better world than the one we found.
It starts with serious and deep self-examination and the creation of a culture of commitment, courage and contribution!
It is entirely in our organisations’ best self-interest that we should engage in, contribute to and influence society. All organisations, other than those engaged in criminal activity of one sort or another, thrive best in a well-organised, ethically governed, vibrant and thriving environment. Organisations including public, private, commercial, non-governmental, indeed all of civil
society should be engaged with the singular objective of creating this type of society.
This is only possible with deep, persistent and focussed engagement.
An excellent opportunity presents itself now with elections for local government in South Africa on the horizon. We should all be engaging in this process because it is at local government level that we are all most directly affected and therefore have the most direct interest in the outcome.

And we need to engage with all parts of our existence – environment, economics and society!
This is a marvellous opportunity to demonstrate real corporate investment for a real and with a serious outcome.
The process should start with engagement with all the key stakeholders and the community of the organisation to work on creating a common view of the type of future we will all strive for. This is not a party political imperative it is a growth and ‘thrival’ imperative.
Difficult, challenging? For sure.
Important, worthwhile?! Definitely! !

Tony Frost
tony@siroccostrategy.co.za

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Leadership Tips for 2016

2016 is going to be a challenging year.
But isn’t every year challenging?
Of course this is true but the challenges vary in type and intensity.
Here are some ideas which may help you to build your business in 2016, help it to thrive and not merely survive.
1. Create a clear Vision of the Future
Nothing truly worthwhile has ever come from dreaming small dreams. Dream big dreams, deep into the future and then share your vision with everyone as often as you can. Invite people to join you, to improve the vision. Make this picture of the future a compelling, exciting and worthwhile dream to realise! This is a critical key to success. An unshared vision is as useful as a balloon in a furnace.
2. Focus, Focus, Focus
The vision becomes real when execution and implementation starts. This is when people begin to believe,when they actually start to see action that points towards the end picture. Execution will only occur if there is clear and visible focus by the leadership. Leadership that is distracted or has multiple interests may serve to confuse rather than enlighten. The clearer the focus, the more certainty there will be about the journey and destination. People who have a clear sense of direction are for more likely to join the journey especially if the vision is compelling and excites interest.
3. Be Courageous
Leadership is not for sissies! It is often lonely and leaders are known to feel alone and exposed. Sometimesthey are both of these. Therefore an important ingredient of great leadership is the capacity for courage.
Courage is required to lead, but it is equally important for the energy required to be creative. Leaders are responsible for innovation. Innovation means taking risks. Taking risks means exposure and sometimes failure. But without these there is no growth and development. Leaders are not maintenance mechanics. Their job is to make change happen. Creativity, risk, change, exposure, courage are all parts of the fruit salad of leadership
4. Encourage Creativity
A critical leadership task, and a thoroughly challenging one, is the pressure for positive change.
This only happens in an environment which encourages and rewards creativity. The more the leader builds an environment of trust where everyone is encouraged to challenge and recommend, the greater will be the creativity in the business. Reward the curious abundantly, watch them carefully, question them, encourage
them. They are a fount of new ideas and outrageous dreams!
5. Lead
Leadership is about leading. It is why one is called a Leader. If you don’t provide active visible leadership then you are not a leader, but something else.
As a leader your job is to make things happen.
As a leader the most important resource you have is your team. In tough times it is super critical to surround yourself with a small talented team that tells you what you need to hear, not only what you want to hear. Choose
the very best, most talented, vitally diverse team you can find and then lead them to be the very best that they can be. The obvious things like race, gender, religion and so on are important politically but they don’t
count for a row of beans when it comes to creating the best team you can assemble. What counts most in this scenario is diversity of thought and perspective and a passion to succeed together.
6. Culture is Critical
Create a culture of ownership. Equity, psychological and sociological ownership. When the team feel a sense of ownership they are likely to be more motivated to participate in achieving the vision and the objectives that
flow from it. The aim should be to have everyone in the business owning a piece of it. And everyone should aspire to be an owner and work on increasing the size of their shareholding. Make ownership easy. For everyone!
7. Really Love what you do, and those around you
This may sound soft and fluffy. Those things that are difficult to define often leave this impression. However this is actually the most difficult and the hardest stuff for leaders. It does not mean anything soft at all. Love
is tough. Tough love is even tougher. Real leaders are good at making their people feel that they and their opinions are valued just as they are good at demanding a lot from those that they lead.
8. Engage strongly, continuously
Crucial to good leadership, but particularly in 2016, is the absolute necessity of engaging actively, vigorously, regularly. It will be even more necessary to talk about the vision and why it is so important and how important it is for everyone to strive to be the very best that they can be! Note this is not about urging people to work harder but rather a strategy to inspire everyone, and teams to work smarter, more collaboratively and as innovatively as possible.
The winning organisations this year will be those that find new ways of doing old things.
9. Explore the world
The imperative to build a culture that encourages a desire to
explore is always important, in tough times it is crucial. Explore everything. What can we do better? What can we do differently? What should we stop doing? Who is doing interesting stuff? How can we be more adventurous? What can we learn from very young kids about the way they explore their world? How do we set about learning from them, emulating them in our world?
10. Show Abundant Enthusiasm
Nothing really worthwhile happens unless there is enthusiasm; or passion if you like. The world’s best at anything, including leadership, are passionate about what they do, how they do it and who they do it with!
Encourage this, reward the enthusiastic and passionate. Do so often.
11. Generosity is priceless
Do not under any circumstances steal the successes of others. Never. The most important generosity has little,if anything, to do with material things; mostly it has to do with generosity of the spirit and of the heart! Great leaders give a lot of themselves. Especially, they share their sense of hope and enthusiasm and excitement and belief in the future. And they sacrifice of themselves willingly to do this.
Of course, generosity also means sharing the abundance that the organisation creates, with joy and the thrill of sharing.
12. Ethics
There is no point in achieving great ‘success’ and wealth if it is at the expense of others. It also has no meaning if the gains are ill-gotten. Good ethics will always win out in the end.
The people in the organisation will always find it easier to strive for something with a higher meaning and something that contributes to the well-being of society, than one that doesn’t.
13. Think Globally
The world grows larger and smaller every day; more accessible and less accessible. Information technology has much to do with this. Social media has given unprecedented access into every aspect of our lives. No-one and
nothing is immune. Any event, any issue, any new idea is immediately accessible to pretty much everyone, everywhere, 24/7. Because of this there is really no such thing anymore of only operating locally. If you are in business of whatever sort, no matter the size, you are in a global business. You must make sure as far as possible that this permeates all the thinking in your business.
14. Act Locally
Thinking globally does not mean you should ignore local realities. What will give your business its market differentiation will be the way it lives out its mission in all of its markets. The more your customers feel that your product or service suits their particular and parochial needs and that you are a ‘local’, the more they will see your relevance and importance to their community.
15. Do Good, it’s good business.
Doing good is good business, and good for business. The more your customers feel and see that you and your company care about them as people that count, the more likely it is that they will continue to positively endorse your licence to operate. This means encouraging everyone to be involved in and
contribute to the community of which the business is an integral and important part. The more local people you employ the more important this becomes.
16. Build Trust
At the heart of the world’s most successful teams and organisations is a deep implicit trust. This is not something that can happens by accident. It requires perseverance, passion, and patience. It needs you to listen, really listen to those around you and to show that you have. Trust is something truly sacred. It is difficult to build and earn and can be lost in eyewink. It is a massive responsibility but one that leaders should embrace with joy. It will be what makes the difference between you and the rest.

The year lies ahead. Make it your most memorable, most adventurous year ever!

Tony Frost
tony@siroccostrategy.com

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How robust is your business strategy in an ever changing world?

 

The landscape of industry in general is changing dramatically. The largest ‘taxi’ company globally, Uber, owns no taxis. One of the largest accommodation companies in the world, Airbnb, owns no property and the largest information company, Google, owns no books……
I recently attended a conference where one of the speakers used a great analogy to highlight the impact of technology on our lives. He made the point that most people in the audience could pinpoint exact times where technology has had an influence on their lives, namely the introduction of iPad, Wi-Fi, skype, fibre and so much more. In contrast, children of today will not know what the term “technology” means when they grow up. This is because it has always been a part of their lives. Children are learning to play with iPad from the age of two and interact with various forms of technology on a daily basis. The other day I spotted my three year old trying to navigate the TV screen in the same way that she controls an iPad, which was rather entertaining, however it was a great example of the new generation’s ability to embrace technology.
It’s hard to believe that cell phones were only introduced to the SA market in the mid 90’s and the iPad only hit our slightly apprehensive South African market five years ago. Needless to say, the iPad captivated the market and these days one would be hard pressed to find a boardroom without at least half of the participants in the meeting taking notes on their iPad or tablets. The rate of change in the technological space has been astounding over the past ten years and is developing at an ever increasing rate.
From a marketing perspective, there have been a great deal of changes to the industry. Consumers no longer want to be bombarded by hundreds of meaningless smses a day. They are opting for a more personalized, contextualized approach to their needs. This form of marketing provides endless opportunities for retailers. An example of this is that customers can be updated of specials in real time via their cell phones as they are walking through shopping centres or driving past specific stores. It also allows the consumer to decide on how much communication they want to receive and the information is specific to them based on their purchasing habits. This information can also be fed back to the retailer so that they receive valuable information regarding their customers spending habits.
So what does this really mean in our everyday lives? Technology has been developed to such an extent that people’s lives are made simpler, their needs are met immediately and the “I want it now” generation has been born. In my business, our online ordering has grown from an inconsequential figure to a quarter of our turnover within a matter of months. A couple of months ago, I was approached by a QR code payment company which we adopted and this has also taken off at a rate of knots. People want convenience and the ability to interact with our business on their terms. This has assisted us in reducing costs as our drivers no longer all need to carry speedpoints. Customer’s cell phones have become our new speedpoint machines.

The other impact of technology is that it simplifies the purchase of a commoditized product.
What do I mean by this?
Well, when was the last time that you called a travel agent to book your flight to Cape Town? If you were booking an anniversary then a travel agent would definitely be the person to call as no technology can replace the human touch of arranging someone to meet you at the airport in a foreign country and making sure that the diving operator, hot air balloon operator, cycling guide etc. and the hotel all meet your requirements to make your special occasion a memorable one.

Technology is great in getting the transactional aspects of your business out of the way so that you can focus on the really important value that you offer to your clients.
The downside of technology is that everyone is now a journalist. Social media means that a small bad experience can be broadcast in seconds. Twitter and Facebook can be both your best friend and enemy. It is more likely that you’ll hear about complaints on social media than someone picking up the phone to let you know that they were disappointed. It’s important to know which sites to keep an eye on so that you keep up to date with the feedback on your business. Responding to a tweet that happened 9 months ago, might not work in your favour, but responding to someone immediately and getting their issue resolved, could convert them to a customer for life, or lose them for life!.
Technology also has a few more practical implications. We’ve had to adapt our businesses to load shedding and implement contingency measures such as generators, UPS, inverters etc.
The landscape in which we work and operate our businesses is changing on a daily basis with new technology being developed, power restraints, legislation changes as well as many other influences.
It is important to have a solid, yet fluid strategy in place to enable your business to deal with all of the changes that are taking place, or may take place.
A strategy should not just be a document which sits in the drawer, it should be a living, breathing part of your business.
It needs to be based on a sound business framework, yet be adaptable in order to change with the times. Doing small things such as updating your marketing strategy to include a more interactive approach might be just what you need to connect with your customers in a more meaningful way. If your business has predominantly grown organically, then perhaps you need to adjust your strategy to include an online presence and make use of the current technology available. The e-commerce industry has gained significant traction in the SA market and may be appropriate for your business to adopt in order to take you to the next level of expansion.
Stress test your strategy on an annual basis by doing scenario planning based on the current opportunities and threats facing your business. Work out a plan of action should the worst case scenario happen and look for opportunities within this space. Identify ways of harnessing opportunities should the best case scenario come to light and adapt your strategy accordingly.
The most important thing to remember is that your strategy needs to be able to change with, or even better, ahead of the times, without losing sight of the core values of your business. It’s important to be very clear, irrespective of technological changes, what the value is that you offer your clients. Technology should simply be there to support this strategy, not replace it.

Kath O’Neill
Strategist and Business Owner

 

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So Who are the Aardvarks in your Organisation?

I spend a lot of time in the bush. Not many urban dwellers spend as much as 30 nights on the ground in wild Big 5 country; no tents, or running water, or electricity. Every year I have the amazing responsibility of taking people into wilderness areas. This is a huge privilege! Sadly there is not much real wilderness left.

We take them into the bush. All ages and sizes and shapes and orientations. The greater the diversity of the group, the richer the experience.

We don’t take them into the bush to do game viewing although this does inevitably happen. Our primary reason for these visits to the wilderness is to expose them to the powerful teaching that nature has to offer, if they open their senses to all the possibilities. We have seen some people make truly dramatic changes to their lives and lifestyles as a result of their bush experience.

Our focus with most groups, which are mostly executive or business teams, is on leadership, teamwork and how to manage the knowledge in the team.

In this latter case it is remarkable how poorly most people are at mining the information and knowledge that exists in the heads and life experiences of those around them. When one thinks about this it is actually this ability that has kept us alive and thriving over hundreds of thousands of years. There are a multiplicity of reasons why we don’t do this. Unfortunately space does not allow us to unpack these. Suffice to say we would be much better off as a people and a species if we did this a lot better and more regularly. It would undoubtedly enhance our ability to thrive. However, what we have done instead is to make a mastery of reinventing the wheel and not learning from history.

In the bush most people are not very knowledgeable and so survival let alone ‘thrival’ depends to huge extent on the ability of the team to tap into and learn from each other in a true spirit of cooperation and support. Buffalo, zebra and wildebeest and so many other species do this so well.

Now, a key element of really effective leadership is exactly this skill. Leaders should practise this every hour of every day because clever effective leaders learn how to tap into the expertise and knowledge of those that they work with. This is the richness that is abundantly available for those that make the effort.

The other big advantage of following this course of action is that the leader’s colleagues and subordinates feel so validated and affirmed by the fact that they are being asked to make a real contribution for the greater good instead of only completing instruction- and directive- driven tasks day after day!

And then there is teamwork. Nature can teach us so much about the power of the team; and we have so much to learn!

We usually stop and examine and question and interrogate what people see when we come across an antbear (aardvark) hole.

Few people have an exact idea what they are actually looking at. However as a result of the questioning process and because of the pressure we put on them to examine the surroundings and to take cognisance of every little detail in the surroundings the team always eventually (sometimes very eventually) arrives at the conclusion that this hole was made by an antbear.

It is the miniscule minority who have ever seen a live antbear. And yet so many species are dependent on this ubiquitous, and yet virtually invisible, creature. It is estimated that some 40 different species use their holes for shelter, breeding, protection and much more. These range from leopard to snakes to geese to warthog.

The questions that always arise from this experience is: “Who are the Aardvarks in your organisation?”

Who are those indispensable, but invisible, people that keep things running smoothly without much notice or recognition or acknowledgment? Usually in organisations these are the ‘little’ people: Receptionists, pickers and packers, long distance truck drivers, accounts clerks, the admin team and many others.

Leaders would do well to spend some time talking to these people. They will be astonished to find out how much these people know about the organisation that the leader doesn’t but should know.

The power of leadership rests within the power of the leader to affirm and recognise that his or her strength does not come from within but mostly from all those who he has the power to lift up to achieve beyond their dreams

 

Tony Frost

 

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New Beginnings – an essential part of sustainable leadership

New beginnings are an essential component of leadership life. Indeed leadership is about creating new beginnings over and over on a sustainable basis

It is what leaders must create in times of crisis, when things need a shake up and especially when things are going well. The last category is the most neglected because when things are going very well most people become either complacent or arrogant or both. When things are going well is precisely the time to think about making changes to position the organization effectively to catch the next wave to be even more successful.

Change doesn’t always come at one in a planned and orderly fashion! There are so many events and occurrences around us that are proof of this!
What is critical in almost every case of beginning something new is to approach it from the vantagepoint of are re-inventing oneself to make the future much better than the past and how to make these new beginnings work for us.

Beginning something new is always a little strange, sometimes even frightening.
But just imagine life without regular new beginnings! Strange they may be, but they are also the essence of life. Without these beginnings there would be nothing!
Our world began with a massive new beginning……. A great deal of energy, of excitement, of newness, wide-eyed breathless newness. A creation that must have started with the tiniest seed of an idea. It turned into something truly beyond human comprehension and absolutely awesome.
Each of us started our own lives in much the same way. Imagine for a moment back to that special time when our parents held us, tiny and helpless, in their hands for the first time and in gazed on in absolute wonderment.

Our personal beginnings can be the same. They hold the promise of so much. All journeys, no matter how they start, no matter how long or short; pleasant or dangerous start with a beginning.
We need to make our beginning events of much more substance. We need to make them into events that become platforms that can sustain continual and renewable beginnings. This is the essence of positive change.
We mustn’t be prepared to change once.
We need to learn how to enjoy constant change. In this way new beginnings become the essence of life and not life threatening.
The difficult part of dealing with new beginnings is not the new, exciting, seductive part. The difficult part is learning how to unlearn the old things; the punishing paradigms of the past; the hopeless habits; the ruinous rules. Unless we learn how to unlearn these, the possibility of exciting new beginnings remains a fantasy.
The reality for us all to understand and to accept is that without dawn there is no new day, without beginning new things we basically commit ourselves to a slow and painful process of tortuous demise.
Most of us at some time or another have lain awake at night battling to sleep. The time that takes the longest to pass are those hours between midnight and sunrise. We long for first light. It seems to take so long to come. We shut our eyes and dawn sneaks up on us so stealthily that when it arrives we find it difficult to believe that it has finally arrived.
You look away and look back and there it is.
In all its glory!
Suddenly the flooding light of a new day, a new beginning is upon us. It floods us with hope, with relief. We realize that the morning sun is the symbol of hope. It is why we awake. It is the sign of all things good in the world. It represents the spreading arms of peace. It is our connection with the dark hours of yesterday.
It is out metaphor for tomorrow.
It is Life itself.
Without new beginnings there can be little hope!

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Resilience – We all need it!

Is there anyone who would not like to be more resilient? To have that capacity to bounce back when life appears to have turned its back on you and sent you unexpected curved balls? This is not about being Bear Grills tough, but about being able to handle the interminable and myriad daily stressors that test us and our resolve. I have been thinking about this issue for some time now but was prompted to write about it by a recent article on the subject in Time magazine.

Resilience is probably one of those characteristics that we would all like to have more of. It is a characteristic particularly important for leaders in every sphere of life and especially for parents in these days of uncertainty. We need to inculcate in our children that capacity to deal with whatever comes our way in a positive and determined manner.

This is no easy task. Some people are inherently more resilient than others but all of us can learn the skills and capacity to be more resilient; and recent research supports this.

There are a few key things we need to practice to be more resilient.

Firstly, when we were still roaming the plains we lived, loved and hunted in groups. We are social beings to our core. In those days loners simply did not survive so being social and gregarious is buried very deep in our DNA. Sometimes it seems that individuals have become more important than teams. This is a big mistake. Loners are lonely and often prone to psychological issues. The encouragement of individualism at the expense of the team is the wrong way to go. It puts unnatural pressure and stress on the individual, especially the talented individual, and dangerously makes him or her believe that they are more important than the team of which they are part.

Secondly, strong social connections are a really important part of your resilience armoury. In fact the more I think about it the more convinced I become of the importance of building long-term, enduring relationships for a whole host of reasons but not least of all to be available in times of stress to help us bounce back from the dark places we have landed in.

The way you respond to stress is at the heart of building a strong set of responses that enable you to bounce back and to deal with even the most unexpected and unfair blows life sometimes throws at you. We know that we are equipped to fight, flee or freeze in the face of danger. This is your natural stress response. What we need to do is to learn how to use this energy positively so as to recognise when it kicks in and how to deploy the energy in a healthy future-focussed way.

This may well be one of the reasons for the rising interest in extreme sports and the growing popularity in exercise. Scientists have shown that fit individuals handle stress much better than unfit people.

In the Fortune Top Companies survey CEOs indicated that a conscious culture is top of mind for their organisation’s success. Research has also shown that living consciously is significantly important to deal with and rebound from stressful situations and challenges.

We always urge those that participate in our team and leadership wilderness experiences to stay in the present and to be present. This avoids the necessity for ‘catch-up’ if and when the unexpected occurs as it often does in Big 5 country! The catch-up, even if it is just a few seconds, can be as stressful (or more so) than the event itself.

Another important factor recommended by Dennis Charney and Steve Southwick in their Book: Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges is the development of a strong set of ethical values to guide daily decision-making and behaviour. It is this last point that is apparently most absent in our leaders today; in virtually all levels of society but particularly amongst our political leaders. It is the rare politician who lives by and projects a clear set of values that others find easy to follow. In leadership this is a crucial component of success. The most ethical leaders are seen to stand for something clear, important and worth supporting. Those that tell people what they want to hear and then do the opposite merely confuse those for whom they are supposed to set the standards.

So what is it that we can all do to learn in order to recover quickly and positively from life’s challenges?

Espouse a strong set of clear values; develop a positive outlook; exercise regularly and test the limits of your fitness as part of this process; face your fears head-on; support others and reach out for support from others when you need it – remember you are a social being; develop your talents and strengths to the full because they are what define you. In life self-confidence is inextricably bound up with recognising and building on our strengths. It is really worthwhile to work on developing them to the full.

There is so much that we can do to be the best we can possibly be and it is so much better to do it in the company of others for whom we care and who we know care for us. The best of resilience has much to do with living our gregarious social and inherent collective consciousness to the full!