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Tag Archives: dealing with adversity

A framework for boosting employee well-being (in tough times)

well-beingSajel Bellon is a professor in human and behavioural sciences, a psychotherapist, and the Founder of Mind Armour™ & SOS Psychotherapy. She is also my professional colleague, and I am so pleased that she is guesting on the blog today talking about what it takes to enhance employee well-being.  Given the pandemic that has drastically changed our workplaces, her post today about how to move people “from pain to possibilities” is more than timely, it is essential!

Moving People from Pain to Possibilities, even during a Pandemic

Think about a time when you were so immersed in a task or project and you lost all sense of time, everything else and everyone around you. It all faded into the background. A time where you were enjoying what you were doing so much so that you walked away from the experience feeling energized.

In positive psychology, this concept is referred to as a state of ‘flow’ (Csíkszentmihályi, 1997). Research has shown that being involved in more tasks and activities that allow us to be in states of ‘flow’ or engagement, have lasting positive effects on our well-being and enhance the learning (Buil, Catalán, & Martínez, 2017).

As leaders, managers and supervisors, we can make the conscious effort to incorporate opportunities in our working environments and projects, to create more engagement and experiences of flow. This can prove to be especially beneficial when considering and investing in professional development and training, where we hope to influence change. This is just one of many evidence-based techniques. Continue reading

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from mom!

Dealing with adversity is a subject that I often address in my blog posts.  Two that come to mind right away are A mental approach to coping with irritants and An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity.  Here is yet another thought on this subject.

Face your adversity head-on


When you turn and face the sun, your shadow will always be behind you …

Said my mom to me on numerous occasions during both my childhood and adulthood.  Her point was that the best way to deal with a problem was to address it directly.  The unfortunate reality is that as long as I tried to keep evading the issue at hand, either by skirting around it or by avoiding it completely, the shadows would also linger, and eventually the outcome would be sub-optimal.  As usual, my mom was right.  And it turns out that my mom’s counsel is not bad advice for leaders either.

The leadership journey is fraught with minefields – unexpected setbacks, difficult clients and co-workers, or just simply situations where the best-laid plans go awry.  When things go wrong, it can be tempting to retreat, to search out cover, and get out of the line of fire.  At first glance, this may not be a bad idea, since withdrawal allows you to re-evaluate and reassess the state of affairs.  But while pausing to reflect may be appropriate for the short-term, it is definitely not a long-term solution.  Continue reading

What is your response to difficult workplace situations?

As a leader, you will often find yourself dealing with difficult workplace situations.  Many of which will test your resolve and tenacity.  Some will be people-related, others process-related, and yet others will have to do with ethical and moral dilemmas.  Several will make you stumble and even fall.  And more than likely, a few will cause you to question whether the entire leadership journey is worth it.

You don’t stop walking because you sprained your ankle

difficult workplace situations

You don’t stop walking because you sprained your ankle.  Instead, you take the unfortunate experience as an indicator of what not to do and what obstacles to watch out for, but you still keep walking.   Sure, you may rest up for a couple of days, perhaps even use a walking aid for a few more, but eventually you stand up, take a few tentative steps and continue walking towards wherever you need to be.  You may be more thoughtful about what route you take and you may be more aware of your surroundings, but at no point do you say “That walking thing didn’t work out so well, I think I’ll stop doing it.” Continue reading

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from P!nk!

musicnotesThe song “Try” by P!nk popped up on my playlist as I was out walking in my neighbourhood the other day.  Now I’ve heard this song many times in the past, but for some reason (likely because I have recently been dealing with adversity in my personal life), I noticed the lyrics in the refrain more than I usually do.

“Try” by P!nk
Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame

Where there is a flame, someone's bound to get burned

But just because it burns, doesn't mean you're gonna die

You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Gotta get up and try, and try, and try

You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Now I know that this song is actually about romance, but it caught my attention because the words so appropriately so apply to our both our personal and professional lives as well.  If you replace the word “desire” with “adversity”, suddenly these lines take on a whole different meaning.  What was intended to be a song about finding love is now solid advice for dealing with adversity, for never giving up, both in the professional and personal arenas. Continue reading

An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity

hot water as a metaphor for adversityEvery so often, a conversation with an elderly relative reminds me of a story from Indian folklore that I heard when I was a child.  Recently, that happened again, this time on the topic of how one reacts or responds to adversity.  The story tells of a young person who was complaining to his grandmother about the challenges he was facing in his school and job – difficult assignments, tough professors, a demanding boss, not enough time to relax, and always, a seeming shortage of funds.

Her response: to place three pots of water on the stove

The grandmother responded by placing three pots of water on the stove.  When the water in each was boiling, she placed two potatoes in the first pot, two eggs in the second, and a scoop of tea leaves in the third.  About twenty minutes later, she pulled out the potatoes and eggs and placed them on a plate, and strained the water out of the tea leaves into a cup, and placed them all in front of the young man.  Puzzled, he looked up at her. Continue reading

A mental approach to coping with irritants

PearlOysterOur work lives are filled with irritants – demanding or difficult people, unreasonable deadlines, overwhelming workloads – and it’s exactly these moments when we have to reach deep within ourselves to find ways to cope with these aggravations.  At times like these, it’s worth thinking about how a pearl is formed.

A pearl begins life as an irritant that lodges inside an oyster’s shell.  This foreign object – whether a parasite, a small grain of grit, or something else – gets caught in the oyster’s soft inner body, and to ease the irritation and frustration, the oyster begins to take defensive action.  It secretes a smooth, hard nacre around the foreign object in order to protect itself and reduce the irritation.  Continue reading

Three steps to less workplace stress

MichelleMay2Dr. Michelle May is a member of my mastermind group, a small group of professional colleagues that serve as an informal advisory panel to each another.  Even though she usually spends her time helping people break free from emotional eating, I persuaded her to guest on the blog today, writing on a subject that I know is on the minds of leaders (and their employees) everywhere – managing workplace stress!  At its core, stress is a medical issue so I knew that Dr. May would have valuable advice to offer.  And she didn’t disappoint!

x —————— x —————— x

When you’re experiencing stress, your impulse might be to power through, freak out, or stick your head in the sand (procrastinating, eating, drinking…you get the idea). As we’ve all noticed, behaviors such as busy-ness, overworking, smoking, overeating, drinking alcohol to excess, isolation, and taking our frustration out on others, perpetuate the stress reaction. Continue reading

Workplace frustration drains motivation and lowers performance

frustrationLast week, I blogged about leaders who often get frustrated about aspects of their working environment.  See How to approach a difficult working environment.  A reader sent me a link to this paper: Workplace Frustration: A Silent Killer in Today’s Organizations  (published last year by the Hay Group) to emphasize that it isn’t just leaders who face workplace frustration, but also their employees, often because of their leaders.  Point taken.  So in the spirit of giving insights to leaders who want to make their workplaces less frustrating for their employees, I offer the following summary of the Hay Group article.

When held back by work environments that hinder performance, employees get frustrated.  Frustration is an inherently unstable state, so within a year, frustrated employees will do one of three things: Continue reading

How to approach a difficult working environment

CanongateI often hear from leaders who are frustrated by working within what they characterize as a difficult working environment. They feel like they are not given the resources they need, the authority they require, or the support from senior management they want in order to make significant progress towards achieving company, departmental and personal goals. It is in conversations such as these that I am reminded of the words that are carved in stone on the Canongate Wall in the Scottish Parliament buildings in Edinburgh.

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

The quote is attributed to Alasdair Gray, who further admits that he actually paraphrased it from Canadian Dennis Lee’s poem titled “Civil Elegies.”

Just because you work in an environment that is frustrating doesn’t mean that you have to be frustrated. In your mind, create your ideal workplace. Identify exactly what it is that you’d like to achieve in your current role. Continue reading

Recovering from workplace setbacks

Usually when I attend conferences, it’s as a speaker.  But last week was different.  Last week I attended a conference where I was an audience member and I got to sit back and listen to a variety of speakers.  I particularly enjoyed Robyn Benincasa’s story.  Robyn is a professional adventure racer, known most for being a two-time world champion of the multi-day expedition-length Eco-Challenge.  One statement in particular that she made about her experiences caught my attention.

Pain is mandatory but suffering is optional.Pain_Suffering

Robyn was of course talking about the numerous setbacks and obstacles her four-person team faced over the course of the grueling 300 mile race.  But I found her message to be even more relevant to the workplace.  Whether it’s on the adventure race course or at work, we all know that stuff happens!  Continue reading