Building a bedrock of self-awareness, emotional intelligence and resilience

There’s a societal shift towards greater openness around wellbeing and mental health and it’s brilliant. The groundswell of celebrities, high-profile royals, sporting legends and now increasingly corporate leaders ‘coming out’ publicly, is chipping away at the entrenched stigma of mental (ill) health.

Much to feel good about. We’ve banged the drum and have the ears of many business and policy leaders. PR Week, The PRCA and some of the more enlightened employers in our industry are taking a lead and there is real innovation to inspire from agencies like Mullenlowe Salt, Cicero Group, Mischief and Hope & Glory. Many public sector organisations and emergency services leaders are also winning plaudits for their work here too. However, the PRCA also tells us that stress and mental illness are more prevalent in PR than the wider economy. And, shockingly, one in four teenage girls now self-harms so, I am very aware of the scale of the threat facing the comms professionals of tomorrow.

Hopefully I now have your full attention. Any of you reading this ahead of the excellent LGcomms Public Service Academy 2019 in Manchester on 6 November, will I’m sure identify with the title of my plenary session, ‘Communications Leaders Are Human Too.’ Thinking practically about how comms leaders can build their own resilience and maximise the wellbeing of their teams, social science informs us that even the smallest shots of positivity can give competitive edge. Truly positive mindsets have been proven to transform engagement and business impact. One of my favourite quotes which demonstrates the significant gains to be accessed quite apart from the moral imperative;

“Your brain at positive is 31 per cent more productive than at negative, neutral or stressed,” Shawn Achor, Harvard psychologist, author The Happiness Advantage.

Put simply, self-knowledge, EQ (or emotional intelligence) and wellbeing in a leader’s toolkit will categorically drive their ability to communicate with power, to influence, to engage and inspire a team, indeed all stakeholders. Understanding your own personality, your stress profile, the strategies that optimise your wellbeing, have the collective potential to supercharge your own performance and that of your team, turning mental wellness into a strategic enabler. Here’s a quickfire 10-step resilience plan to get you thinking in the right way;

10-step resilience plan

  1. Recognise that everyone suffers knock-backs, failures and embarrassments. You are human and it’s not personal
  2. Hang on to your inner confidence: so much of resilience is about confidence so when the proverbial hits the fan, remind yourself of your strengths, achievements and successes
  3. Set boundaries: be prepared to say no, push back. Better than failing or having to return later and say that you can’t deliver
  4. Develop a personal structure: most happy, successful people have some structure or routine to their day be it exercise, mindful time or the practice of scheduling in diary time for important business tasks
  5. Deal with conflict and criticism: you have to find effective ways to deal with challenge or reframe it more positively so it doesn’t drag you downBe gritty: every job, every business decision will be a journey and you’ll start feeling great, then the doubt will kick in at some stage. That’s tough but this is the time to dig deep and hold your nerve
  6. Be realistic: work won’t be a bowl of roses everyday, sometimes thing go wrong. Fact
  7. Reframing setbacks: failure is the by-product of the bravery needed to take risks, experiment and ultimately, achieve bigger things. Reframe failure as a learning opportunity
  8. Be kind to yourself: talk to yourself in the same tone you would use with your best friend
  9. Lean on your network: when your resilience reserves run low, lean on someone you trust to be a supportive voice of reason.

If you are interested in further information on anything covered above, please do contact myself (@Fordiham) or the PRCA (@PRCA_UK) who provide excellent leadership, resources and training in this space. As a starting point, please take a look at the impressive Mental Health Toolkit.

Thanks for your attention, I hope to see you in Manchester.

Jane Fordham, Founder, Jane Fordham Consulting


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