Tag Archives: resilience

Backstabbing Co-Workers: How To Handle The Two-Faced Foe

Are you walking around with knives in your back? This is how to handle office backstabbing…


Backstabbing in the Office

Most of the time we are walking around with a knife in our backs, and we don’t even know it. Bleeding and hemorrhaging with no way of knowing how to fix it.

See Mary from accounting over there? She told the VP of the department she sees you taking 2-hour lunches on a consistent basis.

And Jack from IT. He told your colleagues what “interesting” google searches you’ve made lately. And Susan from Marketing, she made up a complete lie about your conversation last week and now your boss is calling you into his office.

Think it doesn’t happen to you or your company? Think again. You just may not have heard about it yet.

Depending on how strong your network is, how much others trust you, and for a multitude of other reasons you may not find out for months how badly you’ve been attacked. And that’s only the beginning.

The First Time

I think I was in literal shock. An Executive Director had told my boss a bold-faced lied. He said I wasn’t willing to work with him and I that had demanded it was to be done my way. I had been back-stabbed.

Now, I may be a bull in a China shop in my early years, but I’m not stupid. Nor am I a jerk. And he had painted me out to be both.

So when my boss told me about the feedback I was stunned. How could he have made something up, literally out of thin air? And why would he do that? I was never a fan of soap operas, but suddenly my work-life had turned into one. But I wasn’t going down without a fight.

I literally never spoke with anyone again over the phone for the next year. Everything was voicemail or email. I kept track of everything.

The Repeat Backstabber

This time, I had been bleeding for longer than I could have ever known. But at least my boss knew me well enough to come to my aid.

A coworker had taken parts of our conversations, twisted them and told one of my bosses. Just to try and gain an edge for his personal promotion.

I never knew. He was doing it to try to get ahead in the company, but unfortunately, it didn’t work.

So when he contacted me on LinkedIn a few months later, l confronted him. He never apologized, and I haven’t heard from him since.

I also found out a year later his previous business partners were hunting him down due to the ‘savings numbers’ he had made up. They were being taken from their budgets. Budgets that they didn’t have to give in the first place.

He was a snake in the bush. And we all had suffered the consequences of working with him. But from that point on I had learned my lesson. Always watch out for those who feel slighted in their current position, want to move up or just have questionable motives for talking with you. They have the most to gain.

Countless Other Backstabbing Incidents

If you’ve read some other blogs, you know this hasn’t been the first I’ve experienced with backstabbing coworkers. I’ve had other women’s efforts stop me from getting a job.

These are only the times I actually know about. I’m sure I’m still walking around with a few knives in my back. Some I’m sure I will never be aware of, but that’s okay.

The fact remains, people really are willing to go above and beyond to get ahead. Especially if it’s at someone else’ cost.

How do we handle the two-faced foe?

1.  Maintain integrity. Never return the favor, as it will only make you look bad.

2. Politely confront the situation. I firmly believe people do this and continue to get away with it because most are too scared to confront them.

3. Maintain your distance. Knowing is half the battle, so keep 99% of coworkers at arm’s length.

4. Always be alert/aware. It’s always the quiet ones who end up doing the most damage.

5. Create and maintain a strong business network. The more eyes and ears you have, the better chances you’ll hear things sooner rather than later.

6. Never underestimate others. People will surprise you every day with what they are capable of.

7. Don’t let it get you down. Karma always has a way of finding those who provoked it in the first place.

This article was originally published on Ms. Category Management on July 3rd, 2019 and is republished here with permission.

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How To Lead Through Difficult Times

How do you lead through difficult times? What four key roles should all leaders play?  


This year has been one of the most challenging in modern times for business leaders, organisations and employees worldwide. And as many famous quotes allude to, nothing is tested more in challenging times than leadership. Many leaders step up and shine, yet just as many fall victim to stress, anxiety and frustration, leaving them a shadow of their former selves. 

So how do you make sure you’re the former? 

One person that knows how to lead in the best of times, as well as in the worst, is Vice-President of AI Applications and Blockchain at IBM, Amber Armstrong. Amber’s illustrious career at IBM started when she joined the company as an MBA graduate 13 years ago, and she’s quickly risen through the ranks. 

Amber joined us for our latest podcast episode in the IBM Career Bootcamp series to delve into all things leadership and in particular, how to lead through difficult times. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in the podcast:

What does being a great leader actually mean and how would you define your personal leadership style? 

Over the years, the definition of leadership has evolved enormously. Leaders, recognising that the more authoritarian styles of leading are no longer effective, have begun to diversify their styles away from command and control and towards a more inspiring vision of what leadership should be. But is inspiring others the sole role that leaders need to play nowadays? 

Not at all, according to Amber. Amber thinks that there are four things every leader needs to do in any organisation. In fact, Amber believes that these four things are so important that she had her team of executive managers agree to them as part of a leadership pact. 

Amber is clear on what she thinks these four things are: 

‘Leaders should, in my opinion, set the vision, communicate clearly, prioritise relentlessly and finally, coach.’

Throughout her career, Amber has used these four priority areas to not only lead others, but also to gather feedback and learn and what is and isn’t working. Beyond these things though, Amber has also put considerable thought and effort into her leadership style and has come up with a personal mantra that describes how she personally wants to lead: 

‘From a personal brand perspective, I aspire to be known as someone who is passionate, focused and kind.’ 

‘And in moments when things get particularly tough, there’s one particular thing I try to have more of.’ 

Discover what this is for Amber in the podcast.

How do leaders develop their own personal style? Should they do this through experience or through someone like a coach?

Amber’s personal leadership style is well-known and admired at IBM. But how do we all go about developing our own unique version of that? Amber has developed her style through a combination of experience and also through working with an executive coach, and she believes both of those things helped her get where she is today. 

From an experience perspective, Amber believes that it was through making mistakes and having empathy that she came to develop her current style: 

‘I joined IBM 13 years ago after I graduated from business school, and fortunately, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities here. This has led to many successes and also countless mistakes, but I’ve taken the opportunity to learn from each and every one of them.’ 

Amber remembers one particular period in her career where she came to understand the critical importance of kindness as an element of her personal leadership style: 

‘At one point, I was told I have to give a lot of people bad news, news which would affect their personal lives.’ 

‘I put up a sign at my desk with my mantra, the words passionate, focused and kind. I felt such comfort having those words there, it helped me to turn them into a reality throughout that difficult time.’  

Recently, Amber also started working with an executive coach who has further helped her shape her leadership style. This has been beneficial for one specific reason, she says. 

Find out what that reason is in the podcast.

Can you lead without necessarily having a leadership position? 

Amber has had an extremely successful career, and now manages a large number of people, including fifteen other managers. But for those of us who may not be in such senior positions, or perhaps those of us who may not be leading anyone at all, is it still possible to be a leader? 

Absolutely, Amber says. 

In fact, there’s one thing she thinks all leaders need to do, regardless of our level of seniority: 

‘If you want to lead, you need to take care of yourself first.’ 

‘For me, I do three things to take care of myself. Firstly, I run a mile, I make sure I sweat. Secondly, I walk 5,000 steps every day and then thirdly, I meditate for ten minutes. Self-care is so important.’ 

Beyond self-care, Amber also wants to let us all in on a little secret, and it’s an important one. In a nutshell, even leaders with a great amount of authority (those who are senior and have a lot of responsibility), don’t really have authority unless they can garner respect. Amber explains: 

‘To be a leader, you need people to respect you, you need them to trust you. So even if you’re an authority figure, sure, you can force people to do things but that isn’t leadership.’ 

‘Leadership is about creating clarity and building respect. You need to be able to influence others in a positive way.’ 

Also in the podcast: 

  • What needs to change about our leadership styles in these challenging times 
  • The pink recession 

And much more. 

Amber Armstrong’s podcast on leading through difficult times is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

How To Persevere When You Want To Give Up

When things get too hard, do you ever want to give up? Here’s how to persevere when you get that uneasy feeling


This year more than ever before, we’ve heard the word ‘new normal.’ We know that life may not go back – soon or ever – to what it was before. But how do we adapt to that? And when things get tough again, which invariably they will, how do we persevere through the challenges and come out on top? 

One incredible person who certainly knows a thing or two about how to adapt and persevere is Nicky Abdinor, a clinical psychologist, ability advocate, and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive. Through her work as a psychologist and her own incredible life experience, Nicky deeply understands what it means to adapt and persevere, and her advice is an inspiration to us all. 

Here’s what you’ll learn in our incredible 15 minute podcast with Nicky: 

What does adaptation and perseverance really mean? 

Nicky is not simply a scholar who understands a concept – adaptation and perseverance have been her personal life mantra since she was born. Nicky was born without arms and also with shortened legs. Nicky’s parents, who had no idea that she had a disability until she was born, were totally unprepared for it. But instead of focusing on what Nicky couldn’t do, her parents decided to focus on what she could do. Growing up, Nicky firmly remembers her parent’s attitude towards everything: 

‘From the beginning, my parents decided to focus on my strengths. Instead of thinking “oh, can Nicky do that?” they instead said “How can Nicky do that?”’ 

Given her disability, things that came easily to others were not always easy for Nicky. She didn’t focus on that. Instead, she quickly learnt to be flexible in how she approached challenging situations, and adopted a problem-solving mindset. Everything she did, she approached with curiosity and decided that adversity could be to her advantage. 

Adaptation and perseverance, Nicky, represents exactly this. Having the mindset and flexibility to navigate difficult situations, and persevering through them, even under challenging circumstances. 

How do we overcome a lack of self-belief when we need to persevere? 

At times, all of us struggle with our own self-belief, and it can get in the way of us persevering through challenging situations. We have to turn that self-belief on, says Nicky, and simultaneously turn off the voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do it. And she has an intriguing recommendation for how we do so: 

‘To overcome the idea you might have in your head that “I’m not good enough,” you need to recognise that your brain has its own hard drive, and it has the tendency to store things that are quite critical.’ 

Nicky gives a good example of this – something that we can all relate to: 

‘Say you did a workshop and you asked for feedback, and nine out of ten people said they loved the workshop. But one person said they didn’t learn anything.’

‘The hard drive of your brain would be more likely to store the feedback of that one person, and you might dwell on that.’ 

In order to overcome that hard-wired negative feedback, Nicky recommends you focus on one thing and one thing alone. Discover what that is in the podcast

How do we get better at adaptation and perseverance? 

For Nicky, one of her favorite quotes that is now more meaningful than ever, is from Viktor Frankl, author of ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.” After his time in Auschwitz, he wrote: 

‘When we’re no longer able to change our situation, that is when we are challenged to change ourselves.’ 

What this means is that in many situations, we may not have control of much, but what we do have control of is how we perceive those situations, and how we change our behaviour accordingly. This might sound easy, says Nicky, but behavioural change is hard. It takes more than simply reading an article entitled ‘10 steps to stop procrastinating’ or ‘5 steps to a more positive mindset,’ for example. 

If we want to make sustainable changes in our behaviour, Nicky says, we should ask ourselves these four important questions: 

  1. What is the behaviour I want to change? 
  2. When do I need to change it?
  3. How can I change it?
  4. Why do I want to change this behaviour?

Nicky emphasizes that we need to be clear about our answers to these questions, though, one question is far more critical than the others for a very important reason. Find out what it is and why in the podcast.

How do we pick ourselves up again when we’re down? 

A big part of perseverance is picking ourselves up when we’re feeling down. Usually, when we’re down people tell us to focus on the good things in our lives. More importantly, Nicky actually believes that we need to be a little more accepting of the vast spectrum of our emotions: 

‘In order to persevere, we actually need to accept that the entire range of emotions, from joy to sadness, are part of life. We don’t need to feel happy all the time.’ 

‘When we try to avoid difficult feelings, that can do more harm than good. Right now, we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster. We need to allow ourselves to feel.’ 

In order to smooth the rollercoaster though, Nicky recommends we do a few important things. Discover what they are in the podcast.

Nicky Abdinor’s podcast on adaptation and perseverance is part of our IBM Sterling Supply Chain Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

A Rare Opportunity To Reset And Accelerate

Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance?


Many of us are in a post-covid state of mind, I most certainly am. But will you and your organisations come out of this stronger, weaker or just different? Of course, the crisis is still very much real, affecting many people and businesses with long-lasting effects.  Perhaps there are slight signs of a slow down in certain parts of the world but who really knows how things will fare without a vaccine. Either way, we have to overcome this and look towards the new normal, which I believe can be a better one.

The pandemic is surely one of the greatest affecting the world and for many it has or will be a pivotal turning point. On the personal side, it may bring focus back to the things that really matter, be it family and friends or health and lifestyle. Or, it may send you down a new path. On the business side, it may question the raison d’être and bring focus to finding the right balance between society, the environment and the economy. From certain perspectives, the pandemic presents businesses a rare opportunity to accelerate on digital transformation initiatives that have been dragging over the last few years. Not for the sake of digital transformation but rather to rapidly ensure more resiliency and hone in on or further develop competitive advantages.

Who better to bring balance, build resilience and solidify competitive advantages than Procurement and Supply Chain.

Balancing the Imbalanced

Until recently it would have been fair to say that most businesses operated in an imbalanced manner with regard to society, the environment and the economy. With the main focus being on economic development, too often at the cost of society and the environment. Of course, there have been big strides made in recent years to balance this out but the big question is – What Happens Next?

This is a pivotal point. Will businesses go backwards due to necessity and survival or will they step up and push forward to go further and faster to achieve the right balance? I do hope it’s the latter and guess what, I believe Procurement is a key player in this. How you spend can transform your business and beyond. Where a business directs its spend can make the difference between an unsustainable imbalance and a sustainable balance to develop society, the environment and the economy equally. I strongly believe (and hope) we’ll see more and more organizations taking a stronger stance on this issue. Be it stronger support or stricter policies around supplier management for sustainability and diversity or more efforts to improve the communities involved in and around a business. Overall, Procurement organisations can influence entire ecosystems of suppliers to develop with this balance in mind.

Building Resilience

Resiliency has always been an important business strength but naturally during times of crises, there is more focus on this. For Procurement and Supply Chain leaders, while this is very likely not a foreign concept, it is likely that they have not had the opportunity to fully execute on a strategy to be more resilient to external events. This is the opportunity to show real business value. Now is the time to show the business how Procurement can add value around supplier risk management, new sources of supply, changes to contractual arrangements and much more.

Building resiliency begins with suppliers but must involve collaboration with the business. How much information do you have on your suppliers? How well connected are you to your suppliers? Are you monitoring risk across your suppliers? Do you have a mechanism to communicate and collaborate with suppliers in times of crisis? Do you have a clear view of supplier hierarchy to understand parent / child relationships? Do you know who your suppliers subcontract to? The list of questions that need answering is long. Needless to say that Procurement must accelerate on its plans to digitally connect to its suppliers to get better information, better assessment of risk (and performance) and overall infuse the multitude of Procurement and Supply Chain processes with better supplier information to improve decisions.

Solidify A Competitive Advantage

Lastly, the opportunity to establish or further develop a competitive advantage is too great to ignore. Some may ask, how can Procurement help here? We have seen first hand from our customers that Procurement does, in fact, have a lot to contribute in developing a competitive advantage. There isn’t an easy answer, however, as it really depends on the business and industry. We have a leading telecom customer where procurement was instrumental in generating significant revenue. Another where Procurement impacted the financial performance of the company by launching more new products, faster and more profitably.

Procurement is a gateway to probably the most significant source of innovation that any company has, its suppliers. By harnessing this rich resource companies can build great competitive advantages but they also need the people, processes and technology to take full advantage.

Technologies such as strategic sourcing, procure-to-pay or full source-to-pay that are instrumental in managing spend must empower versus limit. Often however, software solutions are designed in a way that forces organizations to compromise due to the limitations and restrictions presented. For those organizations that are ready to develop a competitive advantage (and many won’t be, as they still need to attain a level of maturity), technology must empower the skills and ideas that people have to be implemented and executed. Technology must empower creativity, this is how a competitive advantage is both born and executed.

How To Discover And Utilise Our Strengths To Boost Performance

Do you know the difference between strengths and skills? Discover what it is and how to use your strengths to your advantage.


Have you ever been so focused on a task that you completely lost track of time? Do you ever do something, and then ‘light up’ without even realising it? If you do, then it’s most likely that you’re using your strengths and that’s a good thing too – playing to your strengths is key to career performance, productivity and personal wellbeing. But if you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you discover them? And can you help others do the same? 

As an occupational psychologist, helping others discover and utilise strengths to boost their performance has been the focus of my career and most recently, the focus of my work with some of the world’s most well-known organisations through my business, Bailey and French. 

I recently shared some compelling insights with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what we discussed in the podcast, and why it’s a must-listen for anyone wanting to boost their own professional and personal performance: 

What are our strengths and why do they matter? 

Have you ever been asked what your strengths are? We all have. But in my experience, being able to provide an answer to that question doesn’t mean you actually know what your strengths are. In fact, many of us confuse strengths with skills, but they are fundamentally different. Let me explain. 

People often make the assumption that if they’re good at something, that represents a strength for them. But if you are good at something, that’s a skill for you. A strength is so much more than that. A strength is something that you’re not only good at, but that you also truly enjoy doing. 

Another point of confusion I’ve discovered is that many of us believe we develop our strengths at work. This isn’t true, though. We develop our strengths in a unique period of our lives. I explain more about when this is in the podcast, listen to it here.

How do we discover our strengths and how should we use them to boost our professional success? 

Online, you’ll find a myriad of tools and tests that purport to help you analyse and discover your strengths. But in my experience with positive psychology, you don’t need complex tests to discover your true strengths. The answer is much more simple than that. 

In order to discover your strengths, I usually recommend that you start keeping a diary. In that diary, over the course of a few weeks, write down all of your experiences, both positive and negative, and both inside and outside of work. Then, go through your diary and look at themes. These themes are important, as usually you’ll find that there are a lot of activities you do on autopilot, and some that really stand out as enjoyable. 

Once you’ve identified your themes, in order to further identify your true strengths, I recommend that you ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. When was the last time I was totally absorbed in what I was doing to the point I lost track of time? 
  2. What was the best day of the last week and why? 
  3. When did I last ‘light up’ or get excited when talking about something I did? 

Keeping a journal, and asking yourself these three important questions should help you discover your strengths. 

Yet in a professional setting, discovering your strengths is just one part of the puzzle. If you’re working in a team setting, you also need to do one other critical thing. Listen to the podcast to discover what that is.

How do you help others identify their strengths? 

Throughout my career, I’ve seen an extraordinary number of organisations focus on fixing weaknesses. But ultimately, this is misguided. We all stand to gain so much more from discovering and utilising our own strengths (a key premise of positive psychology), as well as helping others discover and utilise theirs. 

But how do you help others realise their strengths? 

One method I always recommend is to offer people specific feedback when you see them doing something really well. This feedback, though, can’t just be any feedback. It has to be detailed enough to help them identify what they’re truly good at. 

An example of this might be the feedback after someone has given you a report. Instead of simply saying ‘that was a good report,’ try to be more specific around what was good, for example, ‘the patterns you derived from the data in that report were extremely insightful.’

Why is this important? It’s because helping people realise their strengths is not just good for them, but it’s great for your team dynamic and for the relationship in general, for one important reason. Listen to the podcast to discover why that is.

Also in the podcast:

  • I discuss my key strength and how I personally discovered it 
  • I detail why it’s so easy to talk about weaknesses. 

And much more. 

I look forward to you joining us in my podcast

Alex Bailey’s podcast on strengths and positive psychology is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the boot camp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

This One Trait Will Be The Key To Your Success In 2020

What trait will be the key to your success in 2020? We believe it will be resilience, and here’s why… 


Right now, no person in the entire world would call 2020 ‘easy.’ Whether we’ve been challenged personally or professionally, this year has been like no other. Which is why this one particular trait is more important than ever, and it is… 

Resilience.  

In recent years, resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword within management circles. But what really is resilience and why do we need it? 

Resilience, and more specifically, how to obtain it and use it to your advantage, has been the focus of my work for the last decade, and has inspired my now internationally-acclaimed book, Rise Warrior Rise. Through authoring my book, as well as working with numerous different organisations to help them transform their leadership capabilities through my Excelerate program, I’ve discovered what we can all do to build resilience and use it to accelerate our own personal and professional performance. 

Doing so was the topic of my discussion with Tania Seary from Procurious, as part of the IBM Careers Bootcamp series. Here is a brief overview of what you’ll learn in our podcast: 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is often said to be the ability to recover from adversity, and cope with change and uncertainty. But does being ‘resilient’ then mean that you won’t experience emotions in times of stress? 

Definitely not. 

From my research, I’ve discovered that being resilient doesn’t mean that you won’t experience life’s ups and down, in fact, it is only natural to experience these. Instead, resilience is the ability to still experience this depth and variation of emotion, but while doing so, be able to keep in touch with your best self. 

In my experience, resilience is far more than what people typically describe it as. In fact, I believe resilience has another aspect to it entirely. 

Discover what that is in the podcast

Why is resilience so important for professional and personal wellbeing? And what are the benefits of being resilient? 

Resilience has become a buzzword for a reason – we all know it’s important. But why? 

Professionally and personally, this year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though not every year will be as difficult as this one, we’ll always experience some challenges. This is exactly the reason why resilience is important – because we’ll always need it. 

While researching for my book and throughout my career in general, I’ve come across a lot of people who may not be as resilient as they could be, and that has resulted in some concerning behaviours. For example, if something bad happens to someone who isn’t resilient, typically they get stressed, and then withdraw. From there, they occupy their mind with negative self-chatter, and then they can end up feeling anxious, depressed or worse. 

But in good news, with resilience, the reaction can be the complete opposite. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, those who are resilient typically tell themselves that the situation is temporary. And instead of getting stressed, their emotional and physical wellbeing stays intact, and they don’t lose touch with their vision for a great life.

The benefits of being resilient extend way beyond how you react when things get tough, though. From my experience, those who are resilient are more likely to lead abundant and opulent professional lives, and also are more likely to have success with their family and personal pursuits. In summary, resilient people are more likely to lead a full and rich life, without regret. 

Think this sounds wonderful? It is, and there’s one more critical reason why. Learn what that is in the podcast.

How can we become more resilient? 

It’s clear that being resilient pays off, both personally and professionally. How do we get better at it, though? 

To help, I’ve created a 13-step framework for people to increase their level of resilience. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry – you don’t need to be good at every step. Excelling at just a few steps is all you need in order to make a substantial difference. 

I won’t detail the 13 step framework here, but there is more information in the podcast if you’re interested. One important point, though, is that you do need to develop practices to keep you strong. An area that I recommend everyone works on is that of negative self-chatter. 

We all experience negative self-chatter at some point, and this is because the mind can be fickle and it often focuses on the negative. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where someone has said something awful, and it’s completely ruined your day, despite many other positive things happening? 

This is common, and we all need to do what we can to develop our own mechanisms to address it. For me personally, I’ve developed a unique routine to keep the negativity at bay. My routine includes getting up early in the morning, and doing some exercise (this might be yoga, walking or some weights). After I’ve done this, I then do exercises to regulate my breath. Even if I can’t regulate my mind, I try to regulate my breath. Finding something to focus on, for example my breath, enables me to enter a calm state. Then, I share positive words. I find that wholly rejuvenating. 

This type of self-care is critical for all of us, as it replenishes our ‘fourth being.’ More on that in the podcast – listen to it here

Remember, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances, you can build, and benefit from, resilience. I look forward to exploring the topic with you in more detail.

Roh Singh’s podcast on resilience is part of our IBM Sterling Career Bootcamp. Designed to power your mind and help you excel, the Bootcamp consists of 6 electrifying podcasts with internationally renowned experts and speakers. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

How To Be More Resilient

There’s a lot we can learn about resilience from this world-famous explorer.


No matter who you are or where you are in the world, the last few months have been particularly challenging. And while we’ve all struggled, those of us with one quality may have universally coped better than others. That quality is resilience. 

Resilience, otherwise known as the ability to recover quickly from challenges, has long been lauded as an essential quality at work and in life, and now, it’s more important than ever. But as important as resilience is, it’s also known to be hard to foster, with experts saying that a lot of it comes down to whether we’ve faced challenging circumstances before, and expressly learnt how to cope. 

One person who is incredibly experienced with all things resilience is George Bullard, so we decided to get his expert insights. George is a world-recording breaking explorer who is on a mission to rewild humans. He’s completed some truly incredible feats, including breaking the world record for an unsupported arctic journey (he spent 113 days in the Arctic when he was just 19), and crossing the ferocious North Atlantic ocean on a kayak (which he completed in 66 days) to unearth an ancient myth about the inuits. 

Here’s what George had to say about how we can all be that bit more resilient: 

1. Don’t self pity; ask for help

Currently, there’s memes circling on social media that implore us to be ‘our most productive ever.’ But as we watch the horrors of the current pandemic unfold before our very eyes, we all know that it can be quite hard to be productive – or even, to be our best selves.

But if you’re going to be more resilient, George says, at some point you do need to move beyond feelings of uncertainty and self-pity, and endeavour to get on with the task at hand. Communicating your feelings can help though, George, says, and we should always endeavour to do so. 

George had some incredibly low points on his expeditions, but when he was at the height of his self-pity, he also had an important epiphany: 

‘One of my expeditions was 53 back-to-back marathons, hauling everything we needed to survive a 2,211km journey. On the 53rd day of not seeing another human except for my team mate, I remember wishing I wasn’t there.’ 

‘I questioned what I was doing, why I even wanted to break the record. That morning I cried helplessly.’ 

‘But it didn’t help. Nobody came to my rescue. So when I had run out of tears, I stopped crying.’ 

2. Keep trying – and never give up

When we’re in stressful situations, our brains can sometimes tell us to effectively ‘give up and go home’ – or to stop trying. But if George has learnt anything throughout his expeditions, it’s that we need to fight the urge to give, and keep going. Resilience, he believes, is an attitude that defies what your brain is instinctively telling you – and for good reason. 

Later on his arctic expedition, George experienced a true life or death situation. Amazingly, on day 104, he ran out of food: 

‘The expedition had already been relentless – and then we ran out of food. We survived the last 9 days of the expedition eating small fat balls made of butter and oats.’ 

‘Words can’t really describe how it felt to run out of food on day 104, while living on ice, in a tent, and pulling your entire life on a sledge. I remember thinking “is this how I am going to die?”’ 

George’s experience, though, did teach him something important about how our brains operate: 

‘[That experience] made me realise that humans are a remarkable species. We have this incredibly powerful brain, and it can make us feel and think things. Those feelings can impact our ability to endure.’ 

‘Our brains sometimes tell us to “give up” long before our bodies are actually tired.’

3. Focus on the journey, not the destination

By now, many of us have realised that unfortunately, this coronavirus crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing this, we need to prepare ourselves to be resilient for the long-term – but how? 

George believes that the best way to ensure long periods of hardship is to change our focus. Specifically: 

‘Avoid thinking about the destination. Instead, focus on the journey. Over the course of the pandemic, we will wish dream of the good days that will seem like an ice age ago, and wish that this isolation will end tomorrow.’ 

‘It won’t. Accept that you can’t control everything and enjoy each day for what it has to offer.’ 

Like on his expeditions, George thinks it’s important to focus on the basics … and remember to be grateful for them:

‘Covid-19 reminds us of what is really essential for survival. On my expeditions I prioritised the same things – food, water and warmth. Now we have the opportunity to be grateful for these things.’ 

4. Remain flexible 

Throughout this crisis, we’ll all invariably have our good and bad days, with some a whole lot worse than others. But in order to be truly resilient, says George, we have to master the ‘bounceback’ – how quickly we rebound after setbacks. He believes that the key to doing so is by doing a few critical things: 

‘There are so many unknowns in the current crisis, so the best way to handle this – and many other challenging situations – is to remain flexible, versatile and adaptable. That way, you’re prepared to face the setbacks which inevitably will come.’ 

Do you have any other tips for becoming more resilient in these challenging times? Share them with us in the comments section below. 

How can you develop your own resilience, achieve self-mastery and successfully manage your personal energy? We take a look in this year’s Career Bootcamp as we encourage you all to ‘Power Your Mind’. Register here.

How To Work With A Broken Heart

When your heart is broken, how hard is it to turn up to work every day and perform?

Very.

But so many of us have to do it every day. Our worlds may have fallen apart – the loss of a loved one, a falling out with a friend or colleague, the loss of money or an important opportunity – yet each day we drag ourselves to the front door, put on a mask and carry on doing our jobs with a smiley face, but a broken heart.

And that’s kind of what I’ve been doing every day since my mother passed away eight weeks ago.

Don’t worry, I’m fine, and I’ll explain, but I’m just saying – I understand. 

I feel your pain.

When I found out the clock was ticking

For me, bad news often seems to arrive at the most inconvenient time for my professional life. We knew that Mum was gravely ill, but the final news that Mum only had months to live arrived at the start of a one-month business trip I had in the US last September.

I had just arrived in San Francisco.  The news came in the middle of the night (the joy of timezones) and I just cried and cried.

As one of my favourite speakers (and human beings on the planet), Nicky Abdinor says, always be grateful. Even if you have the worst day ever, you can go to bed and be grateful that the horrible day is over.  You can click ‘control, alt, delete’ and re-boot for tomorrow.

I had a lot of days like that during those four long weeks on the road in the US.  When I got home, I was fortunately able to spend two months by Mum’s side.

How much should we talk about our broken hearts?

We are human, and that means we are emotional.  But our modern workplaces and our community expects (and rightly so) that we will conduct ourselves with a certain level of decorum, and if we want to keep our jobs and our places in the community we have to play by the rules.

Sometimes I worry that companies almost expect us to behave like robots (as I have said previously in my “Beat the Bots” speeches). They expect us to do things such as re-enter the workforce after having a child or losing a loved one and act like it never happened.

But that’s not really what being a human is about.

Not only are we required by our companies to behave in a certain way, but we also need to keep participating in work, as well as in life. This isn’t only because we’ve got bills to pay and we need to eat; it’s more than that – participation and doing ‘normal’ things are an important part of overcoming grief.

But still, it’s hard. Sometimes, so very hard. But how do we get through these times of grief and trauma without totally embarrassing ourselves, tainting our hard-earned reputations and maybe even losing our jobs and family?

Juggling through work and life

As I’ve written previously, we have to somehow find a way to keep all the juggling balls in the air, with the balls being work, family, health etc. But the important thing to know is that some balls are made of rubber, whereas others are glass. Work is a rubber ball, so if you drop it, it will bounce back, but others, like your health and family, are glass. If you drop them, they are difficult to recover.

In raising my family and supporting my mother’s health, I have had to drop the work ball many times – and believe me, it has always bounced back.

How to keep juggling after a glass ball drops to the floor

I am so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of colleagues, many of whom have been working with me throughout Mum’s illness.  They are all superstars and many stepped in to take accountability when I had to focus on family.

While I’m so grateful I have my team, this experience has reinforced what I knew all along: if we are going to be successful leaders, we need to be resilient and work our way through grief and disruption. This is for ourselves personally but also for our team – if my team is distressed because I’m distressed, then not only does my personal life fall apart, but so does my professional life.

If you find yourself in a distressing situation, my advice would be to share with your team (but not too much). They need to understand what you’re going through; they need to see that you’re human and vulnerable. Yet at the same time, you’re probably best placed to save them the intimate details. At the end of the day, it is your family and friends whom you need to lean on in personal times of crisis.

In tough situations, remember to take it one step at a time and draw energy and support from those closest to you.

Understanding what is really happening under your peers’ mask

My mother had dementia, as I’m sure many of you know. As such, there were lots of things she couldn’t remember, like most people’s names, what year it was, and even how old she was.

But surprisingly, she could still remember her feelings at different points in her life.

She may not remember someone’s name, but she can definitively (and accurately) describe the emotions she associates with that person.

The situation with Mum reminds me of the age-old leadership lesson:

People may not remember what you said, but they will also remember how you made them feel.

Given we are all wearing our masks, we need to make an effort to understand our peers, bosses and direct reports, and whether or not they may have some trauma going on in their lives.  Behaviour we observe that might seem unusual, a lack of performance or a change in attitude may be related to some grief they are experiencing, not just a competency issue and their ability to do the job.

In these situations, we need to use our super human ability to empathise.  I know every time I experience a painful event, it has made me more and more understanding of what others may be experiencing and challenged with.

Working through a broken heart

Mum was always a huge supporter of my professional development.  When I travelled or had a critical meeting I was nervous about, she would always say ‘Remember, I’m on your shoulder.’ And for the last few weeks, that’s where I feel she’s been – right with me, all the way.

Not having Mum may have broken my heart, but it hasn’t broken my spirit. Late last year, we worked hard across the US to garner support for Procurious’ 2020 program, and this year, I’m excited to say that our efforts were rewarded – we’re on track for one of the biggest and most exciting years yet. Stopping now to reflect on that, I know Mum would have been immensely proud.

Yet now certainly isn’t the time to stop in any way, shape or form. To prosper in this next Industrial Revolution, we need to play to our human strengths: collaboration, connection, innovation and influence.

We need to embrace our human-ness, and we need to get connected – to our team, to our stakeholders, to our suppliers and to our community. The robots may be coming, but the thing we have that they don’t is connection. Speaking of, get onto Procurious now, and start making the connections you’ll need to make your 2020 as successful as we hope ours will be.

We’d love to hear your stories of career resilience – please share in the comments below.