Networking In Huddersfield – Resilience

Posted: Thursday September 26 2019

By: Katie Mallinson

In the third instalment of MMB’s quarterly Huddersfield lunch club, business leaders were invited to Lindley’s Manor House to discuss resilience – what it means to them, and their experiences both professionally and personally.

Networking In Huddersfield – September 2019 Feedback


By Katie Mallinson – Scriba PHuddersfield Lunch Network Feedback

Leading proceedings was Natasha McCreesh, founder of PiP To Grow Strong, who encouraged attendees to explore the role of personal resilience in the ‘health’ of a company, how employers can better safeguard wellness levels among staff, and the biggest threats – and fixes – to consider in order to build business resilience…

Welcoming attendees, Katie Mallinson, founder of Scriba PR opened the floor by sharing the definition of resilience in the context of the afternoon’s discussion: “Having the capacity to recover quickly from difficult situations i.e. the ability to bounce back. As such, is an individual’s ability to mentally cope with a tough situation reflected in their approach to business, and vice-versa?”

Katie also flagged that a report written last year found that 80% of the population think ‘feeling stressed’ is a way of life. In response, explained that stress itself isn’t the problem, it’s our ability to manage the emotion in the context of our day-to-day lives.”

Picking up the mantle, Natasha McCreesh asked the group to think of resilience as the ‘elasticity’ within us that allows us to bounce back from any given situation. Referring to the acronym VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity – and the idea that we live in a world filled with challenges within these four key arenas.
While we’re always going to be in some state of VUCA, what had the business owners found as some of the main threats recently?

Louise Woollard, owner of Louise Woollard Financial opened up the discussion by saying: “You can’t ignore Brexit. As we approach October 31, we’re noticing that people are holding off making any significant investment decisions, and in truth that’s probably what I’d do too, as it’s difficult to predict how it’s going to play out. None of us thought it would take three years, let alone that we still would have no clarity on the situation this far after the referendum.”
Rachel Roberts, managing partner at Stowe Family Law agreed with this sentiment: “We’re finding with clients who are getting divorced, they’ve put things on hold because of the uncertainty in the current economic climate.”

Moving on to the counterargument that businesses were using Brexit as the go-to excuse for delaying decision-making or as a get-out clause. Abbie Coleman, editor of MMB Magazine elaborated: “Flippantly saying ‘oh it’s because of Brexit’ is a cop out, rather than admitting you need to get your head down and work harder or take a risk.”

Rachel Engwell, partner and head of tax at Grant Thornton agreed. While there has been a turbulent time within her finance firm – with a lot of media coverage and changes to senior-level positions – it could easily have been used as rationale for taking their foot off the gas.

“We have a new CEO and a restructuring professional who have allowed us to make a real change from the top down. Rather than change being a distraction and used as an excuse, you need to get your head down and continue with the strategy.”

Moving on from the commercial impact of Brexit, Helen Orlic, chief executive officer at Yorkshire Children’s Centre provided insight from the charitable sector. She explained: “Brexit isn’t having as much of an impact on us as the potential change in government would.

“Since austerity hit, there has been a general push to move things from local authorities into the communities. In terms of resilience, our approach has changed and as a result, we’ve benefited as there are more contracts awarded to the third sector than ever before.

“But, if you take things to a human level, it doesn’t matter if there’s Brexit or not, there are still people with dementia and problems with gang culture and knife crime. We weren’t having as many conversations around poverty and loneliness as we are now, 10 years ago – times have changed. You have to react appropriately to social and economic developments if you are going to survive.”

Christine Beal, founder of My Mito Mission spoke about building her own resilience following the sudden death of her daughter, Emma. She said: “I used to work in politics and Brexit was quite a big deal to me at the time of the referendum. But I can honestly say that things like that don’t even enter my universe now. I’ve learnt very much first-hand what’s important and my main motivation is to go forward, build this charity, and raise awareness of this mitochondrial disease.

“You have to find resilience in spades when something tragic happens in your life. I used to say ‘learn to dance on the moving carpet’ – which ties in with VUCA – but in truth, I probably already had a strong character before that time, thanks to my experience in an MP’s office. I think life experience is what makes you stronger in the face of tough times.”

With everyone in agreement, conversation evolved into what builds up our own resistance. If it’s something we’re born with, or if it’s learned and bolstered over time.

Rachel Roberts added:

“Without a doubt our resilience builds as we get older – or encounter tough situations. I had a lot of challenges thrown into my path all at once, but rather than tackling them head-on, I put them all ‘in a box’ and tried to forget about them. That came back to bite me years later, and I now realised I just have to stand up and deal with any challenges there and then.”

Louise Woollard and Katie Mallinson both agreed that being able to recognise when you might be ‘tested’ over something you can’t plan for – is a key skill when it comes to resilience. By implementing a coping mechanism or realising that you’ve been through this before – and accepting that it might be a very difficult period of your life temporarily – you naturally become more resilient in the face of adversity.

From that very topic, the debate led onto how managing a new kind of office culture – introducing flexi-time, remote working and autonomy – as well as the difficulties around recruiting the right staff at the right time can help businesses become more resilient in 2020.

Laura Batchelor, who had recently taken on the role of client services director at KC Communications, looked at how the right workplace culture can help individuals and organisations to become more resilient.

“You have to balance the business goals with the personal development ambitions of staff. It’s important that people take ownership of their own strategy and peer to peer learning can go a long way to help cement the ethos of a workplace. We’ve changed our approach to recruitment to try and make sure we find the right people rather than the top skill, and I think it’s important to be agile enough to adapt, when you realise what you’ve always done might not be the best option.”

“That sounds exactly what we go through,”

added Helen Orlic.

“So much so, that we’ve switched to a values-based interview process to ensure we recruit people for the right reasons rather than their office-smarts. You can teach people Microsoft Office, but you can’t teach the personality traits you want your colleagues to embody.”

“I can spot a Ramsdens person a mile off,”

explained Veronica Mullins, solicitor at Ramsdens.

“The real driver for us is to find someone who will fit the culture of our firm. With 14 offices – and growth showing no sign of abating – as partners we have to lead by example, and make sure we go and visit the sites, even if it’s only for a cup of tea and a chat, in order to reinforce our trust within the team.”

Understanding the importance of fostering a positive culture, Katie Mallinson added:

“It really matters where we work. I want colleagues to feel as though we have a safe space within our own four walls. Hopefully this makes us feel a bit more resilient and gives us the confidence to try something – and not be afraid to fail.”

The shift isn’t completely down to employers though, as employees are now holding a lot of power too. There’s a demand for a career which fits with a person’s life goals.

Abbie Coleman explained:

“There’s been lots of discussion around how businesses can attract and retain talent. You can’t entice someone into a role – or convince them to stay – by offering an extra £5k. Employees realise that after tax it isn’t that great, and are placing much more importance on things such as flexible working. Furthermore, people are turning down internal promotions because the small rise in salary doesn’t outweigh the potential for additional responsibility and stress.”

Exploring this topic further, Katie Mallinson added:

“As people’s needs change, business owners need to adapt to this evolving landscape. Ask employees what matters to them and deliver that, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package.”

Moving conversation along, Natasha McCreesh then asked the table what they thought are the coming challenges. With the prevalent answer being linked to the potential for a burnout as a result of the ‘always on’ culture.

Digging deeper, Natasha challenged: “In the thirties – during the real emergence of technology – people were predicting that by 2019 we’d all be working 15-hour weeks. While technology can give us the capabilities to be more efficient, what is it about the human condition that makes us continue to feel on the edge of a burnout?”
The general consensus was that there’s an adrenaline rush around feeling under pressure – as well as the potential for emotional and financial success when make it through the other side.

Abbie Coleman added:

“It’s like risk-taking, there is a real buzz when you feel as though you’ve made something special happen. You can’t buy that feeling, but then there can be a real down when things don’t go right.”

“True but be mindful that you must manage the highs and the lows,”

continued Helen Orlic. “You need to present an even keel, even if you’re struggling on the inside. If you’re leading a team and they are looking up to you, it’s important to instil a level of confidence in them by seemingly having everything under control. This then filters through to colleagues and clients and helps keep the business funning smoothly – even if you’re going like the clappers behind the scenes.”

Reflecting on how resilience can be built through challenging times, it can also be worn down by the emerging culture of presenteeism. Conversation moved onto our innate need to please, and why it’s important to ‘switch off’ when out of the office – both literally and figuratively.

Katie Mallinson rationalised:

“Of course, there have been times when, at 10pm I’m sorting a comms crisis for a client and they haven’t paid a penny more. Likewise, if I finish early on a Friday afternoon to spend time with my daughter, I expect them to understand. That’s the true definition of flexible working.”

“My out of office message is always really human and explains exactly why I’m away from my desk. As well as providing a reason as to why I might not reply right away, it also makes people sense-check whether they really need to ring me.”

As the discussion ended, the group agreed that while life experience aids resilience, protecting your own wellness has a significant role to play in how you deal with unexpected stress. Allowing yourself to enjoy some downtime, refraining for scrolling through your phone during a social event, and not feeling the needs to apologise to your peers for taking time off will all contribute to the ability to bounce back from a challenging time.

Following a fantastic afternoon and first-class food at the Manor House, MMB Private Lunch Club will return on the 4th of December a great time to join us and meet everyone. The topic of our next lunch event will be “Ready, set 2020!”.

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