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Building Resilience and Managing Stress: How to achieve more and bend less

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Resilience is the ability of a material to absorb energy and rebound. It has also been cited as a key indicator of potential for senior managers. Stress, on the other hand, is the amount of permanent distortion that occurs under excessive strain. It is also the reason that many managers are unable to work effectively and suffer from ill health.

On 14th July 2012, the APM Wessex Branch welcomed Dr. Peter Parkes of Peak Performance Consulting to the Ageas Bowl, Southampton to share a variety of NLP-based (Neuro-linguistic programming) tools and techniques designed to build resilience and avoid stress.

Peter started by outlining the business case for managing stress and building resilience, crucial in a world where stress in inevitable and companies can either invest to manage the risk or pay to deal with the resulting issues.

The Chartered Institute for Personnel Development (CIPD) reports that stress is the biggest cause of long term sickness in the workplace and a survey by The Times cited business change and restructuring as the No. 1 cause of stress. A show of hands revealed that almost the entire audience had experienced such programmes in the last two years. Not surprisingly in light of the time, cost and performance constraints imposed on projects, stress is rated as the No. 1 concern of practicing PMs.

After describing the origins and mechanics of the human biological stress response, the session moved into a workshop format facilitating discussion of the causes, symptoms and impacts of stress before providing guidance on the roles of the employer, the manager and the individual in reducing the impacts of stress.

Delegates were asked if working as part of a high performance team is preferable to working for a sick company; inevitably the overwhelming response was affirmative. Despite an illustrative backdrop to factors for achieving Workplace Wellness provided by The Sunday Times ‘Best Companies to Work For’ survey and well-documented improvements in output and quality from ‘healthy’ organisations, a show of hands revealed that high performance teams were, at best, aspirational for the majority of individuals and organisations.

Peter closed the session with a description of resilience, providing several case studies before describing tools and techniques for developing our own resilience. Effective tools described ranged from framing and re-framing situations, to managing internal dialogue, to the use of training and executive coaching. He summed up by reaffirming that, if you want your staff to work effectively under pressure, investing in the development and coaching of resilient people and in workplace wellness programmes is essential.

During the session delegates were offered the opportunity to enter a free draw to win a copy of Peter Parke’s book on NLP. Andrew Godden was the lucky winner, taking home a copy of ‘NLP for Project Managers: Make Things Happen with Neuro-linguistic Programming’.

The slides from this session are available as a free download from: website. Additional free resources on NLP are available from:

Peter has recently given similar presentations at APM events in Norwich, Milton Keynes and Birmingham, and on behalf of the People SIG, which is focussing on the topic of resilience this year.


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