Personal resilience – a new book

I am pleased to be able to share with you a new book on Personal Resilience. Below is a short piece by the author, John Edmonstone. John has vast experience in the healthcare sector and academia; plus he is a great Bob Dylan fan!

Both Mike and myself have had the pleasure of working with John and we are looking forward to reading his new book. Over the coming months the three of us will share more with you about the book. Read more

Behind closed doors

Ever wondered what goes on behind the closed door? Well in this book you are invited in to share some revealing inquiry into the coaching relationship.

The book is grounded in deep inquiry; each coach sets out to reflect on an aspect of their work and to actively engage the client in the process. The result is an exploration of the coaching relationship from various perspectives.

This book will be integral to the forthcoming Ashridge conference on relational coaching, where I am thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about my inquiry into relational coaching for resilience.

Details of the Ashridge conference can be found here.

You can find my review on Amazon here.

Making leaders of staff and patients

In her recent article in the Health Services Journal (17 May 2013), Juliette Alban-Metcalfe provides strong arguments for shifts in leadership behaviour that can contribute positively to the services for mental health patients.

A key point is that:

“leaders need to relinquish some of their ‘expert’ status and work in a coaching and collaborative style.”

I would strongly suggest that this is true in all businesses. The evidence is clear that a more engaging leadership style has many positive benefits for individuals and for businesses (Table 1).

Table 1: Engaging leadership – WHY?
Engagement is great for individuals:

  • Job satisfaction and motivation
  • Reducing stress and improving well-being
  • Creating fulfilment and self-confidence


Engagement is great for business:

  • Improves customer satisfaction
  • Enhances retention and loyalty
  • Improves productivity and profitability
  • Encourages proactivity and innovation

Prof Bev Alimo-Metcalfe, September 2011

So how can a shift to engaging and collaborative leadership be achieved? Leaders need to change their behaviours and followers need support in working differently; certainly coaching behaviours can be very helpful. Here are a few simple steps that draw on basic coaching.

  • Asking questions: in both 1-1s and team meetings seek opportunities to ask more open questions; you can build on initial responses by encouraging people to develop initial ideas. DeBono’s 6 hats can offer a good way of playing with different types of questions: lets just take two examples:

White Hat thinking


This covers facts, figures, information needs and gaps. “I think we need some white hat thinking at this point…” means ‘let’s drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the data’. It directs attention to available or missing information.

The questions that encourage this type of thinking are:

  • What information do we have?
  • What information is needed?
  • What questions should we be asking?

 Red Hat  thinking


Red – like fire – suggests warmth. This covers intuition, feelings and emotions. The red hat allows the thinker to put forward an intuition without any need to justify it. “Putting on my red hat, I think this is a terrible proposal.” Usually, feelings and intuition can only be introduced into a discussion if they are supported by logic. Usually the feeling is genuine but the logic is spurious. The red hat gives full permission to a thinker to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment.

  • Listening: taking time to listen and providing space for others to speak are vital in encouraging people to get involved, put forward ideas and get involved.
  • Space to work together: time to tackle those ‘sticky’ problems is essential and can offer real opportunities to get people working together and generating and trying out ideas. The benefits can include better team work, creating new relationships and finding solutions to old problems that people have ‘learned to live with’.
  • Trust and excitement: these are key emotions associated with engagement. Generating trust and excitement in the workplace is fundamental to a high performing team.

In your workplace why not try out these ideas, or tell me of ways that worked for you …. I will then share your ideas in a future blog. Let me know if you would like more about DeBono’s six hats – we can take a look at all six if people are interested.

CIPD Centenary Anniversary


Last week I went along to the West Yorkshire CIPD[1] celebratory event, held at Huddersfield University Business School. The CIPD started 100 years ago not too far from Huddersfield. At the Rowntrees factory in York the Welfare Workers group was established, and over the years this has developed into the CIPD. The founding belief was that a well workforce is a productive workforce.

How amazing that we have now come full circle and that this is the underlying message of so much current research into engaging leadership and employee well-being.

Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, was the keynote speaker and reviewed the current business environment, typified as it is by uncertainty and volatility. He made a strong argument for HR playing a key role in building trust in a workforce, based upon values that are both clearly stated and obvious through behaviours at all levels. He stated that behaviours and attitudes are now as important as knowledge and skill – IQ versus EQ. Basically, I agree with this, although I would go for an IQ + EQ view of the world.

One of his points was about the key role of social media. Many of you will know that the CIPD are passionate about encouraging mentoring. What I certainly didn’t know is that the CIPD CE is being mentored by a 22 year old, as a way of learning more about social media and its increasing application in the workplace. His point, quite rightly, is that the young people who businesses need to attract and employ are much more savvy with social media, and to be effective businesses need to be able to use social media. That means people like me – you? – learning from our younger colleagues and friends. Me a Luddite? Sorry not the time, I must check my Twitter account!

It was a great evening with a real celebratory feel. If you thought about attending and didn’t – you missed the best chocolate brownie pudding imaginable!


[1] CIPD – Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Team resilience & leadership, Yorkshire

Yorkshire women grow their resilience

It was a calm evening, with a beautiful sunset over Leeds, as the Yorkshire Women in Management group met to discuss the topic of ‘growing resilience’. Mike and I were pleased to be able to present our research into resilience and explore, with a lively group, the practicalities of growing personal, team and business resilience.

Having explained our approach to resilience and the research underpinning our model, we took the opportunity to engage small groups in talking about their personal strengths that have sustained them through tough times. A comment was made about how rare it is to have the space to reflect, both on what has happened and how one has coped. Too often we are so busy just ‘doing’ we do not take the time to acknowledge what we have achieved and to think about our strengths. And yet, in future situations, it may be these strengths that will enable us to support both ourselves and our colleagues. Read more

keyboard with word resilience

Resilience – a hot topic

As part of our on-going inquiry into resilience, Mike recently attended the British Red Cross conference. Here is his review; we are also hoping that some of the great people he met there will contribute later this year to the blog – so watch this space.

British Red Cross Resilience Conference -Review

Resilience is a hot topic at the moment and for good reason. It is being used to help understand how business and society as a whole can learn how to adapt to changing circumstances and not allow incidents such as recession, volcanic eruptions and flu epidemics to prevent us from being able to carry on and in some cases become stronger in order that strategies can be put in place to help us better manage similar experiences in the future.

British Red Cross has recognised the growing interest in resilience and decided to provide a conference in April this year on the subject ‘Putting Resilience into Practice’. In his opening speech Sir Nick Young, CEO for British Red Cross told us that at their recent strategy meeting they decided to put resilience at the forefront of everything they will be doing over the next few years.

The conference provided speakers from a number of organisations including neighbourhood programmes, prisons and national emergency response teams. All of which gave fascinating insights into what they had learnt about what special ingredients make for effective resilience. Read more

a green spring to represent new ideas

Developing your resilience

I am interested in how we sustain our personal resilience. I am sure I am not alone in experiencing doubts, hearing a negative voice that questions what I am doing. Questions like: could you have handled that better? What else could you have said? How shall I handle this person?

I know my inner negative voice loves to criticise and find fault. If I gave in I’d probably retreat under the duvet and only occasionally peep out. So, what helps to keep me resilient – strong and flexible?

I aim to rationalise, think through and move forward with confidence.

One strategy I use is to detach from the critical voice. Ask, what can I learn from this viewpoint? How would it sound if the message was put positively?

I also find being able to reflect – back, forward and in-action are vital to keeping grounded and positive. From reflections I can learn and be flexible in response to changing situations.

As a coach, I find supervision is vital to strengthening my resilience. That’s a story for another blog.

For now, let me invite you to take a moment and ask yourself:

  • What triggers can undermine your resilience?
  • How can you handle these triggers?
  • What opportunities can you create to sustain your resilience and show your strengths?

Smile – keep strong.

Mary Holmes, director Development Solutions


Welcome to my blog. Here you will find short informal articles – quick, easy to read and full of ideas for personal and team development.  In addition, I will provide summaries of my book reviews and comments on books I am reading.

I already have a number of guest bloggers who have kindly agreed to contribute over the coming months – a mix of people with a wealth of experience in the corporate world, large public sector organisations and academics. So, a broad mix offering different perspectives on current topics.

In the coming weeks I am presenting to the Yorkshire Women in Management Group on ‘Growing Resilience’ and attending a coaching network event, all will provide scope for short comments about relevant topics. In addition, I am involved in a project on engaging leadership so will include some material from key reports on that – along with thoughts on that thorny question of ‘how’.

I am very keen to hear what you would like included – so let me know what topics are of interest and what will be useful to you and colleagues.

Best wishes, Mary