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Resilience - Leading a team without stress

Resilience - Leading a team without stress

As a coach and therapist I work with many people in leadership positions who are extremely stressed. It seems to be an assumption that stress is something that just goes with the job. It was interesting therefore to watch Daniel Barenboim conducting at the BBC Proms (Friday 29th August 2014). A less stressed performance would be hard to imagine.

He leads an orchestra which is remarkable enough - the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has Israelis and Palestinian musicians playing alongside one another. However what struck me was the way that for long periods of time he just leaves the orchestra to get on with playing the music themselves, with just the occasional hand gesture at key moments. During one of the pieces he walks off the platform, leaving the orchestra to play the piece without any conducting whatsoever.

The key to Barenboim's ability to take such a relaxed attitude, and the key to managing without stress, is that the orchestra is a self-organizing team. Everyone knows the part they have to play, they know what is expected of them, they have all the required information (the musical score). They are able to get on with the job with only the minimum of managerial intervention.

I'm not saying that this state of affairs is arrived at easily. I can only guess at the amount of individual practice and collective rehearsal that is required to achieve such a high degree of skill. This is true of resilience in general - resilience doesn't come cheaply. A lot of preparation, training and rehearsal are required to build a team that can function in a self-organized way, but the benefits are huge. In particular it allows a team to work at a higher level - to rise above mere surviving, to embrace creativity, to get into a state of flow, and to tap into the level that in our Resilience Pyramid model we call "field". The investment required to get to these levels are not trivial, but the benefits are huge.

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