ET-004: Dr. Audrey Tang – Beat Stress and Build Resilience to Thrive
ET-004: Dr. Audrey Tang – Beat Stress and Build Resilience to Thrive
by Wayne Brown on August 2, 2022
by Wayne Brown on August 2, 2022
Episode Notes: A conversation with Dr. Audrey Tang
I think most people would agree that our level of stress in the past couple of years has increased. Learning to cope with our new environment – both personally and professionally, has been a challenge that many employees have struggled with. As a leader, our role is to be visible and available to support our teams as and when they need us.
We can be proactive or reactive with this support, but we must be present. Learning the secrets of how to build your leadership resilience, sustain your well-being and flourish in these times, is an essential requirement for Leaders if you are expected to successfully carry this additional burden.
Leaders, help is at hand. Join me for the conversation I have with Dr. Audrey Tang as we unpack together multiple topics around the subject.
BEATING STRESS AND BUILDING RESILIENCE TO THRIVE!
Today’s Guest: DR AUDREY TANG
In today’s episode, our guest is Dr. Audrey Tang. A Chartered Psychologist, and award-winning author with three published books – “The Leader’s Guide to Resilience,” The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness” and “Be A Great Manager – Now”
She hosts two podcasts ‘Retrain Your Brain for Success,’ and The Wellbeing Lounge on NLiveRadio.
She is a presenter for “Psych Back to Basics” on DisruptiveTV, and a resident psychologist on the UK’s Channel 4 program “Don’t Diet Lose Weight”, and on the Chrissy B Show on Sky.
Dr. Tang offers expert comments as a psychologist spokesperson through TV, Radio, and published media and speaks at National and International conferences in the fields of resilience, leadership, and team cohesion.
She is a QTS-qualified teacher, a CPD-accredited trainer, an ICF-certified Leadership Development coach, and a FIRO-B profiler.
♦ Twitter / Instagram / Tik Tok – @DrAudreyT
♦ Facebook – Dr. Audrey Tang
Dr. Tang has a new live stream starting very soon, and that’s going to be aired on her Facebook page, and then it’ll go onto YouTube after that. It’s with Disruptive TV. And there she is interviewing grassroots charities, talking about what we need to do for social change, and it’s called “Meet the Change Makers.” You’ll be learning about how they began their charity, what they did, and the pitfalls. What still needs to be done in those fields?
Dr. Audrey Tang’s book – The Leader’s Guide to Resilience
This book is supported by her two earlier releases ” The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness” and “Be A Great Manager – Now”. And we hope to see a new release in the months ahead.
If you ever wanted a practical no-nonsense guide on how best to develop your ability in coping with the world’s challenges and build resilience, then this is the book. An incredible read for everyone interested in embedding the soft skills of resilience.
An excellent book.
- Complete with chapter summaries
- D.O.P.T. resilience exercises
- Targets Organization and Individual
- The ABC model of resilience
♦ The Leader’s Guide to Resilience
What You’ll Learn
Dr. Audrey Tang is a highly sort after expert on all matters related to Psychology and a powerhouse individual whose passion for the topic is infectious. Audrey regularly delivers webinars & lectures offering accessible and effective tools for personal and professional success.
We discuss so many topics and Dr. Tang shares numerous insights about stress, resilience, well-being and flourishing.
- Ways and tools for coping with increased stress
- Develop resilience in the organization as well as the individual
- Understanding Strengths, the SWOT tool
- Learning how to use a series of soft skills to embed resilience
- PERMA – understand how to apply this in your daily activities
Final words of wisdom from Audrey:
“I think the key thing for me is, please do not treat mental and physical, well, mental and emotional health like antibiotics. With antibiotics, we take them and we feel a little bit better, and we don’t take them anymore. Please don’t do that. With building our mental and emotional and physical strength, we need to keep doing it outside the point of crisis.
All these little tips, tools, and tricks, just do one of them once every single day, and that will help build that buffer to the stresses and uncertainties of everyday life. I have been training so crazy hard for this 10K swim, I wouldn’t just jump in and go off and do it.
We know that the world is hard, and we know that the world is difficult, why do we think we can just jump in and face it without building up our mental and emotional strength first?”
0:00:01.2 Wayne Brown: Hello, it’s Wayne Brown here again. And I’m super excited to be welcoming you back to our show, the ET Project. This is the third episode in our launch day trio, and as always, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for the benefit of executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. In this episode, our guest is an incredible individual, the UK-based Dr. Audrey Tang. Audrey is a chartered psychologist and an award-winning author with three published books, The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness, and Be a Great Leader Now. She hosts two podcasts, Retrain Your Brain For Success and the Wellbeing Lounge on NLive Radio. She’s a presenter for Psych Back to Basics on Disruptive TV, and a resident psychologist on the UK’s Channel 4 program, Don’t Diet, Lose Weight, as well as on the Chrissy B Show on Sky.
0:01:01.9 WB: Dr. Tang offers expert comments as a psychologist spokesperson through TV, radio, and published media, and speaks at national and international conferences in the field of resilience, leadership, and team cohesion. She’s a QTS qualified teacher, a CDP-accredited trainer, an ICF-certified leadership development coach, and a FIRO-B profiler. Audrey regularly delivers webinars and lectures, offering accessible and effective tools for personal and professional success. So with all of that, I welcome you to find a comfortable place to kick back, relax, and enjoy the conversation I have with Dr. Audrey Tang as we discuss the topic of beating stress and building resilience to thrive.
0:01:54.4 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.
0:02:11.0 WB: Alright, so I’m really honoured today to welcome Dr. Audrey Tang. I was reading through your bio, Audrey, just before we came on to this call, and I’m feeling exhausted just by reading it. You are a exceptionally busy person and phenomenal. I don’t know how you cope.
0:02:34.5 Dr. Audrey Tang: Oh. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me, Wayne. It’s a real pleasure to be here. And as we might get into as we discuss, high achieving is not necessarily to be worn as a badge of honour. So there’s a little hint on some of the things that I might talk about later on.
0:02:51.5 WB: Very good. Alright, I guess you’re hinting towards resilience in stress, right? [chuckle] Very good.
0:02:57.2 AT: Certainly.
0:02:58.6 WB: Well, that’s essentially what our discussion’s about today, so I’m sure we will touch on that shortly. But look, it’s really fantastic to have you on the ET Project, and I really look forward to our conversation. I like to ask all of my guests do you have any fun facts that you’d like to share?
0:03:17.2 AT: I do. I have a couple. The first is just quite amusing to more people than me, and that is, I have a phobia of stained glass windows. I suspect this is because I was taken on a ghost train when I was very young, and the imagery that was in this train was very, very brightly coloured neon playing cards, which of course, are picture cards, and I think I must have transferred this onto stained glass windows. And this actually means that any time I go to an event or I go to speak, I do always look around to see if I can spot them. I don’t know what I think they’re gonna do to me, but I do have this irrational fear when I see stained glass windows. My husband on the other hand, says it’s just because I’m the devil and that’s why I can’t go into a church. So…
0:04:06.7 WB: Don’t look through for your reflection. Is that the story?
0:04:11.1 AT: Exactly, exactly. And my second fun fact is my background is performing. I taught drama as well as psychology, and I have… Well, if you look very carefully in 007 Spectre, you will see me in the Nine Eyes meeting scene.
0:04:26.0 WB: Alright, I’m just making a note to myself now, I am going to look at that movie and check you out. Excellent. So you’ve had this passion for a long time?
0:04:37.2 AT: Acting, yes. I’ve always done it since I was little, I’ve never really been formally trained. I took LAMDA examinations later on in life, but that’s just something which I’ve always enjoyed. I produce a lot of community theatre, I still do that as part of my charity work. But otherwise, most of my performance now comes on podcasts and training sessions.
0:05:00.7 WB: I must confess that I did see some of your acting capabilities on one of the videos you have online. [laughter] I was very taken by it. I think we spoke about it the first time we met. Yeah, very impressive. [chuckle]
0:05:16.2 AT: Aw, very kind.
0:05:19.6 WB: So another question is, anything particular exciting you at the moment?
0:05:23.6 AT: At the moment, actually what is exciting me is the opportunity to speak to a lot more people on podcasts and on my radio show and things like that, about changes they are actually making in society. And the reason I say this is because it’s so easy to nay-say, it’s so easy to criticise, it’s so easy to say what’s wrong with the world, but it’s really difficult to do anything to make changes. And hosting a little community radio show, I have the absolute privilege to speak to so many grass roots charities who’ve sat there and said, “I see an injustice, I’m going to do something about it.” And they’re doing it, and that is so motivating and so inspiring because I really struggle when it comes to people always going down the route of, “Oh, I can’t do this, it can’t be done.” And maybe they haven’t even asked, maybe they haven’t even got the solutions, maybe they just want to let off some steam.
0:06:29.7 WB: Yes.
0:06:30.6 AT: But it’s so easy to talk, it’s not easy to action, and I’m always so thrilled when I see people who are literally putting their money where their mouth is.
0:06:40.5 WB: Yeah, that’s excellent. It’s the hot topic at the moment, right? About change and uncertainty and the dynamics that all businesses and leaders in particular are going through. And yeah very important. I’m wondering if you have any career stories that would be of interest to our listeners. Anything that springs to mind about your career and challenges that you went through or successes that you’ve had even?
0:07:10.6 AT: In The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, which is my most recent book, I talk about The Power of the Generalist, and I start the chapter with Jack of all trades, master of none. And this is what people used to call me. I know a lot about lots of little things, but not anything to any specific niche expert capacity. I have taught, I have taught drama, I’ve taught psychology, I still do presentation skills, I did a degree in law, I did a master’s in history, my PhD is both business and psychology. I’ve had a number of different careers, which span through PR work and advertising, into teaching for many years, and forays into law, obviously when I thought I would change career. And finally now I’ve settled on teaching, training and leadership development. But going through all of those changes, going through all of those different places, I know I got a bit of a reputation of just not being able to stick at any one thing.
0:08:22.5 AT: However, the way I see that is right now in the work that I do, where I teach, where I write, where I speak to people, so I need the acting skills, I need the ability to train, I need all of the things that I have learnt in my past, they have set me up so well to be able to do what I do. And not only that, when the pandemic hit, I knew immediately, well, let’s pivot online. So instead of doing presentation skills for wide theatre audiences, do presentation skills for camera. It’s just that little pivot, you know what’s needed because you’ve had such broad experience. And so I conclude the chapter of supporting the generalist with reminding people that Jack of all trades master of none is not the complete phrase. The complete phrase is Jack of all trades, master of none is ofttimes better than master of one.
0:09:21.9 WB: Very nice, and there is a debate in academia world at the moment about this topic. Whether it’s better to, from a career perspective to be a specialist or to lean more towards being a generalist. And…
0:09:36.3 AT: Absolutely.
0:09:37.4 WB: Yeah, I have a similar background, definitely not in the acting area, but a very generalist background. And I’ve also found it extremely valuable in different times. And right at the moment, I tend to agree with you. The degree of resilience comes into play that you seem to have as a result of this broad foundation that you’ve built. Right? So it’s very fascinating.
0:10:08.7 AT: Well, what comes into that resilience is actually that you get used to dealing with change. So if a change is then enforced upon you, like it was with all of us in the pandemic, if you’ve already been used to job hopping, I’m not saying it’s not a good thing, okay, but you’ve been used to starting again. You’ve been used to saying, “Right, that doesn’t work for me, what is gonna work for me?” And you can transfer all of those skills and all of those abilities into what you’re doing next. And something I say to everybody, even if you try 50 different things before you find what you want, you will always have learnt something from each of those 49 other things.
0:10:49.2 WB: Absolutely.
0:10:49.4 AT: Because even now, if you’re listening to me and you’re thinking, “Gosh, she’s awful or I can’t stand her or whatever,” even if you’re thinking that, you are learning what not to do when you yourself are being interviewed. And what not to do is sometimes just as important as learning what to do.
0:11:06.5 WB: And I would definitely never say that what you’re doing is not what not to do, so [laughter] fair point. I understand. So I’d love now to digress and talk about a topic called stress, if that’s okay. And what really jumps out to me is the discussion around good stress and bad stress and learning how to optimise stress to produce positive results. For me, this sounds extremely counterintuitive, right? It’s kind of like, as I always learnt, when you’re stressed, the body’s releasing cortisol, and we know that’s a protectionist chemical type of thing. It shuts you down, prepares you to fight or flight. How does good stress coexist with bad stress?
0:11:58.9 AT: Well, you’ve actually said it, it’s protection. The whole fact of the fight-or-flight response is to ensure our survival. All that stress is, which is the production of cortisol, it’s the release of adrenaline, it’s the directing of all the bodily functions to the very important organs, it makes us sweat, it makes our heart rate go up, it narrows our focus. If you are preparing to do something which is challenging or you’re about to go into a competition or you need that little bit of adrenaline, even in today’s recording, if I were completely relaxed, I don’t think it would be anywhere near as engaging. The actual act helps us focus. However, if we stay in that state of heightened anxiety for too long or worse still, we begin to normalise it because we’re already or just always functioning in this slightly anxious worried state, then it becomes problematic because the whole point about the release of cortisol, it’s there to get you through a short-term period, and once it’s done, it’s done.
0:13:06.6 AT: The world has changed, unfortunately. It’s not just the case of running from a predator or hunting for dinner or something like that. We create a lot of our stress on ourselves. We worry about things that we have very little control over. We are connected 24 hours a day, which means that people can always tell us when we haven’t done something, and so there is unfortunately, in the way we live now, a real tendency to not be able to release stress fully, and on top of that, we’ve never really been taught. We sit there and we think, when I ask my classes, “Well, what does self-care or relaxation mean to you?” They’ll say, “Oh, it means meditation or yoga or a spa day.” Yes, but yoga meditation and spa days take time to set up, they’re quite formal, whereas you can do a number of little things every single day to build up your mental and emotional fitness like you would physical fitness, which can help you buffer the effects of stress but also reduce the amount of stress in that moment of crisis, because that moment of crisis is often in our heads.
0:14:12.8 WB: Okay. And that was leading to the question actually I was going to ask you about. So is there a specific practice that as a leader, as an executive talent who are listener based, is there anything specific that we could do or practise on the daily base?
0:14:33.0 AT: There are a number of tools that you can use. If you’re at the point of crisis, one thing I would say is, please don’t tell anyone to calm down, that’s not gonna work. So the secret at the point of crisis is to try and get out of your head. If we stay within our heads, it’s too easy for that negative spiral of automatic thinking, negative thinking to bring us down. So one lovely exercise that the NHS loves talking about as well is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique, very simple. All you do is you look around the room and name out loud five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell one thing you can taste. Just go through that in that order.
0:15:13.6 AT: But by doing that, what you’ll actually find is you have to get out of your head because you are physically actively looking around the room and saying words out loud that you can see. So not only does it break that negative automatic thought spiral, but it actually grounds us in the present, and we begin to become more aware of I’m not being threatened right here and right now, I might have had a horrible phone call, but it’s not as if that phone is chasing me or anything like that, I have a moment to take a breath and actually think about what I’m going to do effectively. The problem is, and we all need to realise this, our brains are set up to help our survival and to help us be efficient. It’s not there to help us be effective, it’s not there to help us be happy, it’s not there to help us be well, we have to teach it that.
0:16:06.9 AT: So the more you practise something like 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and then perhaps a little bit of informal mindfulness when you’re out, think about the sun on your face on what you can hear, what you can see, the smells. Again, you get used to calming your mind. Affirmations can be a wonderful thing. You don’t have to use the affirmations, which are, I’m a wonderful person, I’m a strong leader, you… If they make you feel a bit awkward, but instead I like the ones which read along the lines of, even if I can’t control anything else, I can control my breathing, or I can’t save people from themselves, or I can rise to meet any challenge that faces me today. Those ones, to me, feel more authentic, they are more helpful, so affirmations can be useful.
0:16:52.9 AT: And the last little tip, which I can ask you to practise right now, because anyone can do this right at their desks, is stretch out your arms and think about one thing you’re grateful for in your life. It might be your house, you car, your job, your computer, whatever it might be. Stretch out your legs, and think of one person you’re grateful to have in your life, that I will include pets in here. And finally, just give yourself a bit of a shake ’cause if you have been sitting still that doesn’t hurt to do and think about one thing you’re looking forward to doing today. That is informal gratitude practice, and what you tend to find is people think, “Oh, gratitude practice, I must keep a journal, I must do this whole formal… ” You don’t have to. But there’s a secret tip that comes with that, which is another way of buffering the effects of stress.
0:17:38.4 AT: If you practise that simple gratitude stretch, which took you less than 30 seconds, every day for seven days, you will notice there are patterns that come up, there’ll be certain things, certain people, certain events or experiences that come up to your mind and certain things people and experiences that don’t. The secret there, when you find that pattern is to actively seek out and engage with those people, those things, those experiences that always come up in your gratitude stretch. And that way when the things… Experiences and people whom you don’t like or who you haven’t liked enough to bring up in your gratitude stretch, come up, you can quite happily just tell them, “I’m really sorry, I’m already busy,” and that in itself helps you create a life you don’t need stress relief from.
0:18:32.9 WB: Incredible. I’m gonna have to get a new notepad. [laughter] You’ve given me so many tips. And I can just see my team sitting back, if they’re listening to this podcast, not liking you already, because they know that we’re going to be doing that informal gratitude stretching exercise on Monday, so [laughter] I’m very much looking forward to that. That’s excellent. And we can talk forever, I’m sure, about this topic. Unfortunately, we don’t have that much time, so if it’s okay, let’s now segue onto your book and the topic of resilience, or at least the latest book. Right?
0:19:10.0 AT: Yeah.
0:19:11.9 WB: So this is your third book I believe. And the title is The Leader’s Guide to Resilience: How to Use Soft Skills to Get Hard Results.” So I love the read, and there’s so many great takeaways.
0:19:24.6 AT: Thank you.
0:19:25.8 WB: I hope to cover some of them or touch on some of them during our conversation, but there are so many examples. At the end of each chapter, you have this adopt resilience exercise, which is an acronym, five-letter acronym. I’ll ask you to explain at some stage for sure. But what I really enjoyed about it above all the exercise and the practicality of it is that you also touch on not only the individual in relation to resilience, but also the organisation. And I haven’t seen that before. I haven’t seen a discussion around how an organisation is resilient, so I found that quite fascinating.
0:20:06.9 AT: There’s a whole area of business psychology which talks about learning organisations. In other words, organisations are almost like an organic character in themselves, but they often take on the characteristics of the leaders within that organisation. So if a leader behaves in a certain way, it’s likely that the organisation also will end up showing those particular values or behaviours. So resilience can apply to both, and the principles can also apply because at the end of the day, an organisation is a working community, and a community is a group of people. So when it comes to building resilience, to dial it back a little bit, the first thing I’d like everyone to recognise is that resilience is not simply survival.
0:20:58.7 AT: A lot of people think it is, it’s just, “Oh, yeah, we got through, we’re resilient.” No, that’s survival. That’s almost instinctive, that’s something that the majority of us can do, because, as I said, the brain is set up to help us through. Neither is resilience bouncing back. The reason I say that is because let’s take the pandemic, for example. It’s not, A, possible to go back to where we were before, and actually, for many of us who wants to? Aren’t we better off thinking about springing forward as opposed to bouncing back? So for me, resilience is navigating three dips in life. The first is the adversity, which means we have to survive. The second is the dip where we have to then regrow and rebuild after that survival when we’re exhausted, when there’s fewer resources, when people aren’t quite so charitable anymore. But then the third is being able to move from, fine, I’m back, I’m here, or I’m a little bit forward, to flourishing. And that’s the exciting part.
0:22:12.5 AT: And to see resilience as the opportunity to thrive is wonderful, and so much resilience research actually suggests that adversity creates in us, if we can learn, the abilities and the situation and the foundations to be able to thrive, which if we just had plain sailing, we wouldn’t have had. And that is true for an organisation who has to adapt or pivot or change or find new values or find new ways of doing things, find new partnerships, find new networks as it is for the person who has to do pretty much exactly the same thing.
0:22:48.7 WB: Very interesting. Leading from that, thinking about why it’s so important for the leader to be able to actively nurture the whole topic of resilience, I can imagine part of the answer, but I’m just… I’d love to hear more about the reasons behind why it’s important to nurture resilience as a leader.
0:23:13.1 AT: Resilience brings with it sustainability. And if you are going to be a leader, you’re going to need something to lead. Therefore, if your organisation or your team or you yourself are not sustainable, you have no leadership. And therefore it’s fundamental to leadership to know that you can survive, you can rebuild, and hopefully, flourish, because we don’t want to just be okay and normal, we want to go further and we want to thrive. And so not only is it important just in the very sort of practical, basic sense.
0:23:56.6 WB: Sure.
0:23:57.7 AT: But the world is uncertain and the world is changing, and people are also people. We are fragile at times, we are emotional, we are changeable. And the leader has to be able to contain a lot of anxieties and a lot of pressures and still be able to do all of those things. And that in itself is a lot of adversity, because if you think about containing anxiety very much like a sponge, so you’re continually mopping up and mopping up and mopping up other people’s anxieties, and you’ve never had that chance to give that sponge a bit of a squeeze, a metaphorical hug, if you will, sooner or later, that sponge is so sodden and damp, that it’s not able to mop up anymore.
0:24:47.5 AT: Unless you build your mental and emotional fortitude, you will not function in the way that you want to function, and that’s where resilience also comes into it. It teaches us the skills to be sustainable. It teaches us the skills to be able to offer support, but know that we have a firm foundation to be holding on to in order to help. Otherwise, you end up with two people struggling as opposed to just the one.
0:25:17.9 WB: It’s almost like we need to have a discharge switch or some mechanism to drain that sponge metaphorically and reset and allow our resilience to carry us through.
0:25:33.2 AT: Yes. And the NHS is using a bucket metaphor, so, whichever metaphor you want to use. But I’ll just use theirs to explain the draining of the sponge. They say that you contain the anxieties in a bucket, but you have to have a little tap to let out the anxieties. But you need to decide what that tap is. And unfortunately, for some people, that tap is drinking or it’s comfort eating or it’s doing things which are not healthy, and that in turn may release it for a while but fills up the stress again pretty quickly.
0:26:04.7 WB: Yes.
0:26:05.5 AT: So what we need to learn are healthy ways of releasing that anxiety, releasing that emotion, caring for ourselves, and this is where things like self-compassion comes in. Self-care, taking moments for ourselves and being kind to ourselves, giving ourselves rest. And I know when leaders hear me say the word rest, it suddenly actually causes them a lot more stress than anything else. But rest can be something as simple as preparing your stuff for the next day, so if you do want to hit that snooze button for 10 more minutes, you’re not in a rush to pack up and go after that.
0:26:43.1 WB: Interesting. In the book, early in the book actually, you introduce the concept of strengths as one of the building blocks for resilience, and it’s not only personal, but it’s also a team and organisational strength. And you use the SWOT model, although you modified it a little bit, I noticed. So how would I use that in a practical sense?
0:27:11.4 AT: Yeah, a lot of people use this, they’re very familiar with the SWOT model, which is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and people tend to use it in business when they are looking to expand a new business or open somewhere else, or… That’s how they explore it. We can use that on ourselves. However, what I want to qualify is the following, when it comes to strengths, so the S, make sure you know the difference between strengths and skills. A lot of people don’t know this. So for example, I am exceptionally good at organising, it’s just something I’ve done all my life. I produce shows, I can run events. I’m exceptionally good at it. I hate it, I hate it with an absolute passion, and if I do it, I’m so exhausted after it that I don’t wanna do it anymore. That is a skill.
0:28:00.1 AT: Strengths, I’m also, I hope, good at speaking, good at presenting. I love that. That energises me. That makes me feel great. Every opportunity I can find to do that, I will do it. Those are your strengths, the things that don’t exhaust you, but you’re good at. The other things, and you can put them in there, they are your skills, but just make sure you’re not confusing the two. Because if you confuse the two, what you’ll end up doing and when you start using this SWOT analysis, is it will send you down an inappropriate path for you because you’ll go and explore careers or jobs or whatever it might be that suit your skills, but actually, you’ll find, “Yeah, I’m really good at it, and I’m getting promoted. But why am I so tired?” So please make sure you know the difference between those two.
0:28:46.9 AT: Weaknesses, now, with that, that’s very straightforward, that’s very easy, it’s things that you know that you may not be any good at. But the way I adapt this is a weakness can always be improved upon, so don’t worry unduly about that. If you need to get the training, get the training. Opportunities are not only the, here’s one option or here’s another option, but it might be your network, it might be the businesses or the collaborators that you’ve come to know. So don’t just see it as an opportunity is a job description that I see advertised in the local paper.
0:29:22.9 AT: And then threats also become more important when you’re talking about the human, because we have things which are not so much threats, but barriers. If we have young children at school, we can’t just up and leave and move, ’cause it wouldn’t be fair on them or we may not want to. We might need to wait. That would be cast as a “threat.” I say it in inverted commas, because it is a barrier, it’s something that you can’t surmount and don’t want want to surmount, so that’s fine. So be aware of the differences when you’re going through that with a business and a person.
0:29:54.6 AT: And then what I put in the middle is I ask you to look for a person of support, a resource figure, somebody that might be able to help you improve in all of those areas. So it might be somebody who celebrates your strengths, so it might be creating a mastermind network where you hang out with people who are similar to you, because it might be, especially if you’re an entrepreneur, your family and friends they don’t understand what you’re doing. So you’re going on about your business, but no one cares about it quite as much as you do. So build yourself a mastermind network of people who support you, that will be our support network there. With weaknesses, I’ve already said that you can find a tutor. With opportunities, it might be looking around your network, asking people, contacting friends of friends, you never know. Obviously, don’t use people. They don’t like that very much, but be aware that that’s an option.
0:30:44.4 AT: And then threats, again, as I say, if you think, “Oh my goodness, I can’t move because my children are at school,” when it comes to thinking about the support or the resource figures that you can use, why don’t you speak to them? Why don’t you ask them? Don’t make assumptions, actually speak to the people or the things that you might think are barriers, and then see if you can actually work out a collaboration.
0:31:09.8 WB: Excellent. There’s a lot of debate at the moment that’s been going on for a number of years between strengths and weaknesses, what should we focus on? Do you have a view on that?
0:31:20.9 AT: Yeah. I come from the positive psychology school of thoughts.
0:31:26.5 WB: Alright, strengths.
0:31:28.1 AT: And that… They talk about values in action and also known as character strengths. And when we talk about strengths, the focus there is to give yourself the opportunity to utilise your strengths every single day where you can, even if it’s just utilising one of them. Because that boosts our mood and that just makes us feel better. ‘Cause as I said, a strength is something we’re good at, so we’re getting hit with dopamine, but it’s something that we get energised by.
0:32:00.3 AT: Weaknesses. The reason I say, I do put that second is, yes, work on any areas of development, especially if you need them for a particular job. There’s no excuse not to. However, something I’ve learnt as a theatre director is, I know about lighting, but I can’t design it as well as so and so can. I know about marketing, but I haven’t got graphic design skills as much as someone else has. So with weaknesses, depending on what position you’re in, depending on how you negotiate with your teams or with your team leader, any weaknesses can actually be covered by somebody else’s strengths, and that might give them an opportunity to shine.
0:32:44.3 AT: Now, I’m not saying push the work or dump the work on anybody, but that is where I would say focusing on your strengths energises you, it makes you feel a sense of achievement. All of those things are really great for our sense of well-being. Yes, build on your weaknesses, but actually having the energy from focusing on your strengths will give you the motivation to do that, but also remember that if you are willing to reach out, you might actually find collaboration can help at least dilute some of those weaknesses for a while.
0:33:18.2 WB: Yeah, collaboration, extremely important today in our world, yes. Great. And it seems like there’s a central theme that… I don’t know if underpinning is the right word, but it’s supporting our ability to build resilience to the point where we can thrive, as you mentioned, but also is the need for us to learn and practise a number of soft skills and gradually, I guess, embed those soft skills as a means of changing ourselves over time. And in the book, there’s a number… There’s a huge series of excellent methods and suggestions for ways we might approach that. I really am gonna share this book with so many people. I have a list. [chuckle]
0:34:07.7 AT: Oh.
0:34:08.7 WB: People are going to be dodging me for a while. [chuckle] Is there some way that you could give a condensed overview of some of the ways that you highlight? I know that’s a long question. Sorry.
0:34:26.5 AT: Yes. That’s okay. No, I understand where you’re coming from. The key thing to remember about soft skills is they are harder to teach. That’s why we use the phrase embedding. You almost just have to try them and practise them and get better at them, and that’s how they grow and how you get more comfortable with them. But as I said in the last example, you do need the energy to be able to do it. So I thought I’d approach this question by using, again, positive psychology and focusing on the five areas of positive psychology, which are kind of soft… The ideas I’m gonna give you are soft skills-based or orientated, but they also energise you. So if you are trying to improve your communication skills or improve your negotiation skills, which are much more technical in their approach, you have the motivation to keep doing it. So we’ll start with… The five are building positive emotions, finding engagement in what you do, cherishing healthy relationships, seeking meaning and celebrating your achievements. So that comes from positive psychology. So ways in which we can…
0:35:41.6 WB: So this is the… This is the PERMA Model from Martin Seligman.
0:35:46.0 AT: The PERMA Model. Yes.
0:35:46.8 WB: Yes. Very good.
0:35:47.8 AT: Absolutely. The ways we can build positive emotion is simple, give and receive gratitude. We already know how to do our little gratitude practice. But don’t just journal, don’t just do the stretch. Actually acknowledge other people for having done something kind. And also, appreciate it when someone has acknowledged you. And this is something a lot of leaders don’t do. Someone will thank them, and they’ll go, “Oh no, it wasn’t me, it was the team. It was everybody else.” And that’s lovely and very modest and humble, but unfortunately, what tends to happen is then they’ll go away going, “Well, no one appreciates me.” And it’s kind of, Well, no, they did. You just didn’t hear it. And one way of thinking about receiving gratitude is think of gratitude as a gift, because we all know it’s so much easier to complain than it is to say something nice to somebody. So if someone has, they have thought about it, they bothered to find out who you are, they bothered to get in contact, and they have written this thing to you or gifted you something nice that they’ve said, and then to then say, “Oh no, it wasn’t me” seems a bit heartless. So, if nothing else, receive it for them, not for you, and then that way you’ll begin to learn to appreciate gratitude that’s shown to you.
0:37:04.3 AT: So that’s one way of building positive emotions. And one thing that you can do is maybe screenshot some of those thank yous and remind yourself that you did make a positive impact on someone’s life. And when you do that, that also helps you build resilience, ’cause it gives you a blueprint of, “Oh, I did that and I did it quite well and it worked. Oh, I can do that again. So it gives you that blueprint to do that particular action on a second occasion.
0:37:26.5 WB: I see.
0:37:26.5 AT: Find engagement. And reflect on the things you used to love. And as we grow up, as adults, we develop all of our skills that we forget a lot of our strengths, and then we come back to it, and then as adults, we think, “I must be really good at it straightaway.” So here is what I mean. If you enjoyed playing the piano, I don’t mean that you have to become a concert pianist when you go and hire a piano for a couple of hours. But if that brought you joy and you liked playing it, engage with some of those things that have meaning for you, because what that will also do is it reminds you of what’s important.
0:38:01.3 AT: Another way of reflecting on what is meaningful to you, and this kind of goes into seeking meaning as well, is to reflect on achievements that you have had in the past. One of mine, for example, was getting a badge in swimming. It was the one where you have to dive in in your pyjamas and rescue a brick from the bottom of the pool. It’s not so much getting that because everyone goes, “Oh, yes, it’s the certificate, it’s all of those things.” No, it’s actually not. It’s the fact that I had to take that three times, and then I got it. So what I recognise is I engage a lot more when I see people working hard, when I see people change, when I see people develop. And that’s what makes me a teacher, rather than going into some other profession. And so I find engagement in the things that I find meaningful.
0:38:51.3 AT: Cherishing healthy relationships. That’s really important, because so often we end up with a lot of toxic people in our lives. And so what I would ask you to do is just reflect on it. It doesn’t need to be just friendships. It can be your network, the people that you work with, teams, collaborators, even. Which relationships are reciprocal, which relationships are energising, and which relationships are beneficial. If you can identify those, then spend more time with those relationships. Make sure you give them exactly the same in return. And that way, again, you start changing the landscape of your network. And again, it makes you happier. If you’re happier, you’re more likely to do the things that build up your resilience, that make you work harder, that make you achieve more.
0:39:42.9 AT: When it comes to seeking meaning, as I said, it’s that life achievements. But so often people will say, “Oh, well, I just do my job, and there’s no chance to do anything particularly meaningful.” Well, think about what is meaningful to you and see if you can work it into your job. Okay, so for example, you love leading, but you don’t have the opportunity to lead. Well, maybe you can start a football team and be the coach in your work, or maybe you can start a competition and challenge people to become more aware of climate change and to recycle more and to cycle to work or something like that, you can find a way of bringing meaning and purpose into your work that isn’t already there.
0:40:26.7 WB: True.
0:40:27.6 AT: And then lastly, when it comes to focusing on achievement, I gave the hint right at the start, that high achievement is not necessarily always a good thing, it’s not. High achievement is often a soothing mechanism used by people who only realised they did something good when they achieved something. And that’s no slight on parenting skills and so on. Our parents just did the best with what they had. But if you were always praised when you did something well and always told off when… Where was the other 2% in your 98%? It can turn you into a little bit of a high achiever, that’s why I said be careful with wearing that as a badge of honour. So really focus on achievement as the little wins, the little things, the experiences, the being able to do something just that a tiny bit better than you did the day before. Maybe set yourself an intention that today I’m going to focus on kindness. And when you reflect at the end of the day, try and pick out all the things that you did that were kind.
0:41:31.0 AT: That’s the little wins. That’s what’s more important. And that sort of brings me into the last bit, which is self-compassion. Too often, we see our status based on self-esteem, we compare ourselves to others. And realistically, that’s unhealthy for us, it’s worse with social media, but it’s so much more important to talk kindly to ourself with self-compassion statements. So we don’t say things like, “Oh, I didn’t do well in that race, but at least I didn’t come last.” We actually say more along the lines of, “I didn’t do well in that race, but I did work really hard and I showed up, and it means I can show up again.” And I think that’s a lot healthier and a lot more of a resilient approach to life.
0:42:16.9 WB: Wow! I’m just watching your body language as you were speaking here, and it’s so invigorating just looking at your enthusiasm, the energy that you’re sharing as you’re talking. So whatever you’re doing and practising is obviously extremely successful. So I’m hoping some of it rubs off through the camera. [laughter]
0:42:44.9 AT: Well, do you know what? That’s one of the big things of all of my books, they’ve either come from directly from training sessions that I have developed or practices which I use and my clients use. None of those exercises in those books are anything where I’ve just thrown it in, and going, “Let’s see if this works. Reader, let me know whether that worked for you.” I have tried and tested every single one of those in sessions, and I know they are the ones that work. They are the ones I use myself. Yes, some I like more than others, but that’s the joy of learning. It’s a pick and mix. If something works for you, use that, disregard all the other stuff. That’s okay. Or maybe pin them mentally for the next time, but that’s the main thing, always just choose what works for you, ’cause we’re all individuals and you know yourself best.
0:43:33.3 WB: Fascinating. It’s been such a great discussion around these books. We could keep talking for hours, I’m sure, but unfortunately, we have to wrap it up shortly. I’m curious what you’re doing at the moment. Is there anything that you’re working on that you’d like to share about?
0:43:50.3 AT: Yes, I have a new live stream starting very soon, and that’s gonna be aired on my Facebook page, and then it’ll go onto into YouTube after that. It’s with Disruptive TV. And there I’m interviewing the grassroot charities I talked about, talking about what we need to do for social change, and it’s called Meet the Change Makers. And I’ll be learning about how they began their charity, what they did, the pitfalls. What still needs to be done in those fields, because I’ve got somebody talking about cancer treatment, menopause, gambling, autism. It’s wonderful.
0:44:22.5 WB: Wow!
0:44:23.2 AT: There are so many amazing people out there. So that’s something that’s gonna be starting on Tuesday, August the 2nd, and that’s gonna be on Disruptive TV, but you can find that on my Facebook page, which is at Dr. Audrey Tang.
0:44:35.9 WB: Yes.
0:44:36.7 AT: And I’m also generally still delivering a lot of training, which is fantastic. I’m hoping very much to be able to announce that my fourth book will be green lit, but that’s all very much back and forth with my publisher at the moment, so that’s a bit of a fingers crossed.
0:44:55.3 WB: Alright.
0:44:56.7 AT: But personally, I’m also working, training very, very hard to do the Dart 10k swim, which is a 10-kilometre swim. It’s a swimmer’s marathon, which is great, except for the fact I didn’t start swimming properly until January this year.
0:45:09.8 WB: Oh wow!
0:45:10.5 AT: I’ve always been a holiday swimmer. So that has been a little bit of a nightmare, and it’s really testing me on absolutely everything that I preach.
0:45:21.0 WB: So as you’re rounding the corner for about the third kilometre, [chuckle] I can just…
0:45:26.4 AT: I know.
0:45:27.5 WB: I can just imagine the resilience talk that’s going on in the head. [laughter]
0:45:31.5 AT: Well, it will be the reassessing of my network, which ones bring me joy? Not you anymore, not you, definitely not you. [laughter] But bless him, the person who encouraged me to do it, he’s gonna be swimming with me, and the reason that I’m doing it is because in 2019, he’s a very good friend of mine, he had a stroke and he’s well now, he can’t feel down one side, but he to all intents and purposes, is doing really well, and he’s back doing his first 10k since then as well.
0:46:01.4 WB: Wow! Well, good luck with that.
0:46:03.4 AT: Thank you.
0:46:03.7 WB: Where will people find you? You mentioned Facebook, anywhere else that they can look?
0:46:08.8 AT: Yes. Yeah, the best place is probably my website, which is www.doctoraudreyt.com, but you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram and TikTok @DrAudreyT, and on all of those, I tend to release daily little videos which give you little well-being sound bites that you can reflect on or maybe even use throughout your week.
0:46:30.1 WB: I’m definitely a fan. [laughter] I’m following immensely. We have a link to all of those in the show notes. So thank you for that. Last question. Any takeaways for the listeners on any topic at all?
0:46:46.3 AT: On any topic at all. I think the key thing for me is, please do not treat mental and physical, well, mental and emotional health like antibiotics. With antibiotics, we take them and we feel a little bit better, and we don’t take them anymore. Please don’t do that. With building our mental and emotional and physical strength, we need to keep doing it outside the point of crisis. All these little tips, tools and tricks, just do one of them once every single day, and that will help build that buffer to the stresses and the uncertainties of everyday life. I have been training so crazy hard for this 10K swim, I wouldn’t just jump in and go off and do it. We know that the world is hard, we know that the world is difficult, why do we think we can just jump in and face it without building up our mental and emotional strength first?
0:47:50.1 WB: And typically, what happens, we find very short after that, after we dive in that we’re struggling, right? And then we wonder why.
0:48:00.3 AT: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So you wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so why do we think we can face this uncertain world without doing a little bit of building up?
0:48:11.1 WB: Okay. Well, Dr. Audrey Tang, thank you very much. It’s been extremely entertaining and I’ve loved the conversation, I’m sure our listeners will also enjoy it immensely. Beware, team, on Monday, we have some gratitude exercises coming.
0:48:29.7 AT: Sorry.
0:48:33.4 WB: And copies of the book abound. Look, I really enjoyed. Thank you very much, and I truly hope we can catch up again at sometime in the future.
0:48:42.5 AT: Definitely. Thank you so much. It’s been my absolute pleasure.
0:48:48.8 WB: Hello, Team ET. As you may know, I’m an avid consumer of books, and I really enjoy the opportunity to read those of as many of my guests as I can. In this case, Dr. Audrey Tang has a real gem. It’s called The Leadership Guide to Resilience. It recently received a highly commended award in the leadership category of the 2022 UK Business Book Awards, and it also won the Firebird Book Award for leadership from the Speak Up and Talk Radio USA. Its standout feature is the practical, easily accessible and applicable tools for real and immediate use. If you have an interest in this field, then we’d highly recommend getting a hold of a copy. Back over to you and all the best.
0:49:37.7 S2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coachingforcompanies.com.