Join in


I was due to have diner with an old friend.  Italian restaurant in Covent Garden.  Menu to die for.  Chianti and a chat and certainly  a grappa and a gossip.

I didn’t go.  The weather was dodgy.  Trains, all over the place.  I gave it a miss.

It was only when I read the story of the surgeon who walked six miles to get to work to perform an operation, that I felt a bit of a wimp.

By the time I’d heard about the community nurse who had put in a fifteen hour day walking from patient to patient, thought waist deep snow… I’d deferred another trip into London.  The trains were delayed, late or cancelled.  I felt I should have walked.

Then I read it’s the worst week in the history of the NHS.

So… what makes people do these amazing things?  Part of the answer… resilience.

There’s a lot of talk about resilience.  In the NHS I think it might be defined as

‘…putting up with all the ordure that comes with working in the NHS but still finding reasons to get on with it.’

There’s a lot of misunderstandings about ‘resilience’.

  • You are either resilient or you’re not.  Not true… 
  • You either get it or you don’t.  Wrong…  
  • Resilience is about ‘bouncing back’.  No…  
  • Resilience is being invulnerable… wrong again.

I think it is five things.

What strikes me first; so-called ‘resilient people’ have a strong sense of purpose.  They understand themselves, know what they want to do and get on with it.

The nurse and the doc, battling though the snow didn’t do it for the glory of the NHS, or the reputation of the Trust.  They did it because they’re a nurse, a doctor and understand what it means and why they want to do it.  It comes from a place you can’t see, or influence.

The second; understanding your emotions.  

It would be easy to be cross about the lack of 4×4 transport, not enough staff, poor communications, lack of resources.  Resilience starts with understanding its OK to be cross but knowing the outcome is more important.

Third; the ability to see from a helicopter view. 

Stand back.  Once you have a perspective, you have a better understanding of problems.  The more you understand, the greater the number of possible solutions appear.  Resilient people change what they can change and get on with what they can’t.

Fourth; this is strange…  

 …all the really resilient people I know are fit and healthy.  They take holidays, eat well, live life to the full and find things to enjoy.

Finally; resilient people know other resilient people.  

You are who you hang out with.  They are networkers, join in, do stuff.  They share and compare. 

As I write, the snow is increasing its grip.  

Creeping closer to the vulnerable.  Distorting our view of life, bringing a quiet, deceptive beauty.  The reality; it is a sinister grip.  

It also changes us.  Neighbours become neighbourly.  Residents open their doors.  Employers see staff doing things they could never ask them to do.

How do employers encourage resilience?  

They can’t.  Anymore than any of us can make the crocus peep through the snow.  When it happens we stand back and admire it… but, there are things we can do to create the right environment.  The right, fertile conditions.

What does that mean for an organisation?

  • We can celebrate success, however small.
  • Be transparent about the organisation’s problems,  Turn them into learning experiences and ask for solutions.  
  • Create a positive image for the organisation, as member of the community.  Open the doors and facilities to clubs, groups and kids.
  • Develop realistic goals that the people who are trying to deliver them, have a say in setting.  People are ambitious… trust them.

When things go wrong, position them in the history of the organisation.  Put them into context.  Show the last time things went wrong, what was learned, what changed for the better.

It is important to understand the unique role public service has in our lives.  You and I know there are some rotten employers in the NHS.  Selfish boards and bully-managers.  Gutless executives.

… but there are fabulous people doing the actual job…  

Resilient managers; trusted enough, reliable enough, deliver enough, visible enough, care enough… join in.   


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Reproduced at by kind permission of Roy Lilley.