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Resilience in the eye of storm - Purposeful Direction

October 13, 2017

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Episode 6: Belief

November 20, 2017

Resilience is a hot topic these days for leaders, teams and the individuals within them. And is it any wonder when you consider just how much uncertainty and challenge the world and markets continue to create, as well as the pressurised lives we all lead?


As a skipper of a team taking part in the BT Global Challenge Round the World Yacht Race, it was one of the most important factors that not only kept us on the racecourse and in one piece, but also competitive with the best in the fleet. Now as a motivational keynote speaker, I’ve made it my mission to share what we learnt, as it’s not just about being tough minded as most people think. We identified 8 distinct factors that need to be in play to remain resilient.


Building on the first 5 episodes here’s episode 6 that talks about the importance of having ‘Belief’. To see the previous episodes, click here



So why is belief the 6th factor? Well, belief is about having trust, faith and confidence in our abilities, and it’s crucial to have that when faced with difficult or challenging circumstances as it allows us to confront them with vigour. Without belief, we can quickly doubt our abilities, leading to anxiety, fear and a muted response that’s often not sufficient to overcome the challenge ahead leaving us weak and vulnerable. And for those of us in leadership positions that can be fatal. Because if we don’t believe we can do something then very quickly those around us won’t think they can too, exacerbating the problem.


In the Global Challenge, belief was crucial, especially when you consider the nature of the crew volunteers who are taking part being total amateurs and the challenge they were undertaking. These were ordinary people trying to achieve an extraordinary thing, so it’s not like sailing in some of the toughest conditions on the planet for long time periods was the norm for them. Which is why the training was carefully designed to build belief in their own abilities, slowly but surely stretching them to take the next step until they felt proficient at sailing in pretty much any conditions after an intensive 4 weeks. The rest they would learn by doing.


 That said, having confidence in their own abilities was just one part of what they needed to feel confident on board. Another part was having belief in the team. We all knew that no one of us could sail this boat around the world but we all hoped that collectively we could. And that team confidence was nurtured over many a training session out on the water, through team building exercises that helped to build trust between us, and by having an aligned view about how we were going to tackle the race that made sense to all. One of the big things that helped were our team values, that all had input in creating. They were simply stated as ‘Safe, Happy and Fast’ and morally they felt right, and were a good signal to the crew that this was about striking the balance between doing well in the race, having a good time and keeping everyone in one piece which also gave people confidence.


The final part was having faith in me as a leader. And considering I was one of the youngest and least experienced that might have been a challenge, had it not been for the fact that I was well known to all the crew having been a training skipper for the two years leading up to the race. And training took part out of Plymouth, UK in the winter months, meaning that we’d regularly be out their battling gale force winter storms with the new recruits. My ability to do that month in month out gave them faith, and to be honest it was also the making of my own self belief that I could take on this race.


So, there’s no doubt experience helps build trust and faith in us and others. If we’ve done something before and we were ok then we’ll be confident to tackle it again. But sometimes we need to remind ourselves of that, especially if we’re facing something that’s on a whole new level. And so it was as we stared down the barrel of leg 5, an epic 42-day leg that stretches some 7200 miles the wrong way through the southern ocean from Sydney to Cape Town.



As we neared the start I could see the crew getting more nervous, wider eyed, drier mouthed, sweatier palmed, not helped by the talk on the dock and everyone winding each other up about just how bad this was going to be. So, in the briefing session I confronted it, making sure I was a picture of calm. “There’s nothing we can’t handle on this next leg” I said, “just as we have on every other. We’ve been through hurricanes and many a storm as fierce as we will encounter, it’s just that we’re going to go through more of them in a row. So, we’ll take them one at a time, make sure we’re prepared, look after each other, sail safe, happy and fast and we’ll all be just fine.” The lift in the mood was palpable.And throughout the leg I was always mindful of what words were needed whenever I addressed the crew. To have them believe in themselves and the team and the progress we were making.


So that’s why belief is the 6th factor. But what if I encounter something new I hear you say. What do I do then? Well, have a look at the tips below that will help build or re-build belief in you or your team:


Top Tips to help you build belief


  1. Think of the times that you’ve overcome previous challenges to remind yourself just how much you’re capable of.

  2. Find a ‘loving mirror’, someone else who believes in you even if you don’t to offer encouragement.

  3. Break the task down into key stages so it’s not such a mountain to climb

  4. Tackle the task one stage at a time, starting with the easiest stage first to build confidence.

  5. The only way out is through. So, take a deep breath and dive in.


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Leadership in the eye of the storm

Contact  Mark

River View, Brook Avenue, Warsash, Hampshire, SO319HN

© 2017 Mark Denton/MAXVMG LTD

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