When your organisation is responsible for safety and efficiency at the world’s airports, as Menzies Aviation is, it is vital that the people running your operations are operating at their best, and have effective tools to manage the stress that they encounter on an hourly basis.
Menzies recognises this, and for this reason, I was deeply honoured to be invited by their event partners, The Innovation Beehive, to run a Wellbeing Session as part of the Menzies Cultural Leadership Challenge in Spain this weekend.
The challenge brought together managers in a range of roles from across the globe, with people from Australia, Ameria and Europe. They had been working on a project to support SOS Children’s Village, a Spanish charity that supports vulnerable children, and in addition to fundraising and networking, they were engaged in a series of demanding physical challenges and fun team building activities.
I arrived towards the end of their time together, joining the group on Friday evening after they had completed a team building challenge,a competition to produce the best paella. The dishes were judged by the chefs at the restaurant we were eating in, and there was much good-natured competition between a group of people who had quite clearly bonded well as a group during their time together. As a vegan, I didn’t get to sample the team’s efforts (which all contained seafood of course), but I enjoyed the atmosphere and the evening enormously.
In the morning I enjoyed an early morning walk with Joe of the Innovation Beehive, in which we climbed over 200 very steep steps to stand at the top of a damn, where we chatted as we watched fish swimming, and a colony of vultures waking and stretching their huge wings! It was a wonderfully peaceful start to the day, and I reminded myself of the joy that comes from facing a fear and taking the action anyway (we were VERY high up, and that staircase we climbed felt very rickety!)
After a delicious breakfast, we prepared the room, and our wellbeing session began.
We talked about wellbeing, and what welbeing means to the people in the group. Ultimately, for most people in the group, it came down to happiness and balance in life. I invited the group to complete a ‘wellbeing wheel’, which helped the group to see which areas of their life were most in or out of balance with what they wanted them to be. This is always an eye opening activity – as one participant shared, you can know intellectually, but seeing it on paper makes you really stop and notice the parts that aren’t working so well in life. Having completed my own wheel during the session as well, I can certainly vouch for that.
Let it go!
We then went through a series of loosening and relaxing practices to release stiffness and tension from the body. As the group had been involved in some very physical challenges throughout the week, they were very glad of the chance to relax their bodies. After the jattis, the group reported that this itself had made a huge difference and that they felt more relaxed in body and mind.
These practices are very simple but powerful exercises that can release tension, reduce stiffness and increase flexibility in the body. When you do this to the body, you impact the mind as well, as a stressed, stiff body creates a stressed, stiff mind. Letting go of physical tension and stress relaxes the mind and creates a great sense of wellbeing. You can discover these practices for yourself in this ‘Loosen up at lunchtime’ 30 minute practice you can do during your lunch break or in the morning before you start your day.
BREATHE the stress away
After this, I introduced The BREATHE Method for Wellbeing at Work, a model I am creating based predominately on Yoga principles. I will be sharing more about this in coming months, but to give you a taster, here is the outline
- Balance – Balance of body, mind, emotions and spirit is needed for human health, happiness and effective functioning in the world
- Restore – We have a range of tools at our disposal to restore our equilibrium, and bring us to well-being when we are out of balance
- Eat, drink and be well – nutrition, hydration, and how we nourish our bodies and minds are essential to well-being
- Attitude – how we show up in the world, both to others and to ourselves, impacts happiness and well-being enormously, so is worth reflecting on and taking care with
- Time – we live as if we have infinite time, but really, we don’t, so it is important to be aware of what we do with our time and to use it wisely for health, happiness and growth
- Health – healthy body and mind is all. If you are healthy in mind and body, then all aspects of life become easier to manage and more joyful
- Evolve – how can we become better, in the way we live, the way we take care of ourselves and the world we live in, how can we grow and apply what we learn?
Throughout the session we talked about a number of concepts, both theoretical and how they relate directly to the issues that face managers in such demanding roles. Much insightful, inspired and eye-opening conversations were had, and I think that the team made some real breakthroughs in terms of how they will take care of themselves and their teams as they return to their regular lives.
We explored many other practices throughout the session, and ended with a 15 minute relaxation to allow the group to relax their bodies and minds. After the session we enjoyed a delicious ‘Wellbeing Lunch’ prepared by the hotel, and then I was delighted to be asked to spend some time working one to one with one of the team who was in some physical discomfort. We spent time on the hotel balcony, further loosening her body with the jattis, and working with Vibagha Pranayama, the basics of learning to breathe well. Again we ended with a long relaxation, and as she relaxed, I enjoyed watching some birds circling above, enjoying the peace, sunshine and scenery around me.
Getting my work/life balance
I returned to Madrid in the evening, and have spent a wonderful day exploring the Parque El Retiro, a wonderful place that felt so alive, buzzing with life and full of happy people enjoying the gorgeous surroundings and weather. I spent a wonderful few hours in the morning chatting with a South African lady, Lynnette, who was about to embark on a solo adventure on the Camino De Santiago, we chatted like old friends, it was beautiful to have such a great connection with a total stranger so quickly! After saying farewell to Lynette, and wishing her great adventures, I embarked on my one day Madrid exploration.
I could enjoy spending more time in Madrid, it is a wonderful city. I felt totally relaxed although very tired – a short lie down on my bed when I returned to my hostel turned into an hour and quarter sleep – my body clearly needed it, and I was glad to listen to it! I had walked a lot of miles in the Spanish heat, it was a wonderful day. I was overjoyed when Joe from the Innovation Beehive contacted me to tell me that my session had been talked about with great excitement after I left, and was still being talked about at dinner a full 24 hours later!
We recently worked with Esther on a Leadership programme we developed for emerging leaders from across the globe, for our client, Menzies Aviation. Recognising that stress, depression and mental health are key business challenges in every industry, we asked Esther to deliver a wellbeing session, to help our participants see how they can effectively lead themselves and others in a more holistic way.
Esther’s session was planned in accordance with the brief we gave her, but she was able to expertly adapt to suit the needs of the participants on the day. The session provided much food for thought for the participants, gave them valuable tools that they can take back to their teams and their own lives, and enabled everyone to relax and let go of tension and stress. Esther was professional while being warm, engaging and approachable and made all the participants feel at ease and safe in the space she created.
Mok O’Keeffe, Founder, The Innovation Beehive
How is stress impacting your company?
We know stress and poor health takes a terrible toll both on the wellbeing of individuals and on the organisations that employ them. We also know that healthy, happy staff perform better at work, are more loyal to their company, and take less sick leave.
To support organisations in achieving this, I offer a range of workshops and programmes to help businesses provide their staff with tools to better take care of their wellbeing so that they can perform better in their role and enjoy better health.
These programmes will teach very practical skills to manage emotional, physical and mental wellbeing, and will allow managers to learn and then disseminate the information to their teams. If you would like to know more, take a look here, and let’s arrange a time to talk about how I can help you meet your organisational wellbeing needs.