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janette-lemonijanThe HR Director of First Data ANZ, Janette Lemonjian speaks with Barbara Jones of Executive Mandala about the effects of running the Building Resilience programme in First Data’s Australian operation.

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Q & A with Janette Lemonjian

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Much has been written about the effects of stress and complexity on our workforce today. More than ever in the history of business – and for that matter – in history generally, we are in a time of discontinuous change, a term coined by Charles Handy in 1994.

This means that we aren’t changing along a continuum, but are actually moving into a whole new paradigm. Whilst many would wish for things to go back to “how it used to be” that is not going to happen.

The new norm in which business now operates , is a norm which is beset with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And this can be stressful – and complex!

The search for a creative escape route from this recently acknowledged new norm has speeded up in recent times, with much being written about how best to equip our workforces – both leadership and staff in general – to deal effectively with such turmoil.

Many hours have gone into the writing of articles which put this issue fairly and squarely into the mental health space. And it is true that being unable to deal effectively with stress and complexity can be a key cause of anxiety and depression.

But access to creativity gets knocked out too at times like this.

Executive Mandala, a consultancy which specialises in Leadership Development, believes that the challenges brought about when operating in these high pressure contexts, offer opportunity to step into the Mental Growth space.

This is often referred to as Resilience, and the key element of mental growth and resilience is developing high levels of psychological insight – awareness of one’s own mental processes. Mind Strength Development is key to building this!

Developing psychological insight (psychological capital) is what helps people to get through tough times. When technically competent people can cultivate such insight/mental strength, they have a much better chance of dealing with both stress and complexity.

By being able to improve their ability to self-regulate their thoughts, emotions and behaviour, they can begin to enjoy a range of positive effects on their performance and their well-being. (See figures 1 and 2 below)

In 2013, with a strong recognition and appreciation of the need to incorporate such capability building into each element of their leadership development service offerings, Executive Mandala launched a new line of business within which specific services in this area are offered.

This relatively new line of business carries the trademark of Executive Mind Centre.

Fig 1. Core and secondary processes linking Mind Strength Development to self-regulation:

Core and secondary processes linking Mind Strength Development to self-regulation

Fig 2. Potential Effects of Secondary Processes of Mind Strength Development on Performance and Well-being.

Potential Effects of Secondary Processes of Mind Strength Development on Performance and Well-being

Since 2013, First Data Resources Australia have been running Mind Strength Development programmes for their people. These programmes were introduced initially as part of an overall change programme, and were offered to all levels throughout the organisation.

The take-up of this non-mandated 8 week programme was good, and after the first few programmes were run, word got around, and others were keen to participate. The programme was named Building Resilience.

Janette Lemonjian, HR Director of First Data Resources Australia wanted to give to the staff going through the change process a programme which was genuinely “for them.”

She wanted to give them skills and knowledge which would equip them to not only perform more easily within the work environment, but competencies which would support them in their broader life context.

Barbara Jones, Director of Executive Mandala recently talked with Janette about the programme, and what she believes the benefits have been for First Data people. Here is an extract of Janette’s interview with Executive Mandala.

Executive Mandala: 1. What had you hoped for when you commissioned the 8 week programme for First Data people?

As with many organisations, we were experiencing continual change which in turn was contributing to concerns for our culture locally. We were seeking answers as to how to build organizational resilience and to support our people to see the bigger picture and stay the course.

We believed it was critical to bring people on the journey of change with us, whilst building their personal fortitude and perspective.

More specifically we were targeting a program that provided:

  • Improvements in performance / support for the decision making process, both at work and in one’s personal life;
  • Maintain or improve one’s personal motivation and morale;
  • Support recovery or coping mechanisms for dealing with the stressful times more readily;
  • Develop robustness to withstand pressure, and improve concentration; and
  • Cope more effectively with change, and/or potential frustrations or disappointments.

Participant Feedback…..

‘The course allowed me to think more clearly and take responsibility for my own mood, performance, happiness and wellbeing……’

Executive Mandala: 2. Have your hopes and goals for the programme been achieved?

Absolutely! Based on our past experiences with Barbara and her team at Executive Mandala we sought her counsel and she suggested a reasonably new concept that focused on building inner strength, trained the mind and provided coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s pressures and in so doing, effectively building stronger resilience.

We were intrigued by the concept and so with our interest sparked, we sought input from our people, running several focus groups to gauge their interest and acceptance of the concept.

Feedback was resounding, with focus group participants all joining the first program, and acting as ‘resilience champions’ back into the organisation, their teams and with their peers. Results spoke for themselves

Participant Feedback…..

‘the course is a life skill, not purely focused on work, and has far reaching benefits for relationships with partners, children, friends and colleagues’ confirms we hit the target.’

Executive Mandala: 3. Describe some of the outcomes for both individuals and First Data if you can.

A key outcome for the organisation has been the ‘buzz’ created through delivering something new and completely outside the square, not only developing the employee, but also strengthening the ‘individual’ within.

Immediately following the initial 8-week program news was out and we had a waiting list of participants eager to start. But in reality for the program to be successful it was essential people were committed and ‘signed on’ for the entire 8 weeks, which we understood was a considerable commitment of their time.

So with the full backing of our leadership, we agreed to ‘share’ in the commitment, meaning if the individual gave an hour of their personal time per week, the organisation would do likewise, and hence we had full participation for 2 hours each week…….

Participant Feedback…..

‘It has made me think a lot more about my emotions and that I (me personally) have the choice on how to react.’

Executive Mandala: 4. What approaches/practices were of most benefit to you and your people – at work – at home?

Based on feedback we’ve collated over the programs run to-date, key benefits are noted as:

  • Learning mind strength techniques providing tools to maintain equilibrium, focus and calmness
  • Allowing oneself the ‘freedom’ to make personal choices ‘on how’ to react
  • Gaining an appreciation for the ‘impermanence’ of a situation and how to navigate through the ‘now’
  • Permission to call ‘STOP’ and take a minute to think about how one’s reactions impact others

Participant Feedback…..

‘In times of change when stress levels are higher it is really easy to work in fast forward and let your emotions take a front seat………..rather than taking a minute to STOP and think about how I’m going to react…..’

Executive Mandala: 5. Have people been able to sustain these practices? How has that shown up in the workplace?

Whilst sustainability of these practices is largely up to the individual, I can say we’ve noticed a greater degree of tolerance amongst past participants. With them understanding there is a bigger picture at play and they have a choice as to how they will react or engage.

Participant Feedback…..

‘The course allows me to put things in perspective and have a more pragmatic approach to work.’

Executive Mandala: 6. Where there any pitfalls along the way? What were they? How were they overcome?

Really the only pitfall has been – how to support the ongoing development or practise of the mind strength learnings. As with all learnings, practise makes perfect and the application of new found skills is essential in order to embed them and have become part of one’s personal resource tool kit.

Participant Feedback…..

‘…….it doesn’t however just happen overnight, so you need to practise’

Executive Mandala: 7. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about the Building Resilience project overall?

Once again our engagement with Executive Mandala has been exemplary and throughout the process we’ve felt we’ve been working with a highly experienced, knowledgeable and supportive partner.

Personally, I found the entire initiative extremely fulfilling as an HR leader, essentially in the knowledge that even through these challenging times, we’ve identified a new and exciting opportunity to support our people as they deal with their daily pressures, both at work and home, and ultimately strengthen their minds and thinking. And there’s a waiting list of eager participants again this year………………

Further information;

Contact Barbara Jones, managing director of Executive Mandala

on 0411 517 186 or email Barbara.Jones@executivemandala.com.au

OR Simon Mundy, senior associate of Executive Mandala (leader of Executive Mind Centre)

on 0427 405 832 or email Simon.Mundy@executivemandala.com.au

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