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TAP 30 | Stress Resiliency

 

Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t get stressed. Everyone gets stressed. Some people are so used to being stressed that they don’t even know that they are. Join your host, Brian Powers, and his guest, Prash Kotecha, on how to build resilience against stress. Prash is the Owner of Stress To Success, where he coaches leaders to optimize their lifestyle. Especially in these uncertain times, people need to be able to deal with stress.  Prash helps them reframe, recalculate, and recover so that they can achieve success. Learn how to convert your stress to success and practice resiliency today.

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Building Resiliency To Convert Stress To Success With Prash Kotecha

Welcome, Prash Kotecha from Stress To Success. It’s good to have you here. Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Firstly, thanks, Brian, for having me on this interview series, which is needed more than ever at the moment. What I do is hinted at in the name of the business, Stress To Success. Stress To Success is a boutique and specialized consultancy that offers coaching, training and consulting in the areas of wellbeing or wellness, stress management, conscious leadership and emotional intelligence. It’s that magic bundle of stuff that we feel is hitting the mark and addressing the needs, especially in the head and the heart space when it comes to organizations, whether they’re large scale corporates, SMEs or SMBs, as you would say, around the globe.

It’s something that speaks closely to me because I come from a corporate background. I’ve seen firsthand how stress can ruin people’s lives. It nearly took me out. One of them was the life scare and twice I had major life-threatening health issues around my life. In my corporate career, which is based in the UK but working with firms around the globe. JPMorgan Chase, Barclays Capital, a lot of finance firms, technology firms like Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett Packard and a whole bunch of others in between. It took me a journey around many places around the world where I found myself working crazy hours and trying to achieve unrealistic deadlines in order to meet the expectations of unreasonable people located all over the world.

That was a great trial by fire to learn how to deal with things, whether it was getting coffee thrown at me by traders on the trading floors in London when I was a tech guy or managing projects for HSBC and delivering global rollouts. They’re doing business transformation and then getting C-Suite shouting at me. It taught me a lot about the human mind, how stress and productivity play off against one another when it takes a toll on our health. For me, the big thing is taking people from stress to success, helping to build resilience, productivity, strengthening the EQ or EI.

Emotional Intelligence is a lot more important than IQ. That’s truer, especially for leaders and future leaders of the world. That’s the space I operate in. I’m bringing those years of corporate wisdom into this coaching and training space where we can hold space for all kinds of people, teams, individuals and leaders to help them on their journey. I equip them with this special mix of stuff, which we feel is the competitive advantage and a climate, especially like this pandemic that we have.

Stress and productivity play off against one another when it takes a toll on your health. Click To Tweet

You couldn’t be more right, Prash, in the sense that I feel like stress is still at an all-time high, whether it’s business and even personal. They both come together. We’re all working from home at times. There’s stress there, but the work stress is still on top of us. What you want to bring is how to be resilient. As we get back to normal and things start to open up, how can we take this time to transform and not go back to old ways of being stressed out? How can we be resilient in the workforce and then also at home?

That’s a necessity, Brian. You hit the nail on the head. We are at that melting point where individuals who are facing stress in the workplace take that stress home and it plays out in their family life. I say, “Take that stress home.” Let’s face it. Taking the stress home is the difference between the bedroom and the home office. That’s your commute for a lot of people. When you are working in an environment with your family and you’re trying to ring-fence stuff, it’s easy for stuff to bleed out and the family stuff to affect the work stuff and vice versa. We see this because there are a lot of the people that we’re working with. Even in the group training, we have some of our group participants openly raise their hand and say, “I got this issue. My kids are driving me nuts. I’m trying all the jobs here. My boss is super demanding because half of the team has furloughed, so we got twice the pressure. I still got to perform and do two people’s jobs. I got these kids. The kids aren’t going away. I can’t furlough my kids.” Probably they thought about that at one point.

The kids are learning from home. We’re working from home. It’s a new environment to get used to. Even if it was smooth, it’s still going to bring stress around it.

I’m going to be a little controversial. Part of the problem here is I would challenge you if you’re reading this to even tell me what your stresses are. Here’s what I mean by that. A lot of people don’t even realize how stressed their body or mind is. They go by symptoms, but some people are so used to playing at a certain level that they think that level of stress is the norm or for some, worse, they consider it some kind of strange badge of honor that they can handle that level of stress. Unfortunately, I’m a living proof of this. I can’t even count how many people who I’ve worked with who can also attest to the fact that when they did not recognize their stresses because they were playing at such a high level or how they thought they were playing, but all the problems were building up underneath. They’d missed the warning signs.

Building our personal resilience for me is just as important as anybody who wants to build their business resilience. In fact, the two are synergistically connected. You build a great business, but if your stress levels are high and your internal health isn’t right, then that’s going to play out in your business. It’s going to spoil your business, your relationships, reputational damage, performance damage, team impact, poor engagement if you’re a leader. All kinds of things start happening. By the same token, if you’ve got good personal resilience, even if you’ve got a flagging mediocre business resilience and business performance, that can improve because you’ve got your base right. Your base is you. You are the asset of your business right here. Every member of your team is an asset to that. That’s where the effort wants to go. We need to make sure we shift sufficient emphasis on our personal resilience as much as this series that you’re running. This awesome series looks at business resilience across the board as well.

How can we take this time coming out of this? This isn’t going to be forever. Let’s take it as a reset on how we can come out of this better than what we were going in and maybe shedding some of the stress that we picked up during it. That’s the truth. Maybe let’s talk a little bit about how can we be resilient? You’ve got three Rs and some tips there.

TAP 30 | Stress Resiliency

Stress Resiliency: For the future leaders of the world, emotional intelligence is a lot more important than IQ.

 

I’d love to share with you that. If it’s okay, I’ve got a little deck that I prepared. I want to share and take all of you as readers through a couple of aspects of strategies that we employ when it comes to reducing stress and, in particular, building resilience. It’s one of the series of our Stress To Success at EQ Academy offerings that we offer in this area. I’ll take all of you through this. See if this hits a chord with some of you as we go through this. It’s The Inner Game of Resilience: Proven Keys to Building Resilience In and Out of the Workplace. I put a couple of things together. Let’s get a couple of definitions out of the way first. What is resilience? Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. You can see how that definition applies equally, nicely and appropriately to both business resilience or business recovery and business continuity as much as it can for personal resilience.

Tough situations occur on an individual level and on an organizational or a team level, but it’s about that recovering quickly. It’s about that bouncing back. That’s what we’re talking about here. When you’re resilient, you’re able to handle stress and effectively utilize change, create solutions. You’re able to better manage your energy. You’re able to ride the waves as they come because the waves will come, the internal factors, internal, meaning health, mental, emotional, physical health and the external factors, threats from other competitors, regulatory challenges. Brian, we’ve been in the corporate world. You get these things. If it’s not the regulators, it’s the competitors. If it’s not the competitors, it’s some federal thing, whatever it is. To be able to ride those waves requires a certain degree of resilience. I want to share a couple of strategies on the personal front that are going to help.

This key strategy I want to share is called The Three Rs Resilience Formula. It has three parts, reframe, recalculate and recover. I’m going to take you briefly through this. Hopefully, some of this will strike a chord and you can use it in your own life. Let’s look at reframe. This is the first of the three Rs in building your personal resilience, reframing your perception. Brian, let me say this. I’m sure you have as well, but we’ve both been laid off in roles in the past. Have you had times where you’ve been laid off and you said, “My life is over? That was my paycheck. That was this. That was that. I’m a failure?”

Have you had other times where the same things happen but you or somebody close to you who’s wiser than you, maybe your wife has said, “Brian, don’t worry about this? This is a blessing in disguise.” Before you know it, something amazing starts happening and a new opportunity opens up. What we’re talking about there is the incident is the same. The trigger is the same. You’ve lost your job. You got laid out, whatever it is, but your perception of it has changed. Instead of feeling down and out about it, you’re feeling like, “Maybe this was an opportunity.”

What we’re doing is we’re tapping into the mind’s perception. The mind’s power of choice is the power of choosing how to perceive what’s going on for us. When we start to strongly believe an idea, we got to recognize that our reality is based on our perception. What I mean by that is we don’t always see things as they are. We rarely do. We see things as we are. Our perception is king. If we can start to shift the perception of the incidents that are happening that are affecting our stress and attacking our resilience, then we can start to make a different choice. By exercising the power of choice, as in choosing to perceive it differently, then we can start to open ourselves up to different options that previously didn’t exist because we were disempowered. Reframing is all about shifting our perception from a disempowered state to an empowered state, a state where we’re able to make clearer decisions and take better actions.

It sounds so natural and easy, but it isn’t. You can work yourself into a ladder of not thinking in one way all the time, like constant negativity, especially with the world around us. It’s constant negativity. That I feel is like a repetition of having to remind yourself to be positive, to look at the positivity and things, reframe things or you’ll go down that road.

When you start to strongly believe an idea, you have to recognize that your reality is based on your perception. Click To Tweet

Let me offer this tip. Sometimes to reframe things better, you got to take a retreat. You got to step out of the situation, even if it’s briefly. If you’re in the middle of summer and you got to take a couple of hours out, maybe a couple of days out. What happens is when you shift your state, if you can’t reframe in the moment and you haven’t developed that reframing musculature, that reframing functionality, it’s okay. What you got to do is step out of the situation. Do something else. Play piano. Play with your pet. Help a colleague or coworker out with something that they got going on. What you’re doing is you’re temporarily discharging your cognitive capacity, which is limited. We all have limited brainpower. What you’re doing is you’re discharging that and taking the heat of the trigger away for a few moments, a couple of hours or 1 or 2 days. When you come back, you’re able to more clearly see the situation because you’ve had some distance from it. You’re able to reframe, see what it means to you and then you can apply the reframing. That’s the first of the three.

Here’s the second one. You’ve reframed the situation. You’ve decided that, “I got laid off. This competitor is coming in and moving in on this market. That’s bad news for me. If the competitor is moving into this market and you’ve reframed it to me that well, I got a bunch of people here who’ve got a whole bunch of skills in digital transformation that I’m not even properly using. There’s this big need over here because the government has released this initiative that allows digital transformation to get a whole grant.” I don’t know. Whatever it is. You’ve reframed your situation to say, “I can turn this into an opportunity. If my competitor wants to step into this place, great, let them take it. I’m going to switch myself around a little bit. I’m going to start up a small thing over here that’s going to focus on digital transformation.” You sized up. You got your reframe.

The next thing you got to do is recalculate your direction. That’s what you’re doing. It’s like the GPS on our phone. We got to recalculate where we’re headed. That’s what I’ve just described we’ve done here. You’ve done a reframe. You realized that, “The competitor coming into my marketplace here is not a threat. I can see it as an opportunity. The next thing I’ve done, I’ve gone and see is what the opportunity is. I mapped out the opportunity. The opportunity is that there’s this thing over here. There’s digital transformation that I can get into. The government’s given me a grant. There’s this whole other marketplace that we haven’t tapped into as a firm. We’ve been talking about it for years but maybe now is the time.” You looked at created opportunities through the reframing. You can look at your recalculation. “What am I going to do?”

Brian, what we do in our personal lives when we’re stuck with situations is we’ve got to do some internal mining. You’re going to mine for gems. What you’re looking for is you’re looking for lessons and opportunities to prove that you’ve been able to deal with this stuff before. When it comes to personal resilience and you’re feeling the heat but you’ve managed to reframe, what you want to go and do is you want to go back, look in your life and say, “I have this tough situation over there and I managed to overcome that. Maybe the skills that I learned from that situation, I can apply over here.”

You’re always looking to find those gems in your own past life, in the lives of your mentors, your friends, your colleagues, your family members. When you look around and when you look within, you’re able to find examples of people who’ve managed to achieve and overcome odds that you can take inspiration from in the heat of the moment and start to apply them to help you to recalculate your direction by the learning of the others or your own past life experiences. You create and set your new GPS goal, your new target, where you’re going to go.

I’ll add this here. Notice that when you start thinking about what alternatives could is, what I’m doing is I’m asking better quality questions. A lot of times, we’re so busy figuring out the answer to the situation in front of us that we forget the bigger picture and we forget to ask better questions. It’s like that. When we’re talking about recalculating our direction here, the second R for resilience is we want to ask better quality questions. Instead of asking, “Where do I go now?” Maybe the question you first want to ask is, “Why should I go in? What’s my why? Why do I want to go into any kind of direction?” Maybe you got to ask a why, then you go and do the what.

Stress Resiliency: Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties from toughness, to ride the waves as they come.

 

Starting to ask better questions will help you to set a better new direction to take that GPS, to recalculate the direction that you want to go. That can’t be done alone. When you’re trying to build your personal resilience, sometimes you want to lean into somebody, whether it’s your partner, whether it’s your colleague. Maybe you need to open up. Maybe there’s a lesson in vulnerability for you, especially if you’re a leader. One of the most desirable qualities of a leader is to be able to be vulnerable and show a certain degree of controlled vulnerability along with authenticity to your team, to your colleagues and your peers. Maybe this is the time for you to lean into that, even at home.

Often the husband or the wife is a leader. It’s hard to show that, “I’ve got stuff going on that I need to step outside of myself.”

Sometimes showing that, you’ll be surprised who can step up, help you and say, “Let me help you with that. Have you thought of this? Have you thought it that?” If you don’t have somebody to lean on, think about consuming information that allows you to take that approach. Listen to podcasts, read something that takes you in a different direction for a moment and helps you to think of alternatives. You can come back and recalculate your direction.

You and I have talked before about this meditation. Shut it down, even right in your office. Close the door. You’re trying to transition to something. For fifteen minutes, put the headphones in and it turns it around for you, whether it’s short-term handy to get this project done or I’m giving thought to a change, a pivot, a redirection. You’d be surprised at how it opens up.

This is such a crude example, but it’s the one that comes instantly to my mind. It’s like the restrooms at the office or the gym where you get the cleaning in progress “You can’t enter” sign. You’re so frustrated as hell because you want to go in. You need to spend $1 or $0.1 and you can’t. In fifteen minutes, the damn thing is closed. Imagine if that very cleaning never took place every day. Let’s say they never cleaned the restroom for 30 days in a row. You wouldn’t want to even go into that damn place. When we’re doing meditation, imagine, if you will, the meditation is that mandatory cleaning. None of the restroom but it’s cleaning the junk that sits inside right here. It’s the junk.

What is the junk? It’s everything we’ve been watching and hearing. The stuff that we consume is not just through our mouth. The stuff that we consume is through our ears and eyes that starts to program us, starts to condition us to behave, act, think, choose, decide in a certain way. All of that is in our mind. There’s all the negative self-talk. There are 80,000, 90,000 thoughts a day the human brain has on average. How many of those are negative? You bet your butt that a lot of those are negative. We don’t even realize because that happened subconsciously.

One of the most desirable qualities of a leader is to be able to be vulnerable. Click To Tweet

Imagine all that junk right here. Do you think that doesn’t need a cleanup once in a while? We know it does. I couldn’t agree more with Brian here. Meditation is excellent. I have that nickname, The Wellbeing Guy. One of the reasons why is because I chose to take my health back into my own hands. A staple has been meditation. I aim for twenty minutes, once a day, sometimes twice a day. I aim for something. There are many ways to do it. You can reach out to myself or reach out to anyone you know to do meditation. At the very least, switch things off. Unplug and give that time to focus on your breath. Any thoughts that come, watch them go past like an observer. It’s all you got to do. Don’t engage, just watch them go past. It’s hard, but the practice will help you to keep that internal restroom clear. When that’s clear, then clarity of thoughts, decisions and directions will start to appear more regularly and you will be able to recalculate your directions more powerfully in a more accurate way. That’s number two.

Let’s look at number three. It’s recover. This beautifully moves on right into the meditation space. A lot of us forget that not only do our bodies need relaxing and recharging. We know that or we ought to know that, but the rest of our mental, emotional faculties, our willpower, our intellectual faculties, all of these need some degree of rest. The third R in building our personal resilience is recovery. Make it a ritual. Is there ever a company or a salesforce in the world that doesn’t take a break and celebrate with a party, a night out at the bar or the pub at least once a month? Most firms have some set of, “Let your hair down. Let’s have a party. You guys achieved your goal. Let’s go out for a drink.” Everybody does that. That’s recovery. You’re recovering that.

When we talk about personal recovery, we’re talking about using our time and making it a ritual to do something. I don’t mean a ritual as in anything in a negative connotation. The ritual could be as simple as walking your dog. It could be as simple as taking your kids out to play ball if you’re not in a lockdown state. It could be that you go for a walk by yourself. It is something. What you’re doing is you’re creating a ritual that is centered around unplugging from your workloads and your personal demands, unplugging both of those.

That means the ritual typically involves no technology or if you’re using it, it’s technology that aims to fulfill a valuable purpose as in the case of podcasts, motivational videos or music on your device. Beyond that, it’s about unplugging, creating that ritual, whether it’s fitness, meditation, prayer, voluntary service, community service, caring for an elder or picking up the phone and speaking to those people that you miss for a while. All of these are ways that you can recover from the one-dimensional stuff that taxes our brains all day for our working life. That’s how we do. That’s recovery.

Athletes do it all the time. They don’t just play the game and game after game without a form of recovery. We all know athletes typically have off-seasons. They need that to recover and then go back. Whether you’re an athlete, a parent or a corporate leader, we all need that time to relax, recover and recharge. Those are three Rs to help you. There are so much more we could go into. Here I talk about the four pillars for building resilience. These are four key pillars that help to build our resilience. Normally in our trainings and even our one-on-one coaching, we take clients and teams through these. We get them to do an audit that you’ll see here. We collate the results. We look at what the scorecard is here. We try and assess how we can help them to personally implement the power of resilience building in their own routines and in their own lives. That’s how we do this.

Teams can do this together as well by sharing workloads, swapping tasks around, backing up for a team member who wants to take a day off. I’ve got clients who got five-day workweeks, but they just give a day off to each other. They covered it off with their manager and say, “We’re going to give this.” Plus, everybody gets a chance for a day off every time. If everybody’s got a bunch of crappy work to do like the sales guys and they’re handling a bunch of stuff they don’t like, everybody gets to take one day off from that and everybody else carries the can. It’s about smartly working to rebuild the resilience while you keep the show on the road. That was it for me.

TAP 30 | Stress Resiliency

Stress Resiliency: You should learn to ask better quality questions. That will help recalculate your direction to where you want to go.

 

I’m so passionate about working with people. We’ve worked with people in four continents. We’re in Europe, US, Australia and Asia. We’re having a great time working with people from these different places. With the cultural nuances, I’ve done diversity and inclusion training. I’m a man of color, but I work with people of all different colors, from very pale to very dark. I’m learning the cultural nuances from different regions as a part of how we deliver our training and what we do. If you want to reach out, reach out to me at StressToSuccess.co. Check out the website but easily just say hi on LinkedIn. I’m always around on LinkedIn. Go reach out. The team or I can come back. We can book in a call. It always starts with a call. I’m so old-school like that.

My music is old school, Brian. You know me. I’m an old-school 1960s and ’70s jazz and rock guy and a bit of Indian classical thrown in there. I’m old school when it comes to speaking. We go and have a conversation. Let’s see what we can find out for you and then work from there. If we can help, we’ll do so. We’ll look at doing training, coaching or even a one-off webinar, whatever your organization needs. With the size and shape, we can work out for you. We’ve also got a podcast. You know that. It’s Urban Spirituality: Wisdoms from the World of Metaphysics for Corporate and Businesses. Go check out Urban Spirituality on iTunes, Stitcher, Amazon and Google Podcasts.

We appreciate you sharing that with us if people want more. You’ve covered the three Rs of resilience. This series is going to touch on a bunch of different things, but I feel like this one is the most applicable to everyone based on everything that we’re going through. Even in a normal circumstance, there’s a layer of stress that needs to be taken off all the time.

This is just not the reserve of some feel-good HR kind of people either. I’m doing a talk for KPMG in the UK and we’re doing a talk all about areas that connect to wellbeing, personal care, meditation. We did a session for WeWork that was around wellbeing and resilience. It’s top of the agenda. The success of the corporate resilience, organizational resilience and continuity boil down to the quality of the resilience that people have. That’s why we’re focusing on the people side here. There are other experts that you’re interviewing who handle the other sides. Those things have to happen hand-in-hand in order to have the success that we want.

Thank you very much, Prash. We couldn’t turn anybody else for this information. We appreciate it. We’ll see you soon.

Thank you so much, Brian. It’s a pleasure. Be well. Good luck with all the endeavors that you are all doing.

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About Prash Kotecha

Prash Kotecha is an international Wellbeing & Conscious Leadership Consultant and Speaker and CEO of Stress To Success. He brings 25+ years’ corporate, peak performance and wellbeing experience having worked with the likes of HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, HP, Infosys and other global and local businesses as well as start-ups, reaching many tens of thousands of people globally through his events, retreats and podcast.

Combined with his longstanding corporate and business background, Prash’s longstanding experience in conscious leadership, wellbeing practices, peak performance, and emotional intelligence, has resulted in a unique style of coaching, training and consulting that blends unconventional wisdom with real-world pragmatism.

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