Don’t assume your new CEO will be successful. Insure it.

What I learned from talking with Dr. Ty Wiggins

“My reputation grows with every failure”, said George Bernard Shaw. 

That’s great George, but what kind of reputation was it?

One of my key areas of interest is the topic of leadership transitions, why so many fail and what organisations can do to increase the success of new leaders transitioning into organisations, particularly at CEO and other C suite roles. McKinsey’s define a transition as the period (which can last up to 18 months) after an executive has assumed his or her new C level responsibilities. A successful transition is defined as when that C suite executive has aligned and mobilised their organisation to the rating of “very well” to the objectives (as agreed with the Board) and have met their remaining objectives “well” or “very well”.

Yet, studies put the failure rate at between 25-50%. Internal hires, in general, fail at a rate of 20-30% and this rises to 50% when expatriate appointments are included. Failure most often occurs at or before the 18-month mark.

When you consider the obvious cost of an appointment to this level such as recruitment, international relocation, transport, housing and accommodation, school fees and/or other benefits, the cost of failed leadership transitions is enormous. In general, the cost is deemed to be between 2-3 times the executive’s total remuneration package. This is only the start as it does not account for the hidden expenses including the time and focus of the organisational resources at both home and host locations. So when the assignment fails it is a significant expense for the organisation. It has been suggested that for senior executives whose base salary is above US$250,000, the cost of a failed expatriate assignment can be up to 40 times base salary. Ty, shared in our conversation an example of a failed CEO transition that led to a total cost in the hundreds of millions. Yes, that was hundreds of millions of dollars!

Dr. Ty Wiggins completed a PhD examining what enables and inhibits successful leadership transitions and now leads a global practise for Russell Reynolds in this space. In his research, he found that 70% of the organisations studied had no formal onboarding process (read transition process) for their senior leaders. Of the ones that had a formal process, only 35% were rated as effective.

What is remarkable, is that his and other research has shown that organisations with effective onboarding programs have 2.5 times more revenue growth and 1.9 times greater profit margin than those without transition programs in place.  The research also shows that newly appointed C level leaders who are effectively supported in their transition do achieve full productivity two months quicker than those who do not. If your most senior leaders are competitive advantages, this is a lot of advantage!

Organisations with effective onboarding programs have 2.5 times more revenue growth and 1.9 times greater profit margin than those without transition programs in place.

So, Ty what is a leadership transition failure?

A failed C level appointment, at a professional and developmental level, is defined under three categories:

  • the executive is deemed to have not performed adequately and leaves the organisation.
  • If the leader was promoted internally, the assignment is ceased early, and the executive is recalled home; or
  • the executive is returned to their original position upon the end of the assignment;

One startling statistic from his research was up to 40% leaders had left their role within an 18-month period.

Ty says that organisations don’t know how to think through what makes an effective transition support program or have the internal resources to do so. Often any support is of generic kind and not tailored to the leader. With that the psychological contract that was established during the recruitment process is undermined. The leaders in his research shared with Ty, the lack of an onboarding program or any structured transition support was a major disappointment and caused many of them to second guess their decision to join the organisation. They had been looking forward to joining and were often promised help on their way into the organisation, but that was not their reality.

What does transition support look like?

I previously co-wrote with Carole Field, a series of books called Foreigner In Charge, which were written for expatriate leaders taking on new roles in new countries. In our research we had identified similar findings to Ty’s – that organisations were poorly equipped in offering successful leadership transition support. Our research suggested organisations offered:

Little or no support
The organisation provides very basic relocation, transport, accommodation assistance and basic information about office logistics. This satisfies the basic, short-term transactional needs and rarely goes beyond the first week after arrival in the new role. Think of this is basic onboarding and nothing else!

Cultural support
Many organisations offer short programs on explaining the cultural differences between the new country an expat leader is headed to and their home country. The family of the executive are often included. While most executives are grateful for the information, many comment that it is while learning to lead the organisation over the ensuing three, six and twelve months that they really start to understand the new country culture. For leaders joining an organisation within their current country, culture can still trip people up. Understanding industry and company culture remains a key hurdle that inhibits successful transitions.

Role support
Executive coaching is a well utilised and known mechanism for supporting executives to transition into the role. Learning to elevate the level of thinking that needs to be employed, the level of leadership to the new position and the level of influence across the organisation is as much a nurtured and learnt framework as it is a natural ability. Many organisations support executives by providing an internal or external coach to work alongside them for the first three or six months. Traditionally an executive coach will focus on the role only and will not take into account the multiple transitions the executive is experiencing.

Onboarding versus Effective Leadership Transition and Integration
Onboarding should be a well-designed and thought through process designed to help leaders learn the behaviours, skills and knowledge to succeed in their new organisation. But most organisations, if they have an onboarding program, focus on the hygiene factors and logistics. “Here is your computer, your carpark, keys and there is the toilet”.

Effective transition support acts like an insurance policy for the organisation against executive derailment. Executive onboarding should be a distinct process to general employee onboarding, Effective programs are designed to address the critical areas of weaknesses for leaders, align their leadership style with the culture of the business, help develop effective relationships and optimise the most desirable skills for their new role.

Ty shared from his research that effective support includes increasing a leader’s understanding of the role demands, avoiding opportunities for the leader to make mistakes and decreasing time to productivity. It should also include reducing the chance of derailment, mitigating the risks of termination and the resulting costs of replacement. Stories of successful programs report the impact of the support helped those leaders build alliances with their teams, helped the leader develop a sense of belonging and provided support and feedback during the transition period.


“We hired these leaders because they are supposed to be great. If they are that good why is the transition to a new role so difficult!”

The research we conducted that led to the Foreigner In Charge books, suggested most of the reasons behind expatriate leadership failures were not because the leader was an expat, but was down to cumulative transition overload. That is to say, the leader was transitioning from one level of leadership scope to a higher level, was often moving from a functional speciality to a broader base leadership role, was moving to a new country with new languages, cultural norms and nuances and the family was transitioning with them. Cumulative transition overload.

Ty identified six key areas and challenges that are common in leadership transitions.

Taken from research by Dr. Ty Wiggins

In our podcast interview he shared some useful reflections for an incoming CEO/ C level leader to overcome existing cognitive biases, including;

  • What kind of leader does this organisation need me to be?
  • What does the organisation need of me that I have never had to do before?
  • What does strategic thinking look like here?
  • How attached am I to my ‘playbook’ and how do I write a new one for here?

Don’t be blind to your behaviours. Seek early feedback from new stakeholders

Ty also observed that people judge others by their behaviours and judge themselves by their intent. Therefore, there is a high probability that a new leader, keen to impress, will underestimate the negative impact of some of their behaviours. A classic example, Ty shared, is an example of a new C level leader cancelling a specific meeting without ever attending that event and not explaining their reasons why. They had good intentions (save wasted time for everyone) but all that was on show was perceived arrogance.

“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee”
Robert K. Greenleaf

Ty’s research suggests that a leader in transition to a new company needs to learn what behaviours did their colleagues in their previous company tolerate or compensated for them because the leader was well known and their intentions were understood. He suggests transitioning leaders ask the colleagues in the organisation they are leaving to help map out not just key strengths but also these weaknesses to assist in avoiding offence in a new role and organisation.

“It is not a numbers game; it is a transition game. Failure causes many ripples for many people. Mitigate the risk of failure!”
Ty Wiggins

How does a leader strategically increase their transition success rate?

Fail to plan or plan to fail?
One research finding from Ty is that women are twice as likely to avail of and use a transition plan than their male colleagues. Ty says, “using a transition plan is a significant promoter in transition success, even if they are completed at a basic level. This view is held by both the leaders and the organisations. Transition plans give the leader structure, task direction, prioritisation and deliverables. All of which increase the level of confidence that the leader is achieving”. When you consider the failure rates as outlined earlier in this article, why would a new leader not plan to be successful in their transition.

Don’t be a cheerleader for your former function or expertise!
Ty shared that one clear inhibitor to transition success was a lack of multi-functional experience, or a functional bias towards their specific skill set.  He says, “the lack of functional experience is an ignorance on how the other functions operate and deliver results, whereas a bias is where the leader favours a specific  function over others, typically the one matching their skill set and training. When leaders were given responsibility for other functions where they lacked understanding or possessed a bias, it proved difficult and inhibited their performance during the transition.

Bill was a very successful commercial leader in a healthcare organisation based in Midwest USA. His organisation had over 2500 sales orientated roles out of the total 3100 employee headcount. Bill was very orientated to being “a sales guy”. When he took on the CEO role of a smaller organisation, he completely ignored over 50% of the employees in his first year as he continued to index to his former speciality i.e. the sales function. As an R&D based organisation he learned, almost too late, that he had offended some of most important and influential leaders in his organisation.

Don’t assume success. Insure for success.
What struck me in my conversation with Ty, is that organisations spend a lot of money, time, resources, relational equity when hiring an outside candidate for an important role in an organisation, particularly a CEO or C level role. There are often very good reasons for doing so and ignoring internal talent for the same role. Sometimes particular skill sets are needed. Other times the ideal experience is missing in the organisation. And often a strategic culture or market orientated shift is needed, which is best done when the leader brings a fresh pair of eyes. Whatever the reason, hiring the best candidate from the available pool, does not mean that person will succeed. Far from it! Succeeding in a leadership transition is not a numbers game. It is a strategic transition game. And failure causes many unneeded and painful ripples. Organisations can stack the game in their favour and in the favour of the leader. Don’t assume success. Insure for it.

Download this article as a PDF

Don’t assume your new CEO will be successful. Insure it with Dr. Ty Wiggins

Leaders who move companies to take on more senior roles face many hurdles that can prevent their success. These transitions have high failure rates, ranging from 25-50%. Dr Ty Wiggins of Russell Reynolds specialises in assisting organisations put into place transition support mechanisms that ensure their new recruits, particularly at the C suite level, transition successfully.

We discuss;

  • Why leaders fail when transitioning to new levels of leadership,
  • What organisations miss out on when onboarding new leaders,
  • Why women use transition plans better than men,
  • Mistaking your bias from previous functional expertise as an enabler of success,
  • Why your previous employer’s tolerations of leaders gaps can derail future success,

and much more.

How to ensure your intentions have substance with Pádraig O’Tuama

Pádraig O’Tuama is a renowned leader, poet, philosopher, theologian, TEDx speaker and author of several books. In this very warm-hearted and insightful conversation, we discuss;

  • The space between intention and impact as a leader,
  • Ensuring your gestures have substances,
  • The poem, Shaking hands, which he wrote as a reflection on the event of Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and former IRA Commander publicly shaking hands in 2012,
  • The nature of conflict in organisations,
  • What he means by ‘the quality of fighting’,
  • and addressing the difficult question of, ‘what is my real position here?’

Changing the plot. Ensuring your intentions have substance.

What I learned from talking with Padraig O’Tuama on our podcast.

Shaking Hands by Pádraig Ó Tuama
27th May 2012

Because what’s the alternative?
Because of courage.
Because of loved ones lost.
Because no more.
Because it’s a small thing; shaking hands; it happens every day.
Because I heard of one man whose hands haven’t stopped shaking since a market day in Omagh.
Because it takes a second to say hate, but it takes longer, much longer, to be a great leader.
Much, much longer.
Because shared space without human touching doesn’t amount to much.
Because it’s easier to speak to your own than to hold the hand of someone whose side has been previously described, proscribed, denied.
Because it is tough.
Because it is tough.
Because it is meant to be tough, and this is the stuff of memory, the stuff of hope, the stuff of gesture, and meaning and leading.
Because it has taken so, so long.
Because it has taken land and money and languages and barrels and barrels of blood.
Because lives have been lost.
Because lives have been taken.
Because to be bereaved is to be troubled by grief.
Because more than two troubled peoples live here.
Because I know a woman whose hand hasn’t been shaken since she was a man.
Because shaking a hand is only a part of the start.
Because I know a woman whose touch calmed a man whose heart was breaking.
Because privilege is not to be taken lightly.
Because this just might be good.
Because who said that this would be easy?
Because some people love what you stand for, and for some, if you can, they can.
Because solidarity means a common hand.
Because a hand is only a hand; so hang onto it.
So join your much discussed hands.
We need this; for one small second.
So touch.
So lead.

Originally published in Sorry for your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013).
Copyright © 2013 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

To start with, I highly recommend you listen to Pádraig reciting this poem on the Leadership Diet podcast episode here (scrub forward to 11:06).

I don’t normally have poetry recited live on our podcast but this was a special occasion.

This poem was written as a reflection on the event of Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness, Leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and former IRA Commander publicly shaking hands in 2012. The Queen and McGuinness represented opposing sides of a long and bloody history of conflict. Shaking hands could not change the past but it signalled a possible, different future. This simple but loaded gesture was a signal of intention. It was not the final word but an excellent first word in demonstrating the intention of trying to move forward in a positive way. It changed the plot.

The gesture showed they were willing to personally connect with someone who was previously been regarded as the enemy. This was also risking the scrutiny of their own communities who are heavily invested in the past. By reaching out they were signalling that there is less need for fear and hostility than previously thought.

In the words of the poem:

“Because some people love what you stand for, and for some, if you can, they can.”

In a recent Leadership Diet podcast I spoke with the author of this poem, Pádraig ÓTuama This Pádraig (he has the same name as I do, but is far more skilled in so many ways!) is a poet, mediator, theologian, and a specialist in exploring language, power and in mediating conflict.

The conversation provided a powerful insight into the imperative for leaders to ensure their gestures have integrity to deliver the impact that matches the intention. It provides the opportunity for leaders to change the plotline of what is happening in their spheres of influence but to do so requires courage and vulnerability.

“‘Shaking Hands’ makes reaching out an imperative of leadership.”
HRH Prince Charles

The space between intention and impact

It is common that we judge ourselves by our intention, we judge others by their impact. A significant portion of development work that we do is focused on helping executives understand and bridge the gap between their intention and their impact.

In relation to this Pádraig cautions suspicion of gestures and the underpinning intention as they can be hollow. He says we need to measure the space between intention and impact. We have all created or been on the receiving end of situations where the impact of decisions and actions is way from what was intended.

Many leaders and organisations are guilty of demonstrating gestures or symbols in a half-hearted way. This may be to placate, be seen to be doing something, check a box. What a waste of time and resources! It is quickly obvious where there is no integrity, that the gesture is hollow and there is nothing tangible behind it. The impact is to leave a sense of distaste about the leadership and the leaders.

Merely claiming “it was not my intention!” does not abdicate responsibility for addressing the consequences. A more constructive and integrity-filled starting point is “whatever my intention – here is what it caused and now let me be accountable”. The gesture of making amends needs to be tangible, not just words. The leader needs to “take the risk of doing” in the hope this creates opportunities for further risks to be taken by themselves or others to bridge the gap between intention and acted upon impact. So, the test is “does the gesture have integrity to it?” Be aware that no one thing is ever going to be enough but it is a starting point from which things can be carried forward.

Changing The Plot Line

“We wouldn’t be doing our work if we weren’t fighting. The real question is ‘What is the quality of the fighting?’”
Padraig O’Tuama

“Conflict has a phenomenally predictable plot,” says Pádraig. It always trends toward each party seeking dominance.  Leaders have the ability, through their gestures, to change the plotline of the situations where they are a major player i.e., in a Board or Executive Team meeting or when acting as an organisation delegate. All of these circumstances will involve competing interests and conflict. 

Conflict has a bad reputation. Usually, because its energy and potential are not realised. Pádraig says “we wouldn’t be doing our work if we weren’t fighting. The real question is ‘What is the quality of the fighting?” There is not enough focus and process on enabling respectful disagreement and arguing well to make inroads to create dialogue.

This has to do with the intentions of the people involved and the environment in which it occurs. Quality fighting happens where there is no recourse to threat. Threat in the corporate context can show up as ostracising, ridiculing, isolating, withdrawing etc. This means we can tap into the creativity to come up with something that would previously have been unthinkable.

This requires creating dialogue. Quality dialogue starts with intention. Padraig says his experience in mediating long term and historical based conflict suggests It involves truthfully answers to the questions:

  1. What do I want?
  2. Am I committed to moving forward or am I committed to not moving forward?

What is my (real) position here?

Sometimes people are unaware of their positions. This lack of clarity can show up when people and teams get stuck. It is not uncommon that people in teams to be stuck on positions (these are usually dressed as intellectual debates) but it really comes about because people are committed to not moving forward. While they are declaring a public intention of wanting to move forward, they are holding a private position that is wedded for whatever personal, political, power or other reason, to remaining in conflict.

What to do? Be curious about how interested people are in changing the plot or is this just a theatre for you to say what they have been storing up to say?

“Be curious about how interested people are in changing the plot.”

Honest exploration the following questions can raise self-awareness.

  1. What will I do if this is resolved?
  2. What will I do afterward?
  3. Will my own people consider me a traitor?
  4. Am I much more used to the idea of maintaining the conflict than the possibility that it might move towards being resolved?
  5. How have I been benefiting from the conflict?
  6. What is my contribution to the conflict? For example, am I just by standing and as such, contributing to ostracising, humiliating or dominating of someone?
  7. What am I privately seeing as positive while the public negative is being felt from this conflict?

Facing your own resistance to the thing you are saying you want is painful – it hurts. It is one of the complexities to being human. Read the book, Immunity to Change, if this is of interest to you. Facing your own/ our own resistance is not about shaming people about hypocrisy it is about understanding the truth of where we are at so that we can be clear about what needs to be done to get to where we want to be.

If you would like to speak with us about how you can close your gap between intention and impact or change the plotline, we would love to hear from you.

Download this article as a PDF

Enjoying the ups and overcoming the downs of being a CEO of a very public organisation

Brian Hartzer has worked internationally with some of the most successful banks and financial institutions in the USA, UK, and Australia. In his previous role, he was CEO of Westpac bank. In this very open and transparent conversation, Brian shares:

  • What is it like to finally take the role of CEO in week 1,
  • How does a leader scale themselves across multiple geographies and hundreds of offices,
  • How do you communicate to 30,000+ employees?
  • What happens when a government regulator comes knocking on the door?
  • Preparing for a Royal Commission- how do you do that?
  • The notion of reputational trauma and how to overcome a tough situation as a leader,
  • His next steps.

Reputation matters!

What I learned from podcast episodes with Brian Hartzer and Warwick Fairfax

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. ”
Warren Buffet

Waking up to find the media camped outside your house. A swarm of journalists following you and hurling questions while cameras are thrust in your face. Having your life dissected by people you don’t know and they don’t really know you. This is the experience high profile people have when their reputation is being called into question sometimes from their own actions and choices and for others just as collateral damage. For others, it is a quieter, less public but no less painful, shameful experience. Regardless, the impact on the individual is the same, it is traumatic. They experience Reputational Trauma.

“he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”
William Shakespeare, Othello

Even if you personally never experience reputational trauma, chances are you will know someone who will. Every leader will face a humbling moment in their career at some point. In recent Leadership Diet podcasts with Brian Hartzer, former CEO of Westpac and Warwick Fairfax, as well as in working for more than 20 years with executives, it is not uncommon that as the responsibility and accountability increases in roles the chances of an event occurring where the executive is negatively judged for their actions (or inactions) resulting in a hit to the reputation is experienced. The impact of this hit can vary as can and the tangible consequences but what is often not recognised is the personal impact – reputational trauma. How they respond and learn from that experience can make or break their future personal wellness and their professional success.

Reputation is universal, applying to all things – individuals, families, societies, nationalities, products and organisations. It is a measure of standing and value but it is relative as while we can desire to have a particular reputation, it is others who will be the judges. It can be a gateway or a barrier.

While we can influence our reputation through our actions and behaviours, these are not the only elements others use to form their views. Other inputs include company communications, the views of others (regardless of credibility and legitimacy), media, personal experience. We have very little influence over these other sources so the only factors in our control are our deeds.

“Your reputation is in the hands of others. That’s what the reputation is. You can’t control that. The only thing you can control is your character.” 
Dr. Wayne Dyer

The impact of Reputational Trauma is the same as other traumatic events. It has physical and psychological impacts which can be overwhelming and devastating to the individual – impacting their quality of life for themselves, their families, and those around them.

Unlike the loss of a loved one, there are remedies available to address “injustice” associated with a reputational trauma e.g. financial settlements and apologies. While a hefty payout may be intended to cause pain to the guilty party, it does little to ease the emotional pain and suffering of the recipient. The work to restore physical and psychological wellbeing can only be done by the individual. 

While there is an increasing focus on restorative work in the other areas of trauma, there is little focus on Reputational Trauma. It is left to the individual to manage for themselves, for better or worse.

Through working and speaking with executives the following is a process that has been shown to be effective.

A process for working through Reputational Trauma

  1. Recognise this is an actual trauma and that it will have the same impact.
    The responses will not be rational, linear, or timebound. They need to be processed the same way as any trauma.

Emotional & psychological symptoms:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling disconnected or numb

Physical symptoms:

  • Insomnia or nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Being startled easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Edginess and agitation
  • Aches and pains
  • Muscle tension

“You can’t through an experience like that and not have any wounds or scars. It hurt.”
Brian Hartzer

  1. Give your body and mind time to rest and heal.
    Dealing with trauma, especially when public, takes a huge physical and emotional toll. This can take a few months to a year for your body and brain to adjust. This will not be rushed regardless of your own desire and sense of urgency. You will go through highs and lows. There will be bad days and better days and over time, the lows lessen and become less frequent.

As for grief, you’ll find It comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is, no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’II find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be Just about anything… and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and It’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ II come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’II survive them. And other waves will come. And you’II survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’II have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

An excerpt from an article by Tim Ofieli

  1. Reconciliation.
    Do this phase well requires objectivity – from yourself and from those from whom you seek insight. This cannot be done well until the mind and body are rested and healed. Again, it cannot be rushed and may take 6 months or more.It involves asking people to “tell me the truth about this” so I can begin to understand. At this time there is a high need to be heard and reminded of who you are outside of this trauma. Sometimes it is helpful to engage a professional at this time. You have been wounded in a way that even friends and family may find difficult to understand. Those close to you may struggle to support you effectively as their emotions are tied to yours. As much as they care for you, you may need more than they can provide.

    Your focus should be on coming to grips with the questions of:

    • What actually happened?
    • How much is about me and the things I need to learn an own?
    • What was my contribution?
    • How much is part of the randomness of life? The randomness can feel very personal at the time but it is with perspective and time it can be seen for what it is.
    • What stories am I holding about this that is no longer true?
    • What can I learn from this experience?

  2. Rebuilding.
    This is a time for reimagining the future. It is about exploring things that are genuinely interesting, dropping things that are not, setting a new agenda, and figuring out what to do next.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls your life…….”
Akshay Dubey

Support Strategies

Self Care:
Having a healthy body can increase your ability to cope with the stress of trauma. These things are within our power to manage. It is important to take control of what is within your power to support yourself.

    • Good Sleep. Worry or fear may disturb sleep patterns. However, lack of good quality sleep amplifies a negative state and makes it harder to achieve and maintain emotional balance.

    • Avoid alcohol and drugs. While it can be tempting to dampen or numb your state, their use can worsen your trauma symptoms and increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.

    • Eat a well-balanced diet. Fuel yourself well to maintain energy and minimize mood swings.

    • Reduce stress. Try mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Make time for activities that bring you joy – music, art, dance, craft, gardening, going to support your favourite team.

    • Move. Trauma creates hyperarousal and fear. Exercise/movement burns off adrenaline and releases endorphins which make us feel good and helps repair the frayed nervous system. Try for 30 minutes or more, of rhythmic exercise, most days. Or if it’s easier, three 10-minute spurts of exercise per day are just as good. Great options are walking, running, swimming, or even dancing.

Make an effort to maintain your relationships. Start with those who will treat you with kindness. Comfort comes from feeling engaged and accepted by others. You don’t have to talk about the trauma. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else. If you’ve retreated from relationships that were once important to you, make the effort to reconnect.

As well as helping others, volunteering or performing selfless acts can be a great way to challenge the sense of helplessness that often accompanies trauma. Remind yourself of your strengths and reclaim your sense of power by helping others.

Get help:
While you don’t have to talk about the trauma itself, it is important that you have someone to share your feelings with face to face, someone who will listen attentively without judging you.

In our discussion in advice to his younger self, Brian Hartzer said he would tell himself, “It’s good to desire to be wise but understand that the way to it is through the pain”.

If you feel you have trauma of any kind including reputational trauma then we recommend you consider speaking to a trusted friend, to a medical professional such as your family doctor or to a support organisation such as Lifeline or The Black Dog Institute.

Download this article as a PDF