Event Review – Charlie Cannon (C2 1990-95) “Building Resilience in Uncertain Times”

“I was thrilled to be asked to review Charlie’s session, firstly because I thought it was a great session with huge relevance to our ‘Covid’ world. Secondly, having spent 30 years with large companies both in the UK and internationally working with many consultants, it’s refreshing to come across someone as obviously enthusiastic and wanting to share his learnings as Charlie.

The session was titled as ‘Resilience in Uncertain Times’ with the objective of building our awareness of the topic, sharing recent learnings and giving us some practical tools. Charlie was also keen for ‘interaction’, potentially a tough ask on zoom with 60 plus participants on a topic that could veer into areas of personal sensitivity.

I felt Charlie set the session up openly and transparently sharing his own journey of building resilience. He particularly shared how despite significant sporting success he struggled with feedback and the clearly devasting consequences of a near fatal car crash involving his sister. This introduction drew me into the session and built a feeling of credibility and authenticity.

The first part of the session asked us to think about ‘Degrees of Resilience’ and specifically to reflect on what resources are at our disposal to support ourselves through change and Charlie gently pushed us into using the chat function. Most of the answers were things I would have considered but I found it helpful to know a group pf peers were thinking along similar lines. I was quite struck by the number of mentions of ‘values’ and ‘faith’. Yoga was also a theme!

Charlie then used a number of models to draw out practical points for example, a ‘Degrees of Control’ model and an ‘In/Out of box’ approach. The tools themselves were not necessarily revolutionary but what stood out for me was Charlie’s focus on giving the listener something to work with and use. His key underlying philosophy (which I found refreshing and inspiring) is that resilience can be learnt and developed, it takes practise but our underlying physiology and behaviours can change. As an aside, after the session, I used one of the tools (VUCA) as a framework to support planning with an executive team and it helped us find a way through a very uncertain funding situation created by C19

He then shared from his research with elite athletes and large organisations, as to how our sense of control can be impacted by ‘self-talk’ and ‘negativity bias’. One fact that stayed with me, is that of potentially 60,000 thoughts in a day, 80% are likely to be negative.

In the subsequent Q&A we talked about how to support young people through these times, particularly as they begin to look for first job opportunities. Charlie emphasised the importance of the narrative we build around young people – there will be more uncertainty and rejection but to see this as part of the journey and not failure. One parent summarised this as wanting her young people to come through this period with ‘grit, resilience and compassion’. As ever, our discussion was eclipsed by an older OM , who shared that at 79 yrs he had reached his personal gliding best of just below 30,000 feet in New Zealand, having taken up gliding on retirement at 67 yrs with no previous experience!

In summary, Charlie did what he set out to – gave us a lot of relevant information about how to personally develop resilience or support others include teams or boards and got us engaged on zoom. The stand out for me was the energy, enthusiasm and personal insights he bought to the topic. If you or a work group are dealing with a lot of uncertainty, I would strongly recommend reviewing the sessions for some ideas.”

Pippa Greenslade (LI 1981–83)