Peter Allen

Resilience: Q&A with Lydia Guthrie

In February 2019, we’re excited to be in London for a joint event on the topic of Resilience with our colleague, Lydia Guthrie, Co-Director of Change Point Ltd. Lydia will be talking about her work in this field, and we’ll be showcasing content from the new experiential, drama-based training programmes we’ve been developing together.

By way of little a ‘taster’ for the event, we caught up with Lydia for a quick Q&A. Hope you enjoy it. And, if you’d like to know more about February’s complimentary (free of charge) event, take a look here.

Hi Lydia, how are you looking forward to our Resilience event in February?

Hi Peter. I’m really looking forward to working with you and the team. I’ve admired Enact’s work for a long time, and it’s great to be joining forces with you for this event.

It’s an important topic. What does Resilience mean to you? And where does ‘bouncebackability’ fit in?

Resilience means a lot to me, and I’ve spent a lot of time researching it, writing about it, and helping teams and organisations to think about it. I first became interested in resilience when I worked in a very challenging environment in the criminal justice system. I was a manager, responsible for a team of people who did very difficult jobs, working with people who had committed serious offences. Each individual staff member showed their stress in different ways. Some talked a lot about their concerns, and approached me with lots of minor problems, whereas others told me they were “fine” but clearly weren’t! I learned that, for my team to perform well and to stay healthy, I needed to tune in to people and support them in ways which suited them.

I then did lots of reading about theories of resilience, including some studies of resilience in different work environments, and found that it’s rarely the actual work which causes long term difficulties for staff – it’s more to do with issues such as how the team functions, and how empowered people feel. I wrote a chapter about resilience in an academic book about the criminal justice system, and I am passionate about working with teams to build a resilient culture.

Bouncebackability is usually referred to as a person’s ability to recover from challenging situations. I like to think of it in a wider way – it’s how organisations support people to prepare for challenges, cope with them, and learn from them, in order to establish a positive culture around resilience.

Are there pitfalls companies need to avoid when seeking to increase Resilience?

Resilience can sometimes be thought of as a quality of an individual person – “Bob is much more resilient than Bill – he never complains and can cope with anything, but Bill’s a bit flaky”. This way of thinking can be appealing in the short run, but it’s much more complex than that. Individual factors do play a part, and we can all learn skills which are linked with increased resilience. And, an individual’s resilience will fluctuate over the course of our life – we all have times when we may struggle a bit with work due to other events in our lives, like bereavements or separations. The main lesson from research is that it’s important not to overlook the importance of organisational culture. Resilience is linked with organisations which seek to empower the workforce, and give them some control over aspects of the working environment. It’s not at all accurate to think of resilience as being just a quality which some individuals have and others don’t.

Resilience is just one of the issues your company, Change Point Ltd, works on. Tell us a bit more about what you do?

I spent 11 years working in the Probation Service, as a front line worker and a manager. Since 2009, I have been Co-Director of Change Point Ltd, with my colleague, Clark Baim. We design and deliver training which focuses on relationships, focusing on themes such as supervision, resilience, attachment theory, motivational interviewing and working with people’s strengths. We work mainly in social care, criminal justice, and health sectors. We also write books, and are passionate about supporting people to continue to develop their skills at work. I also do a lot of supervision of people who work in health and social care environments, and I’m training as a psychotherapist.

We’ve had a great time working with you creating new content. How do you like collaborating with others? We’re not fishing for compliments, honest.

I love collaborating! I’d much rather be working as part of a team than on my own. I love developing ideas with other people, and polishing them until they shine. And it means that I don’t get so lonely! 😊 The Enact team are great to work with, as you bring such experience and creativity to the work.

What do you make of the drama-based, experiential angle we bring to things?

Drama is a great way of helping people to learn. It really helps people to relate theory to their workplace, and to think and feel about how things might work in practice. And it’s fun!

So, what’s next? Obviously, there’s our event in February, but what else? What are you hoping for in 2019?

In 2019, I’m going to be focusing on finishing my systemic psychotherapy training. I’m also going to be delivering more training on attachment theory, and doing more work to support teachers in primary and secondary schools to build their resilience.

Sounds great. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Lydia. Have a fabulous Christmas and see you again soon.


Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who’s the bullying and harassment scariest of them all?

We’ve recently experienced a big increase in enquiries for our Bullying and Harassment awareness raising workshops. I don’t pretend to know what lies behind the change, but I do know that in drama we have a powerful tool to make real headway dealing with the issue.

Uncomfortable truths

You might think a drama-based learning provider is a strange place to go to get to grips with a challenging cultural problem like this. But it makes perfect sense when you consider the mix of characters, perspectives, and all that messy human behaviour and interaction stuff that plays out daily in the workplace.

When things aren’t going well at work, every day is a kind of drama; one in which the ‘actors’ struggle to break free from the roles they’re playing. What we provide with our dramatised workshops is a mirror that reveals uncomfortable, but nevertheless vital truths that enable people to start to make a change.

All of which fits with John Kotter’s explanation of the change process as, put simply, people see something, then feel something, then change as a result. That’s exactly what we see happening in our Bullying and Harassment workshops.

A drama in three acts

At the start of our workshops, even before any dramatised material is presented, we ask delegates two questions. Using our electronic polling system, we ask them which of a range of negative behaviours they have witnessed or experienced at work in the last year. After reviewing the results, which typically reveal that many behaviours are more common than you might think, we then ask everybody which of those behaviours they themselves have demonstrated at some point in the same period.

I won’t deny it can be entertaining watching delegates squirm as they reflect on their own behaviours, but what happens next is telling.  The results are always lower. It doesn’t matter who we’re delivering to; board members, senior leaders, managers, front line employees or mixed groups, I can guarantee many fewer delegates report having done any of the things listed.

Somewhat mischievously, we suggest that quite clearly most of the delegates in the room don’t need to be in the workshop. Then we ask them what else might lie behind this pattern of results. Eventually, someone always says words to the effect, ‘It’s easier to observe faults in others than it is in ourselves.’ This is undoubtedly true, and it’s an insight we build on.


Next typically (we design for each client so exact content varies) we invite delegates to watch a short dramatised scene in which they see a team member grabbing a moment with their line manager for a ‘quick word!’  On first viewing, delegates’ sympathies tend to be with the team member.  What they’re asking seems reasonable and the manager’s reply is curt at best.

We then introduce delegates to the manager. They get to question them and learn a bit more about them.  Having introduced some more context in this way, we revisit the dramatised scene again. But this time we show it more from the manager’s perspective.  Same lines, but slightly different body language and inflections.  The impact is striking and it’s amazing to process with the delegates how quickly you can have sympathy with another perspective.

This is how we gently introduce people to the notion, summed in Robert Evans’ quote, ‘There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.’ Or as we adapt it for delegates, there’s my world, your world and the ‘real world’. The real world is where we put the audience next; they become the outside eye, able to appreciate both perspectives, at least to some degree!

Learning into action

In our final slice of dramatised action, we show delegates a scene in which the characters exhibit a range of inappropriate attitudes and behaviours. Then, using stop-start (forum) theatre, we get delegates to explore how to challenge inappropriate behaviours when they observe them, as a bystander. It’s a safe opportunity for them to take what they’ve learned about what constitutes negative behaviour and about the different perspectives that are at play, and practise interventions to make a positive difference.

To be clear, we’re not saying the perpetrator or recipient of unwanted attitudes or behaviours don’t have a responsibility to do something about it. But in this exercise, we want to explore why and how we can all play a part in maintaining an inclusive working environment. In fact, we typically frame this and other parts of the workshop in terms of the organisations stated core values and behaviours, where they have them, so they become more than simply ‘words on a piece of paper’ (as one delegate memorably called them).

The end

Of course, all of this doesn’t stop negative behaviour in its tracks overnight. And we are always very clear with clients that our Bullying and Harassment workshop should never be a replacement for taking appropriate action with known perpetrators. It does, however, as our evaluation results show, increase organisation-wide awareness of what exactly constitutes unacceptable attitudes and behaviours. It also boosts delegates’ confidence to do something about it when they come across it. All of which helps explain why nine out of ten delegates see the workshop as a worthwhile session to take part in.

So, sad as it is to see requests for help with bullying and harassment rising, it’s really good to know we have a tried and tested means to offer practical, effective support.

If you’re interested to know more about our approach, feel free to get in touch. I can fill in the details, and we have video material and evaluation results we can share. Also, it’s well worth keeping an eye on our Events page for opportunities to catch one of our showcases.