GUEST BLOG: When is relaxing not relaxing

Modern living can be stressful and tiring. So, it’s not surprising that many people are becoming interested in the topic of resilience. Resilience is often defined as the ability to rebound from setbacks, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity.

Beneath the mountain of ideas and life hacks around how to build resilience, there sits a basic premise that we are more likely to become resilient if we allow ourselves to properly recover from periods of stress or exertion. Knowing how to properly relax and recover is increasingly important in our always-on world.

As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz highlight in The Power of Full Engagement, the greater the level of exertion (e.g. putting in long shifts to meet a project deadline) then the more we need to allow for recovery time or else we risk burnout.

A lot of this is common sense, but sadly it is not common practise.

An important question might therefore be…

Why do we find it so hard to recover properly?

An obvious answer would be that we find it difficult to change the unhelpful habits that cause ongoing tiredness. For example, over-working, over-playing, eating foods that don’t energise us, not exercising enough etc.

A less obvious answer however, could be that we find it difficult to recognise that some of the things we do to relax may not be very relaxing. Put another way, we think we are relaxing but in effect, we are not recovering from our exertions.

Proper recovery can only occur when we engage the parasympathetic nervous system. To use a motoring analogy, this is like an inbuilt braking system. When we are striving to perform at work, we are activating the sympathetic nervous system (using the accelerator). This is also the case if we are anxious or angry.

Take Your Foot Off the Pedal

The reason why many people struggle to recover in their free time is that some ‘relaxation’ activities actually continue to activate the sympathetic nervous system. These include doing an intense gym workout (or other active sport), watching a sports match, having a big night in the pub, going to a rock gig or spending too long on social media. Whilst these activities might be a lot of fun they do not usually engage the parasympathetic nervous system and therefore they do not give us recovery.

The parasympathetic nervous system prefers activities that create a sense of inner calm or a sense of deep connection with someone or something else. This explains the recent popularity of mindfulness based activities. It also explains the wisdom behind yoga which proposes physical stretching followed by a period of deep relaxation on the mat (known as shavasana or corpse pose).

Our prevailing state of mind when engaging in seemingly calmer activities is very important. For example, going for a walk and constantly checking our phone for social media updates or rehashing a recent conflict in our heads, will not lead to recovery. However, walking the same path and being fully present to the sights and sounds around us can be very nurturing.

Finding Your Recovery

It can take some conscious effort to discern the impact of some activities on our nervous system. Watching television for example can be an either/or activity. If we watch something that is suspenseful, fast paced or violent then of course we are engaging the sympathetic nervous system. I find that watching the news can often do the same thing. On the other hand, watching an interesting documentary (but not one that makes you mad!) or a feel-good comedy can create the desired calming effect. It’s worth noting that TV content by its nature is designed to stimulate so it can be difficult to find programmes that create inner calm.

So, if TV is tricky territory then what other options do we have? Simple activities like indulging in a creative hobby, reading a book, meditating or taking some extra time to prepare a nice meal are all good options. Over the past couple of years, I have been learning guitar and I find this a relaxing way to end the day, even if I just practice for 15 minutes.

Remember, activities which create deep connection can also have a very nurturing impact. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher in the power of emotions, suggests that connection is as important to our wellbeing as vitamins. This might explain why loneliness is considered by some researchers to be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

So, making an effort to reconnect sincerely with an old friend or family member can be very beneficial for both of you. Likewise, opting to read your kids a bedtime story instead of watching TV or doing household tasks can create the type of connection that allows our nervous system to switch to that all-important recovery phase. 

About Noel

Noel is the Founder of Wiser Working. 
Wiser Working is a specialist consultancy that helps individuals and organisations to handle change and develop resilience skills. These skills can be taught as a standalone programme or can be blended into Management Training, Employee Engagement, Change Management or Wellbeing programmes.  

t: +353 (0)1 437 6646 | e: [email protected] | |


SPOTLIGHT: Conor Crowley from Acumen & Trust

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Conor Crowley, Director, Acument & Trust.


Company formed in:


Elevator pitch:

Acumen & Trust’s Noble Purpose is “to always strive to improve the financial wellbeing of our clients and to build a great team and help our people grow”.

Who would benefit from your service/product?

Any individual looking for help with their financial planning.

Biggest achievement in the last 12 months:

Helping Acumen & Trust to grow successfully and helping to develop and grow our team of consultants.

Plans for the next 12 months:

More of the same!

Biggest challenge to your business:

As we continue to grow, making sure that the quality of our advice and services to our clients is maintained to the highest standards.

Best advice you can give other business owners:

Do the simple things well and keep repeating them through good work processes and systems. Always try to see things from the client’s / customer’s perspective. 

If I was Minister for Finance, the first thing I’d do is:
Reduce income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax rates so as to increase spending and savings in the economy, which should help to stimulate growth further. 

Reasons to be cheerful:

There has been a significant pick up in the economy over the past four years which has been good for business and should continue into 2017, despite Brexit and the Trump election victory.

We plan to expand the team / headcount by a further 10% this year to reflect the continued growth in our business. 

t: +353 (0)1 293 6500 | e: [email protected] | |



GUEST BLOG: Have you got an Innovation Management Plan?

Securing business growth is a challenge for every business. Creating that growth by developing exciting new products or entirely new business models can help to secure the future of your business as well as attracting & retaining the best talent. 

A defined approach to innovation management is an excellent starting point.  If you are bringing new products to the market within a well-defined system, you will generally observe a swift market response that will see competitors match or beat your new offering. Indeed, research reveals that many new innovations have a shelf life of less than one year. So, it is essential that you have a plan to bring a sustained flow of new business innovations to the market in a regular and repeatable manner.

How should you manage innovation?

Not all innovation is the same. It is often helpful to categorize opportunities as follows:

Core: New processes, products, services that are like what you do now. You have a clear understanding of this business and you can manage the development of these new innovations in the same manner that you tackle the day-to-day challenges of your current business.

Adjacent: This is a natural extension of your current business. It could involve partnering with other businesses. It is likely to be a clearly understood business idea which you can manage with a good degree of understanding of the resources, risks and costs. You’ll probably be able to define the likely outcomes and time frames with a reasonable degree of certainty. You may have to manage ‘control’ in a different way as you build new external partnerships.

Disruptive: This is a new type of product, service or business model. It is not understood. There are lots of unknown unknowns! The risks will be higher but the outcomes may also be transformational and more difficult for your competitors to copy. The management approach needs to be different. It requires different skills. The focus is not operational effectiveness! Rather it should be on experimentation and a systematic process that captures what you have learned from each experiment. Costs, revenue and profit are unlikely to be the appropriate measures at this stage.

Resource allocation:

Based on the value creation potential from innovations in the category we need to decide:

  • How much resources we want to spend per category i.e. what are the priorities for innovation activity?
  • Who is primarily responsible for each category? For example, is it a business or a divisional innovation? 
  • How we are going to do it? What systems, processes, tools & structures are appropriate to each category?

Finally, we need to actively manage the “portfolio” of innovation activity based on the company’s strategic plans. The received wisdom is to start by deploying resources roughly in a proportion of 70:20:10 to Core, Adjacent & Disruptive categories respectively.

Innovation management is an emerging management science. The successful companies of the future can no more choose to ignore innovation than they would currently choose to ignore sales, marketing or finance management. 

About David

David O’Leary, Partner, BMI Lab, has been helping businesses develop unique value propositions to grow revenue for over 20 years. BMI Lab is a consultancy that helps businesses unlock powerful new growth through innovation and digital strategy. We use leading edge tools such as Design Thinking, Business Model Innovation and Hidden Needs Analysis, to cost-effectively create and deliver new value for your customers while establishing innovative business models that capture sustainable value for your company. 

David has worked with many successful brands & companies over the years including; EY, Bank of Ireland, Aon, United Nations, RTÉ, Bulmers & Jameson. 

David’s focus has always been to deliver sustainable growth grounded in innovative thinking. He believes that he understands the ups and downs of both large organisations and start-ups based on his own experiences as Founder & CEO with companies such as Ripple Platform – an EI HPSU Technology Start-up – and 8020 – a leading digital marketing agency.

t: +353 (0)87 203 8148  | e: [email protected] | |


GUEST BLOG: 5 Benefits of Optimism at Work

Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Believe it or not there is a place for both in this world but optimism  might get you further in life. Optimism can be defined as the inclination to hope and belief in a good future.

Most pessimists will tell you that they are realists and the truth is they are right. Optimists are more likely to deny the truth for a glimpse of hope and potential. Sometimes they are irrational to the ninth degree but the reality is there are many benefits to being an optimist some of which are outlined below.

1. Better Relationships

Optimists are more likely to have a positive impact on those around them, they are more encouraging and foster hope. Human beings need hope to counteract the stark reality of life. The things  pessimists will remind us of include the fact that 1 in 2 will be impacted by cancer, the fact that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce or separation, most of us live in blissful optimism assuming that we won’t be the 1 in either pair. Optimists will always make a deeper connection with those around them because most people want to live in light rather than in darkness. Having a good attitude can inspire those around them.

2. Better Health

Research shows that Optimists have better health that optimism stabilises Cortisol levels and lowers stress that overall optimists have a better biological response to stress.  Many studies have found that optimism is linked with better physical well-being compared to pessimism as well as an inverse correlation between optimism and depression. Remaining positive and optimistic in times of illness has often been cited as the best approach and apparently it can contribute to higher recovery rates in patients.

3. Opportunity & Risk

Pessimists tend to shy away from risk, they are more likely to look at the track record and make a calculated decision as to why something will be too risky to try. While they are often right and a required member of a leadership team, they can sometimes be too cautious and prevent a company from progression. Never taking risks is not a strategy for success.

4. Increased Creativity

Optimists tend to be more creative, they are open to new ideas, fresh concepts and new ways of doing things. Optimism is important for creativity because the ability to create new concepts requires hope and belief that what you are creating matters or could matter into the future. Innovation only comes about when people see the future in a new way. They see the possibilities and they find that exciting. The pessimist will drag you back to earth, telling you about the risks involved in pursuing this course of action. (Maybe don’t listen!)


We all know that failure is part of life, but it still doesn’t feel good. Optimists are more resilient, taking each knock as an inevitable part of life’s lessons. Standing back up and getting started on the next thing. Optimists aren’t afraid of the future, they will meet it head on. Relentlessly expecting tomorrow to be better than today.

If you are a pessimist fear not, the good news is that optimism can be learned. There definitely are certain innate characteristics that optimists have but there are elements that can be practised and learned.

Martin Selligman known as the father of positive psychology advises us that optimism can be learned by the following techniques.

Seligman’s method of learning optimism consists of a simple method to training us to a new way of responding to adversity.

It entails using the Ellis ABC model of adversity, belief, and consequence. Adversity is the event that happens, Belief is how that adversity is interpreted, and Consequences are the feelings and actions that result from the beliefs.

Give it a go and see if your responses to adversity can become a little more positive impacting not only your own life but those around you.

About Margaret

Margaret Considine is CEO of EQuita Consulting. 

‪EQuita Consulting are global experts in delivering Executive Education, Strategic Consulting and Workplace solutions. With specialist expertise in Commercial Negotiation, Mediation, Conflict & Dispute Resolution, Bullying & Harassment Investigations and Personal Productivity. ‬‬

t: +353 (0)1 293 4741 | e: [email protected]   | |


GUEST BLOG: Sales and Networking

Either one of the topics in the title of this blog has attracted you to find out more. The content of this piece is to discuss the difference between both. There is one guarantee. Great networking leads to great sales. What do I mean by great networking? There is a saying that I live by when networking –

“Networking and selling are like oil and water: both are vital for your financial engine, but keep them in separate containers.”Mel Kaufman

Please take the above quote on board. In all of my blogs for The Panel on the topic of networking I hope that you are starting to see a theme. Networking is all about starting to build a relationship. It may not pay a return on your investment of time today, tomorrow, next month or even next year. It potentially may never pay back but I don’t go into any networking relationship thinking “what’s in this for me?”

This may be naïve but I am a big believer in karma and what goes around, comes around. What I mean by this is that if I go out to networking events and want to genuinely help others, in return they may want to help me back. Some do and some don’t, those that do probably have the same mindset as me and are the type of people I would like to do business with.

My friends and colleagues ask me “why do you do so much networking?” My answer is always the same, why not? I like meeting new people, finding out what they do and some ask what I do. I absolutely believe that because of my network I am where I am in life today. I have had amazing opportunities and experiences because of networking. If you have always done what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. What are you doing differently to change the result? Are you meeting the same group of people?

A very large proportion of people that go networking think that it is a perfect opportunity to sell their product or service. Think about this. If a large percentage, I mean like 95%+ think this, then that will only leave 5% of people wanting to buy products or services at these events. I have networked for years and I have never met someone who wanted to spend their hard earned cash there and then!

We have all heard that “people buy people”. Networking is a contact sport. Face to face. With so much online and inside sales out there, sometimes networking is a rare opportunity to build your professional sphere with people and you get a gut instinct about. Improving your soft/interpersonal skills is hugely important because you sharpen these skills networking. Learning skills like how to act around others, how to listen and ask questions, how to get in and out of conversations and body language while networking will help you in work, during contract negotiations and your own sales presentations.

Learn these skills to help you both inside and outside of work. It’s a win win. We all know those awkward business people when you meet them. They obviously don’t practice by networking. It’s like going to the gym for your business. Keep fit, keep networking fit.

What this is boiling down to is this, don’t try to close the deal when you are networking. The other party isn’t in the right mindset. You may come across as pushy or salesy. Nobody will want to talk with or spend time with you. Listen and ask questions, mingle, meet new people and arrange to follow up over the next few days and weeks. The sales will come, don’t rush it.

In the next blog I will be talking about giving referrals whenever possible.

About Derek Reilly

Derek Reilly is a recognised expert in the areas of face to face and online networking. He previously worked with BNI (Business Network International) for nearly 10 years and has trained thousands of businesses on the power of networking. Derek is a regular guest speaker at conferences and company in-house trainings. He is proud to have spoken and trained on 3 continents (Europe, America and Asia). His progression within his own networks is testament to his knowledge of networking.

t: +353 (0)86 683 9709  | e: [email protected] | LinkedIn |



The Recruitment Agency Expo 2017, London

Last week The Panel travelled to London for a number of engagements, one being the Recruitment Agency Expo at the Olympia Conference Centre.

The two day event (Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd), dedicated entirely to the recruitment industry, saw thousands of visitors pass through the doors and with over 90 exhibitors, 28 seminars and 13 training sessions it had lots to offer the visitor.

The event aimed at top level management from predominately the UK, but also overseas, offered plenty of inspiration and opportunities to network.

Representing The Panel at the event was Paul McArdle (Managing Partner) and Fergal Keys (Partner, IT & Business Change).

See below for images from the event:

Tony Restell from Social Hire
James Osborne from @osborne_tweets
Brad Shackleton, CEO, Recruiting Excellence
Audience participation & appreciation [Image courtesy of Brad Shackleton’s Twitter page]
Dave Hazlehurst (Google Dave)
Holly Fawcett from Social Talent