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Introducing new outstanding inspirational speaker

Sarah Furness

Introducing new outstanding inspirational speaker

Sarah Furness, motivational leadership speaker and former RAF Squadron Leader and helicopter pilot is one of our newest speakers at The Right Address.  She has shared her thoughts with us on how to create highly resilient teams as we emerge from COVID.  It is definitely not the party-line.…

93% of the UK workforce are currently reporting poor wellbeing.  86% of them blame their employers.

Sarah cites these statistics by way of introducing us to this on-trend issue.

If you look at the media it is awash with stories of increased stress, anxiety, burnout and low mood.  Anxiety and low mood have doubled since the start of COVID; it is the hot topic for most media outlets with no sign of letting up. The trouble is it’s creating a narrative that is almost celebrating the vulnerability and fragility of the UK workforce post-COVID.  There is this media-fuelled sense of entitlement that every employer should be now prioritising wellbeing above all else.  I agree that every human is entitled to feel their best.  I’d love every human to be swinging from their chandeliers with joy every day.  But the problem is that you can’t just GIVE wellbeing or happiness to employees.”

The Challenge

 The vast majority of wellbeing initiatives fail within in 4 months. Why?  Because happiness is a choice.”  Sarah explains.

“It is a choice that every individual has to make for themselves.  And in the current climate of COVID rules and regulations, exercising choice has become an increasingly alien concept. People have become accustomed to following rules, even when those rules appear to be totally bonkers, and just accepting the misery that this entails for them.  When people are deprived of choice something very interesting happens; they stop thinking for themselves and they become resigned to their fate.  They effectively “choose” to stay miserable (although they are usually unaware they have made this choice).  And because they’ve forgotten how to exercise choice, they increasingly rely on their employers to make choices for them, which means that their misery is now the fault of their employer.”

Why the key strategy is the least instinctive

 Sarah tells us that the most effective resilience strategies go below the water-line of observed behaviours; they understand and address the underlying fears and beliefs of their employees. And in the current climate Sarah believes that this, rather un-intuitively, comes down to “the misery of choice”. “The large majority of employees either don’t believe they have a choice or are afraid of making the wrong one. It is a silent but deadly killer of morale” Sarah says. “So the most powerful thing leaders can do right now is to create an environment where employees feel confident to make choices.”

So how do we do that?

“First it’s important to bear in mind that many people don’t even realise they are giving away their choices. They will resist having this pointed out to them because it is subconsciously interwoven with their own fears of being inadequate. So we need a campaign of influence, not brute force.


  1. Create the conditions for choice awareness.


You could start by evaluating where you could give employees more space to exercise choice. And in order to do this, as leaders, we must give ourselves permission to NOT have all the answers.  This can feel counter-intuitive if your model of leadership is leading from the front, but it is crucial in a campaign of influence.

  • Invite discussion. 
  • Ask their opinion. 
  • Encourage radical candour….. even if it stings. 
  • Assign missions, not tasks, (in other words resist micro-managing.)
  • Give your team the freedom to test and adjust as much as possible. 

Not only is this superb for resilience, it encourages greater problem solving and initiative and improved creativity.  So give them a longer lead and then be prepared for things to go wrong from time to time.  And when things don’t go to plan you can remind yourself that humans ALWAYS learn better when they make their OWN mistakes… and it’s usually a lot less disastrous than we think anyway.”


  1. Reject the fragile narrative.


“Just because we are creating the space for free thought and radical candour does NOT mean we have to become hostage to every employee whim.  It’s still ok to disagree with the team and over-rule them. So long as they feel that their contribution is valued this will do no harm whatsoever. You’re the boss after all and you have a company to run. People WON’T curl up and die if they feel disappointed or rejected.”

 Sarah demonstrates some of her trademark ‘radical candour”

 “I think it’s high time we start to reject the “fragile” narrative.  I’ve led on multiple combat operations where I asked my people time and again to put their lives on the line, to overcome their fears, to be separated from their loves ones, live in arduous conditions…. all in the knowledge they might not come home.  And they did. Usually with a grin on their face. I’ve seen just how tough and resilient human beings can be…. so long as you LET them be resilient. I understand this flies in the face of the current party-line.  Leaders are more or less expected to babysit their employees at the moment, but in my experience if you give people the opportunity to demonstrate resilience, they will.  Ultimately this means you might need to get comfortable asking people to do things that make them uncomfortable. But I promise you, they won’t die from it.  They will probably grow from it. “

Motivational and leadership speaker

Sarah is an ex-RAF helicopter pilot who commanded in Iraq and Afghanistan.  She talks to leaders about how they can to improve resilience and performance of themselves and their teams even under extreme pressure.

She is an experienced and accomplished speaker and feedback includes:

“Sarah is a phenomenon. She flew helicopters in combat zones for 20 years , crashing the odd one and turning those experiences, that would scare the life out of most of us, into entertaining stories. Shes now helping the world by educating us on how to perform, and thrive under pressure. Amongst many other things I learned that;

  •  There is a Flares in Shrewsbury
  • Interruptions have a much higher effect on your productivity than you would expect
  • It is possible to regularly crash helicopters and laugh about it later
  • You can train your brain to do what you want it to do
  • Sarah is an excellent speaker
  • Attending her talks will supercharge your resilience and performance

I came as a complete novice to this subject and left full of new practical knowledge.”  Russell Silverman, Silverman Consulting

If you would like help in finding you the right after dinner speaker for your event, such as Sarah Furness, please get in touch with the Right Address.

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