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How the death of a fish crystallised my view on a key competency - Article by Karen Brown

Animal lovers, may not want to read on!

A recent, sad event at home really focused my mind on a competency that I really value and is something that often isn’t invested in.

Five years ago I acquired a number of fish for my Octonaut mad son. I learnt the hard way that whilst you need to listen long and hard to your teams to understand what they want, delayed gratification is not a characteristic of young boys.

It will be no surprise that the fish have been ignored for the last 5 years.  Even I lost interest, with the tank and the fish being largely unloved, resulting in a very grimy tank and sporadic feeding for the fish. I have to refer to it as the fish, as it never did get a name.

For the last year I have been desperate to get rid of the fish tank – but the last, unloved fish, has clung onto life with a passion that I did not know existed in such creatures. Despite being encouraged to simply solve this issue by combining the fish, the toilet and the flushing mechanism  – I simply could not bring myself to do this.

The fish was never much of a conversationalist but I did start to realise it exhibited a characteristic that I pride and value in others


The world of recruitment and HR are tough. Managing recruitment operations for large corporate clients and working as a Human Resources Director (whilst managing a child and his pets!) has taught me this.

Until resilience was added as a competency to our annual appraisals, it never occurred to me that this was a valued competency. Over the years, however, I have utilised my resilience to survive and thrive in very difficult situations, with some very difficult contacts due to this ability and have seen the benefit that this competency can bring.

So what is resilience?

It is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty – a toughness or bouncebackability (its a real word) This sounds simple, and some people do have a natural ability to do this, but for others this is something that they need to work on.

With today’s world and businesses for ever changing and changing at an increasing pace – the ability to not only cope with this but embrace are increasingly important.

Resilience enables one to absorb the shock of change and gives one breathing space to adapt and regroup.

Clients, staff, colleagues, suppliers are all making their way in an every changing and ever more dynamic world and their ability to “roll with the punches” is vital to ensure that you can deal effectively with those difficult situations and demanding people, effectively without losing focus on the end goal and what you need to achieve.

The problem with not having this ability to become distracted from the task in hand, dwell on the negative and not by not reacting in a positive way, possibly lead to the loss of a relationship and / or business.

It also means that individuals are more likely to be negatively affected and then this can lead to a host of issues in terms of overall mindset all the issues that can be associated with this.

One worrying trend that has been seen recently is that whilst for millennials change is  the norm and the fear of this is not something that they generally exhibit – however, in a world where change is the norm and there is limited longevity, will they have the resilience levels of previous generations?

The days of “putting up with”,  of having loyalty to employers, and of making do seem to be on the wane.

They have grown up in a world where change happens quickly, and where user experience and the ability to personalise experience are so important that the requirement to “put up” with something is old-fashioned and quaint.

With this population making up 50% of the workforce by 2020, I have started to question how this population view and deal with this.

So what are the lessons we can learn from my fish?

  • Don’t take issues at work personally – it is business
  • You can’t control the actions and behaviours of others – they will see things through a different set of eyes to you, they may also be having a bad day
  • Life and work are often tough – use the support network around you, allow others to help you, and put things into context
  • Focus on what you can control – factors that you cannot control, don’t dwell on

I do feel better from allowing our resilient fish to have as full a life as it could have, and have amused friends as to the reason why.

I am sure that the fish is appreciative of this as well

It is strange what events make you reflect and highlight what you value.

Wish me luck with the hamster (and the hamster luck with me 🙂 )

I head up Ashley Kate HR leading a team of excellent Recruitment Consultants to ensure we maintain the status of HR Recruiter of Choice.

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