Translating research on performance anxiety into business practice

Leek United Building Society

The challenge

Leek United is a mutual building society with 12 branches spread across 4 counties. As part of their commitment to exceptional customer service and employee wellbeing, they were looking at how they could better support mental wellbeing in the workplace.

A member of their team attended an Ingenuity Breakfast Event with Dr Xenia Pestova from the University’s Department of Music. Xenia talked about how pre-performance routines and coping techniques could be adapted to any performance setting. Leek United asked us for practical support to translate these research findings into their own business practice.

The workshop helped managers to start conversations about stress and anxiety with their teams and improved the ability to talk about these issues with staff. Several of our Branch Managers have implemented practices from the session with their teams and all Branch Managers now have a greater awareness of the signs of stress and anxiety in their workforce.
Kelly Heath, L&D Adviser, Leek United

What we did

Dr Xenia Pestova has a background in research on improvisation techniques and creative problem solving. Xenia developed a bespoke session for Leek United’s Branch Managers focusing on confidence-building, interactive listening and improvised performance.

Activities included; breathing techniques, open-focus awareness exercises, meditation as movement and ways to stabilise the breathing and heart-rate.

She worked with the Branch Managers to introduce practical techniques that would help them to better recognise and manage anxiety in the workplace.


The process has changed Leek United’s approach to performance anxiety and stress in the workplace. Managers are more aware and able to discuss issues with their teams. And they are better able to recognise signs of anxiety and stress.

Leek United received positive feedback from participants in the workshop and it’s helped to break the stigma around mental wellbeing in the workplace.

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