3 tips for resilience in the workplace

Former US Marine and Federal police officer talks about how to cope corporate stress through resilience training

Whether you are sitting in traffic, or at war, the body reacts to stress in the same way. And it’s costing businesses millions every year, according to one ex-US Marine turned leadership and peak-performance expert.

Andrew Wittman is the founder and CEO of the Mental Toughness Training Centre and a former bodyguard to Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu, Sir Elton John, and many other prominent politicians. He now travels the globe helping executives and their employees better deal with stress at work and at home.

“You don’t have to go to war to feel stressed, whether you’re sitting in traffic, on a deadline, or on the battle field, your body reacts in the same way,” Andrew told CMO.

“Half the brain shuts down when working from fear or worry, and the part of the brain that shuts down is the creative, problem-solving part, which is vital to the modern workplace.”

Wittman said stress is not getting any easier for anyone in a world of fast-paced change, increasing workloads and KPIs. Instead of trying to eliminate stress, people need to develop resilience strategies for how to best handle the pressure.

“It’s simple neuroscience. Stress is a hormonal response that releases cortisol and adrenaline into your system. This reaction pushes you into flight of fight, and shuts down the problem solving centres of the brain,” he explained.

“Eighty per cent of doctor’s visits are stress-related, and that has massive implications for corporate profitability.

“The key to managing stress is engagement and increasing resilience. Everyone has to have a target to work towards. For work-related stress you need to work out who you are and what your purpose is, then work this internal statement up organisationally. Who you are is not what you do. So many people take external labels, like a football team or work, and apply it to themselves. But that is not who you are, that will not help you engage.

“Corporations are their people, not their products. If their people aren’t engaged, then they’re not working effectively. If you believe in who you are, then you can believe in what you do.  

“Resilience allows people to switch from a survival mindset to a thriving mindset. The professionals who display resilience, poise, and presence are the backbone of great organisations. To achieve resilience you must take control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.”

Here are Wittman’s three tips for resilience in the workplace:

1) Suspend your disbelief for two minutes

You’ve decided something is impossible, but if it was possible, how would you do it?

“The human brain is designed to answer questions. Instead of saying ‘I don’t know’, which immediately shuts down the problem solving part of the brain, instead say, ‘if it was possible, how would I do it?’,” Wittman asked. “This way, you engage the problem solving part of your brain.

“The human brain receives 11 million bits of information every second, but only 126 bits actually make it to consciousness for action. If you say ‘I don’t know’, then the only bits that will get to the brain for action are the bits that support your assertion of ‘I don’t know’. So suspend your opinion for two minutes.”

2) Ascertain who is running the board room

There are only three possible takers for this position: The body, mind, or emotions.

“The aim is to have your mind running the boardroom, not your body or emotions,” Wittman advised. “Have you ever made an emotional decision? How’d that work out? You must separate logic from emotions. There are three votes in your boardroom, and the mind and emotions are never going to vote together, so get the body on board with the mind to swing the vote.

“People always comment on the mental toughness of those in the military, and this is because troops have mastered control over their bodies, which brings it on board with the mind and separates it from emotions. The fact is, most people do what they want to do, instead of what they should do.”

3) Be a critical thinker

Most people don’t think critically, Wittman said. “We recommend something called C.R.A.P thinking: Clarity, Relevance, Accuracy, and Precision.

“For clarity, ask yourself ‘What am I trying to accomplish?’ and get clear on that. Then, take anything that’s not relevant off the table. When it comes to accuracy, understand that truth and fact are two different things. Most people take information and filter it through their own personal jungle of thought, and then call it fact. Your truth may not be actual fact. Finally, can this fact be more precise? We all get those emails demanding something ASAP.

“By communicating with the sender and asking for an actual time, rather than ASAP, means there’s no ambiguity and no miscommunication.”

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