Ahead of our next Leading Now roundtable, we asked philosopher and trainer Dr. Brennan Jacoby for his top tips on cultivating resilience at work.

When we say the world is getting faster, what we really mean is that things are changing more often. Change has always been unavoidable, but it’s only within the past two decades that it has become so acutely felt. Knowing how to cope with changes and, even better, use them to our advantage, is perhaps the single most important skill we can foster today. In essence that is what we mean when we talk about ‘resilience’: having a positive and proactive approach to change.

Joining us as part of our leadership development programme Leading Now, founder of Philosophy at Work Dr. Brennan Jacoby will be in the library next week for a roundtable discussion on cultivating resilience. Brennan has a PhD in trust, and over six years of experience helping businesses develop trust, resilience and better communication, bringing with him a philosopher’s lens to the challenges of the modern workplace. With this in mind we caught up with Brennan ahead of the session to share his top tips for cultivating resilience and how to cope better with change:

Brennan Jacoby’s top tips for cultivating resilience in the workplace

Fuel bodies and minds

There is no substitution for rest, hydration, nutritious food and oxygen—lots and lots of oxygen. But while such physiological components provide necessary conditions for resilience, they are insufficient on their own. You and your teams can hydrate all you like, but if the mindsets you all bring into work are not working for you as well, it will be hard to bounce back when setbacks occur. In order to set yourself and your colleagues up for resilience, explore the beliefs ‘running in the background’ of your mindset and your office culture. To do this, consider whether you and your colleagues tend to talk, hire and reward as if professional ability is set in stone or as if it can be cultivated. Robust research on mindset has shown that core beliefs about ability greatly impact the extent to which individuals, teams and companies respond with resilience when adversity occurs. 

Remember why your work really matters

In the throes of busyness it’s easy to focus on what we have to do and forget why we are doing it. But when practicality trumps purpose, resilience suffers. It becomes easy to continue plodding forward, reacting to what you think you must accomplish, all the while disconnected from why those attempts at accomplishment really matter. Then, when adversity occurs, if the deeper purpose of your work has been forgotten, it can be difficult to muster the heart needed to respond well. To cultivate greater resilience in the face of busyness, it is imperative to connect, or reconnect, with the true purpose of your work.  Remaining focused on the good reasons for your efforts can help you bounce back when the going gets tough. It is as the German existentialist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live, can bear almost any how”. 

Make difficult feedback impersonal

All too often difficult feedback is viewed as a blow to success, sending us or our colleagues into a downward spiral of self-doubt and/or defensiveness. To remain open to ‘constructive’ feedback so that we can keep improving, a more resilient approach is needed. This begins with the approach we take to feedback. Often, whether giving or receiving feedback, it is easy to overidentify the identity of the person on the receiving end of criticism with the work that needs to improve. For example, the report was sub-par, and John did the report, therefore John is sub-par. When this happens, messaging that a project was not good enough is received as meaning ‘I am not good enough’. It is very hard to respond with resilience if you begin to believe that you do not have what it takes. Next time you give feedback to a colleague take a moment to prepare how you will frame your messaging as a critique of the work not the person.

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