Resilience: developing mental toughness

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine, Winter 2018/19
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I’m going to be responsible for generating something of an ‘earworm’ for those of you who remember your 1980’s music but do you remember the track by Billy Ocean, titled ‘When the Going Gets Tough’?

It was this song which played on the radio recently, as I left a client’s office, having just spent an hour discussing resilience and leadership.

For those less well conversant with their cheesy pop, there’s a line in the song that says: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’. It’s a sentiment which could be so easily related to our experiences in family matters, sport, daily challenge, but certainly business too.

What troubles me about the phrase though, is that not all business leaders, managers, entrepreneurs, company founders or accidental team-facilitators, are born with a natural toughness, nor do they feel comfortable around conflict or challenge.

At work when it comes to being resilient to knock-backs, hard-fought client relationships, financial pressures or unthinkable goals, somehow we have to find ways to develop a level of ‘mental toughness’ which enables us to achieve the results.

Our work at MAD-HR is often in helping company owners find and nurture that in themselves, so that they can lead by example, through a process of continual development.

To be able to help a team achieve results and ‘survive the hard times’, the manager has to find a level of comfort with challenge and with potential conflict in this ever-changing commercial world.

Not only do they need to set the tone, they need to be able to find ways to develop mental toughness in others, and to help those employees recognise and utilise their unique strengths, wherever they fall on the ‘resilient’ spectrum. And, no matter what the scale of the business, doing this has enormous power and potential when it comes to recruitment and retention as well as the results achieved by the business.

We all know that some colleagues are more introverted than others. We know some are seemingly more flamboyant, and perhaps give a sense of being ‘born leaders’, but we don’t always know the inner toughness of that individual without putting it to the test.

In our experience, winter months often feel like a time when this mental toughness wavers, so here our top five tips for achieving resilience, both for yourself as a business owner, and within your staff:

1.       Accept that change is a part of living.

2.       Establish goals – even if they’re small – the win will spur you and your team on.

3.       Be determined – Don’t allow performance setbacks to slow your desire to succeed.

4.       Remain fully-focussed on the task at hand – look at where you spend your time and how connected this is to your ambition for your business.

5.       Seek out feedback and keep working on your skills – you will need the qualities and abilities to hold your own self-belief and to instil that in others.

Carole Burman is the founder and Managing Director of MAD-HR, a Suffolk-based HR consultancy born out of many years in commercial roles for major UK businesses. E: carole@mad-hr.co.uk T: 01473 360160 or visit mad-hr.co.uk Twitter @wearemadhr

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