Małgorzata Henke, William Wydra
„Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” (W. Churchill)
The Reality of Business
An elegant office at the headquarters of a well-known company which produces medical equipment, and sitting behind the desk is a manager responsible for sales for half of Europe. Tomorrow he is going to have an important presentation, and he has already been sitting and staring at his computer screen for 3 hours. He is scouring the internet for data that he definitely will not need, because he is not planning to download any of it from the social networking sites..
So what is he looking for: detachment, peace, or perhaps he is deliberately trying to sabotage his work? But how can that be? Doesn’t he always strive for perfection, besides this time the stakes are really high ..Too high?
In a not nearly as elegant and certainly much louder bank office sits a financial advisor. Already half of the month has gone by, and only 5% of the total monthly turnover has been met. Last month ended with a score of 30%, landing her the last position in the rankings. The pressure of the environment at work is unbearable, and further refusals heard from customers reinforces a feeling of resignation, or even disgust while lifting the receiver of the telephon. In addition, the constant stress of having to maintain a family. Just thinking about it all is driving her crazy.
Such emotional states very quickly transgress and impact our physiological states, back and head pain, tension in the shoulder area, fatigue, sleep problems, a drop in physical form. Less efficiency at a time where more is needed. And ultimately discouragement, sometimes a feeling of burnout, aggression or avoidance, and even resignation.
Where is my cape?
So what is it that one can do to not fall victim to unbearable pressure and stress? How do we avoid breaking down in the face of challenges? Why do some people cope well with stressors and pressures, and others seem unable to do so? Why are they experiencing moments of despair in the most inappropriate moments? Is it possible to measure the strengths and weaknesses of people in this area? Can you wear a protective cape or like „Elysium” the superhero reinforce your built-in armor?
Such questions have been asked by scientists for the specific needs of the business world. As a result of long-term research, the concept of MENTAL TOUGHNESS was established. It was based on the work of J.E.Loehr from the mid 1980s (mental toughness in sport), S.C.Kobasa (mental hardiness – sense of control, approach to challenges and commitment) and R.Jackson & Ch. Watkin (concept of resilience – the ability to recover from failure).
For many years, the concept of Mental Toughness was a rather vague concept, though comprehensively understood. As research progressed, researchers Peter Clough and Keith Earle have developed a very specific, business responsive 4C MENTAL TOUGHNESS MODEL and a tool to help measure mental toughness – the MTQ48 questionnaire. This is a very precise tool that allows you to check your performance in a professional context, especially in stress-prone environments that are faced with many challenges.
It has been repeatedly proven that the state of mind greatly affects the differences in the level of our accomplishments. P. Clough and D.Strycharczyk state that this encompasses as much as 50%, while most of us spend on optimizing our own efficiency in this area only 5% of our time. Maybe it is because we do not know where to specifically dedicate our efforts as well as what to do to strengthen mental resilience, and thus effectiveness?
What is Mental Toughness precisely?
In the 4C model
Mental Toughness is a personality trait that largely determines how effectively we deal with challenges, stressors and pressures, regardless of circumstances (P.Clough, D.Strycharczyk)
It is also „achieving performance that suits your abilities whatever the circumstances” (P.Clough, K.Earle).
In carrying it over into business reality, it is the ability to meet with a number of customers despite hearing „no” from many previous ones, the ability to maintain the same energy and positive attitude in action, it is the ability and desire to find new solutions despite the lack of success. It is the ability to focus on the current task and not to disperse. Being able to refrain from even thinking of looking for excuses and complaints and keeping emotions in check. It is being able to look at a distance problem, while continuing striving forward, even when it seems the whole world is against you.
Resistance is closely related to stress, specifically our resistance to external and internal stressors. External stressors come in the form of being overloaded with multiple tasks, conflicting requirements or pressure to maintain a fast pace of work. Internal stressors comprise of negative thoughts, lack of faith in one’s own strength, and requirements which are too high. Our brain and body are prepared for stress responses which cause us to mobilize to action (mobilizing the sympathetic nervous system, activating the amygdala in the limbic system) but low resistance or prolonged exposure to stressors which leads to physical and emotional exhaustion thus causing cognitive decline.
Model 4C – Put on your cape
The scientific 4C model of Mental Toughness was developed by Peter Clough and Keith Earle, researchers and psychologists of sport. It is based on four pillars, which provides us with high levels of emotional protection and effectiveness in action:
1. Challenge – mentally resilient people see challenges as opportunities. They are willing to initiate action, they like solving problems. They enjoy the challenge of being able to test themselves and their skills. Taking on challenges is a way for them to face themselves and their concerns. Instead of avoiding stressful situations, they dive into them, consequently raising their level of resistance to stressors.
„It demands a lot of turmoil and a lot of risk, but that’s what life is about, right?” – C. Friedman
2. Confidence – mentally tough people have confidence in their own abilities and confidence in themselves, enough to undertake tasks that can be considered difficult by people with similar abilities but lower levels of self-confidence. They believe that they will succeed, while mistakes and failures will be treated as a natural part of the process. They are not discouraged and do not breakdown.
„What stops us is not who we are, but who in our opinion we are not.” – M. Nolan
3. Commitment – a mentally resilient person is goal oriented, effectively sets priorities and goals. He provides what he has committed to providing, and is able to persevere in carrying out the task. He easily focuses his attention on what he wants, even if he does not like it.
„Most people who fail in their dream, fail not by lack of ability but by lack of commitment” – Z. Ziglar
4. Control – the mentally resilient person believes they can make a significant impact and make a difference in their environment. They also have an affect on themselves and their emotions, they manage them better. Usually they see the glass half full and work hard to remove obstacles on their way to the destination without losing their sights in the face of difficulties.
„You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all. – M. Aurelius
Culture of resilience in an organization = peak performance
Studies show that people and teams with high levels of performance show the same key features:
Belief in one’s own abilities and coping skills
Passion in career choice
Control over what you can control
Ability to quickly recover from failure
Seeing new challenges in developmental opportunities
Concentration and the ability to filter the mind from unnecessary thoughts
Recognizing the needs of the body and the moments for relaxation
„Excellence doesn’t just happen. Against everything which is excellent, we got accustomed not to ask how it came to be, but be happy in what is as if it magically appeared from the earth with a touch of a wand.” – F. Nietsche
Peak performance is the ability to work at the highest possible level, both in a unitary and a team context.
How to build resilience?
Mental toughness is a personality trait that is largely determined genetically. However, it is quite plastic and the latest research, characterized among others in a great book „Developing Mental Toughness” prove that you can build and strengthen mental toughness and resilience. Regardless of the base level of resilience, you can enhance it.
The diagnosis of the level of mental toughness is provided by the MTQ48 tool. This is an introduction to working out a development plan and strategy for working on specific skills.
Through the development of mental resilience, employees, managers and whole teams can significantly improve efficiency, but also well-being. The higher the level of mental resilience, the better the quality of life, sleep, a faster return to productivity after difficult emotional experiences, better coping with difficult days. And from the organizational point of view – increased attendance, lower levels of mobbing and professional burnouts, as well as higher levels of achievement.
Clough, P., Strycharczyk, D. (2017), Developing Mental Toughness
Duckworth, A., Grit. The power of passion and perseverance