Are you mentally tough?
Let me introduce myself as some of you may already know me but some of you may not! My name is Lynsey Heeks and I am Trainer and Director of a training company called Professional Futures Ltd. I have been a lecturer/tutor of Leadership, Management and Coaching for 7 years, specifically the ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) qualifications and I recently felt it was time to make a huge personal change – this was to leave teaching in Further Education and set up a training company that not only shares best practice, but also wants to enhance the lives of our professional learners. It is for this reason that I wanted to share with you some of my own personal observations:
In a world of much change, the EU Referendum for example, and ever increasing pace, where technology is advancing at a rate of knots and we, as professionals, are required and expected to adapt to these changes efficiently and effectively with little disruption, it struck me how the challenges we face in work now are totally different to the challenges faced 20 years ago. It made me think about me (it’s all about me after all!!) and how I deal with challenging situations…
So I have always thought of myself as a resilient and mentally tough individual, in that I can deal with most things and take them in my stride; when the going gets tough I can knuckle down, grit my teeth and get on with it; and most of the time I can see difficulties as a challenge and an opportunity to improve – either myself, a process or an outcome. But let’s look at these two terms – Resilient and Mental Toughness – what do they mean and are they the same? The answer is no, they are not the same – let me explain:
Resilience is a state of being. It is the ability to be able to “grin and bear it” to struggle on regardless of the situation or the challenge faced, to be able to deal with the situation and recover from it quickly even if you see the situation in a negative light. This in itself infers that should the situation last for too long a time that a resilient individual may well start to struggle – for example being under excessive pressure for a long period of time.
Mental Toughness is about how you perceive a situation. Whether you see it as a positive opportunity and whether you possibly seek challenge and adversity. Being mentally tough means that you have the confidence in your own ability to be able to deal with stress, pressure and challenge in a positive way regardless of the circumstances. The key aspect is the positive approach to the situation and the ability to be able to deal positively to situations of pressure and stress.
So if you are mentally tough does that mean you are also resilient? Yes, however, not all people who are resilient are mentally tough and that is because of the positive aspect of being mentally tough – you can be resilient but quite negative, you can’t be mentally tough and also negative.
So going back to me (it’s all about me after all!) it was with great interest that I completed an assessment which measures how mentally tough I am (known as MTQ48) and the overall score I achieved was 10 out of 10 which I thought was fantastic! “What does this score mean?” I hear you say, it means that I scored highly on the 4 elements of mental toughness that are measured– these are Challenge, Commitment, Confidence and Control (more to come on these over the following weeks). So this means that essentially I am mentally “rock hard”! This must only be a good thing I thought, but upon further consideration and analysis of my report it seems that receiving a high score is not necessarily a good thing. Why is that? Well, let’s look at what a 10 in each of the 4 areas may mean:
Challenge – this may mean that I seek out challenge, adversity and change all the time – which, as a manager may be exhausting for my staff to deal with.
Commitment – I may commit to targets that are too stretching and challenging – which, as a manager may mean that I am overstretching my team.
Confidence – I may come across as over confident and arrogant, or my confidence in my ability to do things may be misguided in certain situations – as a manager, this may mean that my staff can’t relate to me or my ability to influence people may be affected.
Control – I may seem like I have an over inflated self-belief as I believe my success is my own doing and I may also have a very strong handle on showing my emotions – which as a manager may mean that my staff think I am cold and unapproachable, and also egotistical!
As you can see, being “mentally rock hard” is not necessarily the best thing! So what have I learned from this experience?
• That having an understanding of how I may be perceived helps me be a better manager.
• That the areas that require improvement can be developed over time through some key exercises, self-awareness, reflection, education and coaching (more to come on these over the following weeks)
• That it’s not about the score you achieve (it isn’t a competition!) it’s about how you use the information provided to improve yourself (there I go again – being all mentally tough!!)
• That it is true, resilience and mental toughness are key to be able to deal with the increasing changes and challenges in the workplace, and that these aspects can be developed to help us be better equipped for the future.
As with everything, having a positive attitude to continuous improvement and personal development, and being comfortable “in your own skin” will help you to succeed in all that you aim to achieve.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story and if you like my blog, why not check out our blog page on http://professional-futures.com/blog/