Paul Lyons, CEO of Mental Toughness Partners recently spoke at the RCSA Conference in Port Douglas and has produced a quickfire Q and A from the interest generated.
1) What is mental toughness?
Mental Toughness is a personality trait that determines your ability to perform consistently under stress and pressure. It is also called the “survive and thrive’ trait because it combines:
- Resilience (the ability to survive setbacks and failures)
- Confidence (the ability to thrive by taking advantage of opportunities in a positive manner)
In this sense it takes resilience into a more holistic and positive frame.
2) Is mental toughness important?
Research and case studies from around the world show that Mental Toughness improves performance and wellbeing.
It explains up to 25% uplift in performance in individuals. Mentally Tough people work harder, are more committed, more driven, more ambitious and prepared to manage more risk. This translates into better output, on time and on target delivery, better attendance and less conservative outcomes.
It leads to more contented individuals and a positive culture. Mentally Tough people are able to better manage stress and adopt a calmer response to organisational change. They are less prone to bullying and they sleep better. This translates to greater wellbeing and contentment, a more positive response to change and adversity, higher engagement and more likely a positive work culture.
3) Can mental toughness be measured?
Mental Toughness can be measured through a simple but effective normative psychometric tool called MTQ48. This tool was developed by Professor Peter Clough, Professor of Applied Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, and a pioneer on research into Mental Toughness, and assessment expert, AQR’s Managing Director, Doug Strycharczyk.
The MTQ48 takes 8-10 minutes to complete online and comprises a framework of 4 subscales, namely the 4C’s of
- Control (self esteem and emotional control)
- Commitment (Reliability and focus)
- Challenge (Drive and desire for personal growth)
- Confidence (self belief and assertiveness)
The results are delivered through three informative reports in a simple scale of 1-10 for overall mental toughness and each of the 4C’s.
4) Can you be too mentally tough?
Yes, you can be too mentally tough. Unless your mental toughness is accompanied by a suitably high level of self-awareness and empathy, you are in danger of appearing too aloof and detached, potentially reckless and arrogant, and unconcerned about bruising other people to achieve your own goals. This will inevitably and ultimately be counter productive to your performance and success.
5) How does mental toughness fits with current leadership thinking?
The Clough and Strycharczyk definition of mental toughness, featuring the MTQ48 model, fits in well with modern management and leadership practices and contemporary thinking.
It sits neatly alongside the work of such luminaries as:
- Carol Dweck (Mindset)
- Martin Seligman (Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life)
- Paul Tough (How Children Succeed)
- Matthew Syed (Bounce – The Myth of Talent and The Power of Practice)
- Daniel Pink (The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us)
- Jim Collins (Good to Great)
- Warren Bennis (Leadership)
- Suzanne Kobassa (Hardiness)
- Angela Duckworth (Grit)
- Amy Cuddy (Confidence and Power Poses)
Many of these authors feature in TED videos, which are well worth watching.
6) What are the origins of mental toughness?
The concept of mental toughness is relatively new and has its origins in sport where it was pioneered through the work of the American sports psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute. He assisted many athletes, including the grand slam tennis player Jim Courier as well as the US Olympic Track and Field team, to achieve multiple personal bests and become world champions. In his book ‘The New Toughness Training for Sports’, Loehr defined mental toughness as
“the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”
7) Is MTQ48 valid and reliable?
MTQ48 has been declared both valid and reliable as a psychometric measure by the BPS (British Psychological Society) and US Department of Labour.
It is valid as it measures what it claims and all scales in MTQ48 score between 0.30 and 0.42. BPS and US DOL say that a good concurrent validity score should exceed 0.30 and acknowledge that scores rarely exceed 0.40.
Similarly MTQ48 is highly reliable as it is consistent. All scales exceed the acceptable level of reliability (0.70) and the reliability of the overall instrument is based on a database of 8000. The alpha scores are:
- Control 0.73
- Commitment 0.71
- Challenge 0.71
- Confidence 0.80
- OVERALL MENTAL TOUGHNESS 0.90
8) How is mental toughness used and in which sectors and organisations?
We are using MTQ48 and mental toughness with individuals and organisations for applications as diverse as hiring, learning and development, organisational change, professional development, managing high stress situations, leadership development, career transition as well as with students and teachers within the education sector. It is used in professional services and many sectors within industry and government, the community and health sectors, education and the sporting sector.
9) How do we develop mental toughness in individuals and organisations?
Mental Toughness is a plastic personality trait, which means it can be developed through teaching you to handle stress and related challenges more effectively. This involves making fundamental changes to the way you think about problems and using tactics and strategies that mentally tough people use.
This would begin with measurement of your mental toughness using the MTQ48 psychometric tool and after self-reflection you would have a conversation with an experienced coach or mental toughness practitioner to assess your development needs. Your program needs to be tailored as you will likely have a unique profile with different strengths and development needs, and would generally use some of the following techniques:
- Positive Thinking There are many techniques for developing a “can do” mindset, which include self-talk and stopping or reframing negative thoughts.
- Visualisation This involves developing your ability to first imagine something in your head to help you deal with a real event.
- Anxiety Control Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques will enable you to deal with those panic moments when things seem out of control, producing a physiological reaction.
- Goal Setting Tools and techniques, which support the development of your sense of purpose and how to set about achieving it.
- Attentional Control Used extensively by sports coaches to teach how to focus better and for longer. Developing mindfulness, which is learning how to notice what is around you.
Whilst all these techniques work, they don’t work for all people and different techniques are better used to develop some 4C challenges than others.
10) Where can you find out more about mental toughness?
Explore our website or contact us.