Mental toughness in leaders

To author and speaker Gavin Ingham, mental toughness is a collection of personal attributes that allow a person to stay focused on what is important to him or her, regardless of the challenges and obstacles they face. “It is the ability to sift through conflicting ideas and interests and to choose the right path for you. It is the strength to get motivated and stay motivated even after setbacks. It is the ability to say and do what needs to be done no matter how hard or difficult that may be,” he says.

Gavin started his professional life as a police officer with the Metropolitan Police where he learned a lot about communication under pressure before ultimately deciding the job wasn’t for him. He then fell into a sales role and after a challenging start found that he had a knack for it, winning a European top-seller award in his first full year selling. “The defining moment for me in my sales career was reading a book and realizing that I and I alone am responsible for my mindset, my actions and my results,” he says. Today, he’s passionate about understanding what differentiates peak performers from merely good ones, and helping leaders make tough decisions, executives work more effectively and sales teams make more sales. Here, he talks more about the importance of mental toughness in leadership. Read on:

Why is mental toughness necessary for effective leadership?

Mental toughness is critical for leaders on many fronts. Here are just three: Firstly, leaders need to be able to control their own motivation and their own emotions. They need to be able to do this both for themselves so that they can stay focused on their own actions and also for their teams so that no matter how they feel, they give out the right messages. Secondly, mental toughness is critical in decision-making. In today’s business climate many people make the wrong decisions due to emotional pressures, hectic schedules and peer pressure. Great leaders have the mental toughness to be able to apply critical thinking to sift through the noise and take the right actions. Thirdly, mental toughness gives you the strength and the conviction to ask the difficult, game-changing questions that others do not ask. Whether it is of prospects, clients, team members, bosses … asking the right question at the right time can make all of the difference, failing to do so can be disastrous.

What do leaders risk when they’re not mentally tough?

Everything! Respect, time, money, reputation, sales …

How can leaders and sales teams develop mental toughness?

There are many ways of developing mental toughness, here are just four:

  1. One of the first ones is to know why you do what you do. Many people view mental toughness as buckling down and doing something that you don’t want to do but I see it as being honest with yourself about what you do want to do, who you do want to become and what you do want to achieve. We all get a choice of what bus we travel through life in and you need to get on the right bus! Many people, even leaders, are not honest with themselves. They don’t or won’t admit that they are on the wrong bus. They don’t or won’t admit that they are following the wrong road. The first step in mental toughness is asking yourself what is truly important to you … in work and in your personal life.
  2. The second step is to set goals for each area of importance. These need to be goals that excite you, goals that will get you up early in the morning, goals that will keep you up late at night. Great leaders have inspiring goals. Creating, nurturing and following these in the right way is critical for success. It is also critical for motivating and inspiring others to join you on your journey.
  3. The third step is to work out critical steps and actions that are required to achieve these goals. When I work with CEOs and MDs on this we often find that they spend only miniscule amounts of time on these important activities, instead spending their time dealing with issues that others have created or stuff that was important at some point but is not any longer. New goals require new activities, it really is that simple.
  4. Clearly, step four is to apply these strategies and then monitor and measure your performance. I teach mental strategies and mindset hacks to help individuals to stick to their plans and these are easily applied and very powerful. Most leaders benefit from both 121 coaching and mastermind groups in helping them to be more mentally tough.

What should leaders be doing to evolve with the ever-changing sales landscape? How can they make sure their skills meet the needs of their sales force?

Leaders need to be well read and they need to stay abreast of what is going on. Sales methodologies and approaches are changing all of the time and companies need to change with it. The best leaders are aware of this and engage everyone within their organizations to understand sales. One sure fire way of doing this is to encourage people to create and share sales stories. These can be used by everyone and they help to maintain morale and create a positive sales culture. Every CEO should have their own story that they share and this helps with the identity of the organization, the external image and, ultimately, the success of the company.

What are your favorite resources for leaders who are committed to improving themselves and growing their teams?

I have a very eclectic approach to personal development. I read, I talk to people, I interview people, I listen to podcasts, watch TED, read blogs, download white papers, etc. I would encourage people to do the same … buying into one person or one philosophy can put the blinkers on and hamper your ability to see the whole picture.

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