Using stress to improve performance with Mental Toughness

I recently read an article from a Harvard Journal blog talking about stress and how it can actually improve performance in difficult circumstances. This article allowed me to reflect upon mental toughness and how the Mental Toughness solutions offered by JHK Ltd confirm this point.



In today’s challenging and relentless business environment, cuts, restructure and redundancy situations are rife.  Tough decision taking is required to cope with these uncomfortable situations. The ability to make informative and critical decisions is part of the role of all executives, and this is one area that can become severely affected by anxiety and stress such as we see in these present times.  Some of the effects can include short term memory loss, the inability to digest simple information or to even carry out several tasks at the same time. By taking advantage of specialist guidance around Mental Toughness and practising resilience techniques, individuals will gain mental toughness and agility and will reduce the impact caused by such stressors.



I was struck by an example of this in an article I read about Ollie the Ceo of a consumer goods company with revenues of over $1 billion. Ollie was suddenly hit by a complex organisational crisis as a result of his company showing the worst performance within the parent company’s conglomerate portfolio.   The pressure was rising for Ollie to find a solution to this crisis. When pressed for answers, Ollie’s response at times seemed incoherent and showed signs of incompetency. In reality, Ollie is not incompetent at what he does and he does have the capacity and ability to fulfil his role. But the fact is: people are not naturally wired to engage in complex problem solving when they are under pressure.  The good news is: it can be learned! In this article, many examples are used to show how repeated practice in stress situations can overcome the negative effects and turn stress into a tool to improve performance. For me, this example demonstrates the theory behind Mental Toughness training and coaching.



JHK Mental Toughness solutions has helped individuals and groups to not only deal with this type of stress but also to thrive on it so that they have no problem in dealing super-effectively with challenges such as this.  One recent example springs to mind.  At JHK Limited we spent some time working with a team of directors in the Probation Service last year helping them to develop Mental Toughness.   There was already a loss of confidence in many team members as a result of organisational restructures and this was causing some stress.  Soon after we carried out our training with this team the trust was landed with cuts of 25%.  I was struck at the time by how positively and effectively the team dealt with this blow!  Individually and as a team they found ways to work round this and retain motivation and enthusiasm in both themselves and their teams.  I was amazed.  At no stage did they complain but simply looked creatively for solutions and came together to work more effectively as a team.  They and their directors all said this would not have happened before the training.  A second example clearly demonstrates how the stress of the moment can be used to advantage.  An NHS director came to me because he felt he was not being as effective as he could be at implementing Medicines Management with GPs.  A vital part of the enormous cuts that need to be made by the NHS.  He felt that as soon as he was challenged by a GP he couldn’t cope.  We worked on preparing for these types of meetings and then putting himself in more challenging situations.  He initially managed to conquer his anxiety facing up to one particularly challenging member of staff, then planned a potentially confrontational meeting and finally planned a meeting with a number of GPs.  He stuck his ground at this meeting, used the techniques we had rehearsed and came away with them agreeing all his recommendations.  He actually got a buzz out of standing up to this challenge! The secret is to gradually increase the stress or the challenge just out of the comfort zone. This stuff really does work!

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