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Mental resilience: Your secret weapon in the workplace

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Wonder Woman has her Lasso of Truth. James Bond has his Golden Gun. You might not know it, but you’ve got a secret weapon too. It’s called Mental Resilience. And it may be key to your professional success.

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Mental resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress — it’s the ability to bounce back from difficult experiences. I have read several articles about how to bolster your mental resilience but I am particularly interested in the end game: what can you achieve by cultivating a resilient mindset?

To explore that idea, I sat down with Martin Coburn, Founding Director of Natural Direction, a London-based performance improvement consultancy that helps people build resilience. “Mental resilience is not just a coping mechanism,” Martin explained. “It’s a proactive technique — a game changer that can help you take on bigger opportunities and get better results.”

What kind of results can mental resilience help you achieve?

Looking at change and seeing opportunity

There’s no newsflash here — we work in incredibly uncertain, disruptive times. Seeing this as the norm, and not something you must overcome, is the hallmark of mental resiliency. As Martin explains, “Too many people focus on how to weather the storm. Mentally resilient people see change as the prevailing climate and embrace the opportunities it affords.”

So next time you’re faced with a major shake-up at work instead of asking, “How is this going to impact my current job?” ask, “What new roles might this open up for me?” With this outlook, you may even become an instigator for change!

Making small tweaks that lead to big results

Mentally resilient people are constantly looking for new or better ways to do things. I’m not saying you should strive to invent the next iPhone. I’m taking about making modifications that lead to better outcomes — that’s how innovation happens. Let’s say you’ve got great ideas, but the thought of public speaking has you cowering in the ladies room. Start small, focusing on one change you can easily implement each week. At the end of three months, you may be surprised by how comfortable you are presenting at your end-of-quarter team meeting.

Boosting your confidence to tackle new challenges

Women, in particular, are bad at recognising their strengths and often underplay their abilities in a professional setting. Mentally resilient people are confident in their abilities but realistic about the challenges they face — they know they can look at a problem and find a way to work it out. A “can do” mindset combined with a belief in your expertise can help you overcome anxiety and focus on success. As William James, psychologist and philosopher, once said: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”

Becoming a better salesperson

We’re all in sales, whether we have that title on our business card or not — we constantly have to sell ourselves, our abilities, our opinions. But we can get stuck at a certain level of performance. As Martin explains, “We tend to set our mental thermostats at a fixed temperature – but we’ve all got an internal boiler that is capable of generating massive heat.”

Mental resilience lets you crank up that thermostat so you can have more fruitful conversations and capitalise on more impactful opportunities.

If you’re actually in sales, that process can help you increase your win rate. If not, it may help you sell yourself into a promotion or take the lead on an important initiative.

Building stronger connections

At work, the best performers are not necessarily the ones with the best job skills — they’re the ones who forge and manage relationships. This phenomenon is underscored by Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy in her book “Presence,” in which she explains that warmth, or trustworthiness, is more important than competence.

Mentally resilient people kindle their warmth by connecting and collaborating – attending social events, assisting others, and even asking for help. Using this approach delivers a double benefit — it promotes trust with others while building a social network that can reduce stress and provide emotional support.

Clearly, mental resilience is a secret weapon that you can hone to become a stronger individual, a more valuable employee, and a more successful leader. Best of all, it’s not something you’re born with – it’s a skill that you can learn and develop, whatever your personality type. En garde!

About the author:

Dr. Christine Bailey is a senior marketing leader with 25+ years’ experience of business to business marketing in the technology sector, mostly leading European marketing functions for companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems.  In 2016 she was included in B2B Marketing’s Top 10 Most Influential Women in Martech, as well as being a judge and keynote speaker at the national Women in Business Awards.   Chris is a respected thought leader and speaker, most notable for her TEDx Talk ‘Unconventional Career Advice’ and regular blogs for Forbes Woman.

At Cisco Systems she was also the Global & EMEAR co-lead for Connected Women – a global community run by employees to attract, develop, retain and celebrate talented women.Chris is passionate about all things digital and social and the role they play in digital transformation.  She works in partnership with Digital Leadership Associates to help companies with social strategy definition and implementation, social selling training and mentoring and social presence management.

Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in German & Business Studies from Warwick University and a doctorate (DBA) in customer insight from Cranfield School of Management in the UK.  She is also a mother of one.

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