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The last in our Spring Series of no-cost webinars for lawyers is on 28th June 2016. Lawyers are under pressure to constantly perform at a high level, yet stress can hamper performance.
Our webinar looks at how managing stress and developing mental toughness can help. Click here to register via Eventbrite.
I hesitate to mention on St Patrick’s Day that Wales beat Ireland on Saturday (and I was there).
It was an intriguing match, but the biggest cheer of the day came after Wales were awarded a penalty after successfully defending some 7 minutes of Irish attacks close to their line. For non Rugby fans, the two videos included in this Wales Online article illustrate what happened.
That amount of tackling requires both courage and physical resilience. Indeed you can see players being hurt in a tackle, take a second to check that there is no serious injury, then get back into line to tackle again.
More important is the mental approach. The idea of going through phases is that gaps eventually appear in the defence through which the attacker can run and score a try. That they did not succeed is a tribute to the mental toughness of the Wales team in keeping going and operating their defensive systems.
The model of Mental Toughness that we use (from AQR and Prof. Peter Clough) is based on the 4 C’s of Control, Commitment, Confidence and Challenge. How did these apply on Saturday?
Control – they believed that they could control the situation (despite not having the initiative). They could also control their own emotions (for instance by not panicking) and also influence the emotions of their team mates by encouraging each other.
Commitment – they committed to a clear goal of preventing Ireland from scoring a try, and to maintaining their defensive system. They also made a massive commitment to achieving that goal, and the possible cost of getting hurt.
Confidence – they demonstrated individual confidence in their own ability to keep to the system, and to keep tackling. Additionally, they showed interpersonal confidence in influencing each other to keep to the system and tackle, tackle, tackle. Luke Charteris describes some of this in the article.
Challenge – they are prepared to take risks to achieve their goal. For example one or other may rush out of the line to tackle a player before they have any momentum, leaving a possible gap to be exploited if they got it wrong. And if they made errors, they would adjust for the next phase.
You can see how these factors interact, and how external input can have an effect. For example, training increases confidence and readiness for challenge. The experience of defending in other matches helps.
This example resonates with me as a one eyed Welsh Rugby fan, but it should illustrate even to those who dislike sport how mental toughness influences performance.
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Many of the examples of mental toughness are connected with sport, indeed a Google Alert on the topic produces a large number of sports stories. Sport is of course interesting in itself to many people, and results become apparent quickly.
How does it translate to real life? Research shows that
- There is clear evidence that mentally tough individuals are more focused on objective reality as exemplified by their preference for problem focused strategies as opposed to emotion centred coping.
- Mentally tough individuals may also maintain their connection with reality as they have been found to be less likely to use avoidance strategies when dealing with stressful situations.
This does illustrate that business leaders benefit from mental toughness, and indeed 25% of variation in individual performance can be attributed to this factor.
As always, though, this does not negate the necessity of doing the right thing.
Many people cite their boss as a significant cause of stress. Avoid some common traps by reading Law Matters here.
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When I was still in practice, I sometimes needed to work on a Saturday morning to ensure that everything was done. The decision was often made early on Friday afternoon, when it became clear that I was not going to complete my planned work by the end of the day. I found that my productivity following that decision was then much less than if I had taken Saturday morning off.
This is my own personal illustration of Parkinson’s Law. This of course states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
A danger for lawyers and other business owners is that long hours become a habit, rather than a necessity. Clearly injunction proceedings in the morning, or the office burning down, will lead to longer hours. But how many could achieve in 9 hours what they take 10 hours to do – and purely because 10 hours is their regular work day?
Lack of productivity is not the only issue, since stress is also a factor. For example families may be disgruntled that you spend little time with them. That can lead to divorce, in itself one of the most stressful events there can be.
Surely it is not possible to run a successful firm without long hours? Donald Regan, when he was running Merrill Lynch, one of the big players on Wall Street, expected his staff to leave on time. If they did not, then there was something wrong with their workload, the way they handled it, or with their support. At the same time the firm was aggressively expanding.
Do you need to take a step back to look at your hours? Are you close to being overwhelmed? If so, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can help.
I have been doing work on preparing a Mental Toughness Development Course recently, part of the reason for a lack of posts. One of the points I make is that mental toughness can indeed be improved. It is important in this context to know that the MTQ48 test (the starting point) uses a model based on the 4C’s: Challenge, Challenge, Control (emotional, life) and Confidence (abilities, interpersonal).
I read a good illustration on the Dr Laura site recently. A mother describes the problems her son has, and how she set him a physical challenge – the minor one of walking 200 miles across England, Coast to Coast. Read it here. He says ” I’m not a guy who quits any more.” That means he has already developed more mental toughness, and you can see the link to the 4C’s.
I very much hope that they make it to Robin Hood’s Bay, the end of the walk, and look at the plaque about the lifeboat. That also illustrates successfully overcoming difficulties.
On 19th January 1881, the brig “Vessel” ran aground in the bay. Sea conditions meant that the Whitby lifeboat could not be launched for a rescue. Instead, it was dragged 6 miles from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay through 7 foot snow drifts. This involved 18 horses and 200 men. Once it reached the village, walls were removed and bushes uprooted to make a wide enough passage to the sea. The crew of the “Vessel” were successfully rescued, at the second attempt.
Mentally tough people are not passive, but take action to overcome problems – even if they are 11.