Mental Toughness In Business

Winning in business requires capability and commitment. Capability is a skill that can be built, but it alone will not deliver the win. Mental toughness, the way people within your business think and act, is the factor that makes the difference. And that mental toughness has nothing to do with doggedly chasing that extra dollar of profit.


Active Knowledge Question:

Does your business have the right mental attitude that will enable it to win?


The Elite

At the elite end of sports, it is well recognised that talent, skill, is not enough. Skills are acquired through hard work, although some may find it easier to build the necessary talent to compete at the highest levels. But it is not the skill that delivers the wins; it is the competitor’s mental attitude and ability to bring that to bear on the day of competition.

See winners know they are going to win. Not in an arrogant way but in a manner that reflects confidence in their ability to deliver. Add to that their focus on ‘process’, not the prize, and that provides them with the mental toughness to win at the most challenging times.

There is a matching between their performance and expectations – they know they will win because they know they have what it takes and can deliver it on the day. You could say it is their confidence, but it’s far more their attitude to the game they are playing. They play and train to deliver their best performance every time. And sometimes they don’t win, and that is okay as long as they gave their best performance.

But when you focus on the outcome, winning the prize, you tend to lose focus on the process to win, you get distracted, flustered, angry and then the prize will most certainly escape you.

In business, we often chase the outcome and sacrifice the process in an attempt to secure the prize. We want the profit and will push our people to do whatever it takes to get it. And then we wonder why our business falters.


In Business, We Compete

In business, many leaders become focused on profit and see profit as the prize that must be delivered. Of course, profit does not make itself, and it is the customer and their buying activity that allows profit to be earned.

In business, we compete around the value we are able to deliver to that customer in meeting the need they seek satisfied. If we do that well, then we win their custom and the profit which will flow from it.

Mental toughness is not about a dogged pursuit of the prize; mental toughness is far more about not allowing the prize to distract you and keeping your focus on the winning performance. And in business, it is no different with the process being our ability to deliver a customer value that will outcompete all other competitors.

In business, it is a team event with many players performing different roles that will enable the business to deliver its winning performance. And it is the combined talent and effort of all those who work within and with the business that determines its level of competitive fitness. What is required is mental toughness across the entire organisation from all corners at all levels.

So the question becomes, how do you go about developing that organisation-wide mental toughness?


Mental Toughness In Business

Many misinterpret ‘mental toughness’ and see it as an external, aggressive trait. It becomes overexertion, pushing too hard, demanding too much and not accepting any excuses. This can become a leadership and cultural trait that is seen as necessary to drive the business and underpin its success.

And while ‘aggressive’ may deliver some results, it will certainly not lift to the surface the greatest potential, talent or effort.

Mental toughness is about resilience, commitment and determination to deliver a result. This trait is quiet, one could say passive, but it is deep-seated, relentless and comes from within. It will overcome all hurdles in pursuing its result. And that result is its best competitive performance day after day – better every day.

So what allows an individual and then many individuals to come together and bond in this mental toughness? It is seeded through a righteous purpose and grown through worthy leadership.

In business, it is reflected through the workings of the competitive engine that exists in every business. An engine that strengths the talent and effort of all those who work within and with the business. An engine that makes the business competitively fit.

Here are the elements of the competitive engine that allows mental toughness to be built and sustained in your business:

  • The business is founded in a purpose to meet a succinct customer need. It does not exist to profiteer but recognises the importance of profit and that it is an outcome of competing well.
  • It is led by leaders who place founding purpose, customers and everyone working within and with ahead of themselves. They have built relationships of mutual trust and engagement.
  • There is a compelling vision, an outflowing of founding purpose, that sends everyone on a common quest.
  • There is a culture that draws the best from every person and underpins competitiveness.
  • Rewards are seen as the fuel and are fairly and equally available to everyone.
  • And all barriers to success are removed, especially self-interest and bureaucracy.


A mentally tough business is one where everyone is unreservedly committed to the business and its purpose within the community it serves. Their motive is to compete in delivering a winning value to their customers every day.


An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel