So Andy Murray was the runner up at the Australian open. It was a shame. He’d been playing as well as he had ever been but he was up against a formidable opponent. Number six in the world was playing number one. It was sublime tennis. The match ebbed and flowed with each player gaining the upper hand until eventually the higher ranked player won. It had been a long fortnight and Murray just seemed to run out of steam.
Michelle on Twitter said that it was not easy being a Murray fan mind you. He is right up there and has won a couple of majors, as well as Olympic gold yet there seems to be something that stops him from being a great player to the greatest of players. Michelle went on to add that his attitude has to change. (He is a) great tennis player, fit and strong, (yet his) mental fitness needs a lot of work.
Now I’m not one for using sporting analogies in a work environment. They usually just don’t hold. In sports the object is clear, to beat your opponent. Rules are laid down and you are penalised if you step outside them. Fairness is expected and a referee is on hand to make sure it stays that way. Once you are on the pitch you have a single task to deliver. You and your team have to deliver more points than your competitor. If you do you win. If you don’t you lose. Whatever happens no one dies and there will be a chance to redeem yourself next week.
Work in a highly dynamic environment with multiple competing priorities is not like that.
Michelle’s last comment got me thinking though. We talk a lot at work about skills and qualifications. Indeed we are just going through an exercise to try and capture them. We train hard to improve both our technical and softer skills but I have never considered mine, or anyone else’s, mental fitness. Are we ready in our minds to stand up to the day-to-day rigours that are expected of us? When push comes to shove, no matter how well we are trained, do we fold when the pressure becomes too much?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I’ve always given those who work with me my ‘three jobs’ speech. You have the job that you are paid for, the job to work within and develop the team and the final job to develop yourself. The last one is the one that gets the least attention and is probably the most important. Yet my personal focus has been on management and leadership development, improving communications, team interoperability and the breaking down of silos. I have focussed on process flow, optimisation and strategic direction.
On reflection what determines my output is how I am feeling that day. It must be the same for my colleagues. What has kept me going ever since my days as a salesman has been my ability to pick myself up, dust myself down and start all over again. I can be as tenacious as a terrier when I want.
The next few years are going to be as challenging as the last few and so it may be that a greater focus on mental preparedness and fitness is in order. A couple of years ago I read a book on mindfulness and toyed with its principles for a while. Perhaps it’s time to dig it out again.