Adversity Meets Mental Toughness: How To Help Your Team Show Up

There’s nothing like springtime to awaken your senses so you can enjoy the early signs of renewal. If you’re like the 10+ million viewers who watched the first day of the second round of March Madness, then your senses are already awakened by forces other than nature.

Rather than birds chirping and flowers blooming, your ears and eyes are attuned to the sweet sound of court shoes squeaking and the sight of gorgeous hardwood floors. In typical fashion, the earliest days of the tournament promise the most madness. Shocking upsets and buzzer beaters always deliver excitement.

What I’m most struck by while I watch a game or two is that these immensely talented teams have reached a level of play that’s a beautiful thing to watch, but what you’re never sure of is who will mentally show up. Who has the mental strength to say, “Yes, we’re down ten or twenty points, but we can turn this around” rather than let it sink their mental game?

Mental toughness is in high demand today on and off the court—particularly in the workplace. Some anxiety-inducing trends that come to mind are:

  • AI and retention – Leaders have to worry about whether they’re appropriately leveraging artificial intelligence so that it strengthens their human capital while not threatening the humanity of their culture. This isn’t a future concern; a report in June of 2023 reported that 80 percent of leaders already use generative AI.
  • Hybrid work – C-suites have to make sense of new workplace norms that accommodate hybrid work and how that potentially further creates a disparity among underserved workforce constituencies.  
  • Wellness in the workplace – Ultimately, they are preoccupied with the fact that an employee’s inner thoughts affect their mental health, their ability to lead, their teams, and their organization.

These trends and more are enough to keep leaders awake at night and early to work in the morning. But leaders have to lean in to what they know to be true: people perform better, experience more buy-in, and feel more optimism if they are on a team with whom they can authentically trust and communicate effectively. A staggering 85 percent of workplace success is a product of effective emotional intelligence.

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All these qualities contribute to better mental health on the job. Someone who knows this only too well is SymphonyAI’s chief people officer Jennifer Trzepacz. Jennifer and I will be talking about guiding teams and more on April 18 at 10 a.m. MST, so tune in to Off the Rak.

In the meantime, consider how you might support “sharpening the saw” with your team and what that could look like. Steven Covey’s seventh habit is as relevant today as it was when he first wrote the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Sharpening the saw means that we make time for things that increase our motivation, energy, and work-life balance—all things that support our mental resilience and ability to face tough trends on the job.

Enjoy the spring and all that it has to offer—no matter whether you like to indulge in warmer weather activities or simply take in a game. Either way, let the energy of the season inspire you to renew your approach to wellness and reinvigorate your commitment to your team’s mental health. They deserve authenticity and open communication in the midst of constant change. These are two leadership qualities that enable your people to channel resilience when they fall behind and turn the game around for a win.

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