Six Characteristics of Mental Toughness – Part 1

female truck driver smiling outsider rig

By: Ellen Voie, President & CEO, Women in Trucking

Building mentally tough teams requires mentally tough employees. In Caliper’s latest whitepaper, the Women in Trucking research team defines the psychological advantage of six essential personality traits that make up mental toughness. And while some people are more naturally inclined to possess these traits, mental toughness is also a skill that can be developed by honing in on these key characteristics and building upon them over time. Sharpening your team’s skill sets can improve their performance and outcomes in the workplace, so let’s dig into the six personality traits associated with mental toughness. We’ll use our research to show you how to spot mental toughness in your employees and how to further develop these traits on your team. 

1. Level-headedness “A measure of emotional expressivity, [level-headedness] relates to the tendency to effectively manage the expression of one’s emotions. Individuals who manifest higher levels tend to remain composed in a variety of stress-inducing situations. Those who score lower tend to react more emotionally.” You know the saying “cool heads prevail?” When it comes to high-performing teams, it’s true. The employees on your teams must possess level-headedness to ensure the long-term success of the organization. So, how do you know if your team members have it? When the going gets tough, look for those who remain composed and can stabilize their emotions and reactions. They will continue to work towards solving the issues and not let downfalls blind them with emotions. Not everyone on your team will have this in high levels, and that’s okay. You can help other employees develop compensating behaviors by teaching and practicing different habits and techniques. Emphasize to your employees how important it is for them to stay calm, especially around other employees who may be more emotionally expressive. Showing your employees the long-term benefits of managing their emotions at work will not only benefit your bottom line, but it will also help their careers grow in a healthy manner. 

2. Stress tolerance “A measure of the capacity to remain unworried about possible negative consequences. Those showing high scores may remain unconcerned when faced with events beyond their control. People displaying low scores tend to focus on what might go wrong or potential negative consequences before moving to action.” All employees experience stress at some point, especially when things get busy or timelines get tight. During that time, you’ll notice that the employees who can maintain a cool, calm, and collected mindset will focus on the task at hand and worry less than their counterparts. Stress can make some individuals single-minded, making negatives seem catastrophic. This can make employees frustrated and disengaged. 

Here are some tips to help you develop those who show a lower tolerance for stressful situations: 

1. Help them find the silver lining when they’re overwhelmed and coach them on how to continue this practice for themselves. Once they’ve discovered the positive, help them create a plan to move forward. Often, stressed employees are just suffering from work paralysis, which can in turn cause more stress. 

2. Keep an optimistic attitude yourself. Lead by example, and you will be able to better coach your team in maintaining positivity in stressful situations when things get chaotic. 

3. Look for new opportunities that recurring issues reveal. That might come in the form of gaps in efficiency or the need for improved communication methods. An employee who always struggles at the end of the month due to poor reporting may need technology support or better time management from her team to avoid this in the future. 

Coaching and reinforcing these strategies with your employees will help them learn to manage their stress levels when they start to feel overwhelmed. Practicing and maintaining a level of calmness in the face of negative pressures will allow employees to develop endurance towards stress in the future. 

Blog post written by Aggie Alvarez. See the rest of this article here.

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