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Developing a growth mindset and mental toughness in your organisation

Preview :: Michelle :: Executive Headshots :: Adelaide

Worldwide, only 13% of employees are engaged at work. That’s a pretty shocking statistic. In Australia, we are slightly better. 24% of Australians are engaged in their work (we are 2nd world wide behind the USA), but 60% of staff are actively disengaged. That’s a big drain on productivity in the average workplace.

Research conducted by Great Place To Work shows that only 12% of CEOs globally believe they are driving the right culture in their organisation. So really, is it any surprise that only 13% of employees are engaged in the workplace? Consider too that mental health costs Australian businesses 10 billion dollars per year in lost productivity. (4.7 billion in absenteeism and 6.1 billion in presenteeism).  As a business leader, we need to invest in recognising the benefits of developing mental toughness and a growth mindset in our organisation, teams and the individuals who are responsible for the success of any business.

If individuals have a fixed mindset, they believe their basic qualities – their intelligence, their talents, their abilities- are just fixed traits. In other words, they are considered a part of you that cannot be changed. However, an individual with a growth mindset believes that even basic talents and abilities can be developed over time through experience and dedicated effort. People with a growth mindset “go for it”.

They are not plagued by anxiety about how smart they are or how they’ll look if they make a mistake. They challenge themselves to grow. Those with a growth mindset are also those who tend to have higher mental toughness. They focus on making things happen, they embrace challenges, they persist in the face of setbacks, they learn from criticism and welcome feedback and find lessons and inspiration from the success of others.

Are you currently able to look around at your team and recognise those who have higher levels of mental toughness and those who are more mentally sensitive? Do you have team members who always volunteer for new projects, manage their emotions and commit to dedicated action? Or do you have a team who struggle with change, let their emotions get the better of them and lose focus easily?

Mental Toughness is basically a mindset that a person adopts in everything they do and determines how they perform under stress and pressure irrespective of the prevailing circumstances. Mental Toughness is more than resilience alone. If Resilience is our ability to “survive”, then Mental Toughness is our ability to “thrive”.

Our current working environments are more challenging than ever. VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) is a leadership concept well known to many organisations and has almost become the “new normal” given the constant change that often surrounds many businesses.

So what are you looking for to identify if your team has high levels of mental toughness and a growth mindset?

Individuals within a team need to demonstrate Emotional Control. They need to feel they can shape what happens to them, be able to manage their own emotions as well as understand and recognise other people’s emotions and how to manage these. They are not difficult to provoke or annoy and do not get anxious or angry easily. They stay calm in a crisis and are able to keep a much broader perspective on things.

An individual with high levels of Mental Toughness also has Life Control. They believe they can make a difference, are comfortable to do several different things at once, are good at planning, prioritising and time management and are prepared to work hard to clear blockages from their path. They believe they can define what needs to be done and see the solution rather than the problem.

Mentally Tough individuals have Commitment. They like setting clearly defined goals and use goals to define what their success will look like. They are able to maintain focus and have a sense of purpose.

They see Challenges as opportunities rather than threats and are likely to provoke change and continuous improvement. They are happy to commit to projects, enjoy healthy competition, work hard and are not afraid of extra effort to achieve success.

Mentally Tough individuals have Confidence in Their Ability. They have little need for external validation, but rather an internal focus of control. They are happy to ask questions and seek advice and provide full and clear responses. They see feedback as a positive opportunity and see competence and excellence in others as a form of motivation. They also have Interpersonal Confidence. They will engage in discussion and can be more risk oriented. They are happy to ask for support and are not shy in coming forward. They enjoy working in a group of like-minded individuals and engage easily.

As business leaders, there is a significant opportunity to enhance work place engagement and build a workforce that are accountable, solution focused, growth focused and see challenges and change as opportunities. Implementing potential for the development of a growth mindset and mental toughness can lead to significant increases in productivity, staff retainment and engagement.

Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Wellbeing Strategist, Leadership and Wellbeing Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness Practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership potential and wellbeing.

You can find her at or


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