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Think positively to operate at your best


Develop your mental skills to help you cope with the pressure of change

In recent research about change programmes in business, it was established that 100% of all changes rated as “successful” had a good technical solution or approach. The same research also highlighted that over 98% of all changes rated as “unsuccessful” also had a good technical solution or approach. The critical difference between the successful 2% and the remainder were the people involved and their understanding of the psychology of change.

When the legendary football manager Brian Clough - a man who firmly believed that he was in the top 1% of any group - was asked by the press what made him believe he was best suited to the job of changing the fortunes of Nottingham Forest, his face remained completely deadpan, he looked at the reporters and offered the mathematical observation that “90% of the game is half mental”.

Compare yourself when you are operating at your very best and at your very worst. What percentage of the difference was mental?
If you believe the difference between your very best and your worst day was, as Clough said, at least 50% mental, then how much time do you spend on your mental skills and how can it help you cope with the pressures of change?

Top tips for improving your mental attitude

● Write your own annual CV and identify who you are when you are at your best. If you are a leader, could you get your team to do something similar?
● Think about the things that cause you to have an attitude. How many of those words relate to things that cause you to have a positive attitude? Or do a lot of them have a negative connotation?
● Listen to people’s language, and don’t allow yourself to fall into being so negative

When Brian Clough was managing one of his early football clubs, he was standing on the touchline as his striker got involved in a collision. The trainer ran onto the pitch and reported back: “He’s concussed, doesn’t know what his name is.” Clough replied: “Tell him he’s Pele and send him back on.’”

In psychology this technique is called the self-consistency theory, which means we act according to the image that we hold of ourselves.

Work shapes our social identity. What we feel about the identity it gives us is dependent on how others view the organisation or teams we belong to. Psychologists term this, the “social identity theory”.

I once visited the country’s worst-performing school and talked to the newly qualified teachers, who were understandably concerned about starting their careers in such circumstances. I reassured them that what would determine whether they would enjoy their teaching careers, was not how well they knew their subject or controlled a class, it was where they chose to sit in the staff room. Next to people who love their job, enjoy the challenge of teaching and love the lifestyle it affords them or with those who love nothing more than to moan, gripe and bellyache about the job, the management, the canteen and the tea. The attitude of the people they sat with would be contagious.

What about you? Are you sitting in the right seat?

Damian Hughes is a best-selling author on the Psychology of Change and offers workshops on the subject. Contact him on, or 0151 426 0110


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