Behavioural Indicators for Mental Toughness or Resilience

Posted on April 20, 2013 at 14:14 PM

Generic metal toughness and resilience diagnostics are widely available and they measure just that particular characteristic, often solely quantitatively. Many competence frameworks also include indicators that have a relation to the concept of mental toughness, often in the context of the competency itself. This is admirable but the overall rating for the competency obscures the specific mental toughness aspect, unless the specific questions are investigated.

With the importance of mental toughness in today’s (and in all likelihood tomorrow’s) business environment, the assessment of the specific competency of Positive Organisational Behaviour, Personal Resilience (or some other such name as to be meaningful and acceptable in your own organisation) would be a pragmatic response to the turbulence of the economic environment. This can be achieved via the extension of a routine assessment such as a performance appraisal or a 360-degree review and doing so would be neither overplaying its importance nor clouding its measurement with other data. This would also provide a specific measure of this ability within the context of the role.

When designing the assessment for this competency, which would include indicators of personal resilience to be assessed against, do also include free text questions so as to provide for the gathering of evidence to reinforce this behaviour. Similarly, expressions of ‘toughness’ may not have been welcomed by those on the receiving end of them and by providing them with an opportunity to cite examples, helps them and the person being rated to explain the feedback. Finally, with these resilience indicators, expressing the indicator in a negative sense (by using a contra-indicator) is more likely to elicit a more accurate rating, as is being selective as to who (i.e. which review group) is asked to rate which indicator. (Note: not all 360 or appraisal software can do this – needless to say, Talent 180 and Talent 360 can!)

Below we offer, for your review and adaptation a selection of indicators for a Personal Resilience competency that you could use in your own assessments:

Title: Personal Resilience

Description: The demonstration of perseverance and conviction directed towards the achievement of goals despite pressure or adversity. An individual who shows resilience would adapt their behaviour according to the circumstances, proactively coping with obstacles and recovering quickly after experiencing setbacks. Engaging in strategic planning and forward thinking, anticipating outcomes and developing contingencies are also behaviours demonstrated by people who are effective in this area. Resilient individuals tend to manage pressure effectively, maintaining a positive focus, acting assertively and making sure that benefits are gained from all situations.

Positive Indicators:

• Focuses on performance outcomes despite uncertain or difficult circumstances
• Encourages others to take a positive approach to change
• Uses experience or knowledge to manage and mitigate against risks
• Takes on challenges with a ‘can-do’ attitude
• Maintains a positive attitude during times of uncertainty
• Concentrates only on things they can control or influence
• Reviews successes to understand the factors that contributed to them
• Acts quickly to capitalise on opportunities for business growth or improvements
• Remains calm during stressful or challenging situations
• Seeks to improve their own performance by both soliciting and acting on feedback
• Projects a credible, positive self-image.


• Dwells on setbacks or things that have gone wrong
• Allows short term or minor failures to obscure longer-term goals
• Reduces efforts in the face of disappointment or rejection
• Rarely takes opportunities to build confidence by celebrating success.

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