Can a team’s mental toughness be increased using positive psychology? This case study suggests it can.

Mental toughness is closely linked to resilience at work. So leaders and human resource practitioners should be very interested in this positive psychology case study. Sandy Gordon is a professional sports psychologist. He conducted an experiment in using strengths based coaching techniques, whilst working with professional cricketers in Perth. There were wildly positive results, which showed that mental toughness can be learned – it is not simply something you are born with. Gordon developed the SOAR approach when working with the team. This stands for:

  • Strengths – What are the current strong suits of the team? What do you do as a team that’s already working great?
  • Opportunities – What are the opportunities the team presents? What skills would improve teamwork moving forward?
  • Aspirations – Who are you as a team? What would you like to become? What models of positive psychology support these aspirations?
  • Results – How will you measure your success? What positive traits can you establish to make sure you are on track with your goals?

Using this approach helped the crickers shift their thinking and focus on how they could draw on each team member’s strengths. One of the participants in the program (a senior cricketer) summed up the difference the program made. He said “I much prefer the idea of spending the majority of my time realising my strengths rather than trying to fix weaker areas.” This backs up the positive psychology approach to coaching, which emphasises the importance of building strengths rather than attempting to overcome weaknesses.


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The evidence is clear. Focusing on a team’s can go a long way in building mental toughness. Leaders, coaches and positive psychology trainers should keep this in mind when working to build individual capabilities and organisational success.

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About the author of this article:

Eleanor Shakiba is a specialist in positive psychology training. She works with people in high intellect professions – such as academia, education, project management, research and development and engineering. Her skills in interactive training make Eleanor a highly sought-after facilitator. Eleanor is author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners. She also provides master practitioner workshops for trainers and facilitators.