Coaching for mental toughness

Penny Mallory
Penny Mallory
Nov 03, 2020

“Every time we have a session coming up, I always think there isn't much to discuss or cover. Then we have an incredible 1:1 coaching session, and you seem to get out of me exactly what’s important, we get straight to the pressing issues, and I come out with lots of actions. It’s made such a difference to my personal and professional life. I love it!’

My coachee Ben is a typical example of a client experiencing coaching for the first time. He hadn’t realised the value of coaching and what magical changes it can bring. And now Ben is hooked. His enthusiasm and excitement grows with every session; it’s infectious, and that’s part of the joy for me as a coach.

My first experience of coaching was similar to Ben’s. Over 20 years ago, I hired a coach to help me with my rally driving. I hadn’t expected the coaching sessions would totally transform my driving performance. I couldn’t believe that simply chatting, and talking through how I drove, could have such an impact on my approach, mindset, and ultimately my results. I quickly fell in love with the coaching process and knew that one day I would become a coach; so I could help people to achieve extraordinary results too.

My coaching style is very relaxed, very open, but always challenging. I stick to a really clear structure for each session: setting a goal, reviewing the reality the client faces, and covering the options available and finally wrapping up the session with actions for them to take. I always leave my coachees with plenty of ‘homework’ which we review at the start of the following session. I’ve found the more I stick rigidly to the structure, the better the sessions go, as it prevents us wandering off into diversions and tangents, which can easily happen.

My passion is helping people to develop mental toughness, and by that I mean confidence, resilience, focus, determination and commitment. The better we can cope with stress and pressure, the happier and more successful we’re likely to be. These attributes are, in my experience, the game changers.

A persons’ skill, talent and intelligence will only account for 30% of their performance, but the invisible, abstract and intangible traits of confidence, focus and determination are the things that really make the difference to a persons’ performance. Look at any great performer and you’ll see they achieved their success by having a vision of what they wanted to achieve, not giving up, staying focused and being fully committed.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with all sorts of incredible people, ranging from prisoners in a category B prison to a Formula 1 team principle, and every kind of person in between. There isn’t much difference between them - it seems almost everyone suffers from some level of imposter syndrome and lack of confidence!

Coach and coachee is a relationship. And like any other relationship, you need to find the right match between two people. Once you’ve found that, and trust starts to develop, you’ll get the opportunity to start unlocking what you are capable of.

I think it’s the most exciting experience not just for the coachee, but also for me as a coach to see the transformation in a persons’ attitude, approach, mindset and performance.