When the going gets tough…the calm get through it

12 October 16

Work can be tough. Sometimes it can be very tough. From bosses who micro-manage to those who leave it to chance. Staff whose needs come first, always. Customers who demand high standards and reciprocate with none. IT failings, travel woes, multiple deadlines. You name it we’ve all been there.

How tough you find these situations depends entirely on how well you manage yourself through them. Do you keep the emotions at bay, operate on a rational and calm basis and deal with it, or do you feel the stress build and your ability to cope diminish?

Over the years I’ve developed some techniques for dealing with most challenges the world of work can throw up. Here are the most effective ones.

  1. Care enough but not too much. 

You must care passionately about the success of your company and your teams. But equally you should not be so emotionally tied that it becomes very difficult to walk away. When things get really tough you should always have the option of walking away even though you would only do this as a last resort or when something better comes along.

If your boss wants to exit you tomorrow how easy is it for you to say to yourself, “It’s their loss, I can get another job and hey, it’s a relief to get out of there?” The power of having the choice to walk away whenever you want but choosing instead to keep going is enormous. Having that attitude means you can cope with most adversity at work.

2. Random Acts of Kindness

A simple act of kindness to a colleague can go a long way for both of you. Research has shown that even only one deliberate act of kindness per day increases happiness and positively impacts wellbeing. Go out of your way to help others when things are tough and you’ll feel stronger as a result as well as creating a better place to work.

3. Find shared priorities

The intersection of what your company needs you to do most and what you love doing most is where you should try to spend as much time as possible. This will almost always be a minority of your time spent (unless you have a dream job) but should outweigh the downside of the work you don’t enjoy as much.

4. Embrace failure

So much of what holds people back is a fear of failure. In a challenging work environment a fear of failure can severely inhibit creativity and ideas, two things that give a real buzz at work. Learn to embrace that fear, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, learn from them and ride that wave when the big idea works.

5. Nil carborundum illegitimi

In life and work there are those who get you down. Maybe they are difficult, poor performers or negative. Tolerate them, smile back at them but quietly ignore them and keep them well away from your chimp!

6. Learn to manage your chimp

If you’re not familiar with Steve Peters’ work “The Chimp Paradox”, read it. We all hear that voice in our head that reminds us of past failures or demands we react emotionally in confrontations. Well that voice is our chimp and you need to learn to manage it. I let my chimp chatter away when it doesn’t matter but it gets locked away when the going gets tough.

Work can be hugely rewarding and fun but for the times it is not, best be prepared. If you use these techniques the challenges of today will just be the steps into the future. As Jack Ma said, “Today is tough, tomorrow will be worse but the day after tomorrow will be beautiful.”


As an experienced CEO and Director I know the importance of having a strong Board Chair to provide strategic leadership and direction.  Norman provides this leadership in abundance but also fully understands the need to give support and space to the management team for them to succeed.  He is prepared to make difficult decisions and will lead on resolving difficult issues when necessary.

Mike Stevens – Ex CEO, London Welsh Rugby Club