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January 23, 2017

Expert Interview Series: Gavin Ingham, Speaker and Author, On Sales and Mental Toughness

Gavin Ingham is Europe's leading speaker on sales and mental toughness. He helps people to "be more, do more, and have more" in their business and their lives. Gavin recently sat down with us to explain his concept of mental toughness and how he communicates that message to salespeople and business executives.

Briefly tell us about your background. Why did you decide to become a motivational speaker and coach?

My first big challenge in life came when my father died in a car accident when I was just 13. Having been a top student destined for a career in law, I stopped paying attention at school and focused on how I could use my communication and negotiation skills to ensure that I could get away with doing as little work as possible.

Realizing that I was responsible for my own success or failure and can take control of my own emotions, I put what I had learned into practice to become a European sales award winner in my first full year selling. Utilizing mental toughness strategies that I had learned over the years, I was quickly promoted to team leader and then to sales manager before being headhunted to set up the sales division of a startup organization.

During this time I studied extensively in sales, motivation, communication, and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). It was through this study and working in these roles that I began to realize the power of the individual over external events and circumstances, and where I started to develop the mental toughness techniques, strategies, and approaches that I share in my motivational keynote talks and books today. In 2001, inspired by a lifelong passion for self-improvement and success thinking, I decided to set up my own business as a speaker, author, and coach.

What are some of the common roadblocks and challenges that are faced by the people and organizations to whom you speak?

Though every person and every organization are different, there are some common challenges:

    • Everybody is busy.


    • Companies expect more, clients expect more, managers expect more.


    • Increased competition.


    • A scarcity mentality.


    • Not taking responsibility for anything.


    • Not setting big enough goals.


    • Underestimating what needs doing


    • Not having a plan.


    • Not knowing what is important to them


  • Not doing the right stuff.

"Mental toughness" has been a buzzword or catchphrase for a long time. What does that concept mean to you?

If you Google mental toughness, it is described as "a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in sport, education, and the workplace." Certainly in the U.S., mental toughness is a very common phrase ... but mostly in sports and sales.

When I speak to people, a lot of people think that mental toughness is about doing really hard stuff under massive adversity and achieving extraordinary results in one singular area. I don't see mental toughness that way.

Mental toughness is having the strength to make the right decision and take the right action (at the right time) for you. That might be deciding to be a singularly-minded professional sports person, a worldwide international top salesperson, or a ruthless lawyer. But it could just as easily be having the mental toughness to organize your life so that you get to spend more time with your children and your wife because they're important to you, or to balance your life so that you can keep your eye on your health, or to ask a difficult question in a coaching scenario with one of your team members. In short, mental toughness is about having the strength to do what is right for you. But it does not have to be extreme or extraordinary; it is about doing what is right. And that could be very "ordinary" indeed.

In your "mental toughness program," how do you go about teaching and building mental toughness in executives and business leaders?

The basic concepts of my mental toughness program are fairly straightforward, but different people engage at different levels.

On the most basic level, I speak at a lot of conferences introducing people to the core concepts of mental toughness, giving examples that would be relevant to them, and getting them to ask themselves questions that challenge them to be more, do more, and have more. I help them feel more motivated and confident and give them simple actions they can take to achieve more.

At the next level, I work more closely with smaller groups helping them to really look inside themselves at what is important to them, set huge goals, and break those down into actions. I then help them to develop the beliefs, the attitudes, and the accountability that they need to get the results that they want.

At the most life changing level, I help people make quantum leaps in their businesses and in their lives through one-to-one executive coaching. I work with CEOs and MDs and help them to achieve extraordinary results.

How can a person leverage mental toughness to help improve or turn around a struggling or failing club or organization?

Most organizations and people fail because they do the wrong things. It really is as simple as that. Sometimes this is because they don't know what to do. Sometimes this is because they don't care. And sometimes this is because they know what to do but they just don't do it, either because they can't be bothered or they can't hold themselves to the task.

Whether an individual or an organization, the first step of any change program is to work out what is important to you, to create goals around your objectives, and then to work out exactly what you need to do. Oftentimes, the answer to the question is only one or two things that if done consistently would utterly change your life or your business.

It really is quite simple, although most people require help with getting themselves into the right state and developing the beliefs and the accountability necessary to stay on track.

For someone like you who is skilled at communicating with people face-to-face, what is important to keep in mind when trying to effectively communicate with someone via text message?

I think my best piece of advice is, be careful. I know the younger generation believes that texting is the new form of communication, but even for them there is something missing. Texting can be so easily misconstrued. Something which you are meant to be taken one way can be taken another way.

It is also worth noting that the level of influence, engagement, and emotion in text messages is often missing or misconstrued. To improve communication over text, what you need to do is really consider how the other person might misread your text - and to do this before you send it. You also need to ask yourself whether text really is the most appropriate and effective form of communication for your needs.

I obviously use text messages, social media, and email, but I often pick the phone up, too. In fact, I pick the phone up when others are expecting a text because I believe that's the most impactful way of making that communication and ensuring that my message was received the way I wanted it to be.

What advice would you give to young professionals about developing mental toughness so that they can be successful in their careers?

Work out what is important to you. Hold on to your dreams. Work out what you need to do to move towards those dreams. Take action, take massive action, and take even more massive action. Never stop until you get where you want to be. Find people who are already doing what you're doing and model what they do. Adopt the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of those people.

Don't listen to people giving advice who haven't achieved what you want to achieve. Remember that even though most advice is well-meaning, it does not matter what the intent was if it knocks you off track.

If you want to achieve something, you probably can if you want it enough. Set your goals bigger than anybody else ever would for you, and then go for it. Life is a journey. Enjoy it.

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