A Conversation on Mental Toughness With Doug Strycharczyk

The next guest of the OnCoaching Podcast is Doug Strycharczyk!

I have always been fascinated by the question “Why”? As a kid, I read a lot, and I was asking all the questions about planets, galaxies, animals, and everything. As I grew up to be a psychologist and a coach my questions focused more on the whys of the people around me.

Why do they change? How come they don’t change? (If I had not been taught not to ask “why” questions too frequently as a coach, I’d be starting all my conversations with these…) This curiosity laid the foundation of my love of psychological models, as they try to explain the driving forces and the inner logic – or inner mess – of my fellow humans. One of my favourite models describes how people maintain a high level of performance even under harsh conditions, under distress, and distractions. The key concept is Mental Toughness, and Doug is a leading authority in this field. 

Studies show a strong link between Mental Toughness and performance. It accounts for 25% of the variation in performance.

What to know about Doug Strycharczyk

Doug leads AQR International, a global consulting company that focuses on the development of the concept and the associated measurement instruments. He works closely with well-established scientists, like Dr. John Perry and Professor Peter Clough in this long-term project. He has edited and co-authored a number of pieces around the topics of resilience and Mental Toughness.

You can find his works in books like: Psychometrics in Coaching (Kogan Page, 2009) and Developing Resilient Organizations (Kogan Page, 2014) A former HR leader – turned consultant – turned research lead Doug has a unique overview of his field: Research results, personal stories and business insight combined. In this episode, we explore the concept of Mental Toughness and its implications. 

Mental Toughness deals with our thinking patterns, and our internal monologues – some important “whys” that define our approach towards challenging situations. It is a (meta-)cognitive personality concept which describes how people think when something occurs or when they anticipate its occurrence. 

Our first meeting was an accidental one...

We were guests of the same roundtable conversation at a Polish coaching conference and we were to talk about theories and models in coaching. Right before the session the organizers introduced us to each other and left us with some coffee to warm up for our appearance. The third panelist did not show up on time so we quickly got into the depths of our favourite topics. Doug was so engaging that I quickly hooked up on his ideas, and this conversation soon led to others, then those led to me becoming a master trainer in the use of the Mental Toughness Questionnaire. Fun fact: I almost canceled my participation at that conference, so it was really a touch of fate that we met.

In these conversations, I started to admire Doug’s passion for the topic of MT. He shares his huge knowledge in a humble manner, engages in professional debates with curiosity and respect, a real thinking partner!

Let me recommend reading his books, especially the last edition of “Developing Mental Toughness” published by Kogan Page. 

In this conversation, we take a look at a number of different topics. How he got to where he is, the general concept of Mental Toughness, and some fascinating research results around the application of this framework. 

You are welcome to share your insights and ask for your comments on LinkedIn! 

You can listen to the conversation here: 

I am happy to hear your reflections and comments! Commenting is available under my LinkedIn post of this episode. Reach the post through my profile here)

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