IN TOUCH : MBA students tested for mental toughness

Massey University MBA students have become the first in the country to have their mental toughness evaluated as part of their programme.
Jamie Ford, the holder of the Australasian rights to Seligman research which shows greater success rates for people with an “optimistic explanatory style”, is working with Massey University MBA students to measure and ultimately to improve their attitudes.
He explains the crux of Seligman’s theory is that pessimism damages your motivation and your belief that you can overcome future adversity. Optimism, on the other hand, leads to success.
“If you think of setbacks as permanent, global and personal, you are pessimist. Optimists on the other hand, think of setbacks as temporary, specific and external,” Ford says.
Martin Seligman is an American psychologist and writer best known for his work on the idea of “learned helplessness”, and more recently, positive psychology.
“High-profile businesses are training staff to be mentally tough and resilient, because they know this is crucial to competitive success, and Massey is the first MBA programme to recognise the value of this for their graduate business students,” says Ford.
He said the new MBA course component means graduates are equipped with proven set of tools to help them excel in academic study, as well as in their future roles as managers and leaders.
Massey University executive education manager Patricia Fulcher studied Seligman’s research in the course of her Masters thesis and approached Ford about applying the principles in an academic setting with Massey students. During their MBA orientation weekend, the students take the Seligman questionnaire and get the results that same weekend.
Ford, who has been using Seligman’s model for almost 15 years, says the results give the students insights into what they can do to maximise their effectiveness in the MBA programme, and in their lives.
“It’s all about changing attitudes, which are the foundations for behaviour,” he says. Ford also teaches mental toughness course as part of the University of Auckland’s Business School short courses.

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