Dr Jon Finn
Dr. Jon Finn has been working in the field of performance psychology and behaviour change for over 17 years. He talks to BQ about his business, Tougher Minds.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
As managing director I am involved with the development and growth of the business, and the delivery of our award-winning training programmes. As well as working in the City of London I also regularly travelled to the US. This is to work with clients, including global asset managers, but also to work with other leading experts in the field of wellbeing and performance. We have just opened an office in the Leeds Digital Hub and we look forward to meeting and working with people from Yorkshire’s rapidly developing business community.
What is it the company does?
We provide award-winning, practical, effective and highly engaging training to help everybody improve resilience, well-being and personal performance. The training is based on the latest understanding of neuroscience and human behaviour. It is suitable for all aspects of work, education and life.
Tougher Minds works with business, universities, schools and sport. Our consultants have extensive experience in these sectors and our approach is based on robust academic and practical research, which has been published in peer-reviewed journals. Our team has a combined experience of over 100 years in supporting individuals and teams to be their best.
We help our clients achieve outcomes which help them and their organisations to progress and develop. These include: improved performance; greater well-being; enhanced resilience; increased productivity and innovation; reduced stress and improved morale and employee retention. Our programmes are delivered via a variety of channels including workshops, one to one and small-group coaching, keynote presentations and online platforms.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began my career in elite sport - mainly professional football, rugby (both codes), cricket and golf. My work focused on helping people to perform to their potential and I realised that the same approach could be adapted to help a broader range of people, of all ages and in all walks of life.
I also believe the approach is scalable and so, via Tougher Minds, began developing and delivering training in education and business to groups of varying sizes. The programmes have reached over 10,000 people during the last decade. The consultancy is now well established in the corporate sector and works with companies in the City of London, the US and Europe.
Tougher Minds’ programmes have been recognised for their effectiveness. This includes the Independent School Association’s Education Initiative of the Year award. We have also advised the Department of Education, and think-tank DEMOS on developing resilience in young people.
In order to ensure our training is rooted in the most up to date understanding of neuroscience I completed a PhD at Leeds Beckett University in 2015.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I would say a great leader should build the vital habits which allow them to be at their best, as often as possible. This is actually part of the Tougher Minds approach, which we call Me Power, and relates to fundamental elements of daily life like sleep, diet and exercise. Other helpful habits can be developed, if these things are optimised. It is important for a leader to set the right example in these areas and model the behaviour that is best for the team.
I also believe it is vitally important to create a clear vision of the organisation's purpose, and the outcomes you are collectively working towards. You should give your colleagues a clear understanding of the roles they will play in achieving this, and help them to build their confidence so that they can flourish in their roles. When work towards your objectives has begun, it is vital to for all to support others by showing empathy for day to day wellbeing, and regularly communicating to reinforce key outcomes, care and trust.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
It is always challenging to keep being your best and perform to your potential. Alongside this, maintaining an innovative approach to business can also be very challenging. At Tougher Minds we are always exploring how technology can deliver our training programmes more efficiently and effectively, and this is part of that challenge. Although maintaining innovation can take a great deal of time, effort and energy, I know that it will help us to help more people to be their best more often.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Very simply by practicing what Tougher Minds preaches! I ensure that I monitor my sleep, my diet and the exercise I take. If anybody wants to combat stress and perform to their potential in their chosen role, it is vital that these things are optimised. Good sleep is critical for so many aspects of our daily lives. A good diet helps our mental and physical performance and exercise and activity are also a major component of this.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I would say that during my formative years, the idea of an entrepreneurial approach to life and work was always present. Virtually every member of my immediate family had or have developed their own successful business and this was major influence on me. As I progressed through my education and younger life, I became focussed on the idea of creating my own company.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Writing off somebody’s chances of success is something I find unpalatable. I believe that anybody is capable of success and accomplishment if they develop helpful habits which lead to these things. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, this understanding is lacking and connected to this is the lack of structures in the workplace which help people perform and fulfil their potential. Effective working environments should support people to develop. Businesses often want people to adopt certain practices and routines but they do not have an understanding of how to optimise this.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
At Tougher Minds we make long term plans and set major goals. We have a 15 year plan which outlines a broader vision for the business. This does include the steps we need to take to achieve our overall objectives and in five years we are aiming for people in businesses, schools and families to be benefitting from our programmes via online platforms. Technology creates the opportunity for our services to be scalable and eventually the adoption of them by large organisations means that Tougher Minds can reach millions of people.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
My advice to anybody in a leadership position is that it is vital to look after yourself. You should aim to use what we describe as the clever part of your brain every day. Another way of putting this is to ensure you are not just busy but that your daily efforts are well aligned to your overall objectives, as well as effective and efficient. The world of work is changing rapidly and that is creating new challenges for business. To meet these challenges, everybody within an organisation needs to perform to their potential and that, of course, includes the leader.
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