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7 Leadership Lessons from Tough Mudder to boost your business

This weekend I spent a chunk of time at the Tough Mudder event at Cholmondeley Castle. The scene was amazing, against the backdrop of a magnificent castle which has seen battles of yore, there were thousands of people; all excited, sharing a vision, throwing every ounce of energy, into their own battle, dispersing passion to crawl through the mud, running through the electrifying cables, climbing heady heights, wiping slime from their eyes, whilst supporting everybody in the endeavour to push them up, crawl through, under and slide down the many obstacles on the Tough Mudder course. The course required every bit of self belief they possessed, they gave and gave and gave again. A positive mindset was the minimum requirement to even start the challenge. Competitors covered the whole spectrum of shapes and sizes, young and old, able and differently abled. Male and female lined up together. They came together as one team, one team of strangers at the start and a stronger team at the end, united by the sense of challenge, united by the sense of achievement, united by the energy boost they got from completing a very Tough Mudder. 

I hear you ask, “How much were they paid to tackle this challenge?” Well the truth is for a team of of six “They Paid” over £1,000. Yes they paid for the chance to be stretched over 10 miles, over 4 hours, covered in mud and slime, electrified, exhausted and exhilarated. 

Now the problem for business owners is the fact that the candidates were drawn from all sections of the community, they were not born physical elitists, they were not super heroes, they were not gym masters, they were not current members of the SAS. 

These candidates were mums and dads, sons and daughters, retired people, students, local people just like (there is not an easy way to say this) these candidates were …….. just like your staff. They were just like your staff. Honestly. In fact its likely some of those talking part this year were your staff.

Now that’s a problem for business owners who must consider why their staff would pay to do this at the weekend and then, when we pay them, struggle to come in for work on time, lack energy, pace and enthusiasm. It is the same candidates who pay to crawl through mud, that work for you and miss targets, complain about the draught in the office and submit to customer complaints. These are the same people who pay to be electrified and drenched head to toe in slime that feel diminished in the face of the a target, worry about a product launch or wilt in the face of performance management. These candidates who sacrifice their place on the mud slide to help a stranger out, who come together with other strangers to lift a struggling stranger get to the top of slime mountain, they are the same people who are the staff in your business who see a colleague struggling and look away, see a fellow team member missing their targets and criticise them, they are the very same people who undermine the leaders in your business.

So who is to blame?

Well the tough mudder honest answer is that it is our fault, we the business owners and business leaders who carry this blame. 


  1. We fail to set a clear vision

  2. We fail to set exciting challenges

  3. We fail to engage with the teams who work with us every day

  4. We fail to set our expectation high enough to stretch our teams

  5. We fail to shape and challenge our teams to support everyone

  6. We fail to make our work fun, real inclusive fun

  7. And finally we fail miserably to celebrate and exhort the wonderful things our staff do every day

So, is the problem set in stone, can we do anything to change the outcome? Can we find a cure for moderate miserable management? 

Yes, of course we can. 

Do we have to dress up in grass skirts and coconuts, cover our staff with mud, electrify them, make them crawl through cold slime pits and charge them for coming to be part of our teams? Well its a tempting concept, but no. We simply have to take the seven lessons from Tough Mudder;

  1. Set a clear vision

  2. Set exciting challenges

  3. Engage with the teams who work with us every day

  4. Set our expectation high enough to stretch our teams

  5. Shape and challenge our teams to support everyone

  6. Make our work fun, real inclusive fun

  7. Celebrate and exhort the wonderful things our staff do every day

I have led, been a part of and observed companies who transform themselves following the seven lessons above. The impact on morale and the business bottom line is huge. Do your company results suggest it time for a Tough Mudder Leadership boost? If you are tempted follow the simple seven step lessons. Let me know of your challenges and if I can offer any help or support to launch your Tough Mudder Leadership nudge me on email

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