Lessons from Tyson Fury – employers should look after their heavyweights

24th February 2020

Comeback fight

I am not a fan of boxing but my imagination has been caught by the story of Tyson Fury and his comeback fight. It’s an odd person who can’t say “good on you” when someone admits disabling mental health problems publicly, then fights their way through it and back to the top in any sphere of life.

The story has put me in mind of many of my wonderful senior executive clients. I am fortunate to have met and acted for hundreds of talented people from the public, private and third sectors who have reached the top of their game. They generally have one thing in common. They have hit a bump in the road – personally or professionally – and their employer has singularly failed to offer them the necessary support and encouragement to enable them to learn through the experience and fight on to greater things. Such circumstances almost always lead to a breakdown in the employment relationship and a sizeable pay-off.


Resilience and character

There is a consistent theme that comes from the boardroom at such times – that “it’s tough at the top” and that, in view of their sizeable pay packets, senior executives can’t expect the same level of support and leeway as their more junior colleagues. I see this as short-sighted, potentially expensive and a missed opportunity. The adjustments needed at such times are rarely as dramatic as many corporates fear. Time and a bit of flexibility is often sufficient.


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Employers crave resilience in their top teams – we hear this time and again. Resilience and character are built through experiencing adversity, not learnt in a classroom. Yet if we want the benefit of these hard-won skills, we have to allow people to live and work through the very circumstances that create them. A leader who asks his or her team to get up off the floor and keep fighting when the market is hostile has more credibility when that same team has watched them do the same. We all love a winner but we admire and respect a survivor.

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