Performing Under Pressure

Each week as part of our Thursday Thoughts series of blogs, we’ve been taking a look at how we can be the best possible version of ourselves.  This week we’re shining the spotlight on the difference between leadership and management.

There is no doubt that one of the attributes of great business champions is their ability to make the right call under pressure. Great teams can win even when they play below their best and the one golden rule is, when the pressure is on go back to basics.  Use the basics that have got you to where you are and those factors which you have used and practised many times.

It is the salesperson who relies on the basics who ensures that he is world class. Sporting teams often leave it too late when they are behind and think that some miraculous event will get them out of trouble. This is known as ‘catch-up performance’ and seldom works.

When the pressure is light then the span of using all your available intelligence is used to make the right decisions. You have the time to evaluate the options and make the best decisions you can. Unfortunately, life isn’t that simple. The key is the ability to make the right decision by using all your available intelligence even when pressure is at its highest.

As the pressure increases it is very easy to fall into the irrational zone and make decisions using a very small part of your available intelligence.  People’s acts of bravery are often within the irrational zone. The pressure builds and builds and someone then decides to do something. When asked why they reacted in such a way, the response is often; ‘I’m not sure what gave me the drive to do it.  I just did’.

The negative side of the irrational zone is what happens in meetings where the atmosphere gets heated, people fly off the handle and nothing constructive is done. Often, the next day, when the pressure is off, people find it hard to understand why this negative behaviour happened, and they apologise.

The trick is to realise that the best solutions come from using all your available intelligence – not allowing yourself to be pushed into the irrational zone and making decisions regardless of how unfair or hard done by you feel. The best negotiators are those who remain rational when everyone else is losing their heads and the great thing is that you can train yourself to handle pressure.

“If you can keep your head when all about are losing theirs… 

Kipling was right!