We have all seen it and even experienced it: a reaction to an event, a comment or even a thing that triggers an immediate emotional response accompanied by secondary and tertiary effects. But when and why does this happen? Well, these questions have myriad answers, but I believe many people experience these feelings when trying to act under pressure.
For example, you might be triggered by those who are the closest to you — the people who often have the power to influence our decisions. Think of the immense pressure and fear many people experience when changing careers or launching their own businesses. The ones you share your life with might apply maximum pressure on you, as they fear economic changes. This type of pressure can cause you to sway, change or even deviate from your life’s journey and embark on something other than pursuing your purpose.
Negative reactions to pressure could also be the result of you trying to engage in the act of doing too many things at a time (i.e., multitasking). A study conducted in 2003 discovered that an individual state of mind was instrumental in one’s ability to multitask. Although there’s since been research that suggests we don’t truly multitask — rather, we rapidly switch from one task to another — I found this particular study’s findings especially interesting. Their findings argue, to a certain extent, that some people can multitask given a particular state of mind. But from my perspective, multitasking can accentuate the amount of pressure individuals experience when faced with varied situations that might present diverse challenges to solve.
No matter the source of your pressure, it’s important to learn how to stay calm in any work-related situation. For instance, I recently played golf with clients when my poor golf skills began to show. My partner and clients began joking about my performance. And I have to admit, my concentration did begin to waver, and I felt the pressure building up.
But rather than reacting negatively to that sense of pressure, I decided to join in on the fun and enjoy the moment with everyone. This really paid off in the long run. We had a blast, and one of my clients recorded his best score ever played. Remaining calm under pressure paid off for me and saved the day, and it can do the same for you. Below are my tips on how you manage various pressures as a leader:
Do not try to manipulate outcomes.
I still remember the words of my frustrated college professor as he patiently tried to teach me the research techniques and science of crafting a problem statement. “Do not solve the problem in your mind,” he said. “Focus on the impact the problem has, and then examine the entirety of its context and how it affects everyone involved.”
This can be a lot more difficult to do than one thinks. As business leaders, you might feel pressured to solve everyone else’s problems right away. But it’s important that you’re able to first understand the problem at hand and see how it affects those around it. Without this step, solving the problem could only manipulate the outcome and prevent your team from learning how to solve it themselves.
It is important to learn how to listen to your people first and foremost. Listen to understand what your team is trying to convey, and then trust in their ability to see problems to the right outcome without your interference. This can help reduce the sense of pressure you feel when problems arise in your organization.
Do your best consistently.
“Try and try again” is a phrase many of us have heard. I remember it because it was used during my professional life to boost my morale when I failed. Leaders over me, particularly my mentors, tried to instill it into me.
As time went by, it translated into another saying that never escapes me: Good organizations do things well, and they do it routinely. You might feel pressure to get results quickly for whatever you’re pursuing, which is why it’s important to always keep trying. Consistency is key. Continuing this kind of behavior helps in building a winning mindset that will lead to the achievement of your goals — even if it takes longer than you planned. Succumbing to pressure can lead to overreaction and acting before the proper time arrives, so to remain calm, remember to try your best consistently.
Adapt or fail.
“Adapt or fail.” This phrase was driven home during my time in the military where adaptability training was one of the most important things we did to prepare for conflict. Our leaders wanted us to understand that adapting was necessary because the effects of environmental changes on our individual performance would affect our ability to survive if engaged in combat.
I believe this lesson can also apply to organizations today. The business environment is not just about making money; it also involves people with feelings and problems. Not taking care of people can cause any business endeavor to fail. I have learned that training still is one of the most important investments we can make. Training helps people in adapting to complex environments, which can ultimately ease a sense of pressure.
Think about an employee who handles the collection process of invoices that have gone without payment for a long period of time. When responding to this type of situation, it’s important to remain calm before engaging. One way to accomplish this is to silently count to 10 before becoming emotionally engaged. Then, be thoughtful about how you respond.
Every situation is different, every problem fluid, every outcome eventful. This can create a heightened sense of reality that easily transfers to everything in life and serve many people well as they adapt to organizational environments in pursuit of individual goals. The key to success, however, is to remain calm under pressure.