Thrive under pressure

Culture  Leadership
09 February, 2015

Resilience enables your team to flourish through tough times

As you know, we are in the final stretches of this fiscal year. February and March are crucial to finish strong. While we performed well in the third quarter, January could have been better for many of our geographies.

The sprint to the end of the year puts pressure on all of us but it is also quite energising. So, in my message today, I want to talk to you about how we can thrive under pressure and in turn, help our teams become more resilient.

As a leader, you are responsible for inspiring and bringing out the best in your team members. The need for direction is even more during moments of stress. People react in different ways – some take it head-on as a challenge, while others crack under pressure. In fact, many companies and individuals struggle to deal with pressure.

But high pressure situations can be great learning opportunities. And if we can channel our energies, focus on the right areas, and work together as a team, it can bring out the best in us.

Some of the best performances happen under pressure. So, we need to figure out how to THRIVE under pressure.

The key to this is building resilience in ourselves and in our teams. Resilience helps bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change and keep persevering. To borrow from a recent HBR article I read, “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.”

Here are some thoughts on what we can do to become more resilient and thrive under pressure:

1. Keep it real

Be brutally honest about the situation at hand. This doesn’t mean that you give up easily. Instead of looking to transfer the blame to external factors, focus on actioning whatever lies within your control. At the same time, have the humility to accept what it is that you cannot control. This sense of realism will keep you grounded.

2. Prioritise and focus

You need to be clear on what is really important; what you will back and where you will invest all your energy. This is even more critical when things get tough. Knowing what is important will help you stay focused and guide your decisions. It is also okay to let go of some things. If you are unfocused, the pressure will feel overwhelming.

3. Bring your team closer

Pressure doesn’t work in a vacuum and more often that not, if you’re feeling the heat, then so is everyone else around you. Emotions run high and insecurities get fuelled. This is when people tend to indulge in public dressing downs and blame games. Break this cycle. Find ways to energise your team. Make them feel more like the team that they are, pursuing a common goal. Trust them.

4. Emphasise 100/0

Every member of your team needs to take 100 per cent accountability and 0 excuses. Ask them to not just bring you problems, but also offer solutions. To be able to do so, they need to believe that they have the freedom to and can in fact impact real change. Only then will you be able to share the onus with them.

5. Ask for help

Sometimes, the best thing to do under pressure, is to ask for help. And while this sounds simple, many of us hesitate to do so because we feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness; that it means that we are unable to figure it out on our own. Share your burden. Look also to help others. Moments of pressure are usually great opportunities to foster collaboration.

6. Manage yourself

When under pressure, schedules tend to fall apart. You end up working late, not exercising or eating poorly. And in all of this, you forget your personal needs. Remember that to navigate stress, you need to be strong mentally, physically and spiritually. And encourage your team members to do the same.

7. Learn

I truly believe that uncertainties can offer amazing opportunities for growth. If you view every experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, you will thrive and bring out the best in your team, rather than getting overwhelmed.

8. Plan whitespace into every day

I read this great piece of advice that has really stuck with me: “It’s important to note that the best way to maintain focus is to make sure that you have planned some whitespace into every day. Any rubber band stretched too tightly will eventually snap – there are no exceptions to this rule. Leaders who don’t create time for quality thinking and planning end up taking unnecessary short cuts. They let the pressure force them into making bad decisions.”

9. Be positive

Don’t take out the pressure on your team members. Remember the old adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. High pressure situations are great opportunities to show true leadership. Your team members will be looking up to you more than ever. So, be positive. Rally your team members together. Remind them about how success feels.  Inspire them.

I strongly encourage you to think about what you need to do differently to thrive under pressure.  And if you have any techniques that work well for you, I would love to hear more.

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