Why do I need to know?
High pressure situations are a part of life – from giving work presentations to meeting your romantic partners’ parents and friends. These stressful situations can easily become overwhelming and make you feel out of your depth, leading to under performance. One of life’s biggest challenges is learning how to efficiently handle high pressure situations and ensure you are still achieving your peak performance.
True leaders are able to think logically when under pressure and see every challenge as an opportunity. Publilius Syrus, a Roman writer from 100BC stated that ‘anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.’ It takes a well-developed person to thrive in the rough seas and achieve things that previously may not have been possible in the calm.
Most successful leaders have processes in place to help them thrive under high pressure situations. They have established actions and thought processes that help them respond ‘wisely’ to their emotions. This means they don’t become controlled by their emotions, and ensures they don’t become overwhelmed. Through maintaining a logical approach, leaders who thrive in high pressure situations can perform at a high level. While this process can take years to master, we have a few tips to help you in your journey when faced with high pressure situations.
1. Breathe, think, do.
Potentially the most common strategy for high pressure situations, but arguably the most useful. The ‘breathe, think, do’ framework has been scientifically proven to improve performance in high pressure situations, and help calm and remove irrational thoughts.
In these situations, the perceived need for immediate action can influence us to make hasty decisions. A considered, logical decision may take longer, however, it will provide you with the confidence to action that decision and concentrate on execution. Take a minute for a few deep breaths, visualise what you are going to do next, and once you are centred, jump into action..
2. View high pressure situations as win/learn, rather than win/lose.
Too often we get carried away perceiving potential failure as fatal. In reality these situations are rare, and thinking like this limits our confidence or creativity in problem solving. By re-framing your thoughts about the situation, you can acknowledge that regardless of the outcome, you will have learned something new. Take it as an opportunity to grow and develop rather than the end of the world. Remember John Wooten’s motto, “if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything”. Mistakes are part of the process, and they will happen.
3. Visualise a range of outcomes; not just a result of 0 or 100.
Ask yourself what are the various likely outcomes and what would you be truly satisfied with – a few words of praise, a promotion or a performance review? Visualise a variety of outcomes and understand your personal feelings towards these situations. Figure out what you would be happy with, content with, or disappointed with. Then, revisit if there are any changes you want to make before the situation. Remembering that there are a variety of possible outcomes, not just two can help to understand and prepare for the next move after this one. It keeps our options open and can help relieve the “fatal” notion of a negative outcome.
4. Don’t take things so personally.
If the outcome is not what you wanted, remember there will likely be a second chance. Remain flexible, adaptable, rational, positive and solution focused for the situation and afterwards. You made the best decision at the time with the information available to you – remove your ego from the process and be open and accepting of other team members ideas. Much like point two, if things don’t go according to plan, ensure that you reflect on the process and be open to feedback so that next time you are better equipped.
5. Share the load.
All good leaders have a secret – the power of delegation. If you are in a high-pressure situation, you can lessen the stress by delegating and distributing jobs to a team. Through working collaboratively and cooperating, you can find solutions and strategies you had never even dreamed of. Collaboration brings more perspective, experience and understanding to the situation which can help to view and solve things in ways you may have never considered. Plus, your team will feel valued and be excited to contribute where they can.
6. Think positive.
Whether it’s getting a boxing class in before work, chatting to your barista about their weekend, or treating yourself to a walk along the harbour, figure out what makes you feel more positive. Science has consistently found that thinking positively leads to better outcomes. We know that our thoughts, emotions and actions are all inter-related and impact each other. Taking time to engage in activities which align with our personal values makes us feel better and more positive about ourselves. This breeds confidence based thoughts and perception of our abilities. This has a subsequent positive impact on the behaviours we engage in – frame the situation with an optimistic outlook and enjoy the dopamine hit!
7. Monitor your emotions and logic.
Strong emotions and irrational thoughts are inevitable in high pressure situations. It is the ability to acknowledge and control them that differentiate effective leaders. Being aware of the emotions flooding your mind in high pressure situations makes a huge difference – It is important to remember that we never win with emotion. A resounding motivational speech or a demonstration of passion is ultimately useless if there is no logical next steps for yourself or your team to follow-up on. Question every decision you make with the simple ask ‘Is this coming from logic or emotion?’ If the answer is purely emotion, you might want to rethink your decisions, especially in a high-pressure context!
8. Stay humble.
In a professional environment that often requires fast decisions, leaders can develop an inflated sense of self. Being humble can be underestimated but has multiple benefits for logical thinking. Understanding individual limitations, listening to others ideas and opinions, accepting fallibility and practicing empathy are all vital in high pressure situations. It is a common misconception that humility is a sign of weakness – in reality it holds more power than virtually any other trait. If you are not humble enough to keep learning, you cease to remain high-performing and relevant.
9. Revisit past successes.
Think of previous high-pressure situations where you have come out on top. What did you do well? Where could you improve? ? Although every situation is different, there are often lessons learnt and skills developed from previous experiences which we can utilise to attack current challenges.
10. Practice your processes.
The best way to establish and create ‘go to’ processes you can use in these situations is to practice, practice and practice more. It is important that following a high-pressure situation, we don’t just move on to the next thing. Take the time to reflect on what result was achieved, what helped, and what detracted from success. This helps to make appropriate adjustments to work areas, and replicate those which enabled success. Try these tips on your way home from work, or even deep breathing when you are in the lift. If you can master these in an everyday context, you can use them in a high-pressure situation to ensure you are performing at your best and thriving under pressure.
If you want to find out more about how to excel under high pressure conditions, get in touch today. We specialise in driving peak performance when you are under the pump; for individuals , teams and organisations. Send us an email today or give us a call on 9929 8515 for more information.