Over the past year and a half, there were almost too many situations that altered our personal and professional lives. In working nationally with leaders throughout this past year, I noticed a common theme that continued to arise: pressure.
We all deal with pressure when we feel the need to perform under high stakes or during risky situations. This can happen in a sporting event, business situation, or family situation, and can often affect decision-making. Whether it’s in personal or professional cases, pressure to perform can both positively and negatively influence an outcome.
Pressure exists in those situations because of the internal expectations we put on ourselves. Every one of us feels pressure at different levels, but it’s how we choose to deal with that pressure that defines what pressure can do to us. Pressure is not always a bad thing. It can cause some of us to hyper-focus and block out the outcome. Other times, it can cause an array of emotions that cloud our ability to execute at the level necessary for the desired result.
There is no magic process we can follow in dealing with pressure. It affects each of us differently. However, one core principle that we talk about at Solutions 21 concerning becoming a world-class performer is “playing in the absence of fear.” Being an athlete, I use the term “playing,” but this term can be exchanged in business or personal situations.
The only way we can truly “play in the absence of fear” is to rely on the fundamentals that we have developed. To have those fundamentals, we must identify and work on areas of our personal and professional development. Doing so allows us to have the confidence to rely on those fundamentals and feel good about executing any task.
Let me be clear: having confidence in the skills you have developed doesn’t guarantee that every decision you make will come out the way you imagine. But, it will give you the confidence to head into a situation knowing that you are prepared and okay with the outcome.
As a leader, you will encounter decision-making opportunities you are familiar with and others you are unfamiliar with. The key to successfully dealing with each of these situations is your ability to analyze the task at hand and gather the information you need to develop your final decision. Sometimes you may have tight time constraints, and sometimes you’ll have more time to think through a more complex decision. Regardless of the situation in front of you, you can’t have your mind clouded by doubt or what-ifs.
Think of the methodology that a professional golfer uses before stepping into any shot: as a professional golfer, you only have a short amount of time to assess what type of shot is required before you have to make a decision. A multitude of variables can come into play that you have to process in that short amount of time. Time cannot be wasted by thinking one ounce of a negative thought.
The golfer’s process goes like this: first, I need to assess where I am in the tournament and how the outcome of this shot will affect my next shot. Once that is determined, I choose what shot is required and, based on the work I have put in to hone my skills, I know if I am capable of executing that shot. It might not be the exact situation that I have practiced on the range or had before in a tournament, but I determine if I can execute based on my fundamentals. Once I’ve chosen my shot, I understand that only one or two things can happen: I either execute it or I don’t, and I have to be okay with the outcome.
There is power in understanding that only one or two outcomes are going to happen. This process allows you to clear your mind of “what if this” or “what if that” and lets you focus on the shot at hand. This is playing in the absence of fear.
As a leader in an organization, you will encounter an unbelievable amount of situations where you must make a decision, and the outcome will have both positive and negative consequences. You need to be okay with both. It is your job as a leader to continue to sharpen the skills necessary to make those decisions. With those skills honed, you will be able to clear your mind and focus solely on the decision at hand.
Remember, there are only two things that can happen: you execute it and it goes the way you planned, or it doesn’t. Allow yourself to trust in your work you have put in to be okay with the outcome. Leadership is a constant journey, and the confidence you have in the skills you have developed gives you the ability to navigate the choices you have to make tough decisions.
Play in the absence of fear.