How Pressure Affects Performance

Pressure

I work better under pressure.  Courage is grace under pressure.  When you work under pressure you trade perfection.  Pressure is something you feel when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.

Perhaps somewhere along the way you’ve heard someone say one of these things, or maybe you’ve been the one saying it.  Regardless, pressure takes many forms, and delivers an equally different number of outcomes.  But harnessed properly, pressure can create a winning edge in business.  I had a former boss that said, “it’s my job to back the bus up as close to the edge of the cliff as possible without going over”.  That’s pressure.

Pressure develops our ability to adapt.  Under pressure we may be tempted to look for the path of least resistance yet it’s most likely that the situation created by this pressure has already eliminated all the paths without resistance.  All that’s left are the paths that present resistance ,including conflict, confusion, and discomfort.  The better equipped we are to effectively deal with the confluence of these challenges the better we are able to succeed.

While human nature leads us to avoid pressure I would submit that seeking pressure improves performance.  Diamonds are made under enormous pressure; without it they are just rocks; carbon deposits.  But with pressure they turn into beautiful gems of great, and often times, enormous value.  Top performing athletes are molded under pressure moments.  Peyton Manning holds the record for the most 4th quarter comeback wins with 44.  By definition, comeback, means pressure.  You’re behind.  You’re losing.  That’s pressure!

Look for opportunities to experience pressure.  Volunteer for a project at work.  Offer to bat clean-up on your baseball team.  Commit to losing a certain amount of weight in a specific period of time.  Tell others that you plan to get a certification or license of some sort by the end of the year.  All of these create moments of pressure. Only in times of pressure will you be able to see what you’re truly made of.  Remember how diamonds are made, and even further how that process creates the hardest, natural-made material known to man.

Pay Attention. You’re Missing So Much.

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Pay attention.  Did you see that?  Did you notice her roll her eyes?  Did you see how he looked at his watch?  Did you hear the receptionist’s tone when she told you to hold?  Are you watching?  Are you paying attention?

Life’s all about nuances.  The little things that make all the difference.  The quick but genuine smile.  The empathetic reply you receive when you ask if Mr. Smith is in.  The notes your customer takes as you’re talking.  Or even something as simple as your 9 am appointment coming to get you promptly at 9 am.  Not 9:05 am.  Not 9:15 am.  But 9 am sharp.

In some ways we’ve become numb to life’s little nuances.  Maybe it’s our phones, social media, the internet, or maybe its Darwinism as our ability to compete, survive and reproduce evolves.  Regardless, we’re slowly losing our ability to spot things.  To recognize signs.  To pick up on the “subtle clues” a prospect gave, or in some cases the very visible and obvious clues a dissatisfied customer gives.

The next time you’re in the grocery store, department store, car dealership, or just about anyplace where there are things for sale take a moment and observe.  Look around you.  Did anyone acknowledge you?  If they did, what did they say?  Did you feel comfortable?  Did you feel confident they were asking because they had your best interest at heart?  Or did they say hello and roll right into a sales pitch?

Whether you’re a professional sales person or a marketer, your job more than any other in the company is to be in tune with these signs.  Your job is to notice things and to challenge or acknowledge them.  Only through observation can you effectively sell.  Only through observation can you begin to create a compelling story that people find interest in.  Only through observation can you begin to align your business with your customers interests.  Until then you’ll continue to slam the round peg in the square hole not because you want to, but because you don’t know any other way.  You haven’t been watching.  You haven’t been observing.

Pay attention.  Look around you.  Watch… really watch… your customer.  How they react to you and others in the office.  What did they say?  How did they say it?  What was they’re body language?  How are they observing you?

Engagement comes in all shapes and sizes.  But when we’re truly engaged, others know it.  While engagement for me may have a different physical appearance than your engagement, the fact is that true engagement creates a visible and tangible level of energy.  It can be seen and felt.  Pay attention.  Watch for it.  Recognize what it looks like.

“Nothing has the power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under they observation in life” ~ Marcus Aurelius

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #3 – Tell People

Goals

In my previous two blogs I wrote about the power of visualization, and the importance of writing down your goals with as much detail as possible.  You spent time thinking about your goal, what it looks like and feels like.  You captured those details on paper and keep it somewhere visible where you can see it daily.  Now you’re ready for the third, and perhaps the most difficult hint in helping you reach your goals.  Tell people!

Fear is undoubtedly the biggest driver for why we don’t achieve our goals.  Be it the fear of failure, the fear of getting started and not finishing, the fear of embarrassment, or the fear of having to ask for help, fear is the #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals.

All of these fears are based upon our desire to fit in, to be accepted, to be normal.  As such we crave average.  Don’t shoot too high but don’t aim too low.  That’s the thinking of average.  Once we declare our goal publicly we’re now on the hook.  We’re staring that fear straight down.  We’re saying to the world “I will do this”, not try, not attempt, not hope to…but will.

Courage is perhaps the single greatest trait of successful people.  The courage to believe so deeply in yourself that even if you fail, you know you’re not a failure.  That same courage allows you to not be afraid to go after your dreams and accomplish your goals.  Courage enables you to tell the world exactly what you’re going to do.  This isn’t easy stuff.  But then again, nothing worth accomplishing is easy.

The fact is that most people are fearful of declaring their goals.  They immediately get bogged down by the “what ifs”.  They haven’t even given themselves a chance to start before they begin to identify all the obstacles and reasons why they’ll never do it, never make it, never get it, never reach it.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is crucial to your success. Your network should be filled with people who encourage you to go for the gold.  No one ever sets out to win bronze.  Tell your friends, your peers, your mentors exactly what your goal is.  Tell them when you’re going to reach it.  Make a declaration.  Write that down too.

Doing these 3 things will help you reach your goals, not just in 2016, but well beyond.

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #2 – Write it Down

Goals

In my previous blog, 3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016 ,I wrote about the power of visualization; having a crystal clear mental picture of exactly what you’re trying to achieve.

Hint #2 for helping you hit your goals is to write them down.  There’s something about committing goals to paper that transform a goal to a mandate.  Imagine if the Constitution was never written down and signed, or the Ten Commandments, or a speed limit sign.  When our brains see something in writing we see it more as a rule, a definite, a conclusion.

After you’ve visualized your goal take the time to write it down.  Include as many details as you can.  All the things your brain saw when you visualized the goal should be captured on paper.  Be specific.  Include pictures where possible.  If it’s a new home, find a picture of a house you’d love to own, cut it out, and keep it with your written goals.  If it’s a trip to Iceland, find a picture of Iceland and include it with your written goals.

Make sure your written goals are visible.  Don’t write them down and put them in a drawer somewhere.  Keep them out and in front of you.  Your nightstand, your desk, the refrigerator.  Remember, your subconscious brain will continue to work overtime on bridging the gap between your current reality and the goal you’ve set.  The more you review that goal the harder your brain will work to reach it.

Stay tuned for Hint #3 on Friday.

3 Hints to Help You Hit Your Goals in 2016: Hint #1 – Visualization

Goals

We all know goals are an important part of success.  Whether our objective is personal or professional, having a goal provides us with a “thing” to focus on to achieve that objective.

Over the years I have found 3 actions that have improved my ability to reach my goals.  I’ll share my hints this week.  Today, my first hint is visualization.

Visualization is a powerful way to gain clarity of your goal.  What is it you really want?  Can you see it?  What does it look like?

When I was younger I had a poster in my room with a picture of a mountain range in Arizona.  I was mesmerized by that picture and promised myself that one day I would live near the mountains.  And while I never got to Arizona I did move, and live in Reno, Nevada for two years at the base of the Sierra Nevada’s.  A goal achieved.

So what goal are you striving for in 2016? Is it a new house?  A new car?  A specific weight you’re trying to reach?  A book you’re trying to write?  A new job? A vacation? Bungee jumping?  Taking up a new sport or activity?

Find a quiet place to think.  Close your eyes and visualize exactly what the goal is you’re going after.  What does it look like?  Be as specific as possible.  Where is it?  What color is it?  How does it look?  What will you be feeling when you reach the goal; your emotions? When will you reach it? What’s the timeframe?

The more detail you can place around your goal through visualization the more likely you’ll be able to achieve it.  In his book The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield talks about how visualization activates the subconscious mind.  The more you visualize your goal the more your subconscious mind works to bridge the gap between your current reality and the goal you’re focused on.  He goes on to say, “Your creative subconscious can only think in pictures, not words.”  Having a clear picture, a visual, of the goal you’re trying to achieve is the first step to successfully achieving that goal.

Stay tuned for Wednesday’s second hint on improving your success in reaching your goals.

 

 

Leadership Is About Acting Now

  

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.  In Seth Godin’s book Linchpin, he says, “late is the first step to not finishing.” Many suffer from analysis paralysis.  Trying hard to solve for perfection.  Trying hard to not make a mistake.  Leaders however think about decision making differently.  They have the  courage to act and the confidence to own their decision no matter the outcome.

I might, turns into I can.  Leaders say I will, instead of I could.  I may, becomes I must.  I should, changes to I am.  Leaders think in the here and now.  They understand the importance of being decisive and accountable.  They look to the future with a clear understanding of their current circumstances.  Leaders are well-rounded.  They are continuous learners, who through learning, are constantly challenging their own perspectives, ideas and opinions.  Leaders are not afraid to change tact given new information.  They are more concerned about getting it right than being right.

In his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Lou Gerstner conveys a philosophy of “sooner is better than perfect.”  Doing things sooner often times requires getting comfortable with uncertainty.  The point being, once you have taken action you can always do a course correction.  Leaders are constantly acting.  They are in perpetual motion.  They’re never sedentary or static.  They’re fluid, dynamic, evolving.  

Leaders know that every journey begins with the first step.  Sometimes the step is in the wrong direction.  That’s okay.  They’re comfortable with change.  They’re confident in the midst of ambiguity.  They thrive on the thrill of what they can learn.  They’re curious.  They’re bold.

Be curious.  If being curious is too bold of a starting point then be cautiously curious.  Strive to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.  But act.  Taking action provides  the leader with learnings.  Those learnings add to the leaders inventory of skills, experience and perspectives.  With those ingredients the leader is able to garner the followers they need to successfully execute on their vision.

Keep moving.  Keep making things happen.

How Happy Are Your Employees?  Find Out in 3 Easy Steps.

  

Turnover. Theft. Sick time.  These are just a few ways poor morale manifests itself in the workplace.  Data shows that most employees leave a boss not a job.  Data also shows that stealing office supplies is actually less costly to the company that stolen time. Water cooler talk, extra long lunches, and lengthy hallway conversations are examples of stolen company time.  There’s a difference between hallway conversations that foster collaboration versus those that fuel the rumor mill.  But how do you, or can you – the boss – tell the difference?

Some companies spend thousands of dollars to survey and test for employee morale.  From an informal Survey Monkey to much more formal nationally recognized surveys, companies try to measure the engagement level of their employees on an ongoing basis.  What’s important to note is that these are only tools.  Best case they are a snapshot in time.  Worst case they are the result of highly skeptical employees providing the responses they think “big brother” is expecting.  Truth be told – and a truth many companies don’t want to acknowledge – is that most employees are highly suspicious of these “confidential surveys”.  I’ve worked in more than half a dozen firms where these survey’s were used and employee sentiment is generally the same everywhere.  This means that the results produced by these surveys are potentially flawed.  It also suggests to employees that it’s easier for management to send a survey rather than engaging them directly.  

If you really want to know what’s happening in your business be courageous and try doing these 3 things:

  1. Skip Level Meetings.  These are meetings where the boss meets with employees one ot two levels down in the reporting structure.  These meetings are meant to be informal.  The goal is to establish trust and to work to let the employee know how much the leader cares about them and their team’s morale.  
  2. Town Hall Lunch & Learns.  Keep groups small, no larger than 20 employees.  The speaking executive or manager should present a short “State of the Union.”  At the end of the presentation turn it over to the employees for questions.  If there are no questions the executive should work to engage the audience by asking for their opinions and why they feel the way they do.
  3. Management by Walking Around.  Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the first leader to practice this tactic.  It provides the leader with direct insight into the day-to-day workings of a business.  It also allows the leader to be seen as engaged and “in the fight” alongside their employees.

Whether you decide to try one, or all three, the key is to be authentic.  Employees know when you’re running through the motions.  They can spot inauthentic leaders a mile a way.  If you really don’t care, nor are willing to take action to address concerns you may hear, you’re better off not doing any of these things.  Of course if that’s the case you already know just how unhappy your employees already are. Remember they’re only modeling what they see from their leaders.  Care deeply, act deliberately.