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.

Advertisements

Income Inequality. A Difficult Subject.

Equal

During the President’s State of the Union address he spoke to the country about income inequality. The difference between what one person makes versus another, for the same work, based upon gender, race, etc. Taken at face value I believe most people are in support of income equality. If two human beings are doing the same work, regardless of gender or race, they should be paid equal…of course that also requires all other things beyond those two criteria also being equal. And that’s where the challenge comes in.

Most successful people make significant sacrifices on their career journey to success. Long hours, missed events with their children, wedding anniversaries when they were out-of-town, an occasional birthday missed, or worse yet a birth of a child missed because of work. Many families make a very conscious and deliberate decision to focus on career advancement. This does not mean that they’ve chosen to throw everything to the wind. Perhaps their goal is to be able to send their child to Harvard, or vacation to destinations that provide both educational and personal awareness for their children to actually see what they have relative to others. And what about those that have made big sacrifices only to give back in a big way to their community with their time, skills, or money?

Every human being has free will. Of course ones ability to exercise their free will, or choice, depends in large part on where they live. American’s have the ultimate ability to choose. We can do what we want, when we want, without any interference from the government. Now to be clear, of course there are laws we need to abide by but even those are broken by people who have chosen to break them. The fact is that America was born around the concept of equal opportunity. We are the country (land) of opportunity. The land where hopes and dreams have a real possibility of becoming a reality. But even at our founding there were those that sacrificed much while others did not. That’s just human nature.

So the challenge is not in the concept of equal pay for equal work. The challenge sits with how to assess two different workers’ desires, passions, and commitments. No place is this executed better than in the world of professional sports.

Peyton Manning possesses many of the skills other quarterbacks have. Strong arm, deep understanding of defensive schemes, and the ability to change plays based upon what presents itself during the game. But Peyton Manning is different. His drive, his desire, his intense focus on watching game film over and over again. His personality presents additional leadership skills that make him even more valuable. Anyone remember Ryan Leaf? The point is that it is quite difficult to make things equal when most times the facts prove they are not equal. No two quarterbacks are the same, no two snowflakes are the same, no two CEOs are the same.

It’s a difficult if not emotional topic. It demands thought, conversation, debate, and action. We just need to be sure we’ve explored it as best we can before making things equal based solely on an altruistic perspective.  Being an American means  you have the right to explore, find, and secure opportunities.  It does not guarantee any specific outcome.  Just as we’re warned when we enter the Stock Market, no investment is guaranteed, it is simply an opportunity to invest and the possibility of your investment growing.  Think of each of us as investments.  We all have the opportunity to grow, and we all have the opportunity to fall.  Between luck, chance, skill, desire, commitment and ability the outcome – like a true investment – is never guaranteed.

A Few Thoughts On Change

Change

I recently had an interaction with a group of folks embarking on a new change.  Like most recipients of change there was hesitation and apprehension. Normal emotions that typically accompany change. When we are faced with change it’s human nature to question, doubt, fear, and distrust the impending change. First reactions are often negative with a sense of “OMG what now!”.

Years ago I had a boss teach me a method for adapting to change. I have used this technique several times and have found it to be calming, enlightening, and in many cases beneficial in helping me adapt to the change I was facing. It all starts with changing your paradigm on change.

Life’s biggest change-fests include getting a new job, a new boss, having a new child, getting married for the first time (and hopefully the only time), starting a new school, making new friends, or working with a new agency partner. All these changes bring a level of stress that includes many of the emotions I listed above. One way to eliminate those butterflies in your stomach when facing change is by asking yourself one question. Resist the urge to predict the future this change will create and ask yourself one simple question: What good will this change bring me?

A new job can bring new and exciting experiences. A new boss can provide new insights, coaching, development, and opportunities. Changing to a new school opens the doors to new friends, programs, activities. Getting married provides stability, support, love, and a safe place to land when you need one. All changes bring opportunities. Unfortunately, and most likely due to past experiences, we tend to immediately go to the negative when it comes to how we perceive change.

Remember this. Nothing improves without changing something. Tide, Crest, Cadillac, Apple, Wegmans, Nordstrom are all companies that continue to innovate and change, and it’s in these changes that these companies prosper and flourish. The same is true with people. Phil Mickelson changes his approach and improves his golf game. Peyton Manning changes his training routine and improves his passing efficiency. No matter what the case, change has to occur before things can get better. So next time you’re faced with a change don’t panic. Just ask yourself, “how will this change benefit me”. Not will it benefit but how. Assume it’s for the good and it will be.