Ideally, before you find yourself in the hot seat, you’ll have had some time to prepare and condition. But what if you find yourself in a pressure situation, and aren’t prepared for it? Here are several things I’ve found that help.
First of all, if I’m going to call on any useful techniques, I first need to be aware of the pressure. It is a completely personal thing: a situation that is stressful to me may roll right off of you. And vice versa. So it is up to me as a leader to be aware of how stressed I am at any given point.
An effective way to become aware of my current level of stress is to ask myself, at various points of the day, how much stress am I feeling right now? I rate it on a 1 to 10 scale. This way I develop the habit of surveying myself, and am thus much more likely to act wisely to support myself under pressure.
When I realize that I’m in a pressure situation, there are a couple of things that I do to ground myself, calm down, and get smart.
#1. Breath. It really works: I deliberately slow down my breath, and become aware of it. I experience two points of benefit from this: the first comes immediately, with a bit of relief. The next comes within about a minute, as I really shift into a different mental state. There is a company called HeartMath that has a product that’s basically built around this principle of using breathing to get grounded. I haven’t tried the product, but they talk a good game on their website.
#2. Look around. Strange but true: when I’m feeling under pressure, I lose track of my surroundings. And so I find that it helps me to take a good look at what’s around me: it helps put me in the room. Perhaps it helps me take a step back from the situation and get a less intense perspective.
These are basic, well-known tools: and they work. Tomorrow I’ll cover a game-changing tool that you probably haven’t heard of.
© 2008 Paul Konasewich