Pressure is a double-edged sword

Pressure is a double-edged sword

Pressure can spur you on, but it can also become an obstacle to performance and achievement. It can overwhelm a leader and cause missteps.

Pressure grows more intense across three elements:

  • How much something matters.
  • How uncertain the outcome is.
  • How many other demands there are.

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Being connected to the importance of what you are doing is a powerful motivational force. But during peak pressure moments, importance can rise to an unhealthy level and can derail a cause - all you can think about is how important the stakes are and what you might gain and lose.

The secret to managing importance during these pressure moments is to understand that how your view the stakes can be controlled.

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  • Ask yourself what is not at stake. For example, your family will still wait for you at home, regardless of how the presentation to the board goes.
  • Avoid the anxiety spiral. Leaders tend to exaggerate the stakes in peak pressure moments. "I'm not good enough to do this." Instead, find evidence for the stakes you associate with the challenge.
  • Give up ego-driven stakes. You can only own how you acquit yourself. All the other things such as share price, revenue, profits are only partly within your control.
  • Gauge what is really urgent.

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