Handling Pressure

How do you and your team handle pressure? Fold, panic, freeze or calmly work through the issues?  Each person handles pressure differently and yet teams tend to have similar responses.  They take their cue from the team leader or a dominant team member.

Do you react well to unexpected issues or the increase in pressure?  Are you grace under fire?  When I see teams that “spin a bearing” when things change abruptly I wonder where they learned that behavior.  This kind of response happens when people who naturally aren’t good under pressure don’t have a strong leadership example of positive response.  If your team could be better here are some tips for improving you response and helping your team responding calmly.

  1. Stop first.  When the pressure gets cranked up or something new comes along take a moment to stop and let it sink in.  Stay away from a knee jerk reaction and give yourself some time to get your reaction under control.
  2. Evaluate impact.  What will the increase in pressure mean to the team and / or project?  Does it mean new assignments, new deadlines, or more work for everyone?  Make sure you have a good idea of what will have to be done when you talk to your team.
  3. Keep emotions out of it.  When the pressure mounts make sure that you respond in a professional manner.  Urgency can be appropriate if something critical has come up, but panic is not ever okay.  Frustration at changes or obstacles is a human reaction, however your team needs you to guide them through the rocky times so vent privately.
  4. Acknowledge other’s emotions.  People react with emotions so while you need to keep your emotions in check it’s important to recognize the emotions of others.  It can be productive to allow people to vent their emotions for a few minutes so they can get past that phase.
  5. Provide direction and solutions.  When the unexpected ups the pressure on the team, as the leader you will need to provide direction and help them find solutions to handle the problems.  Depending on the situation you may need to present the solutions to them, or if possible get them involved in finding the way through the issues.   If they can be involved in figuring out how to handle the situation it will give them a sense of control over it. 

Whatever your natural tendency is towards the unexpected, as a team leader it is important to provide a positive model on handling these kinds of things.  Showing how to positively react will enable your team to develop the skills to improve their reactions individually.  This will help them grow and improve performance overall.

What have you done to help your team handle pressure?


photo from iStockPhoto.com


Filed under Leadership, Team Building

2 responses to “Handling Pressure

  1. Hi Carol, happy Friday. Good advice regarding pressure, it can be difficult not to overreact and get emotional. As you suggested if you can just step back and regroup it will help. I try to ask myself “what to the people here watching me really thing about my behavior?” or what would I see if I were watching me in a mirror?

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