This heatwave has got me thinking about how we cope under pressure.
It’s not very pleasant working in this heat (unless you’re lucky enough to have air con) but we can’t change it, so we have to learn to cope.
This goes for any kind of unpleasant circumstances in business.
‘With great power, comes great responsibility.’
It’s an important phrase to remember when you run a business.
As a business leader, you’ve an enormous amount of responsibility on your shoulders.
When things go wrong, all eyes are on you to act and you might struggle not to cave in under the pressure.
But here’s another little saying: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’
Sure, there’ll be times when life and business throw hairy situations at you.
I know. I’ve been there.
But you’ve got to stay strong — and you can stay strong.
Facing pressure is a natural part of being a leader.
Below, I’ve outlined some of the main pressures you’ll encounter — and some coping strategies when you’re feeling under the gun.
The pressure to keep the ship afloat
If you ever read ‘Business For Punks’, a book of business lessons from one of the founders of legendary craft beer makers BrewDog, you’ll find that they spent a lot of time developing their products first.
Not only that, though; they performed many other business-related tasks.
One of these was accountancy. They spent a lot of time learning about the financial side of running a business. The money situation was too tight for them to hire an accountant.
Leaders must balance budgets and expenses and make sure there’s always money in the bank to keep the business afloat and profitable.
It’s a high-pressure job. It’s your job.
The pressure to make the right calls
A business is no place to sit on a fence. You’ll have to make some big, big decisions.
Decisions that could affect the future of your business.
You’ll have to evaluate the risks.
You’ll have to take risks. No guts, no glory.
If you make the right decision, you’ll be a hero.
If you make the wrong one, you’ll be a villain.
Either way, it’s all on you.
Pressure to cope with uncertainty
Admit it: one of the exciting things about running a business is the unpredictability, the adventure of it all. No two days are the same.
It’s a story that you don’t know quite how is going to unfold.
That’s partly why I love it so much.
But it’s a double-edged sword, too. Things can change quickly and that can be unnerving.
So, how do you cope with all this pressure?
Well, the first thing you need to know is that the concept of ‘thriving under pressure’ is a myth.
What really happens is that when people perform under pressure, they’ve formed strategies or found ways to deal with the pressure. Pressure doesn’t lead to success.
Here are a few you could try:
Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that you should seek out pressure for the sheer hell of it. Why subject yourself to that kind of stress?
What I am saying, however, is that you should see pressure as an opportunity to prove your mettle.
You’re up against a challenge and this is your moment to overcome it, grow and sparkle. Don’t let this magnificent opportunity pass you by!
Reframe the pressure. Mould it into something positive and place yourself in the mindset to succeed.
Think about the problems that are causing you the sleepless nights.
Get them all out of your head and on paper or in a spreadsheet.
Then identify as many potential outcomes as you can.
Then form a plan for each scenario.
This doesn’t mean become fearful and paranoid and write a list of outlandish, apocalyptic scenarios.
It means: consider realistic situations that could emerge and decide how you’ll tackle them if they arise.
Having a plan of action will give you a sense of control and ease the pressure.
Ask for help
As a leader, everyone will look to you to provide the answers when things go wrong.
But what if you don’t have them or can’t find them?
Slow down for a second. Who said it had to be just you?
Look at your network, including the other employees in your business, and find someone who can help.
You may feel as if you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you really don’t have to.
Asking for help when the going gets tough isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
And as a business leader, you’ve got to be strong for your business, for your employees and for yourself.
Acceptance and action
Pressure is part and parcel of running a business.
Coping with it isn’t as trivial as listening to motivational videos while you weather the storm (but if that works for you, go for it!).
Handling pressure is about taking the pressure and running with it to succeed.
It’s about sharing the burden to ease pressure and making a solution more likely.
It’s about being there with a solution ready when things don’t go to plan.
Just because the kitchen is getting hot, that doesn’t mean it’s time to get out of there.
This is the time to lead.
Trust me. You’ve got this.