How Managers Can Hold Up Under Pressure

By Harvard Business Review
November 11, 2019

As a leader, how you respond under pressure makes an indelible impression on your colleagues. When leaders don’t know how to cope with stress, their teams can be badly affected. Leaders can be at their best even when the pressure is on by developing a few simple skills.

Determine what you really want: Say your boss told you off for an error your team made. You’re humiliated, and you blame your contracting officer. Before you allow your emotions to take over, stop and ask yourself, “What is it I really want in the long term, for myself, for the contracting officer and for the team?”

Challenge your story: Ask yourself, “Why might a rational, reasonable contracting officer make the mistake she made?” and “What role did I have in allowing her mistake to go unnoticed and uncorrected?” Move from angry judge to curious problem-solver.

Start with facts: Resist the temptation to level accusations; instead, gather facts. Focus on what you expected, then add what you observed. Don’t add your conclusions, opinions or judgments. Because facts are neutral and verifiable, they become common ground for problem-solving.

Create safety: When you’re under pressure, how do you light a fire under your team without showing anger? Share your positive intent by saying something like, “This is not about blaming, it’s about fixing. I want us to focus on how we can solve our immediate problem. Then we can find ways to prevent it from happening again.”

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Management

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