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Lead Under Pressure

One of my favorite shows on TV is Top Chef on Bravo. Each week, chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges in extremely high-pressure situations. Some chefs yell, flame out, and make rookie mistakes, and others maintain their cool and cook some fantastic meals full of creativity and inspiration.

Competing to win tons of cash and the title of ‘Top Chef’ can bring out the worst in certain chefs. Interviews with these chefs reveal their bad behaviors and pushy attitudes toward other contestants were due to the competitive atmosphere. However, it could just mean these chefs act like a jerk under pressure, and who wants to work with that?

The need to work well under pressure is not just reserved for kitchen competitions; it is a fact of life for many organizations. Working under pressure is tricky. Emotion, pressure, and passion, can easily be used to excess. Many leaders fail to understand how to apply pressure effectively, and often their efforts can undermine employee motivation.

Most work requires cooperation with other people so mistakes are bound to happen among teams. Leaders who push too much and are overly critical of mistakes might fall the risk of alienating people. On the flip side, leaders who are too easygoing or are overly tolerant of mistakes may be perceived as too forgiving of below average work.

The solution? Understand when to use push and pressure tactics in the workplace.

Pressure is an important tactical skill that should be used to communicate urgency, importance, and accountability. Effective leaders must push occasionally, and it is important they learn how to do that successfully.

Here are few tips:

· Pressure is a skill that should be used sparingly and strategically. Are you comfortable using pressure at strategic moments? Experiment using pressure and get feedback about its impact on your peers.

· Help peers maintain timelines for achieving goals so that extreme push is not needed as the deadline approaches.

· Monitor how others perceive you when you are excited or expressing passion about a particular idea or action. Sometimes passion becomes confused with excessive drive or aggressiveness.

· Look at your goal setting and planning processes to see where you can stress the importance of achieving goals.

· Study ways to critique work that are constructive rather than perceived to be destructive by others.

How do you lead under pressure?