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6 Tips to Stay Calm Under Pressure

Mar 9, 2016 | Leadership

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A leader’s days are pretty much filled with putting out fires. When you solve one problem, another one comes up.

This can go on and on for days and suddenly your easy-to-manage task list becomes overwhelming and unbearable. Sometimes it looks like all the problems in the world are gathered together at the same time, making your life harder.

Staying calm under pressure requires a lot of self-control and confidence in your ability to solve everything that is thrown at you. Some will say it’s a character trait, others will say you’re just lucky you’re built this way.

But the truth is, staying calm under pressure is a skill anyone can learn.

Losing your temper may be understandable if it happens once, but if it occurs on a regular basis, it’s an indicator you are not in control of your emotions, which leads to losing credibility in front of your team.

There are many ways you can learn to stay calm under pressure and in stressful situations. Today I am going to focus on six of them.

How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

1. Take responsibility. It’s easy to blame others: The employee who didn’t send the memo on time, the provider who didn’t deliver the products as agreed, the Internet connection that interrupted your video-conference during a business meeting, the irate client who insists on blaming you for issues out of your control.

Instead of blaming others, stop the negative emotions you associate with that particular situation. Take responsibility for your actions and your role. You are the one controlling how you react to what happened around you. No one else.

There is an interesting study called Neuroscience that helps you understand the biochemistry of your reactions. It says the “fight or flight” reaction “starts when two segments of your brain called the amygdalae interpret a situation as a threat. This causes your brain to secrete hormones that tell your nervous system to prepare your body to take drastic action. Your breath gets short, your body floods your muscles with blood, your peripheral vision goes away, etc.” 

As none of the fight or flight situations are appropriate in business, you never get to release the stress you put on your body and mind. What happens next is you can remain frozen or say something you’ll regret later.

But when you take responsibility, your mind becomes more clear and you are able to make better business decisions.

2. Get the facts. Let the numbers speak. Your first reaction may be to ask who did this, and request explanations.

Instead of letting yourself be taken by the stress of the moment and overreact, make a pact with yourself to stay calm, ask questions, and most importantly, listen to their answers.

Don’t judge. Don’t draw a conclusion until you’ve heard all the facts from everyone involved.

Remember you are the one who needs to make a decision. You don’t want to rush and make a wrong one, in the heat of the moment.

Your team looks up to you for guidance and leadership. Be worthy of that esteem and respect, keep calm, hear all the facts, and only then find a solution.

3. Identify where the problem lies. By asking the right questions, it’s easy ensure you have all the facts, and a clear picture of what happened.

Now you can sit down and think about options and involve your team.

When you let your stress and emotions run your actions, when you start screaming at your team demanding explanations, you lose their respect. But not only that, when you transfer your pressure to your team, you lose their creativity. This is the wrong kind of stress for your team to go through.

When your team is invested in the company, when you send the message that you are one of them and want to solve the situation, you motivate them to get onboard. You realize the solution is most likely right in front of you.

4. Check your body language. What happens in our conscious mind, is not always backed up by our subconscious. You may know how to handle a particular situation, but your body language may tell a different story.

Make a habit of checking your facial expressions, how you position your hands and body. You want to transmit a message of calm, don’t let your emotions take over the conversation.

5. Write it down. This may seem a bit odd, but studies have shown that the act of writing down the problem, forces your conscious mind look at it from a different perspective.

Brian Tracy goes a little further and says you should write down the solutions, as well. Having them together on a piece of paper, will help you to solve the situation sooner.

6. Find your buffer. Sometimes things are so complicated, you need to detach yourself from them in order to see them from a neutral perspective.

Hit the gym to blow off steam, take a walk outside, breath, and notice the world around. When you release the immediate stress from your mind and body, you will enable yourself to look at things and situations from an objective stance.

Remember, what sets you apart and makes you an exceptional leader is not how you act when everything is going well, but how you respond in stressful situations.

Image Credit: Shutterstock 

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