Under Pressure

by Ed_Cooney 25. April 2013 06:28

Whether in sports or business, very few people perform at their highest level under pressure. Professional athletes show this to us every week. How does a professional golfer who makes 99% of putts under 3 feet, miss the same putt on the 18th hole when the tournament is on the line? How does a major league pitcher who can place the ball on a dime under normal conditions, not even come close to the strike zone in the 9th inning when the winning run is on third? How can a basketball player who doesn’t miss a free throw during practice start throwing bricks during a big game? Easy - the pressure overshadows their natural ability. The mind overrides the body and the tension creates bad swings, throws, and shots. The best professional athletes may not always have the best physical skills, but almost all have developed a strong mental framework to stay “in the moment” or “in the zone” rather than thinking about the future.

Then the question is, why do coaches and bosses place pressure on their teams when it is largely counterproductive?? The answer typically resides in the coach or boss’s fragile ego coupled with a lack of insight into the psyche of their players. The coach’s strong desire to meet the expectations of management and fans causes him to pass stress to the entire team. While overall talent may be the most important characteristic of high performance, a ‘bad’ coach or boss is capable of bringing down an entire group of high performers. Great coaches and leaders have the ability to absorb the stress and transmit a positive, yet realistic, message to their team. They have the ability to remain focused in the toughest of circumstances. They maintain perspective at all times.

Next time the game is on the line, rather than demanding the obvious, “We need three runs this inning or we’ll lose,” why not state, “Let’s stay aggressive, play to win, and have some fun.”

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