Business is generally not for the faint of heart. While it can be exhilarating and fun at some times, it can induce teeth-chattering anxiety at other times. Whether it's from a big opportunity or a moment of real danger, it's difficult to keep your nerve when it feels like the fate of your company is in the balance. A leader must exude a steely resolve, rising to the occasion without overdramatizing it. Some people are purpose-built for these moments. They feed off the adrenaline and know just how to inspire their people.
For the rest of humanity, these times of intense pressure feel like just that: a tremendous weight that must be endured and overcome. You have to lead by example and keep calm, at least on the outside. If you're just a jumble of nerves, it would be nearly impossible to get your team to successfully execute the work necessary. So what can you do to push aside your fear and anticipation and perform at a high level? You know you're being irrational, but that doesn't make the feeling of anxiety any less real.
Here are tips on controlling your emotions and keeping your wits about you before the moment of truth:
1. Take a deep breath.
I know it sounds cliché, but seriously, breathe. There are simple exercises to take the edge off. Take a step back from the situation and try to view it objectively. Make sure you understand the nuances so you can tackle the reality, instead of what you imagine. Use this period of calm as preparation to go in full steam ahead and own this important moment.
2. Confront the possibilities.
In my experience, the most persistent worries are also the most unlikely. Still, it can be difficult to quiet the mind once it gets going. If that's the case for you, try something different and lean into the paranoia. What's the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen? What are the events that would have to take place (or not take place) to get there? What else could go wrong? Writing them down in detail makes them concrete, instead of leaving them as the shadowy unknown. Defining them clearly also gives you power over them. Know that you know exactly what they are, you can prepare for them. Knowing your enemy is half the battle!
3. Design contingencies.
Once you've written down all worst outcomes, study them! What can you do to prevent each one? What safety nets can you put in place to hedge problems? Even if the likelihood is remote, if it will make you feel better to prepare for it, do so. It will get you mind off of it, so you can focus on what's really important.
4. Apply what you've learned.
Now that you've gotten the crazy out of your system, return to more realistic scenarios. As you wrote down the dire circumstances you fear the most, what did you learn? Have your biggest fears all sprung from the same source? When you were solving those terrible problems, did you solve any simpler, more-likely-to-arise problems along the way? Many times, you'd discover a root problem you didn't even realize, or you'll stumble upon a brilliant idea you hadn't considered before.