Much of the excitement of growing a company comes from the fast pace and the high stakes. When the pressure is on your adrenaline gets going and you can often surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.  Sometimes the pressure is self-inflicted, but often there are outside forces at work that add tension and requirement.

As a leader, you have to manage that pressure not just for yourself, but also for your team. You want to apply pressure when the stakes are high to make sure everyone performs at peak and nothing falls through the cracks. But add too much pressure and people may crack and the morale may sink.

I often find myself on both sides of the pressure factor.  My clients have wants and needs with critical timelines and high standards. I may have to deal with unrealistic expectations to regulate the pressure appropriately. Too much pressure negatively affects the quality of my writing and work product. If I feel things getting out of sorts, I will sit with the client and educate them on the situation. Then we work together to agree on specific deliverables and timelines. I may not remove the pressure entirely but managing expectations can help regulate it.

I encourage my team to manage their own pressure. I am careful to set out realistic goals even if they are a stretch. But I give my team the autonomy to determine the process of how and when things get done. Some will say this accountability adds additional pressure since many believe it's easier to simply be given specific tasks. But I believe letting people be responsible for their own experience ultimately results in a happier team with better results no matter how much pressure is applied.

Here are additional insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Maintain proper perspective.

As the leader of your organization or team, others look to you for stability when dealing with a high-pressure situation.  If you are flustered and act like the world is ending, your team will feed off that energy.  Conversely, if you are calm and purposeful, your team will also follow suit. A good friend of mine keeps high-pressure situations in check by reminding the team--"is anyone going to die?" Very few things we do in the business world truly have irrecoverable consequences. The best approach is to stay focused and even provide some levity to the situation as you work through it.  Once the high-pressure situation is over, provide your team a way to decompress and even vent. --Lean Forward

2. Create some space.

In times of rapid change and shrinking budgets, the pressure to perform can really mount. And while some pressure is a good thing--it can help keep employees motivated and focused--when the pressure gets too high for a prolonged period of time, then real damage can be done to employee morale and performance. One way you can help is to insulate your people from the constant interruptions that can get them off track and further increase the pressure they feel. Employees are interrupted on average every 11 minutes, and it can take as long as 25 minutes to get back on track. Create distraction-free zones where employees can work quietly and without interruption, and you'll not only decrease the pressure on your employees, but you'll increase their performance.  --The Management Guy


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