вторник, 6 сентября 2011 г.

Handling constant pressure in business - an article by Helen Edwards

Here is the translation of the article by Helen Edwards, SKOLKOVO Library Project Manager, published on Slon.ru. The original text in Russian is available here.

Handling constant pressure in business
And why champion sportsmen spend time watching and analyzing their past performances

Constant pressure is a fact of business life. New technologies, changing regulations, environmental issues, uncertainty of supply, unpredictable consumer preferences, economic instability – and ever faster business cycles mean that few businesses can ever feel secure. US statistics show that while between 1955 and 1990 over half the industry leading companies retained their position, more than two thirds of market leaders in 1990 no longer existed in 2004.

Business leaders and their teams are in the position of working continually under duress. Crucial decisions with serious consequences have to be made quickly, often with incomplete information and in ever changing circumstances. Can we get used to this rhythm? And how can we stay successful under pressure?

While some people believe that they do their best work under pressure, research shows that this is true for very few. Most people “choke” and fail to rise to the occasion they tend to think less effectively and are highjacked by their adrenaline fueled “fight or flight” emotions. Anxiety aggressively interferes with people’s ability to think clearly, to prioritize tasks and solve problems. A study on the problem solving skills of normally capable senior corporate managers under severe pressure showed that 20% became so incoherent that they were not able to answer more than a third of the questions.

Still, scientists say that this rule has exceptions, as any. In order to thrive under pressure, counter intuitive behaviors and thought processes can be developed. New books are looking at just what it takes to be effective and even reach peak performance in conditions most people would find highly stressful. Better under Pressure by executive psychologist Justin Menkes and Clutch by The New York Times journalist Paul Sullivan are full of case studies of business leaders, politicians, sports stars and performers, explaining just how these exceptional people are able to shine.

“Realistic optimism” is a key characteristic of those who do well under pressure. This comprises a belief in one’s own ability to be effective, even to do great things, plus a willingness to face up to the reality of the problem. This quality is a rare one. People have a natural tendency to manage their anxiety by coping mechanisms that mask risks or ignore distasteful facts. Even the executive suites of big companies are not immune. Menkes quotes an example from Gillette where an incoming CEO had to force his senior team to “feel the hot breath of the consumer” in the face of falling sales. By introducing daily sales reports, this CEO both exposed the reality of the decline in their business and also encouraged his managers to think about the steps they could take to turn their sales figures around.

So how can we learn to properly react to stressful situations? Both books give very vivid examples from the sports world. Champion performers spend more time analyzing their performance to identify weaknesses and focus on their correction. It helps them not only avoid similar mistakes in future, but also stay calm under pressure, as they get well prepared for it.

1 комментарий:

  1. Works is really stressful as what you say. But as I observed, mind versus body, working with body is less stressful that working with your mind. It feels like that mind stress is very tiring that the body. You noticed that?

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