Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Focus on the things you can control to do your best when it matters most.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
No one truly thrives under pressure, whether it’s created by urgent deadlines or the need to perform in front of a large audience. Not athletes. Not entertainers. Not business stars. Some do manage pressure better than others, though, allowing them to perform at close to their potential when the outcome is important.
Those insights are based on a seven-year study of 12,000 individuals conducted by the Institute for Health and Human Potential, co-founded by training and performance expert and coach
J.P. Pawliw-Fry. In the best-selling book
Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most(Crown Business, 2015), co-author Pawliw-Fry details the study’s findings; draws on the experiences of elite athletes, U.S. Navy SEALs, and Fortune 500 employees and managers; and offers strategies to reduce pressure and improve performance.
What hampers people's performance under pressure?
Most people take a haphazard approach to pressure. People fall back on what their parents or teachers or coaches modeled for them. We also tend to have a negative view of our first physical manifestations of pressure—hot forehead, sweaty palms, racing heart. We push them away and end up fighting within ourselves and unable to execute the task in front of us.
What stymies business leaders from minimizing pressure in their organizations?
Most leaders are clueless about pressure and its impact on performance. They get anxious about their own goals and don’t realize that their emotions are infectious and spread to their teams and direct reports. Many also apply more pressure, thinking it will help their people. But since most of us really care about doing well, we already put enough pressure on ourselves.
How can managers alter the way their people view pressure and anxiety, with an eye toward improving performance?
When we are too attached to an outcome, we tighten up. We lose the ability to execute. Rather than outcome, keep people focused on the “integrity of inputs”—the things they can control. This makes them feel more confident and increases their chances of delivering a good performance.
For HR professionals, what are the telltale signs for how job candidates will handle high-pressure situations?
Oftentimes, you don’t know how people will handle pressure until you see them encounter it. Take the football quarterback. You can’t simulate the pressure and the speed of the NFL, so it’s hard to predict who will succeed and who will fail. To select the best performers under pressure, HR professionals need to leverage assessment tools and conduct rigorous interviews with candidates. And when you are doing reference interviews, be vigilant about getting information on the critical incidents when the person was put in a pressure situation. Ask for an example, then another example, then another.
What can businesspeople learn from Olympic athletes about how to perform under pressure?
The Olympic athletes and professional athletes I work with over-train and over-prepare to handle pressure. They are rigorous when it comes to self-knowing. They do a thorough assessment of their actions after a high-pressure situation. What happened? What did I learn? How did I prepare? They bring the rigor to that evaluation. Businesspeople have to start doing those types of evaluations and understand what led to their best performances to recreate that preparation plan.
Four attributes that help people perform under pressure are confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm--what you call a "COTE of armor." What is it about those traits that help us succeed?
They become the outer shield that immunizes you from pressure, and each can be improved upon. They can help you block out that pressure moment and have confidence that you can deliver, and that you can be resilient and bounce back when you don’t. You have to put in the work to develop each trait. You can’t just hope that you’ll do well under pressure.
Adam Van Brimmer is a journalist and a freelance writer based in Georgia.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Join SHRM's exclusive peer-to-peer social network
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies