Roger Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player in history and major title record holder, was once asked how he is able to continually stay at the top of his game while facing greater competition in each tournament.
“Previously, I always thought it was just tactical and technique, but every match has almost become mental and physical,” Roger said. “I try to push myself, not get upset and stay positive and that’s been my biggest improvement over all of these years – under pressure, I can see things very clearly.”
If you’re like most small business owners, every day presents its own unique challenges and obstacles. While some people seem to overcome every difficult situation with relative ease, others may become frustrated and fall short of their goals and potential. What separates these two types of people and what can you do to stay calm and productive under pressure?
While challenges are inevitable, failure is not. Here are ways you can be steady and productive in every situation and consistently produce winning results.
Take a Deep Breath and Assess the Situation
In the heat of the moment, sometimes it’s best to take a step back and gain perspective. Experts indicate that deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body and helps you refocus. Whether you’ve been hit with an unreasonable deadline or your new employee is failing to produce on a key project, press the pause button before reacting in an emotionally charged way.
While you obviously need to address issues as they arise, stop, breathe and think: will this really matter in five years? Often anxiety comes from a fear of what will happen in the future. By staying calm and fully present in the moment, you can assess the situation and make rational decisions to produce positive results. Remember, your steady demeanor sets the tone for your office atmosphere and the way you approach challenges.
Hall-of-fame basketball player Michael Jordan says being able to “see the moment” in big-game situations allowed him to turn his doubt into determination. “Obstacles don’t have to stop you,” he says. “If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.”
Develop the Right Mindset
Running a small business is not always an easy task. You’ll make mistakes – use this to your advantage. When under pressure, you may be nervous about making the right choice and because of the fear of failure, you don’t move forward. “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get to the right place,” says author Mandy Hale. Releasing your apprehension about not succeeding frees you to make the decision you feel is best in the moment.
“Process over outcome” is a mantra that is gaining traction in the sports and business worlds. The idea is that when you focus on daily actions that lead you to your goals rather than the end result itself, you control what you can in the moment as you move toward your desired outcome. Bringing this mindset into every workday and encouraging your employees to do the same can help you and your team succeed in difficult situations.
Legendary college football coach Nick Saban knows a thing or two about pressure and he instills the “process over outcome” mentality in his team. “Having a positive attitude, having a great work ethic, having discipline to be able to execute on a consistent basis, whatever it is you’re trying to do, those are the things that we try to focus on,” says Saban. “We don’t try to focus as much on the outcomes as we do on being all that you can be.”
When you have a big presentation in front of a group of prospective customers or clients, don’t think about getting the big sale or winning the business – focus on the task of making the presentation the best it can be. Being your best in the moment will help you alleviate stress and lead you toward winning long-term results.
Embrace Your Nerves
As a small business owner, it’s normal to feel anxious at times. Whether you’re applying for a loan to help your business take that next step or providing your biggest customer with a quote for a major project, you shouldn’t be alarmed when your nerves shift into high gear.
Many people say they perform best when they have “pre-game jitters.” Flip the switch and don’t think of this nervousness as a sign you may not be prepared – take it as a sign you are ready to compete. In fact, some of the greatest athletes in the world get worried if they don’t have these nervous feelings before a big challenge.
Learning to embrace the nerves that come before an important moment can drive you to greater performances. Acknowledge and be aware of your uncomfortable feelings, then make your move. “Pushing yourself over barriers is a habit,” says Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman. “If you want to win, you have to pay the price.” This price is often well worth the success you will experience in your personal development and business endeavors.
When you practice being comfortable with your discomfort, you will more confidently take on the day and condition yourself to be ready for any obstacles you may encounter. This will help you avoid indecisiveness caused by anxiety and act decisively toward achieving your objectives. In the moment, use your best judgment and go for it. “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” says hockey icon Wayne Gretzky.
Empower Your Team
Leadership by example is one of the greatest gifts you can give your team. By consistently putting your dedicated work ethic and calmness under pressure on display in the office, your employees will follow. Remember, you are setting the bar – if you are relaxed and decisive when pressure situations arise, there’s a good chance your team will react the same way.
Guide your team but don’t micromanage. Trust and verify their efforts but let everyone do their work in the way they perform best. When you feel like you are in control of your tasks, it empowers you to think for yourself and bring your unique skills that will positively contribute to the team effort.
When assigning and managing individual responsibilities, emphasize that individual success contributes to the health and wellbeing of the team. Encourage and support one another. “If everyone is moving forward together, the success takes care of itself,” said inventor and automotive businessman Henry Ford.
Owning a small business means you are going to be regularly thrust into pressure situations. It’s part of the small business arena. By following these tips, you will learn to deal with pressure, become a trusted team leader and perform well in every situation.