As I’m writing this, the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend is just ending, and we’re all well into the throes of the holiday season.
There’s nothing quite like the pressure of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for roughly 30 people. It’s an exercise in cooking, kitchen resource allocation, family dynamics, political diplomacy, alcohol distribution, and traffic flow, just to name a few.
And there’s only one chance to get it right.
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, this probably sounds familiar. If you’re a leader, you’ve faced high-pressure situations like this before-and you’ll face them again.
My Thanksgiving this year was quite successful. When I look back at the reasons for the success, I realize it’s not about the turkey or the football or the music or the pies or even the alcohol. It actually comes down to three ideas-three ideas that will help you the next time you’re facing a high-pressure situation, whether it’s in the kitchen or the boardroom.
1. Be Clear On Your Intent
Your intent is the end result you’re trying to achieve. It’s the big picture. Once your crystal clear on the intent, then the individual ingredients take on less importance (and therefore less pressure). For example, the intent of a Thanksgiving dinner is not “to serve the perfect turkey.” It’s to have a fun and celebratory family gathering. Is it possible to do this even if the turkey gets ruined? Of course! Now, that doesn’t mean that you want to ruin the turkey. Naturally, you want it to be perfect. But it removes the pressure when you realize that your intent doesn’t depend on any one element. One of the keys to producing under pressure is the realization that you have options; that there is more than one way to achieve your intent.
2. Plan Your Options
Once you realize that you have options, you can actually plan them out. This means that you can complete the sentence that begins, “Well, if worse comes to worst, we can always… ” For the Thanksgiving meal, the end of the sentence might be, “… order pizza.” When you can complete that sentence, and you realize that even if it comes to that, the world won’t end (and you can still achieve your intent), you’ll reduce your pressure dramatically.
3. Share The Responsibility
For my Thanksgiving dinner, the cooking responsibilities were shared among many people. Some cooked on-site, others brought side dishes and/or desserts with them. The point is that no one person had the pressure of the entire meal on his or her shoulders. When we’re in high-pressure situations, we tend to feel that the weight of the world is on us, and on us alone. Most of the time (there are exceptions, of course) that’s not true. When you find yourself in one of these situations, take a look around and see if there’s a way to share the responsibility-and therefore, the pressure.
Because of these three ideas, my Thanksgiving was relatively pressure-free.
Thanksgiving may be over for you this year, but high-pressure situations are ongoing. Keep these three ideas in mind for yourself, and you too will be better at producing under pressure.