OK I admit it. I’m a bit of a BBC Radio 4 freak and love listening into some of my favourite programmes, including ‘Start the Week’ whilst I’m pottering about doing this and that.
The series ‘Campaign Sidebar’ has been an interesting take on the run up to the May 2015 General Election. One discussion reviewed how leaders cope with being out on the campaign trail, the resiliency required as well as the ability of being able to ‘think clearly under pressure’ (T-Cup).
It reminded me of some of the challenges faced by many of the senior people I coach. All the pressures associated with chasing down commercial success in a hugely competitive environment; being able to demonstrate sound judgement whilst also balancing risk; needing to increase one’s influence whilst at the same time, building solid and positive relationships with one’s peers, internal customers and stakeholders; lacking sufficient clarity to present strategic and operational options for change.
The list goes on.
One thing’s for sure, it’s easy to lose both perspective and self-confidence when the proverbial starts to hit the fan and you’re under incredible pressure to perform. What works is making sure you recognise the pattern – what my cousin used to call ‘circling the drain’ – that moment when you realise you’re on the slide down, invariably accompanied with unpleasant feelings and negative thoughts. I find it very useful to recognise that those horrid feelings and thoughts are themselves an indicator that I need to ‘reframe’, ie to chuck them off the side of my teacup.
This means acknowledging that we have a choice about how we choose to use our minds: victim or victor?
What to do? Apart from actively recognising that prolonged stressful feelings and thoughts are in themselves an indicator of resiliency going out the door, it’s also vital to work on increasing your self-awareness. I use a combination of Myers Briggs Type Indicator to help reveal personality preferences coupled with Motivational Map technology to surface a coachees’ sub-conscious drivers.
Whilst these coaching tools can’t ever give more than a glimpse into the incredible uniqueness of each of us, nevertheless it’s a powerful combination. For one thing, it offers up a glimpse of how we balance our ‘Thinking-with-our-Feeling’ with many of us diving in to indulge our emotional lives far too easily – the excuse being that this is our ‘authentic selves’.
Actually I find that it’s much more complicated… more often than not it’s just that the challenging situation or stressful context is triggering ‘flight, fight or freeze’ responses.
What you really need in order to rebalance your teacup is time to breathe and reflect rather than to just feel stuff. On a more profound level, I seriously believe that each and every one of us – deep down where we rarely venture – has the solution to whatever challenges we are facing. It takes a lot of faith or maybe just a degree of self-confidence to realise that. However, clarity often comes with space for thinking, and feeling differently.
TOP TIPS: Some questions to ask of yourself when starting to ‘circle the drain’:
- Do I recognise how my personality preferences might determine the way I think, feel and behave – especially the stressors?
- Do I really understand what motivates me, and the people around me?
- Can I ‘step out’ and get some quiet time (at least once around the block to look at something other than your computer screen)?
- What would happen if I recognised that I was so much more than the crap I’m feeling right now?
- What would I want to have happen next if I was sure that deep down I had the right answers to my current challenge?
- How fab might that be?
So ‘thinking-clearly-under-pressure’ is a requirement for being a successful politician but also for those of you in managerial and leadership roles. Are you tough enough to take on the T-Cup challenge? “Hell yeah!” a certain politician might say but forget about him, what about you?
The last word goes to maths genius Cedric Villani who said some time ago on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Mathematical Mind’:
“Mathematical thinking is mainly non-verbal, when you are thinking about a problem it’s not the same area [of the brain] that is used for language… It is difficult to describe… one day, while waking up you have an illumination of the problem that was haunting you.”
I’m no mathematician but have experienced an incredible clarity that seems to float up from deep within, as if my unconscious mind had been busy working away on my particular challenge. Indeed, there have been times in my life when literally ‘sleeping on it’ has worked night after night to the extent that I’d keep a notepad by my bed to note down the solutions that had woken me up.
You have all the answers believe me, you just need to understand who you really are, and then space to allow your subconscious mind to filter up through all the dross and distractions of your overfilled teacup.
Happy dreaming, happy ‘solutioning’, happy slurping… and call me (07760 270 3920) if you can’t figure out the shape of your particular teacup.