Tough times: is your pressure cooker about to pop!

Positive mini-swirlI know that feeling well, like being adrift in a stormy sea, and naturally wanting to rush for safer waters – a respite from the pressure. But hang on, if you value what you do and your role – be mindful about that this phase in your career might be an opportunity.

... safe harbour is OK until the tide goes out

… safe harbour is OK until the tide goes out

It’s about improving ‘your-fitness-for-purpose’ so that you are better able to ride the tough times and come out relatively intact, despite feeling a bit battered. And why is this necessary? Simply this; the economic outlook is still tough and likely to continue so for years to come. But don’t lose heart, once you accept that ‘change is the new normal’ you’re more intellectually and emotionally prepared to move onto finding practical strategies for survival and success.

In part one, Tough times: get ahead by getting a heart! I talked about the effects on the heart when peak performance becomes the norm instead of an occasional requirement, and how to recognise when you are moving fast into the stress cycle. Here’s the thing: it becomes harder to recognise that you ARE in the stress cycle once you are in it, so it’s really important to remain quietly watchful. Keep notes and notice what and when you feel yourself beginning to ‘spin’.

... what's your Holy Grail right now?

… what’s your Holy Grail right now?

None of this is do-able on your own. Part of being aware of your own performance is to manage yourself and your relationships more effectively. Have a look at the following and see how much you are investing in building the right kind of relationships, and how much are you investing in yourself and your own resilience as a leader. For me, the Holy Grail is being able to manage a higher level of effective performance whilst remaining grounded and self-aware:

Top Tips

  • Get honest feedback on your performance, and be more honest about your own performance – there shouldn’t be too many gaps between how others rate you and how you rate yourself – if there are then be brave enough to chat through with trusted colleague(s) why that might be the case.
  • Maintain relationships & support – this works both ways – I have my ‘wonderful group of thought leaders’ who I can tap into for feedback, inspiration and honest-to-God support. And I’m careful to reciprocate. It does take a time investment but is well worth it in order to help you gain perspective, especially in times of peak demand / performance. Be careful not to take anyone’s interpretation as gospel though, it’s important to test out strategies and conclusions within yourself… allowing your intellectual and spiritual (ooooohhh, there’s that word again!) intelligence to balance your emotional reactions. That demands a little introspection and reflection – however 5mins quiet time can often ‘float up’ some very useful insights.
  • Sustain yourself is vital in tough times. I’m still amazed to find some peak performers living off coffee and poor quality food and sleep, lacking short quality breaks during the day, fuelled by nerves and adrenalin. Just not sustainable – getting better quality food and sleep, plus keeping the brain hydrated (with water not alcohol!) can make an enormous difference. At another level, sustaining yourself through finding joy in your work and life sounds like a ‘Big Ask’ but it takes very little energy to achieve.
  • Meaning and accomplishment is linked to the point above about sustaining oneself and keeping a sense of perspective and an acknowledgement ongoing accomplishments. Women are more likely than men to underestimate just how good they are, or how our prior experience can be bought to bear effectively in a new role, or are just not savvy enough to talk about what we’ve learned about life on their journey or in our careers. I don’t mean having a good moan about all that’s gone wrong, instead it’s about giving thanks for what you have achieved – despite the odds – and maintaining a real hope for the future.

Do all that and you’re well on the way to having mastered the 9 things resilient people believe in.


How do you measure up?

How do you measure up?

In the meantime, go find a ‘thought leader’ to join your gang – but be prepared to offer ideas in return.

Until next time…

PS: What’s your Holy Grail – apart from maybe sipping sangria in a sunny beach resort?

Happy Hunting!

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