Pressure

*Next week there will be 68 teams out of a possible 351 Division I Men’s Basketball teams vying for a NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Over the course of the next 10 days we will look at the key characteristics and core intangibles which allow teams to put themselves in the best position to “live to play another day” and how those relate to business and life in our March to Mastering the Madness series.  

They say the best teams are those that perform their best when the pressure is the greatest. The reality is those teams can experience such great success because they eliminate, or at least minimize, any of the perceived pressure.   A team’s ability to do this begins with the leader.

I have been fortunate to know a number of great leaders who have the ability to eliminate pressure and reduce stress when most people would lose their mind. Pictured above is one who has had the greatest influence and impact on me, my Dad. This picture was taken this past Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 at the top of my parents’ driveway in Boyne, MI. Yes, that is the same driveway I spoke of in a previous blog about Competing-Every Single Day. The one I could not get up over Christmas break because of the layer of ice under the snow and ended up sideways in a ditch after sliding down backwards. The same driveway that is all uphill and 145 yards (1.3 city blocks in the Midwest in case you are wondering) long.

Well, we decided to take a long weekend and bring the kids up to Boyne one last time to ski and hit the water park. The usual five hour and forty-five-minute drive was going unusually well until we were about two hours out and then the snow started coming down. Hard. It caused a little bit of unrest in the backseat with Maddie and EJ (4.5 years-old and 2.5 years-old), but nowhere near the chaos going on in the set next to me where my wife Nancy sat. I passed a few “no-tell motels” along the way as they did not seem suitable for a peaceful night’s rest with the kids and then as we were pulling into Kalkaska, MI there was one that would work. The timing could not have been more perfect since there was a squad car in the middle of the road which appeared to signal that the road was closed.

Slowly, and with great caution, I pulled up next to the squad car as we both rolled down our windows. I was hoping to get some sort of clarification of the situation ahead and to see if, in fact, the road ahead was closed. When I asked him what kind of shape the roads headed up to Boyne were in he simply smiled at me and replied, “I would imagine pretty similar to this.” Thanks for the help! So, despite pleas from my co-pilot and eerie silence in the backseat, we kept going.

A good deal of time and a few snow squalls (not to be confused with snow squirrels as someone in our car called them) later we found ourselves driving into Boyne Falls, MI.

Then Nancy poses the question she had been asking for the last hour, but I tuned her out. “Do you think we will make it up the driveway!” Well, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to have to pull the kids and the luggage up the driveway again. Of course, I would pull Nancy up as well.

But low and behold as we pulled up to the driveway there was my Dad with two flashlights directing us as if we were a plane moving toward our gate. Now the kids are going nuts laughing and I feel a sense of relief. As we turn into the driveway he looks at me convincingly and lets me know that he has shoveled the entire length of the driveway so we should be good to go.

What?

He will be a bit displeased with me when I tell you this, but the man is 72 years-old. Let me point out thought that he is in better shape than 95% of my friends and most 20- year-old folks I know. He shoveled the entire 1.3 city blocks and the stairs and the deck. All to make sure that his Maddie and E.J. made it safe and sound.

Take Away

See, what he really did was the same any great leader does for his or her team. They figure out a way to get their people as far away from the feeling the pressure as possible and that is exactly what he did. Sure, we had just gone through a nutty a car ride, but it is the anxiety of the outcome that is the single most intrusive inhibitor to effective performance and for me that was getting the family up the driveway. My Dad single-handedly turned a threatening situation into an exciting challenge and the kids could not have been more fired up!

Here are the four things our fearless leader did that all leaders can do for their people in stressful situations:

  • Provided a healthy perspective - I shoveled the driveway you should be good.
  • Was conscientiously prepared both mentally and physically - He identified what needed to be done and when it needed to be done and did it…. with a smile on his face.
  • Allowed us to focus on execution of the task at hand - All we had to worry about was the “getting up the driveway” part.
  • Used language of function("how to") - Said the right thing, in the right way and at the right time which conveyed confidence that we would not end up in a ditch again.

Leaders sometimes pay too much attention to problems, rather than paying attention to possible solutions. The "problem" of pressure is very simply, a misdirected focus. Thankfully, Papa (Maddie and EJ cannot say it enough) went old school and brought his A-Game.

On Thursday March 16th The Molitor Group will be hosting a ‘MARCH to mastering the MADNESS’ event at Nobel House in Geneva, IL. For more information and to register go to the Events tab on our website and feel free to email us any questions at info@themolitorgroup.com.