When you watch the end of close sporting events you will eventually see two types of teams or players. One type, when behind, will start to press a little bit. They know they have a limited amount of time to reach their goal and they get stressed and their sense of urgency drives them to accelerate their efforts, scurry, and eventually rush. This hurried approach can sometimes lead to the desired results but more often creates errors and costly mistakes. Often these are errors and mistakes that wouldn’t occur under normal situations.
The other group, facing the same urgency and pressure, seems to look and act differently. They know the urgency, but they act as if this additional pressure actually makes them better – more confident and efficient. This second group typically performs better in this pressure packed situation and makes fewer errors in actions or judgment, and more often than not, wins the game.
The difference between these two groups isn’t their skills or abilities. The difference between these groups is best described by the legendary basketball coach John Wooden. He encouraged his teams to “be quick but don’t hurry. ” The first group is hurrying – the second, more successful, group is quick – but facing the same situations they seem more calm and not hurrying at all.
This difference is as apparent in work groups as it is in sports teams once you take the time to consider these differences. Some people or teams are always rushing from meeting to meeting, task to task. These people are constantly reacting to situations and “putting out fires. ” Many of these people will say that they like the adrenalin rush they get from this high pace high stress environment – which is good because in their haste they continue to create more fires, more reaction, and more reason to hurry.
Contrast those with people who always seem to have their wits about them. They are able to make decisions and take action quickly, but they never seem to get rattled or seem rushed. This second group seems to operate with a quiet, confident calm, even when timelines are tight and stakes are high. These people are nimble and quick, but they aren’t hurried or rushed.
As you read these descriptions I’m sure you are thinking that the later group is the more productive and effective, and you are right. The logical question then is, what can I do (or what can I do in leading others) to be quick, but not to hurry? Read on – the rest of this article gives you suggestions for making that shift.
Be prepared. Teams that are most effective in “crunch time” have practiced every situation long before the game. Similarly when you are better prepared you will be ready for whatever situation you are presented with, and therefore will be able to manage it more effectively.
Have a plan. People who don’t plan argue that things never work out according to the plan – which is partly true. The value of the plan is that when things are going according to the plan, you can be proactive and stay ahead of the challenges and avoid many of the pitfalls. That planning then saves your heightened attention and effort for the parts of the plan that do change.
Focus – stop multi-tasking. Have you been daunted by the enormity of a project or task? When we think about everything we have to do, we often begin to hurry, rush or try to multitask. You will be more productive when you focus on one task at a time. A basketball team down by 20 points can only come back 2 or 3 points at a time. A soccer or hockey team can only score one goal at a time. As you complete one task and then move to the next, and you will be making more progress faster.
Think confidently. Be confident in your abilities! Remind yourself of past successes! (Here’s a hint - when you have a plan and are well prepared it is easier to be confident. ) Confidence is an under-valued skill off the court and playing field. When you think confidently you are taking the necessary first step towards acting with confidence.
Stay inside your sphere of influence. Remember that you can’t change the world (or the other members of the project team for that matter). Focus on what you can impact. Stay inside yourself and proactively work on things that you have the ability to impact or change.
Remain positive. A positive attitude, approach and demeanor can make a big difference. When you really feel rushed, you probably aren’t your most positive self. But when you feel on top of things, even if you are busy, you are more likely to be positive. Knowing this is true, you can create more positive actions by starting with more positive thoughts.
Take a deep breath. This piece of advice, given to me often by my grandfather and father is some of the best advice I’ve ever received, and it certainly applies in this case. Take a deep breath, refocus and move forward positively, confidently and quickly - without hurrying.
All of the suggestions above are powerful ways to improve your performance. Now that you have read the list, identify the one or two that seem most valuable or applicable to you or your team. Apply those suggestions and your performance will improve immediately and significantly.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on Unleashing Your Potential go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/index.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888. LEARNER.