Photo form Cornell University Library









The last two weeks, I’ve worked with several teams who are sitting on exceptional  (remarkable) 2011 results and big new objectives for 2012. Each team and each leader is highly charged with the pressure-cooker in which they live.

Thinking abut what they have in common, two keys aspects were prominent:

  1. Very High Expectations: Most  team members are “winning” people. They set high expectations for themselves and expect nothing less than achievement.
  2. A Demanding Leader: The leader creates a lot of pressure to reach greatness and is unrelenting on the goals and critical of team members (sometimes brutal)—pushes them to find the way to make it happen.

Team members struggle with the real and internal pressure to perform.  They even complain a bit about the leader. They also acknowledge that past results and the potential for future results would not be possible without the leader’s focus and approach. They respect the leader tremendously.

The leaders get frustrated, recognizing the potential against their vision. They also see their inability to make it happen by controlling the actions of all.

How can both team and leader balance the pressure with their desire to achieve?

In fact, in order to take a high-performing team forward, a great leader often finds himself or herself in the dilemma of having to “let go”—to attend to a higher-order leadership role. And the team members have to leverage more to their teams and step up even more than before.

It’s the pressure to perform daily, weekly, and monthly that seems to wear everyone down. So, what can the leader, team, you do to smooth the path to those results?

  1. Lay the milestone outcomes along a timeline, not the tasks. Look for patterns and pathways. That clarity drives right action, saves re-dos, lessens the stress of wondering if it will get done.
  2. Ensure the team has the right roles and right players in those roles. Remarkable results are very difficult if chairs are filled with the wrong people.
  3. Look for opportunities to challenge others by stepping up. Don’t under-estimate your next tier of leaders.
  4. Separate the pressure to actually do the work from the psychic pressure we put on ourselves. Stay in the moment, not in the future, anticipated crunch.
  5. Leverage the team’s collective knowledge and relationships—intentionally.

What pressure are you dealing with? What is real? What are you creating?

Have you locked down a timeline of outcomes and reflected on just what is required to succeed (or are you too busy on the hamster wheel to step off and do that work)?

Where and with whom are you not being demanding enough?

What resonates for you in this post, or not? What other ideas do you have to manage through the high-pressure? Let me know.