In today’s professional world, we all work under pressure. Good companies care for their employees’ well-being, but it’s also important that their employees know how to handle pressure well in order to cope with market pressure and stay healthy. It is also key to any professional woman’s future success.
In general, pressure is a sense of urgency that we all must endure at varying levels throughout our careers and day-to-day tasks. It mostly exists to push us to execute more with less time. In my own field of construction, one is expected to manage and coordinate different tasks from land and lease signatures, execute contracts with vendors, and handle requests for proposals to mobilization, execution, testing and handover. In any role, and at any level, you may have looming schedules and deadlines for budget constraints, risks to quality and customer satisfaction. So, no pressure at all!
I remember during the building of one of our high-profile, high-visibility projects, a senior leader asked me how confident I was with our timeline. The project had countless challenges, including the fact that the schedule included two major holidays. Despite this, my answer was, “100 percent!”
After sending that response, I asked myself, “Why did I do that to myself? Why didn’t I leave any room for chance or inconvenience while in the middle of so many scheduling risks and budgetary challenges?” While digging for an answer to those questions, I realized that there were some key techniques I had developed over the years to deal with pressure.
1. Remember that human beings work well under pressure.
How is that? Some of us naturally know how to work well under pressure. Even those who are not so naturally gifted learn to adapt. Because we are survivalists, we love challenge and we like to accomplish difficult tasks that keep us going. Hence, people mostly succeed rather than fail under pressure.
So, don’t view pressure as a negative, but rather embrace it and see it as an opportunity. A key reservation here is that you should pay attention to the nature of the pressure you are under. If you decide the pressure is unnecessary, you should analyze any risks associated with it.
2. Evaluate the challenges and risks you take.
Evaluation usually gives us the methods to handle pressure. Once our minds are clear, we can think of solutions rather than of the problem itself.
One of the main factors to consider in avoiding pressure is saying “no” as much as you say “yes.” If you know that a task can be done, then it will be done. If you think it can’t be done, this evaluation gives you the opportunity to turn it around and figure out a way that it can be done.
3. Plan ahead and ask yourself, “What if?”
Your initial plan might change from one stage to another, or even fail altogether, but the ability to change lanes quickly and accurately is key. Have a recovery plan or two in mind when you first start planning for a challenge ahead. Think of alternatives; even if you don’t need them, they will help you to handle pressure well and you will be ready for the unforeseen.
4. Maintain control over yourself.
Your reactions to different challenges are part of the learning process, and it is sometimes necessary to take a step back when up against a challenge. Make sure to ask the right questions, which will enable you to understand your opportunities better, even in the middle of difficult situations. This way, you maintain control, solve problems and set an example for your team.
5. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
This is something I learned in one of the best leadership courses I have ever taken. The way that you deal with pressure at work will enable you to handle the pressure in personal situations. If you can master handling pressure in one arena, you will learn to rise above challenges, grow and move upwards and onward. Eventually, those tiring times will be a great source of pride.
Handling the pressures of yesterday is not necessarily a guarantee of handling the pressures of today or tomorrow, but it can add to your potential. Keep raising the bar — that’s how we maintain success as professionals.
(By Randa Hakim. Hakim is a dynamic and highly accomplished Programs Management expert with 17+ years proven experience in driving transformational and innovative organizational “A-Class” projects in the 6 GCC countries, Turkey, Pakistan, USA, Egypt and Iraq.)