John Hypothetical has a big exam coming up, and there’s a lot riding on the outcome. He prepares well for the exam, but he’s understandably nervous. When the big day arrives, he can feel his heart beating fast. Despite all his preparation, John chokes.
Emily Imaginary has the same big exam coming up, with the same consequences riding on the outcome. She also prepares well and is also understandably nervous. When the big day arrives, she can feel her heart beating ... Continue Reading →
I’m continually astounded by how short-sighted some leaders are. Let me tell you what I mean.
Last week, I was booked by the CEO of an organization that wants me to keynote their annual conference in October. The topic of the keynote is Producing Under Pressure. After we agreed on the details for the keynote program, I asked him, “What do you have on the agenda to help your team think more creatively?” (I have a great hands-on breakout session on ... Continue Reading →
“I’m so stressed out! Can you help me?”
I get that a lot, particularly when people hear that one of my areas of expertise is helping people produce under pressure. It’s a fair question, but an off-target one. Fair, because stress and pressure are similar. Off-target, because they’re not the same.
Here’s the difference. Stress is a condition. You have a tough job, or an unhappy marriage, or unruly kids. These can all cause stress. Pressure, however, is an event. You have ... Continue Reading →
It happens to every leader — every real leader.
A situation comes up, and a decision has to be made. Half of your team wants to go one way; the other half wants to go another way. There are good arguments to be made for each side. The cases are presented, and then…
Everyone looks at you.
Because you alone are the leader.
I mean that quite literally. You — alone — are the leader. At the moment of decision, you are ... Continue Reading →
I burned the broccolini last night.
As world crises go, this was pretty minor. Still, it served as a useful metaphor for producing under pressure. (Hey, it was useless as a side dish, so I had to do something with it!) Follow me along on this, step-by-step, and you’ll see what I mean.
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- There’s always more pressure when we’re doing something unfamiliar (all other things being equal). A cardiac surgeon feels more pressure during her first open-heart surgery ...
My favorite quotation (and yes, the word is “quotation;” “quote” is a verb, thank you) from Harry S Truman (and no, there’s no period after the “S,” because it’s not an abbreviation; “S” was his entire middle name — my goodness, I’m being irritatingly picky today!) is this one:
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
But my second favorite quotation from Harry S Truman is this one:
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“Not all readers are leaders…but all leaders are ...
You are surrounded by ingenuity that you’re not taking advantage of.
Most leaders are. And the reason most leaders are is actually pretty simple.
It’s because most leaders spend too much time focusing on How.
A leader should be focused on the What, and the Where. A leader should provide the destination, but not the route. Why? Two reasons.
First, as a leader, planning the route is a waste of your time and energy. Your greatest value is in creating ... Continue Reading →
Like you, I often hear people say, “Oh, I’m under so much pressure!”
When I hear this, I generally ask them what’s going on. And often the answer is something like, “Oh, nothing specific. Politics, paying the bills, this cold I can’t seem to shake. You know, just general stuff.”
What they’re actually feeling is stress, not pressure. Let’s look at the difference.
Stress is like the gray, overcast sky; it’s a state of being. Pressure is like the sudden, violent thunderstorm; it’s ... Continue Reading →
So there was that time when I told 500 geniuses to stop being so mentally lazy.
I was the opening keynoter for the annual convention of Mensa, the high IQ society. [Full disclosure: I’m also a member. I’m pretty sure I got in under some sort of Affirmative Action program.]
The reaction was, shall we say, mixed.
But I stand by my statement.
Now let’s be clear: I wasn’t accusing these people of not having brainpower. I was accusing them of not ... Continue Reading →
I still remember the first time it happened.
The first time I went home on a Friday night thinking, “We don’t have a show.”
You see, for roughly 15 years, Saturday was show day for me and my team. Together, we created Seattle’s legendary comedy TV show Almost Live! I was the Executive Producer. Every Saturday, we’d fill the studio with 175 audience members and tape an all-new show that would be broadcast, just an hour or so later, to about a ... Continue Reading →