As a leader, if you don’t want your business to suffer the impact of poor decisions that are driven by fear, it’s useful to be able to recognize the triggers that indicate you’re in a fear response state.
If you can sense, and then short-circuit your physiological reactions as they arise, you’ll be in a better position to implement some coping strategies, rather than just letting nature take its course.
There are techniques that you can learn which will help you to cope under extreme pressure, and learning to control your physical state is key. You can’t stop the response from being triggered, but you can learn to control it, once it has.
Once you know that the fear response is natural and pre-programmed, you can consciously control it by saying to yourself, “My body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do to alert me to danger. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll take it from here.“
For me, once I recognize the trigger, the most effective coping mechanism is breathing. Slow, deep breathing right into the diaphragm. This will short-circuit the fight or flight response, and gently bring me back into rest and digest mode.
When you combine this with relaxing the shoulders, the neck and the chest, it’s incredibly effective in counteracting the body’s natural response to fear and danger.
If you learn to control your physical state, it opens up the pathways for your conscious mind to handle things. Once your response is in the conscious, you can ask yourself a series of questions that will help you to manage your fear by bringing greater perspective to the problem.
In your rational brain, your mantra should be, What I’m going through is NOT fatal. My body’s response was an overreaction!
In any sort of crisis, including a personal one, you can regain a lot of perspective by asking yourself some pointed questions.
Here’s some examples:
- “How big a deal will this be in a week’s time?”
- “What’s the worst case scenario?“
- “How material is the impact on our customers?“
- “Is there any serious financial impact?”
- “Is this likely to damage my reposition in the longer term?”…
Quite often, we ascribe a level of seriousness to a problem that simply isn’t there. It’s just not that big a deal.
The best of us manage to pull ourselves away from the trough of self-interest, and ask questions that take the focus off our own fears. e.g.:
- “Who is most impacted by the situation? What does it mean to them?”
- “What lasting impact, if any, will this have on our people?”
- “What lasting impact, if any, will it have on our business?”
- “Will it do any real damage to the organization’s reputation and brand?”
All of these questions give you the opportunity to stand back rationally, assess the situation, put your fear and self interest aside, and come up with something that’s likely to be a pretty reasonable answer.
Staying calm and rational is a prerequisite to making great decisions. If you can find Grace Under Pressure, you’ll excel in the moments that matter most.