How do you prepare for moments of major opportunity – and perform under major pressure?
I recently had the opportunity to talk with one of the world’s leading golf performance consultants, Nick Bradley. Nick is a best-selling author and has coached many touring pros through big wins. His experience helping athletes overcome performance challenges and find success has taught him a lot about how the mind works. I asked Nick what lessons he could share with business professionals who are preparing for pressure-packed moments: a big job interview, a critical presentation, or a highly anticipated sales call. Turns out we can learn a lot from how elite athletes prepare to perform under pressure.
Prepare for your breakthrough moment.
Top performers set themselves apart and find success by following a couple of important practices before it’s time to perform:
- Design your outcome. Where are you going? What is your final destination? Begin with the end in mind.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. The more you prepare for high-pressure moments, the smaller the chances are that you’ll fall apart under pressure. And, if you’ve prepared, you’ll have that training and experience set to fall back on even when things don’t go according to plan.
Many great athletes are incredibly visual; they have the ability to see something before it manifests. Visualization can help any professional in any workplace. Nick once asked Tiger Woods’ former coach Butch Harmon what Tiger did after his practice rounds. The answer: he sits down with the yardage book and meditates on the course and visualizes his approach to every hole. Visualizing your own success can be key to making it a reality.
Nick’s advice is as simple as basic biology. When you’re in a high-pressure situation, simple breathing exercises can help your body relax and respond. Breathing causes your heart rate to drop. And, when you’re stressed, nervous, or anxious, your adrenal gland is also pumping adrenaline. You can’t fight that; you have to embrace it. You can either ride your adrenaline (and use the energy to your advantage) or you can run the other way.
Expect the curve balls.
What happens when you find yourself in unexpected territory? When things aren’t going as planned, people aren’t responding as expected, or your sales pitch is falling flat, how do you handle it?
Nick advises performers (in the board room or on the golf course) to take a step back. If you have prepared properly, you’ll have anticipated moments of uncertainty. When missteps happen, as they often do, you won’t be fazed. Nick coaches his players to always factor in mistakes and bad shots when preparing for a performance.
Once you’ve taken a step back to recognize the moment, move on. You don’t change your strategy over one bad shot.
Keep your perspective.
Nick tries to remind his players that a bad hole isn’t the end of the world. When things go awry, consider the positive. What have you learned in the process? How can you apply that experience next time? The minor setbacks won’t seem as catastrophic.
Audit your performance.
After any big performance or event, take an honest look at how things went. If you didn’t perform at 100%, take the Mirror Test: look yourself in the mirror and own up to your mistakes. Then go back to the drawing board and work toward getting better. The best players put in the work — a whole lot of hard work.
Step away and rejuvenate.
Energy is a critical asset. It’s important to take time away from work to rebuild your energy and store up creativity. Having a hobby or distraction outside of work means that you’ll return to work with renewed energy and passion. Truly exceptional golfers like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus are notorious for limiting their schedule because it allows them to return to the golf course refreshed and devastatingly interested in their work again.
Elevating our preparation, having more self-awareness, and committing to consistent performance rituals can help anyone enjoy more success when the pressure is on!
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.