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How to work well under pressure in business

Former British Army officer Chris Hunter has been in some difficult situations. Having spent almost 20 years as a bomb disposal expert, he knows a thing or two about how to work well under pressure. During his overseas deployments, he used a range of tactics to help him and his teams achieve their challenging objectives. At Caspian Media’s recent Real Deals Mid-market Conference, Hunter explained how you can apply these tactics in high-pressure business situations.

When you’re working on an important project or goal you should focus on:

1) Planning your strategy well
2) Making good decisions quickly
3) Leading effectively
4) Managing your fears

1) Planning your strategy well

Ask key strategic questions as a team when planning what action to take.

These questions should include:

  • What is “the enemy” (my main competitor) doing and what’s their motivation?
  • How should we react and why?
  • What controls do we need?

This helps everyone understand the team’s goal and what they need to do to fulfil it.

Hunter notes that: “In the best-run operations every single person involved, no matter how junior they are, knows exactly what the objective of the project is. Everyone is in a position to make decisions and act.”

2) Making good decisions quickly

Ensure your decision-making in the field is sound.

Use what Hunter describes as the “OODA process”: observe, orientate, decide and act.

Following these steps when dealing with roadside bombs, snipers or ambushes allowed him and his team to work well under pressure. It’s all about putting this process into practice, making considered business decisions and taking swift action. If you get this right, you’re more likely to benefit.

“Make your decision loop faster than that of your competitors,” says Hunter. “Then you’ll succeed on the battlefield – or in the commercial world.”

3) Leading effectively

Don’t leave any room for ego. Good leadership involves collective decision-making and a sense of shared purpose.

When serving in Iraq, Hunter took command of a group of young soldiers with a reputation for being rebellious and disliking authority. On day one he broke down the barriers of hierarchy: “Forget rank. You can call me Chris or Boss, and you’ll get a say in every decision we make.”

Teams work most effectively when they focus on achieving their goals together and not on position. “Never underestimate how much a team can achieve when no one cares who gets the credit.”

4) Managing your fears

Don’t let fear in the door. This is the biggest obstacle when trying to work well under pressure.

When you face danger, you shut down the part of your brain you use for decision-making. Then your “fight or flight” survival mechanism kicks in.

This instructs you to freeze, to run away, and finally to fight if there is no other option. It’s useful in some situations, but it won’t help when you need to deal with a business risk.

Instead you should recognise that you have activated your fear response. Then you should control it. Doing this will allow you to manage the risk effectively. “Accept the situation you’re in, then rationalise it as soon as possible,” says Hunter. “Danger is real, but fear is just an emotion.”

Want to work well under pressure in your business?

Implementing these tips in your company might not happen overnight, but it’s probably easier than you think. OK, so your challenges are in the boardroom and not on the battlefield. However, the principles are the same. Why not try Hunter’s strategy and see how it works for you?

If you missed the Mid-market Conference, the most respected awards ceremony in the private equity industry, the Private Equity Awards, take place on April 17 2018 in London.

The event brings together private equity’s finest to celebrate the contribution of the industry to the success of European businesses. Book your table now.

By Nicholas Neveling, Editor, Real Deals