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Nine Ideas to Help You Lead Effectively in Pressure Environments

It should be a crime to sacrifice potential in the name of results-at-all costs.

Here’s a fact of life for many of us in our organizations—if we don’t create the right results, we don’t last in our management or leadership roles. Our systems are set up to focus on results as the ultimate arbiters of our success. That’s it. Not the amount of effort and not the approach. Just results.

I know how this sounds. It’s transactional, and it’s cold. It’s also fairly representative of how the world works.

This pressure to achieve results at all costs forces many in leadership roles to cultivate an approach where teaching, and promoting the right behaviors and values all take a backseat to the urgent issues of the moment.

Transactional Versus Sustaining Management

It’s transactional management, not sustaining management. And where transactional management is allowed to exist, it spreads like weeds in a Chicago lawn in June, promoting short-term results while sacrificing engagement, loyalty, creativity, and respect.

My coaching and workshop clients come from all sectors and sizes of organizations, and the theme I hear from them is consistent—generate results or perish. And yes, I worked in several organizations that fit this description. It always felt like there was something that was missing. Maybe, it was the recognition of the potential creative and innovative power of humans who are treated better than interchangeable parts of machines.

It should be a crime to sacrifice potential in the name of results-at-all costs.

The good news in this situation is that you and only you determine your approach to leading. Yes, you have to generate results. However, you get to choose your “how.”

9 Ideas to Help You Lead Effectively in Pressure Environments

1. Lead First with Respect

Treating everyone with respect in every encounter is the only silver-bullet in management and leadership. You’ll slip and when you do, apologize and vow to yourself to do a better job.

2. Always Provide Context

All of us do our best work when we understand how it connects to a bigger picture. I don’t care how lousy your boss is at this when it’s your turn, arm people with the “Why” for their work and they’ll reward you with efforts and results that fit the purpose.

3. Don’t Bark Orders Unless the Patient Will Die or the Building Will Burn

The drive for results in a transactional environment often resolves to those in charge barking orders and ignoring my previous points here. There are a few (very few) emergencies when this style is called for. The rest of the time, save your orders for the drive-thru.

4. Care for People

People do incredible things for leaders who care for them. It’s another of the under-utilized secrets to success in our world. Strive to see things from their vantage point and use empathy in your dealings with them. Sometimes caring is as simple as giving someone a break when they need it.

5. Respect Them Enough to Provide Tough Feedback and Ample Praise

Nothing says, “I care” like giving an individual respectful, quality feedback. This under-utilized tool is as Ken Blanchard offers, “The Breakfast of Champions.” Good people want to grow and to do that they need to know!

Giving constructive, tough feedback is excellent, but don’t forget the same rules apply for positive feedback. Quality positive feedback reinforces high-performance behaviors.

6. Hit the Pause Button on Issues in the Ethical Gray-Zone

When the pressure is on for results, it’s tempting to consider short-cuts. Teach your team by hitting the “pause” button when an issue skates into the ethical gray-zone. If you don’t, it’s a slippery slope to future decisions where gray turns to black for bad.

7. Keep Pushing Them to Grow on the Run

In transactional environments, personal and professional development often take a permanent back seat to the constant drive for more. Good leaders challenge individuals to grow in the moment by providing opportunities and responsibilities and offering to coach.

Start simply by responding to, “How should I?” questions with, “I don’t know, what do you think?” answers. And when the drive for results demands new actions, approaches, or projects, nudge or shove them into positions where they can grow on the fly. Just don’t forget to watch and coach.

8. Ask for Their Ideas

The “respect” issue shows up in so many of these positive, sustaining behaviors. Asking for input on new problems is a great approach. It stimulates critical thinking, promotes growth, and often leads to novel solutions. Quit trying to be the smartest person in the room and let the other smart people step-up and help.

9. Let Them Own Something and then Something Else

I’ve found ownership breeds growth, commitment, and achievement. Good leaders use the power of ownership for initiatives, improvements, and opportunities to drive exceptional results.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Transactional workplaces are competitive and even cut-throat. However, you don’t have to lead in a transactional manner. The choice is yours. You can push, order, cajole, intimidate, or, you can fight back by incorporating some powerful and important sustaining behaviors. The choice is yours.