Under Pressure

Today is your day. You literally felt a foot taller when you woke up this morning. The sun is shining, the coffee seems to put more energy into your system and it even tastes better. In 4 hours you are going to present the market entrance strategy for Brazil to the board. The project you have been working on with your team the last 3 months. The board will be thrilled and excited you know that. Nothing is going to stop you.

When you left your office yesterday evening everything was fine, the presentation was set, you read through it and double checked the footnotes. Your team just received an update on the latest market figures and some details on the competition from you local Brazilian consultant. They wanted to come early today and incorporate the latest figures into the presentation. Easy task, nothing to worry about.

You enter your office and you can feel the tense. Something is wrong. Your assistant approaches you: “I’m so sorry. We somehow lost the latest versions of the presentation. While putting in the latest data and mailing the presentation round in the team, somehow we have overwritten the latest version with an older version from two days ago. We don’t have a backup…”

That’s it. Say goodbye to the day of your life. Now it’s time for fire fighting. It immediately pops into your head: Sam has to check the introduction, market description and next stes, he can type into the computer your latest handwritten notes. They must be still on your desk. Go, go, go… – But please halt for a moment and think again: People under pressure don’t work better; they just work faster (Tom DeMarco, Author and Speaker on Software Engineering).

This is because pressure directly triggers our crocodile brain and blocks all what comes next from advancing to our neocortex; that’s where we have the problem-solving ability, reasoning and all the power to handle complex situations like this one. The crocodile brain handles the survival situations: fight or flight. That’s is not what you want and need in this situation.

So you need to calm down the situation. That’s the best you can do for your team and for the presentation. What options do you have? Find the latest version available and check shortly if you can use it instead. And there are still 2 hours left to make some adjustments based on your handwritten notes. What about the printout you have in your bag. You could scan it and present the scanned pdf.

Did you ever consider giving a presentation without ppt on the projector? This is the ultimate chance to do it. You have the entire storyline on your printout. Let’s surprise the board with a totally different performance. Tell them your story, the main things and write key messages and numbers on the flipchart. And promise the detailed project documentation by the end of tomorrow. Then there is enough time to have it rebuild by your team.

I’m sure there are many more options. The common denominator is don’t put pressure on your team. Calm down the situation and let them do their best work on a relaxed basis. Make a difference! They will notice and be grateful for your leadership.