Pressure can come from a variety of sources both
planned (meeting with VIP stakeholder), and unplanned (natural or
For leaders, high-stress situations are inevitable. Many rise to the
occasion, channeling energy to serve their performance. Your needs will
vary depending on your circumstances and intents. Here are six
1. Be proactive
rather than responsive.
Have a plan for how to support yourself when the stakes are high. With
a plan, you can eliminate lag time, the time between awareness and
intended action. This advantage can make all the difference between
success and failure, putting your goals and intentions in the driver’s
2. Know who’s on
Identify your key players. Have explicit agreements with them about
what roles they will play and how you will work together. When the heat
is on, they will be your support system and infrastructure for action.
3. Plan for action,
Talk in advance about your needs, whether it’s coordinating response
teams and media relations, or working together behind the scenes to
answer questions and come up with solutions. An emergency is no excuse
for sloppy thought or action.
Spend time running possible scenarios and discussing how the team will
work together. Establish the proper connections both above and below
your office. Be ready to work with your team to (a) evaluate the
situation, (b) establish key messages, and (c) choose your channels.
4. Know your
stakeholders and their specific needs.
Every communication plan is customized to meet the needs of its
audiences. Everyone who is impacted by your action is a stakeholder.
Identify these groups in advance; understand the media they prefer for
communication. For very important audiences, build relationships that
you can depend on before the pressure is on.
5. Get media
When the media is involved, your actions (or lack of action) will be
amplified and have significant impact on all sides. Professional
training is available, and valuable — don’t wait.
6. Take an improv
Theatrical improv teaches you to ride energy, to take what’s served –
no matter how offbeat or unflattering – and turn it to your advantage.
It engages the entire body as your instrument. These two practices, the
judo of safely channeling chaotic energy and tapping your entire being,
are powerful allies when it comes to landing on your feet in a