Pressure and stress are inevitable parts of any business leader’s journey. The question is not necessarily what kinds of pressure you will face, but how you’ll respond to them and move forward.
Every entrepreneur will find their own unique strategies for succeeding under pressure, but it never hurts to hear from leaders who have mastered the art. Below, a group of business owners offer their best practical tactics for combating the stress of leadership and coming out stronger on the other side.
Identify what you can control.
During stressful situations, it helps to ask yourself what you are in control of, says Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and president of Influence & Co.
“I find myself most stressed when I feel pressure and feel that it’s all outside of my control,” Raymond explains. “By taking a step back and thinking about what part of the stressful situation is within my control, it can help me focus on action rather than worrying.”
Follow your core values.
According to Jonathan Clausen, owner and president of Lilac City LLC, following your core values as a leader will help you persevere through difficult times. These values, he says, will define you and your business in the long haul.
“Our business operates on ‘our word means more than a signature,’ and we don’t make money at the expense of another,” Clausen adds. “This is the foundation, and it has carried us through COVID-19.”
Trust in your competence.
Being competent and having enough knowledge about making the right decisions can help leaders succeed under pressure, says Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder and creative director of Marquet Media, LLC.
“When leaders are competent, more often than not, they will make a well-thought-out decision,” Marquet says. “If I am not well equipped to make a decision and it’s a time-sensitive one, that’s when I lose all calmness and clarity, leading me to making a rash decision.”
Focus on your physical health.
Health is often holistic and interconnected, which means physical health and strength can encourage strong mental health and resilience against stress.
“Our physical health works in tandem with our mental health, so it makes sense that building up your body’s stamina and perseverance at the gym will also fortify your mind, too,” says Emily Stallings, co-founder of Casely, Inc. “By setting fitness goals and working hard to achieve them, you’ll find your mind also becomes equipped to handle the pressure that comes from being a leader.”
Learn to distance yourself from the panic.
When panic starts to set in, it’s important to cultivate an ability to distance yourself from it within your own mind, explains Tyler Bray, CEO of TK Trailer Parts.
“Whether you ask monks or Navy SEALs, everyone agrees this is important,” Bray says. “One technique that works really well when someone — let’s say an angry customer — is screaming at you is to control your own tone of voice. It’s hard to keep yelling if someone doesn’t match your energy.”
Practice deep breathing.
As an attorney, Givelle Lamano, CEO of Lamano Law Office, is familiar with the pressure that can come in the middle of presenting a case and being “in the thick of things.” In times like this, she recommends simple breathing exercises to calm down quickly.
“Taking a few seconds to inhale deeply and exhale deeply calms my heart rate down and allows me to focus on how to present information in the most simple and effective way,” says Lamano.
Ask yourself what the next ‘right move’ is.
Nick Venditti, director of e-commerce at StitchGolf, says that a good question to ask yourself when you feel overwhelmed is, “What’s my next right move?” Instead of trying to see the bigger picture in the moment, focus on what you need to immediately do next.
“Breaking work down into segments in this way makes everything feel more manageable,” says Venditti. “You can’t avoid feeling pressured, but you can change your perspective.”
Remember that the pressure is temporary.
The most important thing to remember is that any pressure you feel is going to be temporary, says Syed Balkhi, co-founder of WPBeginner, no matter whether you’re trying to win a project or are dealing with legal and accounting problems.
“While feeling pressure is uncomfortable, don’t add to it by wanting the pressure to just disappear,” Balkhi adds. “Just try to stay in the moment and work as best as you can.”