Avoiding Challenging Situations is not the Answer

by Tim Yeomans

Going to the Pressure

As we mature in life, we are regularly faced with challenges and situations that require us to deal with discomfort, growth, and fear.  As young people, we often have the benefit of mentors or coaches that cajole and inspire us to face our challenges and work towards improving ourselves.  As we progress through life and assume more responsibility, we can frequently find ourselves in the situation where that small voice reminding us to do what is best is replaced with the voice telling us its ok to “wait and see what happens”. 

Most all of us have had the experience in our youth waiting to begin our homework until 10:00 PM on Sunday evening.  We know that will feel better when it’s done. We even resolve several times between Friday afternoon and late Sunday evening to sit down and complete the task. Yet somehow, we hold out the hope that the “pit of the stomach feeling” will magically disappear without us actually performing the required work to resolve the issue. When the task is finally complete it at 12:30 AM we know that it would have been better to deal with it sooner, and now we face the prospect of being tired and not at our best the entirety of Monday for our unwillingness to “Go to the Pressure” and complete the task. We not only felt bad for having procrastinated, now we feel bad because of lack of sleep.

“Going to the Pressure” is not a battle cry to rush headlong into the fray without thought or preparation. Quite the contrary, it is a thoughtful reminder that issues left unaddressed will grow and become more challenging in the future.  Going to the Pressure is a reminder to regularly examine the challenges that exist within your organization. Personnel issues, performance issues, productivity issues and any manner of system alignment issues that are inhibiting the ability of the team you lead or simply you as a leader to perform at you best.

As leaders we are sending messages to those, we lead every day by how we do our work.  Our example is often so powerful that it supersedes most spoken words in the eyes of our employees. Dealing with issues in a timely manner is a message that all leaders want to be doing. Addressing issues in a balanced considerate manner, free of undue emotion and drama, lets those on our team know that “what we say is backed up by authentic action”.  “Going to the Pressure” allows you as the leader to handle issues in their infancy rather than see them grow to a size where they begin to impact more facets of the organization.

Like performing daily exercise, starting every day off with 10 minutes of thoughtful planning and taking time to be present and thoughtfully engaged with those we lead, addressing pressing issues in real-time is a characteristic of great leadership. Revisiting the previous example of our homework, if we thoughtfully address the task or issue by taking time to consider the options, planning a strategy of communication and perhaps checking your preliminary course of action with another respected leader, you will find that dealing with the issue is nearly always much more manageable than reacting when it becomes a crisis. 

Realizing that there is no way to “outrun” issues that we hope would “just go away”, taking time to regularly assess problems and challenges that will require our action is a strategy that successful leaders must employ.