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Calm Decisions Under Pressure

By May 17, 2012February 6th, 2014Leadership

Ever face critical decisions with only seconds to think? Watching sports may cause some to think of coaches who have to quickly decide a call to make. Do I kick the field goal at this stage of the game? Do I bring in the left-hander? Do I make the line change now or keep the current chemistry going? I have screamed plays at the TV thinking if I get loud enough the coach will hear me or by osmosis I can influence him. But the truth is I am not wearing the headset on the sidelines or walking into the locker room to give the inspirational speech. Most coaches remain calm knowing their players take their cues from their demeanor.

There are some jobs that require a person to remain calm under pressure and it is no game. Here is a list of people who are faced with critical decisions that hold people’s lives in their hands with their daily routines. In no particular order:

  1. Doctors
  2. Nurses
  3. Firefighters
  4. EMTs
  5. Soldiers
  6. Pilots
  7. Law Enforcement Officers
  8. 911 Operators
  9. Air Traffic Controllers
  10. Children’s Case Workers

Each of the above made the list because incorrect decisions may result in death. However, there are lists of people who affect others’ lives dramatically such as teachers, stockbrokers, and others whose decisions change resources available through equipping individuals. Another overlooked position facing high stress and whose decisions impact incomes, retirement plans, and family goals is the leader who makes decisions for the organization.

Their title might be pastor, president, director, owner, CEO, or a handful of others. Leaders hold the duty of protecting the future organization while protecting every family within the organization as they plan initiatives, expenses, budgets, strategies, marketing, sales goals, production levels, and a plethora of other details. When leaders make all decisions by the book sometimes uncontrollable circumstances happen. At this point, blame does not work. You simply must devise a plan to navigate through the circumstance. Such are the times. While individuals are affected, the leader is responsible for every person in the organization. For leaders, such decisions are not flippant or without serious analysis. Remember, leaders have access to far more information than those who may criticize that decision. Here are some guiding principles to help remain calm and work through such stressful or crisis situations.

  • Think about the logical steps between where you are and where you need to be.
  • Don’t focus on what is wrong but rather what should be happening.
  • Take in data, listen to advisors, think of trends, but in the end it’s your call.
  • Don’t delay making the tough decisions.
  • Make the right decision, not what gives anyone, including yourself, advantages.
  • Equip those around you that are working through the crisis.
  • Protect the greatest number of people you can.
  • Stay true to your mission or your organization’s long-term mission.
  • Never, ever jeopardize the organization over one person.

There are less stressful jobs where confronting hard issues are not part of the description. If you cannot handle confrontation, tough choices, staying calm under pressure, and taking the criticism for all of the above, then you may not wish to lead.

I am watching leaders during these challenging times make tough choices and while they do not make the above list, I suggest they will be scrutinized much like the coach who made the bad call. But at the end of the day, the leader has to face the entire team and not just one player or disgruntled fan.




Ron Hunter

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