The advantage of training under pressure
We all know people who perform well even in the most stressful workplace. Yet we almost certainly know many more who avoid difficult situations or simply cave in under pressure.
The facts show that pressure at work is both prevalent and damaging. In a recent international survey, workplace health insurer CIGNA showed that not only 87% of employees felt pressured at work, an overwhelming 9 out of 10 felt their colleagues' reaction to stress had a negative impact on the whole workplace.
Pressure is a reality. So the question is, can the ability to overcome pressure be learned?
For instance, when we encounter a pressure situation, say a must-win negotiation or a yearly appraisal with a new boss, how do we react?
Do we regard this as a threat where the risk of failure might see us crumble in our ability to communicate? Or are we able to think of it as a challenge where we can take a more balanced view and focus on the goal to be achieved?
Organisations are borrowing ideas from elite sports, training their employees under pressure so that they can better cope in real life.
Neuroscience tells us that brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to re-wire as you learn a new skill – is a key aspect of training. The first few attempts may be slow and strewn with errors because our brains struggle to adapt to the new requirements.
That’s why many tennis players practice on smaller courts. When big-game nerves kick in they retain a better level of accuracy to keep the ball inside the lines despite the pressure of the occasion.
When a job is highly repetitive, improvements can be gained simply by repeating the task. This is OK if you work on a production line, but what about less frequent, high-pressure situations such as giving an important presentation or conducting a yearly appraisal?
For such events, training under pressure can build confidence and deliver a greater ability to handle tough situations. Skills which you can then apply on a daily basis.
Again, neuroscience shows that if acquiring a new skill is presented as an intensive challenge combined with emotional impact, then chemicals that set up new neural pathways are released in our brains. These let us learn new skills faster and more efficiently.
Tailor-made for pressure
Taking this knowledge, Cegos has developed a series of programmes to help you deal with pressure, from customer meetings and high-level negotiations to conflict resolution and difficult employee issues.
You can attempt and practice new behaviours and strategies in a safe environment and receive immediate feedback and guidance.
This provides the ability to view a difficult situation with optimism, turning it from a threat to a challenge, increasing your capability to achieve a positive outcome each time.