We’re all subject to periods of pressure; that feeling where life/work/exam challenges become too much and you can begin to feel quite overwhelmed. Whether you’re a global business leader, managing a sales team or a parent at home juggling priorities, we’re all subject to different levels and types of pressure. Being able to manage the resulting stress is as relevant to all situations. We’ve developed a tool that we call ‘The Control Circle’.
Whether pressure is perceived as good or bad, we believe the prime issue is about being able to ‘control your attention’. In our view, your attention is either on or off the task – which at Gazing we refer to as having a ‘blue head’ and being ‘off task’ as having a ‘red head’.
‘Red Head’ is an unresourceful state in which you are off task, overwhelmed and ineffective. ‘Blue Head’, on the other hand, is an optimal state in which you are on task, concentrating and performing to your best ability. The questions is How can you move from having a ‘red head’ to a blue head, and quickly?
Our Control Circle methodology/tool is at its most simple about understanding the things that you can control and recognizing those that you can’t. Then, it’s about looking at the list of things that you can’t control but which you can (potentially) influence for which a third list needs to be started called ‘can influence’.
The next step is looking at the areas that you can control and influence and focusing your attention firmly on these two areas your Control Circle with a plan of action. The more you are aware of and concentrating on these circles, the more you can take manage and change.
The reality of most situations is that when under pressure and feeling overwhelmed you focus on the areas you are least likely to be able to control. Attention goes straight to the wrong areas usually the greatest stress points and it can become a downwards spiral.
However, by determining where you focus your attention and ensure it is where you can actually do something to start changing it – you gain clarity, secure an element of control and start taking command of your situation and so moving from red to blue. When training people to equip them to deal with and perform under pressure, we use memorable one-page maps to help visualise these techniques and keep them on track on a daily basis.
Some feedback we’ve had from people that have gone through our training workshop includes comments such as: felt more in control, having the map and tool gave me confidence and the pressure feels less overwhelming, in fact, I feel I can deal with it.
Our message to people is that there are the tools available that can help you cope better with pressure and in fact, when preparing for these situations, can get you to the stage that you start to excel under this pressure. By taking control where you focus your attention, you are making the choice to gain clarity, start concentrating ‘on task’ and begin performing to your best ability. But it is a skill that needs to be learnt; not necessarily something people know naturally.
If you’d like to try out our Control Circle tool and learn about transforming your approach from ‘red head’ to ‘blue head’, get in touch. People can achieve great performance under pressure it will certainly help them to cope better with the stress that clearly faces us all in business today.
Ian Cochrane, Gazing Performance Systems