The relationship between pressure and performance is explained in the “Inverted-U”. The Inverted-U relationship focuses on a leader’s performance of a task. When there is very little pressure to carry out an important task, there is little incentive to focus energy and attention on it. This is particularly the case when there may be other, more urgent, or more interesting, tasks competing for attention. In busy organizations, senior leaders have to be very principled and focused to carry out an important task.
I have a wonderful example of a senior leader in my organisation- let’s call him Eric. When sitting down to talk with Eric, you wait for a moment while he closes his laptop, sets his phone to silent and settles in his chair. You have his full attention. This is an important and symbolic gesture. As GM, Eric has just been through dozens of presentations and hundreds of slides as part of mid-year review. The people that impress Eric most know their business, and they also know tertiary businesses. Finding the time to dig in to other businesses is overwhelming, but Eric offers a great counterpoint: “Be present in meetings”. At times, we’re all guilty of cracking our laptop open in meetings and wading through emails. But that disconnects you from the meeting itself… and a great opportunity to learn from other presenters and to understand their business problems.
If you’re not fully present in a meeting, it forces one-dimensional commentary. Eric illustrates his point by explaining, “I’ve worked with people who are heads-down in email and only surface to offer random comments specific to their projects. Don’t be so predictable that your only comments and questions relate to your area of the business.”
The lesson here is that Eric is a high potential employee and has been rated to be in the top 4% in a 90,000 people organization every year consistently for the last 17 years. He is credited for coming up with innovative solutions and products that cut across synergies of different businesses. It’s a great example of how a simple principle like Be Present can enhance your performance tremendously.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.