Managing under pressure – Part 4: Stay focused

As an interim manager, I’m an extreme manager. I have very limited time to initiate a successful turnaround in companies, while operating with limited insight and in a tense atmosphere. In these situations, I benefit from my experience as a rescue diver. Today I describe how to not lose focus under pressure.

In the last part of this short series, we come to the most important aspect that everything depends on: Keeping focused, at all costs, in spite of challenges. Under pressure, we tend to get side-tracked and become “actionistic”, if not panic-stricken. This can happen under water as well as in the company hamster wheel.

That’s why I have three rules.


Rule 1: Don’t digress!

Pursuing a clear goal and implementing a plan in the best way possible saves a diver strength and air. All divers react to disturbances, but only in the worst case do I question the goal and the plan.

In management, we often practice the opposite and preach “permanent beta” and “agility”. I cannot and must not allow myself to do this during interim assignments. Here the clock is ticking, money is running out, and nerves are on edge.

Acting with the goal in mind is the way forward. And it doesn’t work without a plan, even with agile readjustment when new information comes to light.


Rule 2: Work with buffers!

Divers ensure they have a quarter to a third of a tank of reserves when they calculate the oxygen of their compressed air cylinders for a dive. This reserve should also be available to a manager, especially for interim assignments. Those who plan activities, resources and results at their limit will succumb to this limit and will not reach their goal.

I allow time to breathe in the schedule – and use these times, where necessary, to cope with the unpredictable.


Rule 3: Minimize the ballast!

Every gram of equipment and every instrument makes diving more difficult. This is an insight that is still foreign to managers. How strong and efficient companies would be if we in management focused only on what serves the customer and creates value for others!

As an interim manager, I have no time for business theatre, justification of reports, and the use of trendy management tools. I have one task: to develop power and impact. I must do this with limited insight into the company, in a limited timeframe, and with realistically assessed possibilities.


Insight for extreme managers

Through these four steps, it is perhaps a little clearer as to how pressure situations under water help to deal with pressure in everyday managerial life. I am very grateful for my experiences as a rescue diver. I draw strength, inspiration and composure from these experiences to master gruelling interim assignments with companies. If you want to delve even deeper into the subject with me, just contact me. I look forward to it.

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