Pressure To Perform by Kelly Swingler

We've all seen the losses and failures of athletes and our favourite sporting teams when there's pressure on them to win a match or game or become top of a league or table. Roger Black has shared stories of his only medal win being attributed to less pressure and more about mindset.

Pressure can lead to stress and anxiety and when these triggers get to unhealthy levels our performance decreases.

So why, do so many of our workplaces still feel that high pressure and long hours are conducive to positive performance?

Under pressure, we can start to lose sleep, or we need more sleep, we make more unhealthy choices, perhaps become aggressive and argumentative as the pressure continues to build. We start to assume we know best and we stop listening to those around us and we isolate ourselves as we then start to put more and more pressure on ourselves to perform to a certain level. We can beat ourselves up, our confidence can decrease, our resilience becomes almost non-existent and we start to question everything digging deeper still for energy reserves to get us over the finish line - and if we do, a little like Big Ben at the recent London Marathon we struggle to get across the line due to the added weight on our shoulders.

If you watched the celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins or if like in our household over recent weeks you've been glued to Line of Duty but not wanted to miss it so you've watched it later in the week, you'll have seen that many of the ex-sports people struggled with not being good enough - despite gold medals and numerous wins. The pressure to perform left them, and in some cases is still leaving them with a doubt in their own ability.

And that's what unhealthy pressure does to us - it causes doubt and no matter how well we perform, we never think we are doing well enough. There needs to be balance though, of course.

Too little pressure and we won't be motivated enough to perform, but too much pressure and we start to make mistakes and push too hard often missing the line.

Last weekend whilst on an empowerment weekend, I learned a valuable lesson. I put pressure on myself to achieve and to perform and I feel that if I don't succeed 100% then I have failed. Last Sunday, I didn't complete one of the tasks, and with this came one of the most valuable lessons I learned over the entire four days. I don't need to be 100% in roe to be growing and succeeding and achieving. I just need to give my best in the moment.

And this change of mindset, helped me complete 109 firewalks on the Sunday night, and has transformed the way I have been approaching my work and personal life all week. I don't need to try and be the best, I just need to be my best self.

So if you want your people and your business to perform, consider the amount of pressure you are creating. Is it enough to motivate but not too much to cause harm?

And are you pushing people to deliver perfection, or are you creating opportunities for them to be their best self and deliver their best work?

The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with Chrysalis Consulting.


Kelly Swingler is the Rule Breaker and Founder of Chrysalis Consulting, The People and Change Experts and was appointed as the UK’s Youngest HR Director.  Kelly is passionate about helping people find bespoke people solutions to suit the needs of their business and is driving our mission of inspiring and empowering 10,000 HR professionals in 2018. She is the author of Fostering a Mindset for Career SuccessAGILE HR and what’s your excuse for not Overcoming Stress and speaks at many events on the Future of Work.