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Decision-making Under Pressure



In a recent post I mentioned that learning from my mistakes has helped me become a better tennis player.


Last week I was playing with Coach Juhani and during one point I had a fraction of a second to decide how to return a ball he hit to my backhand. Should I hit topspin or slice, cross-court or down-the-line. In the end, I did not commit to a specific choice and hit the ball into the net.


At the break we reflected on that moment of indecisiveness. Juhani made an interesting comment, which by the way, I took as a compliment. He said this happened because I have enough skill to make a choice.


It got me thinking about the choices leaders make every day. Peter Drucker said, “Decision-making is the specific executive task.”


The best leaders, based on experience, develop a tool kit of authentic behaviors. As situations arise, they choose the appropriate approach to influence people or that situation. As a foundation for that choice are the leader’s priorities and values. In today’s fast paced, competitive environment leaders are under constant pressure to make optimal decisions to deliver high performance and results for all stakeholders. It is not easy.


For Formula 1 drivers, pressure comes with the job. They drive at 300 km/h, face 2-6 G forces continuously for 90 minutes, must consider 35 buttons and switches on the steering wheel, while talking to their engineers on the radio about strategy and positioning, and continuously looking out for the other 19 race cars in front, to the side, or just behind trying to pass. A colleague at Hintsa Performance has said for a driver ‘it is like playing chess while running a marathon.’


Unlike F1 drivers, business leaders (and tennis players) do not face potentially life-threatening experiences while making decisions. One is fortunate to be in a position of having choices, sometimes we are not! In any case, all leaders must take responsibility for their decisions and hopefully hit the ball over the net more often than not.

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