When faced with disaster the brain goes three places. These three places are tied to your performance. Check it out.

Denial. This first stop is often the last. When something happens that we’ve never imagined possible, most of us stay in denial way too long. We simply ignore the news reports, the negative performance review, the lack of results, and continue to do what we’ve always done. We defend the status quo. We stick to the routine. In the workplace this leads to delays, delays, and more delays. Defending the status quo is slow death at work. In a real disaster, this leads to quick death most of the time.

Deliberate. For those that jump out of denial, this second one can be a lengthy landing locale. Something bad happens and we begin to process alternatives. Sadly, we keep processing. We wait for one more piece of data which leads to delays, delays, and more delays. At work we know what we’re doing is not working but,instead of acting, we keep thinking about alternatives. We send our team back and forth with alternative after alternative – all they want is a stinkin’ decision. Fear of being wrong grips us. We deliberate some more. Meanwhile, the staircases are blocked and our room is filling up with smoke.

Decide. The untrained brain does not make good decisions when adversity strikes. The brain is flooded with chemicals to prepare us to “fight or flight” which always results in less focus toward decision making. We forget what we know works. We desperately “swing for the fences.” Lacking discipline, planning, and practice, leads to decisions we regret. Adversity is not the time for training the brain. Adversity is when we are better off not thinking. You and I rarely rise to the occasion. We fall to the level of our training. Better decisions require more time under tension in your training. You must train with tension in your practices to perform under pressure in MOT (moments of truth). Make sense?

Very rarely do people panic. Most people do just the opposite. The most common response by an untrained brain during adversity is to do nothing. This has been programmed for thousands and thousands of years. Way back in the day it made sense to do nothing when the brain was flooded with fight or flight chemicals. Doing nothing worked. Today, there are few lions, tigers, and bears to fake out with our attempt at “playing dead.” Yet, it is still the most common response to unbridled fear. We don’t actually play dead, we simply become paralyzed, freeze, and stop moving. In my study of disasters the world over this is the most common reaction.


The only way to combat these untrained, prehistorically wired brains is to train them. This requires practice and is one of the big reasons we believe in practicing with your team every few weeks. The obstacle is the way, leader, assuming you’ve practiced under pressure and prepared accordingly. The best teams prepare when times are good and when times are not so good. Practice is what leads to performance. Deliberate practice, that is. We need more executive teams that have practiced how to communicate their vision and how to translate that vision into productive actions. If you are to lead your team through a sales slump, it will help to have practiced the fundamentals when sales were free and easy. The time to develop and build disciplines are not during the adversity. We practice and perform through adversity because we have been committed to practicing all the while. Are you practicing the fundamentals that drive you and your teams performance? Do you understand your system well enough to know the leading indicators, or do you only pay attention to the lagging ones like sales, revenues, profits, and wins/losses?

If we are to survive adversity we need to train our brain how to respond now. We train our brain to respond without thinking. This is how you and your team will know you are ready – when you can perform under pressure without thinking. This matters when the adversity is a terrorist attack and when the adversity is something as small as losing your biggest customer or losing a couple games in a row to unworthy competition. Leaders are measured by the quality and quantity of their decisions, especially their decisions during MOT. Train the brain to decide, leader. Train under tension in practice. Good…

How are you preparing your team for adversity?

What are you practicing when you tell your team to just freakin’ sell more?

What are you practicing when you freak out looking at last months financials?

What are you practicing when you do nothing?

What are you practicing when the losses leave you loathing your positon and looking for another team?

What are you practicing when you remain calm, dispassionate, focused, tuned in, and speak ccd during tense moments with a teammate?

Tell me more, friend. Tell me more…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: