Back in the day, I played a fair amount of pinball as most of the bars had shuffleboard, pool, and pinball machines. Shuffleboard and pool were straightforward. Pinball had a nuance I liked and disliked at the same time. You see as you mastered pinball, one of the tricks of the trade was figuring out how to shake the machine without sending it into “Tilt.” Tilt was the ultimate four letter word as it signaled complete system shutdown. The flippers wouldn’t flip and the silver ball slid silently away – game over. Masters could shake the machine and make it look easy; novices, not so much.

Poker players use the word tilt to indicate when, similarly, the lights have gone out for a competitor. When a player is on tilt, he/she is not thinking clearly. He may be flipping on a flop, folding on a hold, or betting against the worst of probabilities. He may be frozen in place, or playing at a frenzied pace. He is overwhelmed in the moment and on tilt. Talk about sharks smelling blood – this player is quickly taken out by others unless she has preloaded a response to such situations. The only way to survive tilt is to prepare for such moments and preload (prefrontal cortex) your response. This should be sounding somewhat familiar to the BTL community, right?

Leader, you are not immune to being shaken into a state of tilt. Most leaders, when overwhelmed, react just like a pinball machine – they shutdown. Nothing moves. Remember, 9/11 showed us a whole herd of CEO’s frozen in their chairs just below the impact zones. Fireman, literally, shook them to their senses. They were on full tilt – frozen in place. Most of you are not having a 9/11 kinda shock to your system, but are frozen nonetheless. You have a problem performer wrecking havoc while producing results. You know this requires action from your chair, yet you sit and listen, look, and can’t decide. The infamous no decision is a decision. We have an epidemic of this kinda tilt in every system. Edwin Friedman wrote a book (Failure of Nerve) summarizing his life’s work as Rabbi, coach, and counselor. He saw tilt in synagogue, government, large enterprise and small. Today, we coddle, seek consensus, and wait for the right moment to act. By the time we flop, fold, or decide to hold, the games already over, the silver balls long gone, and we have no option but to feed the machine more quarters and start over. Not good…

So, leader, preload your response when you sense tilt approaching. Preload (see preload blog for reminder). There are always warning signals before we tilt (the best is to pay attention to your breathing). For most reading this rant you need to make more micro decisions to avoid tilt. For a few, you need to walk away from the table and get some fresh air before being so rash. Preload your response, leader. Know your tendencies and learn when to lean into them and when to lean away. Know thyself, remember. Push the freakin’ flipper and nudge the machine ever so slightly. You got this and there will almost always be another silver ball, you’ll see. And, just in case you push too hard, it might help to have a truth teller or two beside you who can sense/smell you bleeding out before the sharks do. What triggers your emotional system, leader? Who are your triggers? Who illuminates blindspots with helpful even when it’s hurtful truth? Slow down and reflect. Slow down.

Live hard. Love harder (Thanks, Teeks)…

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: