BTL team practice…

What do you do when you “feel” overwhelmed with work, relationships, or simply tire from chasing too many objectives? What happens when overcome, suddenly with fear? What is the impact on you and your teams performance? Have you ever wondered how you might perform if you were in the twin towers on 9/11, New Orleans during Katrina, or had a seat on the Titanic?

I have.

My curiosity about how our brain works has led me to read countless books on the topic, one of which was titled The Unthinkable, by Amanda Ripley. She wrote one worth reading. According to Amanda’s research, faced with a 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 to us we’ve never imagined possible (happened to me this week), most of us stay in denial too long. We 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 disaster, this leads to quick death most of the time. If you’re a client of mine, your tendency is to wait too long.

Deliberate. For those jumping out of denial this second one can be a lengthy landing. Something bad happens and we begin to process alternatives. We keep processing. We wait for one more piece of evidence to get going. We know what we’re doing is not working but instead of acting, we keep thinking about alternatives. We ruminate. We send our team back and forth with alternative after alternative and all they want is for us to make 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 very good decisions when adversity strikes. The brain is flooded with chemicals to prepare us to “fight or flight” which results in less focus toward logical decision making. We forget what works and “swing for the fences.” Lacking discipline, planning, and practice leads to decisions we regret. Adversity is not the time for testing the brain. Adversity is when we are better off “not thinking.” This will take practice, practice, and more practice. This is why Rick Rescorla practiced with the Morgan Stanley team walking down the stair of the Twin Towers each quarter. This is why BTL holds team practice after team practice to wire your brain for optimal performance regardless the adversity. Common sense. Make it common practice.

Here’s what rarely happens. This is good news. Very rarely do people panic. Most people do just the opposite. This is bad news. 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 when, it made sense to do nothing when the brain was flooded with fight or flight chemicals. Doing nothing worked. The sabor toothed tiger passed by after a sniff or two. Today, there are few lions, tigers, and bears to fake 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, we freeze, we stop moving. In fact, during countless disasters the world over this is the most common reaction.


The only way to combat these untrained, prehistorically wired brains is to, well, train them. This requires practicing. Again, this is one of the big reasons why we believe in practicing with your team as often as possible. Transformational leaders know adversity is coming and prepare accordingly. They prepare when times are good and when times are NOT so good. Practice is what leads to performance. During BTL practice we train our brain to respond without thinking. This matters when the adversity is a terrorist attack and when it’s something as small as losing your biggest customer. Practice matters, friend. Training the brain, matters. Study history, you’ll see. Speaking of study, you are studying your history aren’t you. Slow down and reflect, friend. Slow down…

How are you preparing your team for adversity?

What are you practicing when you don’t trust each other enough to speak and listen to hard truth?

What are you practicing when you have your meetings and most hard conversations are “taken off-line.” Damn…

What are you practicing when you gather for BTL practice?

What are you practicing when you followup a hard practice with good writing?

What are you practicing to demonstrate that PA is the only way forward?

What are you practicing to prepare your team, to perform, through the coming merger or acquisition?

What are you practicing to prepare your team, to perform, through the coming reduction in force?

What are you practicing to prepare your team to perform away from the comfortable confines of the home court, home mat, or home field?

What are you practicing to prepare your team, to perform, even after your retirement?

Live hard. Love harder. Practice

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