Coaching World Issue 13: March 2015 - Page 21

Shutterstock.com/spiber.de Under Pressure How often has a client chalked a personal or professional challenge he’s facing up to “pressure” during a coaching session? For that matter, how often do you feel pressure in your own life and work? Unlike stress, which can be beneficial, pressure is never helpful. Pressure adversely impacts cognitive success tools, such as judgment, decision-making, attention and memory. Emergency room nurses under time pressure, for example, make critical omission errors in charting. Students’ performance on math and English tests worsens when pressure to do well is increased, and chess and bridge players make more blunders in tournament play than in practice play. Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D. It’s a popular conception that there are people who are particularly gifted at exhibiting grace under pressure—those who always rise to the occasion, whether it’s by hitting the clutch three-point shot in the final seconds of the game or making the sales pitch that nets their team’s biggest account yet. We believe these people have nerves of steel and are made better by pressure. In fact, nobody “rises to the occasion” in a high-pressure situation. Some of us are just more skillful at not succumbing to pressure. We often see examples of this in the world of professional sports. Former Major League Baseball shortstop Derek Jeter was often called a “clutch player.” However, Jeter’s lifetime batting average (310) equaled his playoff batting average. Jeter didn’t “rise to the occasion” during playoff games and deliver better-than-average (for him) performances. His edge was that he didn’t turn in a below-average performance under pressure. The clutch myth is dangerous, because it represents an unattainable ideal—and causes a hit to individuals’ self-esteem when they can’t reach it. By helping your clients to understand that the clutch myth is just that—a popular narrative with no empirical support—you can emp