The Number 1 Question Your Team Is Asking When Under Pressure

By Bill Stainton

“Is it safe?”

If you’ve ever seen the movie Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, you know just how scary this question can be.

It can be a scary question for your team as well (although without the unpleasant dental work-watch the movie if you’re confused).

When you’re leading your team through a high-pressure situation, they’re looking to you (I’ve written about this before). They’re looking to you…

• … to see what you’re going to do (how you’re going to solve the situation); and,
• … to see how they should behave (do they need to panic?).

But really, they’re looking to you for the answer to the question: Is it safe? (Or, more accurately, “Am I safe?”)

That’s why it’s so vital that you, when faced with a high-pressure situation, exude calmness and confidence. Yes, even if deep down inside you’re a neurotic mess!

See, it’s really hard to produce great results when you’re panicking. I can prove this to you with the following quiz:

When the pressure’s on, do you want your airplane pilot, or your heart surgeon, or your military commander to be:

A. Calm and confident
B. A blithering idiot made of quivering Jell-O®

How many of you chose B? I’m going to assume no hands are raised. That’s because you inherently know that the blithering idiot is not going to produce great results. And if your future well-being depends on that blithering idiot… well… you’re not going to feel very safe, are you?

It’s the same with your team. When the pressure is on, they’re looking to you to see if you are, A) calm and confident (i.e., safe), or, B) a blithering idiot made of quivering Jell-O® (i.e., unsafe).

If the leader panics, the team panics. And it’s really hard to produce great results when you’re panicking.

Here’s why this is particularly important-and it goes beyond the scope of the particular high-pressure situation. Because high-pressure situations come and go. You get through one, and before you know it, another one’s right around the corner. So your team may not remember-once enough time has passed-what specific decision you made for any particular situation.

But they will never forget how you made them feel.

Days, weeks, years after the fact, they’ll remember whether you made them feel like their future was in jeopardy… or if you made them feel safe. And that will determine how eager they’ll be to follow you into battle the next time the pressure’s on.

Your team wants to know if you can get them through the pressure situations safely. To a large extent, it’s your demeanor that will answer the question: Is it safe?

About the author

For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results–in THEIR world and with THEIR teams. His website is