One of the most famous sports stories takes place in Super Bowl 23. The San Francisco 49ers are trailing the Cincinnati Bengals by 3 points with just over 3 minutes to go in the game and 92 yards to go. Hall of Fame quarterback, Joe Montana comes to the huddle, and with all the players looking at him he says “Hey, look its John Candy over there!” and he nods towards the stands. All the players get a good chuckle and the 49ers march down the field and win the championship.
What does this story has to do with leadership, you ask? Imagine if Joe Montana came to the huddle and started yelling and screaming. How would the other players react to that as they look at him for leadership? His comment in “crunch time” showed how relaxed he was and helped put the other players at ease. Your team is looking at you when it becomes “crunch time”. How you handle it will determine how they handle it. I received one of the worst comments on a review from my manager when I was at a bank. She was a very intense supervisor, and when it came to deadlines she ramped up the intensity. She said to me that she does not like how calm I stay when deadlines are approaching. She said it appears that I lack urgency. I explained that it’s just the opposite. I said don’t confuse the calmness for lack of urgency. However, I feel that the team is looking for me to be strong and if I start to stress out, it may cause them to stress out. If they stress out, they will not give me their very best work, and something important could be missed. I prefer to keep my stress behind closed doors. This is not to say that you do not make your team aware of the urgency needed to complete a task in time, but you also don’t need to be breathing down their necks. When I was a branch manager at a different bank, I would keep the team aware of where we were in terms of sales numbers and what was needed to accomplish our goals. I would go to them and ask them what they needed from me to help them hit our goals. We would have daily sales meeting every morning to review the previous day’s activities and to discuss what we could expect from today. In my time as a branch manager, we only missed two goals that we were aiming for out of 21 quarters.
So when it gets down to “crunch time” and your deadline is fast approaching, keep your cool. Look for your John Candy. Then watch your team march towards its goal and achieve. Who knows, it may help you be a little less stressed too.