Q2 · 2017Staying cool - what creates the heat for you?

We are witnessing moments, when melting points are all over the news. A few months back, for example, a video surfaced showing Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick launching into a tirade at a driver, significantly damaging his credibility as a leader. The global media such as The Washington Post reports that more CEOs are being pushed out for bad behavior, including emotional meltdowns.

Certainly in business as well as sports (watch the upcoming tennis Grand Slam tournament in Wimbledon, for example), pressure is a given. But shrinking business cycles, limited resources, and unexpected disruptions have stirred up a cauldron of intensity for today’s executives — and social media makes it hard to hide, meaning a dramatic lapse can wind up going viral, as Kalanick’s did. In my new book, The Melting Point: How to Stay Cool and Sustain World-Class Business Performance, I write about just this kind of pressure-cooker intensity. The truth is, a certain amount of pressure is exhilarating — it can spark us to new levels of performance and catalyze great ideas. But too much can also wear us down to the point of triggering a total overload. And when we hit that Melting Point, things start to derail.

Each of us can learn to deal with massive intensity

But each of us can learn to deal with massive intensity. We can all learn how to raise our Melting Points to stay cool even in the face of unprecedented heat, and sustain high performance. One way to get started is to become self-aware, and identify the specific conditions that tend to trigger a meltdown in you. Knowing where your own flashpoints are is a huge part of safely performing in high pressure situations.

When I interviewed top business leaders, executives, corporate high performers and ambitious managers for my book, certain stress points were cited over and over. The list below may not be complete, but these are most common triggers I uncovered in my research.

I encourage you to evaluate your unique situation by identifying which elements increase the heat for you individually and how you tend to cope with them. Then, head to my book to read more about them, and learn how to overcome them. Please take good note that the elements do not create the same heat for everybody. Understanding the elements most present for you will help you gain clarity and the ability to prioritize the areas that must be addressed with urgency.

Here are the 15 most common elements that can create the heat:

  • A culture in which the workday never stops
  • Toxic office politics
  • Relentless traveling
  • Being isolated in the C-Suite
  • Pressure to micromanage everything and not delegate
  • Modern business complexity and ambiguity
  • Team members with dysfunctional personalities
  • Always bringing work home
  • Low energy levels
  • Having to be always on
  • An impending career move
  • The threat of redundancy
  • Domestic changes
  • Family crises
  • Health issues

Particularly in the highly competitive world of business, being able to stay cool is one of the three keys to sustainable top performance. We don’t know what exactly has created the heat for Kalanick. We have yet to see if he can overcome his own greatly damaged image. Hopefully he’s already learning from his mistake, and resolving to do better so that he will be able to stay cool under the pressure in the future.

Wishing you every success in your critical endeavors,