We all face pressure in our lives, but there’s nothing like that of an entrepreneur facing customer crises and the competitive challenges of a new business. Don’t believe the myth that all you have to do to get rich is bring up an e-commerce website, and the money rolls in while you sleep. Most successful business leaders have learned how to redefine a challenge by reframing pressure situations into opportunities.
Reframing enables you to see any difficult situation in a different light so you can deal with it effectively. The science and human factors behind this approach are explained in a classic book, Crunch Time: How to Be Your Best When It Matters Most,” by Rick Peterson and Judd Hoekstra. Peterson comes from professional sports, while Hoekstra is a business leadership consultant.
Based on my years as a business executive and mentoring entrepreneurs, I’m convinced that the principles of redefining a challenge can be learned, and apply equally well to any domain, certainly including business. Thus, here is my own reframing of the authors generalized rules into some specifics for an entrepreneur or business leader:
- Reframe competitive threats to opportunities. When a competitor appears, you can react with fear and anger, or you can learn from what they offer, and set a goal that converts that threat into an opportunity for you. Don’t focus too narrowly. For example, Steve Jobs and Apple moved computer technology to phones to counter falling revenue.
- Reframe from fighting harder to changing the game. When you find yourself saying, “I need to keep lowering my prices,” you just put more pressure on yourself. It’s more satisfying and fun to say “It’s time to add my new innovation for real value.” Your best performance will always come by playing from your strengths, not your weaknesses.
- Reframe from tension to humor in your approach. Humor has been proven to provide numerous business benefits, including customer loyalty, productivity, and reduced absenteeism. If your team is feeling intimidated by impossible deadlines, it may be time for an event with a fun skit to break the tension and get everyone working productively.
- Reframe from anxiety to taking control. When the job ahead looks overwhelming, you feel threatened. An effective strategy is to break the task into bite-sized chunks, and conquer them one at a time. This puts you back in control, with success feedback at every step. That’s the value of a complete business plan, with milestones along the way.
- Reframe from doubt to confidence and skill. Many entrepreneurs find themselves in a downward spiral of doubt, when their first customers come slowly. It pays to have passion and confidence to fall back on, as well as in-depth skills, to turn the tide to growth and success. It also pays to have the confidence to ask for help from your advisors.
- Reframe from failures to learning moments. Using different words with your team enables them to think differently. When things go wrong, refrain from harping on mistakes – rather talk about the lessons learned that make everyone stronger. Thomas Edison discovered he could redefine a challenge by failing spectacularly before he found great success with the incandescent light bulb.
- Reframe from barely-prepared to over-prepared. In business, there is no substitute for doing great homework. Many entrepreneurs don’t really study competitors, skip financial projections, or don’t have a backup plan, so feel stress with every new setback. Great business leaders never stop preparing, and always have alternative plans when pressed.
When times are tough, the first battle always fought is in your mind. If you can’t win that battle, and lose faith in yourself, you are unlikely to triumph in any business challenge. When you redefine a challenge you’re really overcoming that primal human fear reflex when you are being threatened, to see the threat as an opportunity, or see it in a context where you have the advantage.
In fact, the best business leaders I know thrive on the challenges and the pressures of their business, rather than fear them. They actually avoid the alternatives of boredom and “business as usual” as more threatening to their sense of self and well-being. There is nothing more satisfying in business than being your best when it matters most.