Second question: Have you ever been losing at poker, with real money at stake?
You play differently when you’re losing than when you’re winning, do not you? That’s because there’s more stress when you are losing.
When the pressure’s on-when the stakes are the highest-we tend to play more conservatively. To put it differently, we play not to lose, rather than play to win.
It is human nature. After the pressure is the highest, we focus on what we could lose, rather than what we might gain.
The very same dynamics that affect us at the poker table affect your team at work. Professor Heidi Gardner, of the Organization Behavior Unit at Harvard University, found that in high-pressure scenarios, teams receive a sort of tunnel vision, focusing more and more on the dangers of failure than rewards of success.
This is a problem because the safest course isn’t necessarily the best course.
Now, let’s be clear here. There may be times when the safe course is the best course. But how do you know that if you can’t compare it with other choices?
When your staff freezes-when they default to security and stop coming up with these options-then you’re all basically saying,”The status quo is our best-and in fact, only-bet.” And at this time, you’ve psychologically negated any possibility of a breakthrough solution, a solution that could move the situation forward instead of keep it frozen where it is.
So how do you fix this? How can you get your team-with real effects on the line-to keep generating original solutions?
1. Let them know that options are valued
Create a culture of”two or more options for every challenge.” Be clear with your team that just 1 option is not an option. Make numerous options a core team worth, and be consistent with it. When your team realizes that there is an expectation of “Anderson Wildlife Removal,” they will start to generate those options.
2. Listen to everyone
Gardner also found that in high-pressure scenarios, teams tend to defer to the highest-ranking members. But the reality is that good ideas can come from anyone. So rather than just asking the senior members what they think, ask everybody. Sometimes the most junior member of the team will see something-a piece of information, a relationship, a resource-that everyone else has overlooked.
I’ve written about this before. For example, ask your staff questions like:
What if we had unlimited time to solve this issue?
Imagine if we had to solve this issue with just $100?
Imagine if our competition were facing this problem and solved it? How would they have done it?
By asking these and other”What if” questions, you force both you and your team to consider the problem differently, which opens up the possibility of innovative solutions that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
It’s no fun losing at poker. I know. I’ve been there. But-in that and other high-pressure scenarios – there’s a world of difference between freezing and feeling helpless… and having choices that could lead to a breakthrough solution.