If you're not a baseball fan you may not know who Brian Wilson is. He is a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and, as a "closer", his job is to do what few people can do - deliver under extreme pressure. Wilson only comes in at the end of the game (usually the 9th inning) when the game is close. Last night, he played in Atlanta where 50,000 Brave fans where rooting against him. A lot was riding on this game as this would have tied up the series for Atlanta. Instead the Giants won, vaulting them into the National League Championship Series. Wilson delivered the win.
To a certain degree all of us are "closers" at various points in our careers. Whether it's an important meeting, presentation or some other high profile event, it can be a "do or die" situation. And like the game last night, there are no "do-overs".
What does it take to operate at your peak level when so much is at stake?
Prepare - Whatever the situation is, if you want to excel, this will require preparation. The more and the better you prepare the finer the result will be. If it's a presentation you're giving, that means doing the necessary research, development of the material and rehearsing your delivery. Try and simulate the exact conditions - practice in the facility using the equipment you'll need for the actual presentation. If it's a meeting, research the subject matter, get "buy-in" from the attendees beforehand, etc. Don't leave anything to chance. Many people incorrectly believe that Abraham Lincoln scribbled the "Gettysburg Address" on the back of an envelope on his way to the cemetery. That's a myth. He actually spent a couple of weeks writing, revising and perfecting what turned out to be a two minute speech and a timeless classic.
Focus - When Brian Wilson takes the mound, he's not thinking about last night's game or the one to follow. He's not thinking about the screaming fans or anything other than the batter he faces. His focus is on getting that batter out. This ability to focus on the most important thing is what differentiates him from his peers. Use this principle in your career. For example, say you have a sales call with what could be a major customer. You've worked hard to get this meeting on the calendar and know that you have one opportunity to impress them. Rather than thinking about the commission you'll make on the sale or the negative consequences if you don't close them, focus on your reason for being there - to win the business. Communicate how your product will solve their biggest problem.
Perform - Wilson takes the field knowing what's at stake, and doesn't let it negatively affect his performance. He takes the energy that is created from the stress and uses it to his advantage. Channel all your energies into your event - don't leave anything on the table. Perform at your optimum level for whatever time is necessary. After that you can let down, but being "on" means putting 100% of yourself into the effort.
The average career has several defining moments in which you must deliver your absolute best. For virtually all of these, you will have advance notice, so take that time to prepare. On the day of, focus on your objective and block out all distractions. Deliver with the mindset that you will be great. Be like the athlete who holds nothing back when the game is being played and you'll thrive.
Fred & Gladys
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success