Train Your Brain: Making Decisions Under Pressure

Use a system, not emotion

“We are ready to invest, but you must commit to hitting the financial projections.”

Anybody in business has heard some version of this during his career. Maybe it was a promise made to business partners or signing off on a division’s budget before sending it up to corporate. It’s a simple concept called accountability and it creates pressure to perform.

If we hit or beat our forecast, we get promoted or rewarded. If we miss projections, guess what? We get demoted or fired and people are angry because we “lied.”

In the real-life example of the Titan Sub, its investors expected a return on their money. But what did the owners of Titan do when it was under pressure to succeed? They used substandard materials, skipped the industry certification testing, and had its chief engineer quit because he didn't believe what the company was doing was safe.

Under pressure, quick and dirty thinking took over. In June 2023, the Titan Sub imploded on a dive to the Titanic, killing all five passengers.

OceanGate is a harsh example of a company that used quick and dirty thinking and made bad decisions under pressure, but this is not an approach you should take.  

Train your brain

The three keys to avoiding quick and dirty thinking and getting to success when under pressure:

  1. Evaluate the entire situation. Be aware of what is going on in your industry so you can educate your audience (investors, bosses, partners, family members, etc.)

  2. Don’t stick your neck out. It may feel good for a week or two when everybody is buzzing about the outrageous projections you submitted, but that feeling will quickly fade when you are way off track after a few months.

  3. Turn down the promotion or the money if the demands are unreasonable. This is the hardest part. If investors will invest only if you promise certain growth that you know will be impossible to achieve, walk away. If this is how they behave, they are not going to be successful investors with you anyway.

Next week, be on the lookout for our podcast on this topic.

Read more on Titan here.

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