Get the pressure right.
Have you ever worked on a project that had a tight-but-achievable deadline, and that needed your unique, expert knowledge for it to be completed successfully?
Even though you found it challenging, you may have delivered some of your best work.
Or, think back to a project you worked on where there was little pressure to deliver.
The deadline was flexible and the work wasn't challenging. You may have done an average job, at best.
There's a subtle relationship between pressure and performance. When your people experience the right amount of pressure, they do their best work. However, if there's too much or too little pressure, then performance can suffer.
This relationship is explained by the Inverted-U Model, which we'll look at in this article. This helps you get the best from your people, at the same time that you keep them happy and engaged.
The Inverted-U model (also known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law), was created by psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dodson as long ago as 1908. Despite its age, it's a model that has stood the test of time.
It shows the relationship between pressure (or arousal) and performance.
According to the model, peak performance is achieved when people experience a moderate level of pressure. Where they experience too much or too little pressure, their performance declines, sometimes severely.
The left hand side of the graph shows the situation where people are under-challenged. Here, they see no reason to work hard at a task, or they're in danger of approaching their work in a "sloppy," unmotivated way.
The middle of the graph shows where they're working at peak effectiveness. They're sufficiently motivated to work hard, but they're not so overloaded that they're starting to struggle. This is where people can enter a state of "Flow," the enjoyable and highly productive state in which they can do their best work. (See our article on the Flow Model for more on this.)
"When I started using Mind Tools, I was not in a supervisory position. Now I am. Along with that came a 12% increase in salary." – Pat Degan, Houston, USA
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