Want to be extraordinary in high-pressure situations?
Want others to trust you to perform when it matters most?
Want to be clutch?
Most people associate clutch performance in sports; the home run that wins the game, the service ace on match point, the basket at the buzzer.
Being clutch exists in every type of situation, especially for you working in marketing and sales.
But let’s clear something up; the sports examples above contains an element of luck, and being clutch is not luck.
Paul Sullivan, in his book, Clutch, says that “Being clutch is not the hole-in-one to win; it’s the well-struck shot close to the flag and the putt that drops in with the tournament on the line. It’s the precisely executed series of plays in football, not the Hail Mary pass. It’s the fortitude to continue battling out a Wimbledon final as you always have—even though the whole world is wondering whether you are going to choke.”
Most people associate clutch performances with a triumphant sports moment but it’s in all situations.
Clutch, simply put, is the ability to do what you can normally do under immense pressure.
Can you deliver your absolute best when everything is on the line?
When the stakes are at their highest, can you execute the same way you do in practice when there are no stakes at all?
Can you focus on the task, not the outcome?
Can you adapt cooly in the face of adversity?
Can you control your own performance and ignore your competition or co-workers?
It is an exceedingly difficult task. Transferring what you can do in a relaxed atmosphere to a tenser one is not easy; if it were, everyone would be clutch.
Here are the four components that, together, make people clutch:
- Focus: Most people confuse concentration and focus, but they are two different things. Focusing requires us to figure out what is most important, and direct our energy there. In business—focus is typically most obvious in how you plan and schedule your day and week.
- Discipline: Discipline is almost always a battle against yourself. In the work environment, it’s tempting to look around at your co-workers next to you or others in the industry and adjust your effort, schedule or strategy. Discipline is the ability to control what you can control—your own effort—and execute your plan, not someone else’s.
- Adapt: “Fight the fight, not the plan,” is a military axiom that reminds soldiers and officers to keep the goal, not the original plan in mind. Very rarely do things go according to plan. The ability to succeed anyway when the stakes are high depends more on anticipation than response. If we can imagine and prepare for every possible thing that might go wrong, we’ll know how to adapt when it happens. If you have planned a 60 minute sales meeting or performance meeting and it turns out the other person only has 30 minutes, can you adapt.
- Be Present: Excelling under pressure requires heightened awareness. It’s being aware of nothing other than what you are doing. Not the never ending notifications, not your co-workers, not the clock. Not even the next task. Being present is focusing on this task before you.
You cannot summon what you do not have.
The traits you need when the stakes are highest—grit, optimism, focus, adaptability, determination, resilience—must be forged in the crucible of daily effort. Who you are when the stakes are high is a reflection of who you are in every momment of every day; no more, no less.