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Powerful Team Development Programme in Africa

High Pressure

We know that individual team members have different preferences regarding the contributions that they would most like to make to their team’s performance goals. Under normal working conditions these contributions reflect what that person ‘wants’ to do. But what happens when circumstances change and high pressure starts to negatively affect productivity?

The answer is that contribution preferences are very likely to shift. The team member now feels a need to relieve the high pressure by either doing different things or doing things differently. The normal state of “I want to…” now shifts to “I feel I must…”

While there are some few individuals who do not make any contribution shifts when feeling highly pressured, there are many more who do. Some will want to try harder by doing even more of the same. Others will back off, decreasing their normal contribution preference slightly. Some will make an expected shift by moving from their main preference to an additional or secondary contribution preference. Others will make a totally unexpected shift and begin to contribute in an area that they normally show minimal liking or preference for. And in some cases the contribution will become mixed and unclear, as the team member grapples to find some way of effectively coping with the high pressure.

This state of ‘high pressure’, left unattended, can become extremely divisive. At the very moment when a team most needs to be mutually supportive it is in danger of losing its focus and cohesion. Individuals begin to behave in unpredictable ways. Those normally interested mainly in concepts and ideas may suddenly become pedantic over the detailed intricacies of a feasibility study. Others, who normally tend to involve and motivate their colleagues and maintain their morale, may suddenly prefer to avoid them, worrying instead about tasks and results. Everyone reacts differently and a domino effect builds until people retreat into personal ‘silos’… seeking only to point fingers and lay the blame on others.

Naturally in the real world organisations and individuals will go through periods of high pressure. It may only last for a short time, but it can extend into days, even weeks. The point is that if left unattended the greater is the risk that the individual will become stressed, tensions will increase, and organisational productivity and performance will decline rapidly. A vicious circle will develop to undermine the viability of the organisation completely.

The secret in avoiding this unhappy situation is to be alert to shifting contributions and changing preferences, using them as the signal that something might be wrong, and that the mutual support of a team may be required to resolve the problem. Team members must therefore begin to work together, using the 15 Steps in the Achievement Model as a structure to analyse the source and cause of the high pressure, and then decide how best to reduce it.

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