From TJ Magazine: Hit uncertainty for six

Former England cricketer Jeremy Snape has the tactics to help your leadership team maintain a winning mindset when they need it most.

Reading time: 4 minutes.

In uncertain times, employees look towards senior managers to give them reassuring direction. As Brexit uncertainty amplifies, businesses that rely on the EU for trade, custom or staff are being tested like never before.

The list of concerns facing L&D professionals and the businesses they work with grows daily. Businesses that import and/or export within Europe are no clearer about what a future trade deal may look like, while the end of free movement of labour will be a major concern for those currently trying to fill skills gaps.

Even if a deal is reached ahead of the new deadline, each day is likely to bring new challenges. 

Rather than expecting the threat to subside, you need to make sure your leadership team has the right coping resources and is prepared for the mental stresses that lie ahead. Remember: this is not a time for fear or imposter syndrome – it is a time for clarity, courage and leadership.

Rather than staring inward and focusing on managing a team, leaders need to look out to see what lessons they can learn from other industries faced with similar challenges.

So how do you help your leaders to deliver this? 

Leaders, not managers

The focus for L&D professionals must be on building a team of leaders rather than managers. Rather than staring inward and focusing on managing a team, leaders need to look out to see what lessons they can learn from other industries faced with similar challenges.

I learned this from personal experience when, as an England cricketer, pressure caused my game to collapse.

It was 2002 when I was included in the England cricket squad to tour India. The first ball I bowled was against batting legend Sachin Tendulkar. My nerves were pounding as I ran up to bowl; the noise coming from the 120,000-strong crowd was incredible and the pressure rose in our run chase. I was batting with Freddie Flintoff and I ran him out; we couldn’t hear a thing.


After that, I began listening to that negative voice in my head. I was out in the middle of that cauldron of noise and I started telling myself I wasn’t good enough to be there. Then I played a terrible shot and followed Freddie back to the pavilion. My biggest regret was that India didn’t beat me on that night; I beat myself. 

This started my research quest to find out what neuroscientists, military leaders and Olympians could teach us all about performing under pressure.

In the last decade, I’ve interviewed some of the world’s most impressive and prolific leaders, from Sir Alex Ferguson to military generals and even the performance director at Cirque du Soleil to understand what tactics and strategies they use to mentally prepare for uncertainty.

In doing so, I have distilled the secrets of their success into a digital library which helps maintain a winning mindset when it is needed most. What lessons in leadership can your senior team take from professions where high stakes and uncertainty are normal, such as the worlds of high-performance sport and the military? 

Here are some essential tactics to help your leaders cope with the days and months ahead.

Stop blaming others – own the situation

With our current situation there are plenty of people your management team might feel like blaming – the electorate, David Cameron, the EU, MPs in Westminster, our prime minister. If that is what they are doing, they need to get over it.

Great leaders don’t waste time blaming others; it may win them sympathy, but it won’t help them solve the problems. Uncertainty creates opportunity, so start by owning the situation and making a plan that turns the uncertainty into an advantage. After all, other businesses have the same problems so those that actively tackle the situation will be the ones that succeed. 

Pressure is a privilege

Having played in and worked with some of the world’s highest profile sporting teams, I’ve seen how they use pressure as privilege and use this mindset to tackle potential issues head on. 

In sport, the best coaches prepare their teams for plan A, but they also throw scenarios into the training that get the teams thinking on their feet. While working with the England rugby team, I saw coach Eddie Jones throw in chaotic sequences into carefully planned training sessions to see how players reacted.

In a business context, this could mean equipping teams with the skills to make decisions under extreme pressure and rehearsing with scenarios. This builds self-belief that the team can work together to solve complex problems.


About the author

Jeremy Snape is a former England cricketer and the founder and director of Sporting Edge.


This is an excerpt from a piece in this month’s TJ Magazine. Not a subscriber? Give it a try with 3 months’ digital subs here. 


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