Gravitas, one of the three core pillars of Executive Presence, is not a single trait but a combination of many characteristics. Among them, confidence, decisiveness, reputation and vision are key. Another indispensible element of gravitas? The ability to maintain calm and collected under intense pressure – otherwise known as “grace under fire.”
Like any feature of Executive Presence, the ability to demonstrate grace under fire is not a given trait. It must be learned and practiced. Staying focused and maintaining a cool head under pressure is certainly not easy – and those such as politicians, athletes, CEOs or other individuals whose jobs require them to be constantly on the spot must train in order to excel in their fields.
That said, nearly everyone has faced intense pressure in the workplace at some point – no matter what their job. And if you want to enhance your own Executive Presence, you too must find and practice strategies that work for you to remain calm during heated moments. Here are some tips that may help you to demonstrate “grace under fire.”
- The first step: breathe. If you are faced with a stressful situation or if a colleague or client is demanding an immediate answer, you must remember that minimal time will be lost if you pause for a moment to breathe. Inhale, exhale, and then proceed with addressing the situation. Oxygen intake will force you to calm down, and taking even a couple of extra seconds to respond will help you refrain from blurting the first response that pops in your head.
- Try not to take the stress of others personally. If a colleague, boss or client addresses you rudely or is very demanding, remind yourself that they likely are not trying to attack you, but rather are projecting their own stress. Though it is difficult to do so, try to detach some emotion from stressful situations in the workplace. This will help you to view the conflict through an objective, rational lens.
- When responding to questions or demands while under pressure, avoid making up answers or excuses that you do not support or believe in. It’s not worth it to respond to a situation right away with a quick answer that is not genuine or well thought-out. Try to take time to consider an answer that you will not regret or want to change later.
- Filter out demands that are top priority and address minor concerns later. Intense pressure on the job often comes from not one source, but from many demands all piling down on you at once. Instead of trying to fix everything immediately, prioritize what is most essential. This will allow you to focus, which is essential for staying calm in critical moments.
What tips work for you when you are under pressure? How do you maintain “grace under fire” on the job and elsewhere?