We Drill for Skill Because Under Stress We Regress
I worked with a man several years ago who supplied equipment for high school, college, and professional sports teams. He told me he stopped in to visit a team that had won the Super Bowl the year previously. He approached the head coach to say, “Coach, I notice that when I come here you are doing most of the same blocking and tackling drills that I see at the high schools I visit. I don’t understand why you aren’t teaching them more complicated things.”
The coach just smiled, “You don’t understand,” he said, “I have All-Pro linemen in my locker room on Sunday morning throwing up because of the stress they are under. I need them to drill on the basics so that they will be able to do their best when the game is on the line!”
We are living and working in very stressful times. According to research compiled by the Princeton Survey Research Associates, three-fourths of employees believe that workers have more stress than a generation ago. You can read more about job stress at the NIOSH website. That stress is rapidly increasing as the economy continues to decline. From owners all the way through the organization to front-line workers, there is increased fear, anxiety and rumination in the face of an uncertain economy. “Will the company be able to get through these hard times?” “What will happen if we have to lay off workers?” “Is there something we should be doing that would give us a better outcome in this environment?” The mental energy invested in these fears may make it hard to stay focused or to prioritize tasks, as everything seems to become a crisis. What do the businesses that succeed during stress do that is different than the average company?
It is tempting to look for cost cutting measures in the training budget, but the highest performers in business as well as in athletics understand that, during periods of extreme stress, it is an important time to be intensely reviewing the basics of job responsibilities, developing and reinforcing teamwork, and enhancing communication. Like the professional athletes at the peak of excellence, it is the time to invest in a clearly defined training budget that emphasizes core skills and the development of the psychological tools to be the best even in stressful times.
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