How Successful Leaders Keep Calm Under Pressure

Jeff Cochran


Being a leader – whether your business is the size of a Fortune 500 or a mom-and-pop store – is stressful. At some point you are bound to face a difficult decision in the midst of a conflict, or will otherwise deal with mounting pressure and expectations. For some leaders, this pressure can be too much. For the most successful in the pack, keeping calm under pressure is virtually second nature.

 Avoid Speculation 

One way to stay cool under pressure is to avoid the toxic question: “what if?” What ifs are the stuff of nightmares and they have the ability to steer you away from the important aspects of a decision. By viewing speculation as an unnecessary distraction, you will be better able to pick a path and follow it with determination. These “what if” questions are primarily a distraction.

Be Optimistic…. But Cautiously So 

By choosing a path with conviction in the face of pressure, you send the signal as a leader for employees to feel confident in your direction. Have the same optimism about your decisions. Have faith that you are doing the right thing, but don’t be so sure of yourself that you can’t hear valid objections or concerns. Cautious optimism sends the message that you know how to handle this situation, but also expresses your awareness of the reality that sometimes it can be difficult to determine what to do.

 Be Visionary 

When high pressure situations strike, the successful leader steps forward with creativity, imagination, determination, and confidence to assert their conception of what comes next. Great leaders are always imagining the possibilities for their company, so that when they arrive at a crossroads, they already know what the right path is and what lies ahead. These are the characteristics of a visionary. Visionary leaders are several steps ahead in every situation, which mitigates the effects of pressure.

See Order in Chaos 

Sometimes when a challenging situation presents itself, it appears as though there are a dozen different possibilities and problems to be confronted, all spiraling and weaving, making the problem difficult to approach. The scene can seem like one of chaos. Leaders who respond well under pressure are those who can see order in chaos. One characteristic of those who excel at this process is being able to discern patterns and trends among the interwoven parts. These leaders can quickly tease apart a challenge and see to the core of its organization in a way many others can’t, making stressful situations much less overwhelming.

Sleep for Optimal Health

Jeff Cochran


Are you allowing yourself enough time to recharge each night? You cannot give your business 100% if you are sluggish and running on caffeine. While getting proper sleep can be difficult, there are many strategies that can help you stay energized throughout the day. You can rest better, for instance, by maintaining a sleep routine and restricting certain substances before bed. Life requires you to be at your best, and with this information, you will be able to get a restful night’s sleep, ensuring better health and business success.

Sticking to Your Sleep Routine 

Sticking to a sleep schedule is vital because it helps your body regulate your sleep cycle, in turn promoting higher quality sleep. However, sticking to this routine can be a challenge to those who travel frequently. Unfortunately, studies show that even losing a few hours of sleep, combined with traveling for business, significantly decreases your level of performance. Those who travel for business believe they perform 20% better than they actually do.

How can you ensure that you get proper rest when traveling? Michael Breus, also known as The Sleep Doctor, has a few suggestions. He recommends getting a window seat and avoiding seats near the bulkhead, galley, bathroom, or exit rows. He also suggests that you drink plenty of water, avoid taking red-eye flights, and steer clear of in-flight alcohol.

Restricting Food & Substances Before Bed

  • Food: You shouldn’t go to bed hungry, but you also shouldn’t eat a heavy meal right before bed. This can keep you awake.
  • Caffeine: Cutting out caffeine entirely can do wonders for your sleep. Caffeine takes up to 8 hours to leave your system, which means that afternoon cup of coffee may be disrupting your sleep schedule.
  • Alcohol: While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it also detracts from the quality of your sleep and may cause you to wake in the middle of the night.
  • Nicotine: Nicotine is a stimulant, which means its effects are similar to caffeine’s. Smoking before bed can prevent you from falling asleep or cause you to wake in the middle of the night.

Preparing for Sleep

By properly preparing your bedroom and sticking to the same nighttime rituals, you can further enhance the quality of your sleep. Ensure that your bedroom is conducive to sleep – it should be dark, quiet, and cool. Additionally, keep the temperature in your room between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that are too high or too low can disrupt your sleep cycle. Furthermore, have a mattress and pillow that meet your standards of comfort.

In addition to preparing your bedroom, get ready for sleep by going through the same rituals each night. Whether you like to shower, read, or listen to music, make your ritual relaxing. Avoid watching TV or using electronic devices in bed or right before bedtime.

Current Employees: The Most Important Recruitment Tool

Jeff Cochran


It’s time to hire. The resumes come flooding in, and in many respects one is the same as the next. You shuffle them into piles laid across your desk, setting priorities, but how to choose? Hiring decisions don’t have to be an isolating process. Rather, involving current employees as part of the hiring process can help find team members who fit smoothly into the corporate framework and whose values align with larger company goals.

Engaging Your Employees 

Current employees typically enjoy being involved in the hiring process because it makes them feel as though their needs as workers are being acknowledged in the search process. Whoever is hired will become part of their team, so it makes sense to involve them. Additionally, satisfied employees reflect back well on the company when they meet and interact with potential hires. When potential employees interact with current team members, they typically walk away with a more positive sense of the business than when they interact only with superiors.

Read the Referrals 

An internal referral system is your best friend when it comes to hiring. Current employees should be allowed to refer individuals outside the company for consideration; after all, who understands the skills necessary to execute the open position better than those who already fill similar roles? Peer referrals can also indicate pre-existing positive relationships that can help quickly integrate a new staff member into the team. Referrals don’t have to be restricted to the same job level, either. Employees may know someone well equipped to take on a higher managerial role, or to take on a more minor role in the company. Use this real life social networking to your advantage.

The Professional Mixer 

Too often, hiring happens entirely behind closed doors, but that kind of system means that both employer and employees alike ultimately have no idea how well the candidate will interact with the existing team members. In order to get a sense of this type of interaction, employers are encouraged to hold the professional equivalent of a social mixer. Set up a situation in which current employees and potential hires have an opportunity to interact. It is especially valuable if there are opportunities for problem solving, even of the casual variety, built into this interaction. Observing these casual interactions that are still framed by the professional environment can be an ideal way to determine which candidates to have onboard.

SNI’s International Travels Travel

Jeff Cochran


SNI has the opportunity of working with organizations small and large, regional and worldwide, Fortune 100 and 1000. Globally, SNI has worked in 21 different countries. More than 70% of the world’s purchasing power is located outside of the United States. As a result, we cannot stress enough how important it is to understand and adapt to the differences in culture in order to be successful.


Travel Final

Negotiation Tips Learned from Facebook’s What’sapp Purchase

Jeff Cochran


An unprecedented deal, years in the making was finalized recently. Facebook purchased WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion. WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app for smart phone users. It enables consumers to send messages across the internet without having to spend money on service fees and long-distance charges. This benefit is critical for overseas markets such as China and India where messaging is less dependent on systems comparable to those in North America.

However, negotiations to purchase WhatsApp weren’t without their barriers. WhatsApp prides themselves on being fiercely independent since their creation. They ignored offers of investment, despite having their inboxes constantly pounded by those who wanted a piece. In mid-2013, Google, a powerhouse in the industry, attempted to work out a deal with the company. WhatsApp Founder and Co-Founder, Jan Koum and Brian Acton declined the offer. However, Google still requested to be notified of any potential negotiations that were to come on the table for WhatsApp, a move that cost Google upwards of $1 million. The was a large expense just to be kept in the loop, obviously Google valued WhatsApp. So, if Google couldn’t make them budge from independence, how did Zuckerberg’s message get through?

Once you get past the sheer “sticker-shock” of a $19 million acquisition, Zuckerberg actually believed it was worth far more. Zuckerberg has long term strategy in mind with the acquisition, stating that he wants Facebook to be the new “Facebook”. Forbes writer, Parmy Olson calls the relationship formed between Zuckerberg and Koum a “courtship” which developed over a time span slightly under two years.

Zuckerberg set himself apart from competing investors in many ways. First of all, he was able to understand the deeper inner works and needs of his potential business partner, by becoming friends with him. Zuckerberg and Koum first met in early 2012 on Valentine’s Day, in a German bakery for coffee in Los Altos California. Soon after, the two became friends, frequently meeting for dinner and hikes. Their meetings face-to-face were essential to creating a strong bond.

As the relationship progressed, talks became more serious. Their meetings would be at Mark’s house for dinner, taking negotiations out of boardrooms and offices. A more relaxed environment supported the flow of new ideas and communication processes.

Through their relationships and rapport building, Zuckerberg found out what was important to Koum. “While Facebook’s deal comes with a board seat for WhatsApp founder, Google’s offer did not.” (Neil Hughes, Apple Insider) Throughout their time spent together, Mark Zuckerberg knew that Koum was not one to sit back and let someone else take their work from them. He knew that one of the ways to incentivize the deal would be to offer a large participatory role in the organization.

On top of that, Mark understood that WhatsApp held strongly on to their independent and their values. Instead of buying the company and changing it to fit exactly the needs of Facebook, Zuckerberg is allowing the app to continue to run under its original leadership as well as not requiring changes such as advertisements in order improve ROI for Facebook. The short-term priority with the deal was not to make profit. Zuckerberg stated that they are giving the app a long period of time before they expect any sorts of return.

Zuckerberg may have been a successful negotiator in this sense, but was it a valid strategy? Is it worth it? Arguments can be made for either direction.

Food for thought: Facebook recently purchased a messaging app for $19 billion, compared to Comcast which purchased a majority share of the media conglomerate, NBC Universal, in 20009 for about $14 billion. The idea that an app is worth 35% more than an entire media company is thought provoking. Additionally, in terms of age, WhatsApp was created 2009, while NBC was started in 1926.

Information from Bloomberg and Southern China Morning Post