“On Wednesday I am pitching for a R100 million investment. Can you prep me?”
Lately, I have worked with many clients to prepare them for high stakes moments such as pitching for hundreds of millions in investment, presenting new ideas to shareholders, or giving honest, hard to hear feedback to a team.
What makes these moments ‘high stake moments’ is the subjective and perceived risk. The size of the deal (or moment) is in the eye of the beholder.
This led me to countless conversations around executive presence, how we can ‘own the room’, and my keen interest in maintaining high-performance under pressure.
I’d like to break down a few of my key thoughts around Mastering The High Stakes State of Mind below.
Quick note – I have not spoken about the technical side of these moments such as having a good presentation, practicing your talk, being fully prepared etc. These are crucial – but I hope that you know this already 🙂
The Quick Win
When I initially worked with the client pitching for a R100M, let’s call him Mr. Exec, he needed a quick fix. There was simply not enough time to do the deeper work required.
The quick win, in this case, was a simple reframe.
Before our session, he saw himself as the dealmaker. A beautifully ego-driven, feel-good identity. But an identity that also put a lot of pressure on him.
What if he didn’t get the deal?
What does that then say about the dealmaker?
After speaking for a while what became apparent was that there was something he cared about more than the deal. He cared about the people that he would be able to help. This pitch was really about connecting investors with small businesses that could benefit from the funding.
This understanding birthed a new identity – the one of being a bridge.
A small reframe with a massive impact.
The pressure was lifted. It was not about the deal anymore. It was about connecting two worlds that he deeply cared about. And if done successfully, it would organically lead to the deal.
For this reframe to stick it needs to be grooved. More on this later.
Deep First, Nuance Second
When most people talk about presence they talk about the way you should dress, walk, and talk. Of course, these things are important. But I believe they are simply the finishing touches. The nuances.
To lay the foundation for presence we must do deep work on ourselves.
This involves clarifying who we want to be (aspirational values), where we are going (goals & vision), the beliefs that inform our decision-making, and the actions that will get us there (key behaviours).
When these fall into place it changes your presence dramatically. Not only because this approach will yield tangible results in your life which improves your competence and confidence but also because you walk into every room with a clear understanding of who you are. There is self-trust.
After the initial quick win, Mr. Exec set out to do the deep work. The results spoke for itself. During his last pitch, he said “I felt present in every possible way. Like a painter creating a masterpiece I could see myself weaving together a compelling narrative with ease and confidence.”
When you do the deep work it frees you from having to constantly think about how you are coming across. You get to be in the moment knowing that you are enough.
To get you started down this road here are two exercises to try out:
Clarifying Aspirational Values
I encourage all my clients to think about their Aspirational Values. This falls firmly into the realm of “Who do you want to be?”
It’s also a way for us to bring the future into the present.
Let’s say you identify Assertiveness as an Aspirational Value. Well, what stops you from acting assertively in the very next moment?
Nothing. Except for the fact that it’s unpractised.
So Aspirational Values require you to identify 5 values that you want to be associated with, that you want to improve on, or that you want to embody.
Then ask yourself, “What does this look like?”
This way the value is not simply an abstract idea. It becomes a behaviour.
Then, go live them.
Our beliefs about ourselves dictate how we show up.
When it comes to high stakes moments I often hear phrases such as:
“What if I am not good enough?”
“Surely there is someone out there better suited to do this?”
“Who am I to be doing this?”
Beliefs are thoughts that have been repeated so frequently and with such intensity that you have come to believe it. Whether it’s true or not.
So, for us to groove new beliefs, we need new thoughts and new actions.
Step one in this process is to become acutely aware of the beliefs you have. The stories you tell yourself. The excuses you make.
It’s not that hard to pick up on it once you start paying attention.
Once you identify it, change it by selecting new thoughts and grooving it over and over and over. Jim Loehr called this Disciplined Thinking.
Mastering High Stakes Moments
At the end of the day, like so many other things in life, mastering high stake moments requires you to master yourself first. Sure, there are quick wins that can momentarily help us get the job done. But if you really want to change how you show up to these crucial moments in life, you have to change YOU.
If you enjoyed this article please let me know by commenting below or sharing it with those who would find value in it. I might build this out into a full guide should enough people request it.
Reach me via email@example.com.