High pressure is part and parcel of both business and sporting environments. In tennis it is “at its rawest” says Jeremy Snape, with the conditions serving only to magnify it: a very personal duel, played out in front of a global broadcast audience as well as a very large, and often very partisan crowd. Not to mention the fact that a single tennis match can go on for hours (the Isner-Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships is the longest match in tennis history, clocking out at 11 hours and five minutes of play over three days!).

More recently at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic won over Roger Federer to take the title, showcasing not only his technical skill on the court but his mental toughness. It’s often referred to in pre and post-match commentary (see Djokovic’s final press conference here, where he talks about pressure being always present and hitting a high point at the finals).

Snape shares some key lessons from Wimbledon for business leaders under pressure.

First, focus on your strengths to overcome self-doubt. Don’t dig up and dwell on previous mistakes and the past; focus on what you can control. After Rafael Nadal’s defeat to Dustin Brown, Nadal said: “I just need to accept these kind of things that can happen. I did all my career. Keep going. It’s not the end. It is a sad moment for me but life continues. My career, too. I have to keep going and working more than ever to try to change that dynamic.”

Second, stay cool. Practice turning anxiety into energy. High pressure situations can be a shock to your system, but this is also where the magic happens, so you need to learn to embrace it. After Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, she said: “It’s never easy to beat such a great player who’s had such a wonderful career. Whenever you play someone that has beaten you before, you get really focused.”

Finally, confidence is everything. In Roger Federer’s game against Sam Querrey, he lobbed a between-the-legs forehand to win the point, and “cut his opponent’s big game to pieces with a sublime performance.” Federer said: “I’m very happy with the way I’m playing. I’ve been playing well this season, really since here last year. It’s also a bit of a relief to be playing well at Wimbledon.”

Another lesson from Wimbledon is to bring the fight, bring the determination, but also, be a good sport. Federer said of Djokovic’s win: “I think Novak played well not only today, but this week, this year, last year, the year before that…I didn’t play too badly either, but that’s how it goes. I’m still hungry and motivated to keep playing…it’s been a privilege to be here and back on Centre Court.”

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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