Good Qualities of a Leader in High-Pressure Moments

Written by:
Afterburner Team

It’s a challenge we’ve seen countless teams face: The home stretch of the quarter arrives, and they’re still behind on revenue with just a few more business days to hit their goal. In these moments, it’s hard for teams not to feel the pressure – and they typically handle that pressure in one of two ways.

In one case, the team has already built a culture of mutual support and collaboration, aligned around a common strategy and Mission Objective, and has leveraged key tactics to boost morale and get inspired. This is a team that has embraced the fighter pilot mindset. They will be well-positioned to embrace the end-of-quarter pressure – they may even enjoy the challenge – with the level of focus and execution required to meet the moment.

In another case, the pressure gets under the team’s skin, and throws off their execution right when they can least afford it. What these teams are dealing with is a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby the fear of missing their revenue target ends up causing them to actually, well…miss their revenue target.

But here’s the kicker: In some ways, it doesn’t matter which of these scenarios best describes your team. Because there’s one thing these scenarios have in common: In both cases, the team will need elite leadership to navigate the high-pressure, end-of-quarter sprint and hit their revenue goal. Embodying the good qualities of a leader can guide a high-performing team across the finish line, and give other teams the boost they need to finish the quarter strong.

Here’s what you can do to be a great leader for your team when the quarter is coming to an end and the pressure is on.

Balance individual needs with your overall strategy

In business today, “micromanagement” has become a dirty word. Great leaders are seen as those who take the lead on strategy, but give their teams autonomy to make many of their own decisions while working toward their common and individual goals. That’s why, during most of the quarter, you may typically take a relatively hands-off approach, and instead focus on overseeing things at a higher level.

That type of big-picture work is important, and should continue through the end of each quarter. But when you’re in the home stretch, just being a high-level overseer isn’t enough. You’ve got to balance it out with a strong responsiveness to your employees’ individual needs. Every deal counts, and this is a time to roll up your sleeves and be a more hands-on leader if that’s what it takes to get these last deals over the finish line.

Be ready to provide immediate support to any rep that needs it. That could mean personally getting on the phone with an on-the-fence prospect, making timely rulings on requests for things like discounts and add-ons, and more.

 “Every deal counts, and this is a time to roll up your sleeves and be a more hands-on leader.”

Whatever targeted support may be necessary, it’s your job to provide it – and, at the same time, to make sure you don’t lose sight of your typical big-picture strategic work.

Learn More: Finish the quarter strong with afterburner

Be willing to bend the rules

The film Top Gun was one of Afterburner founder Jim “Murph” Murphy’s biggest inspirations to join the Air Force, where he learned the elite fighter pilot mindset that Afterburner now, years later, helps corporate teams apply to business scenarios. In the film’s opening scene, talented fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell breaks protocol in service of the greater good, illustrating a core principle of the fighter pilot mindset: Sometimes, doing the right thing means making unorthodox decisions.

Suppose, for example, your company has a set of criteria that an account must meet in order to receive a discount. Three days before end-of-quarter, a prospect requests a discount, and while their company doesn’t meet your criteria, closing that prospect would get you past your number. In a situation like this, refusing to deviate from protocol could end up costing you the quarter.

 “Empowering your team during the last few days of the quarter may necessitate a little rule-bending. In some ways, this is a time to take an ‘ask for forgiveness, not for permission’ approach.”

The lesson? Empowering your team during the last few days of the quarter may necessitate a little rule-bending. In some ways, this is a time to take an “ask for forgiveness, not for permission” approach. It’s not a free-for-all – too many outside-of-protocol decisions, after all, can undermine team alignment, set undesirable precedents, and cause confusion. Rather, it’s a moment in which rigidly adhering to bureaucracy can hurt more than help. Good qualities of a leader at the end of the quarter include the ability to make out-of-the-box decisions in moments like these.

Learn More: How to succeed in a new leadership role

Keep your team focused

The end of the quarter can be a chaotic time. Reps are scrambling to close opportunities. Requests for sales enablement materials are flooding through every communication channel.

The last thing you can afford at this critical juncture is to let this chaos distract your team. Focus is paramount. As a leader, it’s crucial to be on the lookout for easy-to-miss threats like task saturation, which can overload teams, cloud their view, and slow them down at a time when they should be in a sprint. It’s also smart to make sure your team knows how to use cross checks to de-prioritize tasks and demands that don’t have an immediate effect on revenue.

The end of the quarter doesn’t have to be a scary time, even if you still haven’t quite hit your revenue goal. By embodying these best leadership qualities and instilling the fighter pilot mindset in your employees, you and your team can meet end-of-quarter challenges with the focus and determination it takes to execute.

Get in touch to learn how Afterburner can help you be the leader your team needs in high-pressure moments.