I’m a fan of the MasterChef franchise: MasterChef Canada, Australia, and the United States and of the Great British Bake Off. If you haven’t watched any of these shows, the premise is that a small number of home cooks compete against one another in pressure tests to win a grand prize (usually loads of money). I admire them for taking a risk and following their passion.
The thing that I love about these shows is watching how the contestants face pressure tests. The pressure test usually involves cooking with certain ingredients, within a given time, being innovative and serving dishes that are restaurant worthy. I get caught up in the personalities and I love to hear their thoughts and how they manage themselves as they go through the challenges.
The interesting and surprising thing about these shows is that while the contestants compete against one another, they also help and support one another. They form a psychological bond because of the teamwork and challenges they face as they go through their pressure tests. Some of them continue friendships after the show is over. Many of them go on to pursue their passion.
Leadership Mindset During a Pressure Test
Here’s what I learned about leadership and mindset from these shows and how the best contestant’s face their pressure challenges:
- Plan: They have a plan before they start cooking. This saves them time and helps them focus.
- Focus: They laser focus on their task and turn off all the noise around them. They don’t look at what others are doing; they focus on what they need to do. They get into a zone where they are alone and enjoying the challenge.
- Monitor and Improve: They taste their dish regularly while they cook and make corrections to improve it.
- Problem Solve: If something goes wrong, they have a backup plan or use their problem-solving skills to overcome the obstacle. They think on their feet.
- Remain Calm: They remain calm during the pressure challenge so that they can continue to compete effectively.
- Persevere: They don’t give up; they find a way through the pressure test.
- Face their Fear: They face their fears. They are challenged with things they have never used before, and they depend on their experience and intuition to guide them, and trust that they have made the right decisions to keep them in the competition.
- They are Humble. They seem to be surprised when they win.
- Learn from their mistakes: The best listen and learn from the critiques and advice of the judges and apply it as they continue with the competition.
The leaders that emerge aren’t always the designated leader. They are those that rise to the occasion and assist in leading the team through the challenge.
The judges of the show act as coaches or mentors to the contestants. If the contestants reach a point in the competition where they start to get anxious and emotional, the judges help them calm their mind and refocus. They remind the contestant that mindset is the key to the challenge and getting through it successfully.
Those that lose, seem to become overwhelmed by the challenge, become emotional, unfocused and lose their ability to plan or problem solve. Their mindset plays a role in how they approach the challenge. If they think they will do well, they usually do. When they become overwhelmed, many end up being eliminated.
When contestants are eliminated, most are gracious and will take responsibility for what they did or didn’t do. Each contestant expresses their gratitude for the opportunity to learn from the best and develop lifelong leadership skills beyond cooking.
Facing My Pressure Test
My pressure test was when Hurricane Ian devastated Florida. I am joined by friends who also experienced loss.
I am in awe of how friends and family are meeting this pressure test when many have lost their homes, and everything in them. Like the contestants in the cooking shows we are helping and supporting one another, this disaster has bonded us.
When I first heard the news, I reacted with grief and disbelief as I began to process the information and learned how bad things were. There was no one to blame, it was something beyond my control, I had to get on with life.
There was a short period of time that my husband and I hoped that we were spared, but that hope was put to rest when we learned about the extent of the damage. We lost all the contents in our home. At first, I didn’t want to believe that this happened, it was a mistake. But it wasn’t. More than three feet of water came into our home and destroyed everything in its way. We weren’t in Florida when it happened which was good, but extent of our loss was devastating.
We remained calm and went through our options of what to do. My husband, daughter and I came up with a plan to minimize the damage and start the restoration. Planning and taking action were the best things we could have done to help us mentally move on. Friends and family were and are a big help as we move forward.
I surprised myself this time with my response to the disaster. I didn’t blame, yell, or lose control. I cried a little, but then moved on. It was a fact and we had to get on with life. Will the impact hit me later? Maybe, I don’t know. Right now, we are focused on what we need to do, to get through this crisis.
What About You?
We all have pressure tests: war, disasters, loss, health, finances, relationships, etc. Pressure tests mold us into different versions of ourselves, either it brings out the best or the worst in us, and sometimes it does both at the same time.
Like it or not, pressure tests help make us become better leaders.
How do you face your pressure test and what does it bring out in you?