Tennis star Billie Jean King appreciated pressure to become a champion. Here’s how to react to rise to the occasion when the going gets tough.

Wayne Rivers, Co-Founder/President

February 23, 2024

3 Min Read
Construction worker, engineer man and architecture leader or boss with planning strategy for architecture building or construction vision
Yuri Arcurs/Alamy Stock Photo

Watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament last year, I noticed that as the players walked from the locker room to the court there's a plaque that reads, "Pressure is a privilege,” a quote from tennis phenom Billie Jean King. It is a thought-provoking and inspiring comment—but also a seemingly counterintuitive one. Who wakes up in the morning facing the never-ending pressure of the construction industry and thinks, “Oh boy! What a privilege to have all this pressure to make my business a success!” 

King said the thought first came to her when she was standing on the grass at Wimbledon during her first final. Think of it: a 22-year-old tennis player who dreamed of playing in these finals at this tournament her entire life, and she’s finally made it. It's the biggest stage in tennis. The pressure of playing in front of the Queen of England, the celebrities, the huge crowd of fans and the tournament’s past champions must have been overwhelming. Yet King was able to appreciate how incredible it was to have the opportunity to compete and win, even with huge amounts of pressure to perform.  

Bringing this concept over to construction, pressure as a privilege is an experience with which company owners and leaders are intimately familiar. You feel the pressure to achieve, to bring success to your team and to do the best work for your customers, and while that pressure can feel stifling, it can also spur you to perform like a champion.

Here are four things pressure can do to you and questions to ask yourself to use pressure to your advantage as a leader in construction. 

1 | It tests your character.

Do you embrace the pressure of leadership courageously, or do you retreat? Do you take shortcuts, or do you meet challenges head on? Pressure can help reveal your true nature. Whether you find yourself embracing it with courage, as Billie Jean King did, or cutting corners to try to avoid the stress, it will be revealing and impactful for you and for the success of your business to understand how you respond to stress.  

2 | It helps you see your capabilities when the chips are down.

Feeling pressure to run a successful business can encourage you to move out of your comfort zone and do some of your best work, even in the face of demanding projects. Do you rise to the challenge when faced with something tough, or do you try to avoid those difficulties in favor of comfort? 

3 | It conditions you to future challenges.

Pressure can certainly make us feel miserable but try reframing it as a learning opportunity preparing you for inevitable future challenges. You may feel discomfort when facing a new difficulty, but the next time you encounter a similar challenging project or customer, you’ll have experience to help you along.  

4 |It reminds you that you can succeed even if you don’t always win.

Truman Capote said that "failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor." We don't always win in pressure situations. Perhaps we end up making a poor decision that sends a job sideways, or we miss an important deadline or change order for a client. These are difficult experiences and increase the pressure of the job, but the failures can help reveal much about your character and capabilities in the face of adversity.  

About the Author(s)

Wayne Rivers

Co-Founder/President, Performance Construction Advisors

Wayne Rivers is the president of Performance Construction Advisors. PCA's mission is to build better contractors! Wayne can be reached at 877-326-2493, [email protected], or on the web at performanceconstructionadvisors.com.
 

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