We wanted to understand how teams succeed when working under extreme pressure. Interviewing leaders of businesses including a logistics company whose business was blown up in the Buncefield explosion: a brewery business drowned by flooding: a military team split-seconds from disaster. We identified 5 factors for success and 2 factors for failure.

With many years of experience of training and preparing individuals for working in extreme and unfamiliar situations, we wanted to learn how leaders and their teams need to successfully operate when they faced high-pressure situations.

The question was, ‘What is it that makes the difference between a good outcome and a bad outcome?’

To find out, we interviewed leaders of business teams, aid agency workers, military people, sports men and women, emergency services and beer brewers. All had experienced high-pressure situations, some are trained to respond and others were thrust into the events without warning.

The interviews revealed what we call the 2 Fail Factors and 5 Success Factors.

2-Fail Factors


Teams who have no plan, clear roles, self awareness or objective often find themselves in a chaotic state: directionless and confused.


Teams who rigidly stick to 1 idea and ignore possibilities limit their potential and fail to spot problems or obstacles which can derail them.

5-Success Factors

Step into the Void of Leadership

A person or group who fill the inevitable gap where leadership, direction and focus need to be.

Construct Reality

Create order, a plan, structure or guiding process at least in the short-term to move the team away from chaos.

Make Decisions

Any decision is better than no decision. Either a person or mechanism for the group to decide and move forward.

Balance Task Cohesion and Social Cohesion

Knowing the job to be done but not at the expense of understanding something about the people behind the job roles.

Foster Team Altruism

A sense that the needs of the team and task are greater than just the individual and consistently looking for opportunities to contribute and do more than is required.

This is a small extract from a larger piece of work carried out by Piers Carter into Teams Under Pressure