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Are you Clutch or do you choke?

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  • Written by  Frank Sorrentino III
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, by Paul Sullivan, Portfolio/Penguin Group USA, 356 pp., 2010 Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, by Paul Sullivan, Portfolio/Penguin Group USA, 356 pp., 2010

Special note: Frank Sorrentino was one of the bankers written about in our recent article about recent article about bankers adopting iPads. And, yes, Sorrentino wrote this review on his iPad.

Banking is probably the only business in the world where if you get it right 95% of the time, you can still fail. Those that survive must be able to be “clutch” when the going gets tough. In Paul Sullivan’s book Clutch, a deep understanding of what allows someone to function when the pressure increases, and when many others choke, is revealed.

Understanding “clutch”

So what does it mean to be “clutch?” It is the ability to react in a pressure-filled situation the way you would under otherwise normal circumstances. The goal of the book is to show people how to become better under pressure and avoid the simple mistakes that cause most of us to choke.

Sullivan defines the five characteristics of Clutch as follows:

• First is “focus”—the basis for all truly great performances under pressure.

• Second is “discipline,” in which Sullivan uses the story of a banker.

• Third is the power of adaptability.

• Fourth is the “need to be present,” which is often misunderstood.

• Fifth is “fear and desire,” which is part of the secret sauce that drives entrepreneurs to succeed when others just think the heat is too much.

These concepts are fully explained using real-world examples.

Most of us are probably aware of these concepts, but probably never understood them or saw them applied in a real-life situation. Some great examples covered in the book are the match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; the story of Steve Cohen,  founder of S.A.C. Capital Advisors, LLP; and the difference between the outcomes for Jamie Dimon’s JPMorganChase and Ken Lewis’ Bank of America during one of the most difficult economic environments that anyone could imagine.

“Clutching” stories make the point

Sullivan’s exemplary stories and quotes are noteworthy and will certainly get you thinking about highlighting them at your next strategic planning meeting. This book represents something of a reference manual on how to fight the fight and keep the proper perspective in the running of any business in today’s challenging environment.

As banking has become one of the most challenged businesses, this perspective is not only useful, but necessary. The book’s military “in extremis” examples, which discuss extreme situations, bring a sense of urgency to making the right decision when everything is on the line.

In this world of ever-changing banking regulations, along with the sweeping changes in the business of banking, now more than ever, bankers need to be “clutch” in order to survive and prosper. Besides those mentioned, many banking stories are examined, including those of Sally Krawcheck, Angelo Mozillo, Dick Fuld, Jimmy Cayne, Hugh McColl, John Thain, and others. But you’ll also read about such well-known non-bankers as Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Bernie Marcus, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Tiger Woods.

This book is an example of one that I read through to the author’s notes, as I could not get enough of the real-life stories, and how they apply to everyday decisions that most of us take for granted. For those that are serious about understanding what makes great decision-makers in “clutch” times, this book is a must read.

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