Cooperation under pressure and stress

"Failure is no option" - This also applies to teams that have to work together under high pressure and stress. At Swiss Federal Railways / SBB, this is commonplace in the Traffic Control Centers (TCC). For this reason, SBB has been training its TCC-managers and employees since 2006 with an approach that I was allowed to develop for them using the computer simulation "GemaSim". Now new SBB trainers are being trained again. After two courses in Lausanne, Hélène Magnenant and Yannick Abel-Coindoz are ready to lead the courses internally themselves. Congratulations to both of them for their fine way of supporting the participants in their development as stress-resistant team players.

Whenever we act under pressure or feel stress, our behavior changes. This is an old wisdom that has significant implications for our ability to cooperate and lead. Among other things, stress causes us to have trouble thinking clearly. More seriously, it causes us to exhibit dysfunctional behavior. Both together have the potential to make us pretty poor leaders or team players. So it makes a lot of sense for supervisors and employees who face recurring job-related stress to address their stress-related behavior patterns and crisis-resistant leadership concepts.

In the Traffic Control Centers (TCC) of the Swiss Federal Railways, time pressure and stress are an almost everyday phenomenon. There, teams composed of people from a wide variety of disciplines search for and develop solutions for traveling customers in the event of disruptions on the route network. Every day, they are all challenged to keep the effects of stress in check. This is the reason why SBB has been training its managers and its employees in the TCC's with a specific training approach since the very beginning.

Among the long-standing customers of this training approach are the Swiss Air Force, which trains its young pilots of the professional pilot corps, and, obviously, countless crisis management teams, for whom controlled and predictable leadership in crises is a serious concern.

At the center of the training is the computer simulation "GemaSim". It provides attractive, dynamic situation developments and challenges the participants to lead under stress and to create a collaboration that can withstand the pressure. The actual training takes place in the trainer-led reflection. Following jointly mastered exploratory flights in space, the licensed trainers moderate the individual learning process in a participant-centered debriefing. As the participants' insights are linked to experienced emotions from the flown missions and they receive rich feedback on their behavior, the learning progress is correspondingly high. At the end of the last training at SBB, one manager said, "This is the best training I have ever had the opportunity to do at SBB. The experiences I was able to make in this training are of great importance to me and go deep".

Training with GemaSim