New book: Thriving in High-Pressure Environments

It’s done! Our new book just published!

Our third book goes deeper into business and leadership principles.

We discuss the mindset and approaches that make high-performing individuals stand out, be successful in the face of challenges, and ultimately enable them to inspire and lead others in high-stakes and high-pressure environments.

The chapters in this book explain the most effective strategies and principles we learned over the years. They were introduced and refined at Microsoft and Amazon and then put to the test while leading a high-speed organizational transformation during the global COVID pandemic.

Taught by the best – forged by fire.

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN: 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

More about the book

In April 2020, our family moved to Bozeman, MT, where I took on a new role as Managing Director Strategic IT at Montana State University. From my first day on the job, the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic forced us to think on our toes, constantly change our strategies and tactics, and always be ready for surprises.

Applying my learnings from high-stake, high-pressure roles in Amazon allowed me to help transform the organization and culture while rebuilding team morale and keeping motivation high. During the pandemic, my team delivered high-impact outcomes at an unprecedented velocity and volume. We were rewriting every process in the book while running at top speed, keeping up with ever-changing demands and constraints to serve our customers during those challenging times.

The world population lived through challenging, demanding, and emotionally taxing times in the year 2020. Times like that make you break or come out stronger on the other side. I tried to help my team come out stronger by sharing my learnings from the decades with Microsoft and Amazon in what I called ‘weekly reflections’. Most often, those reflections discussed approaches and thought models to deal with specific issues that I observed during that week.

A different set of challenges presented themselves when Uli took over a role as Site Manager for the Montana State University COVID Testing Center and later their COVID vaccination program. Some of my thoughts and lessons were inspired by those challenges.

This book summarizes the lessons, approaches, and principles that I shared with my team as we all did our best to deliver exceptional service to our customers in circumstances that no one was prepared for.

I hope that some of the strategies and principles will work for you as beautifully as they did for me. I hope they will help you thrive in challenging situations and help you get one step closer to your dreams.


“This common-sense approach to discussing what has been learned is easily understandable and was readily adapted to a variety of challenging situations that we as business people experienced in the recent past. It also provides a structured guide to apply those same “learnings” as we move through future weeks, months, and years.

If you seek theory, you will be disappointed. If you pursue reality and the associated efforts of discovering new and creative ways to resolve issues, you will be very satisfied. A concept that I encourage and attempt to adhere to myself is “change, assess, and then change again”. This book will provide the foundation for taking action, assessing, learning, and taking action again.”

Michael Trotter
Vice President and CIO, Montana State University

About the authors

Alfons worked at Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Amazon in Executive and Senior leadership roles for the last 25+ years. He currently serves as Managing Director Strategic IT at Montana State University.

Uli practiced as an MD in Germany. When she moved to the US, Uli became a Tai Chi, mindfulness, and art teacher. To help through the pandemic, Uli stepped up to lead the Montana State University COVID Testing Center as well as their vaccination program.

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