The role of leader can be very stressful! Management studies have suggested that these roles include a very wide mix of activities, most of which cannot always be controlled or even predicted. New managers and supervisors – especially supervisors – are almost overwhelmed with the demands of the job. They were probably promoted to be in charge of people, mostly because of their success in a previous role that was focused on developing a particular product or service. Suddenly, they’re faced with being in charge of people, which is much less predictable and has much less control than the supervisor had before. Consequently, the ability to manage time and stress is absolutely critical to the success of the roles of manager and leader.
Posts Tagged ‘Stress Management’
Author: Barbara Schiffman, C.Ht.
Every health and lifestyle magazine contains articles claiming stress is bad for us. They list dozens of ways to relieve stress, from exercise to eating healthy foods. A wide range of relaxation techniques have also been proven to help manage stress in our crazy-busy world, especially for people who take care of others and tend to neglect themselves.
But stress is not always as bad as these cautionary articles insist. In fact, some stress is actually necessary to keep us going and growing. (more…)
IMAGINE you are a caveman out innocently picking berries when suddenly you come nose to nose with a saber-tooth tiger. While you were simply gathering, the tiger was actually hunting, and the sight of you makes his mouth water. (more…)
Here are some discussion questions to use when facilitating a session on stress management:
1. When you say “I’m stressed out” or “I’m under a great deal of stress”, what do you mean? What is the difference between stress and a stressor? (more…)
Organizations have been through a lot these past few years. A certain amount of fatigue/disenchantment/frustration is normal. BUT, left unaddressed, these things can multiply and create a widespread epidemic of negativity. The Negativity Self-Evaluation tool below can help assess where attitudes might be slipping towards the negative. The debriefing information that follows provides steps for formulating an Attitude Adjustment Action Plan.
Where do you rate on the negativity scale? Score yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 for each question, and try to be honest with your answers.
1 2 3 4 5
Never Seldom Sometimes Often Always
1. Do you come into your workplace feeling enthusiastic and confident? _____
2. Do you focus on your goals even when you’re having a bad day? _____
3. Do you look for positive solutions when things don’t go your way at work? _____
4. Do you set a good example for co-workers? _____
5. Do you communicate well with your colleagues? _____
6. Do co-workers feel they can come to you for help? _____
7. Are you satisfied with the quality of work you do? _____
8. Do you find healthy ways to relieve stress? _____
9. Do you collaborate with others to meet the team’s and your goals? _____
10. Are you open to changes in your routine or environment? _____
If your total is under 25, you are highly susceptible to negativity and may be affecting others with your attitude. Continue to evaluate your performance on the job. If you can’t break the pattern of negativity, ask for outside help from a supervisor, a friend or Human Resources.
If your total is between 25-35, you’re on the borderline; you can fall victim to negativity, particularly during stressful times. When feeling pressured, give yourself a negativity “spot check”. Ask yourself if your work is up to par, if you are snapping easily, or whether your co-workers are acting differently towards you. These could all be signs that you need to take a deep breath and re-evaluate your attitude.
If your total is over 35, you probably don’t succumb to negativity often. But, you may not be completely immune to it. Think about how you interact with colleagues, especially when you’re stressed. People probably look to you as a model for positive behavior, so make sure stress doesn’t get the best of you. And, if you see others inciting a climate of negativity, try to help the person(s) find a positive solution or encourage them to seek assistance.
Debrief – The Attitude Adjustment Plan
Here are several good steps to take whenever you feel yourself becoming negative. (If you’re a manager or co-worker who needs to point out negativity in another person, see the special Note at the bottom.)
Take responsibility for your attitude and acknowledge the difficulties your negativity is causing.
Without an honest acceptance of the responsibility for and impact of your attitude, there is no motivation to change.
Practice “responding” rather than “reacting” to situations.
A reaction is often an instinctive, unproductive way of dealing with difficulties (negative people often “react” by blaming others for problems without seeing the part they’ve played in creating the problem). On the other hand, a response requires thoughtful consideration of:
- how can I take control of the situation vs. being a victim of the situation?
- what productive strategies and actions can I take?
Attempt to identify underlying causes for the negative attitude.
Try to uncover some of the reasons behind what you’re feeling. Is there a higher amount of stress than usual in the workplace? Are there unresolved issues with co-workers? Have you been feeling undervalued or overworked? Could family problems, debt, or illness be a factor?
Address the situations that cause stress.
Once you see what is causing the problem, try to find a workable solution and look for ways to prevent similar situations in the future. If need be, talk it over with another person. It’s amazing how an outside perspective can shed light on things. If there are conflicts you don’t feel comfortable handling on your own, ask a supervisor or HR person for assistance.
Note: If you are in a position of pointing out another person’s attitude problem, make sure you do these things in addition to suggesting the actions listed above:
- discuss the problem in private
- begin by giving positive feedback
- handle emotionally charged subjects with sensitivity
- focus on performance, not personality
Based on material in the Leader’s Guide for The Attitude Virus: Curing Negativity in the Workplace.
© CRM Learning.
Need help in this area? Bad attitudes in the workplace can spread like a virus and infect everyone in the whole organization. With CRM’s The Attitude Virus program, help employees learn to spot unproductive attitudes in themselves and others, and counteract them with positive behavior.
A positive side to stress? Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But think about it. Isn’t some level of stress an important factor in meeting any goal? Don’t most people need that edge of energy that comes with working hard to meet challenges and overcome obstacles?
Stress can, under the right circumstances, be a gift. It can motivate us, and focus our efforts. The people who are most successful in life tend to be those that bounce back quickly from stress and adversity; they learn from their mistakes and move on, rather than feel victimized. However, when we experience too much of it, stress can also be detrimental to our health and to our overall success at work and at home.
The key is to find the right level of stress, and that’s where good leadership comes in. If they want to build their staff’s capability, good leaders don’t try to completely eliminate stress from a project, an assignment or the environment. Effective leaders understand that setting and achieving goals involves stress in some form, and that the stress involved in setting and reaching for goals often draws out the best of people’s talents.
Here are some guidelines that can help managers and coaches “get the best out of stress” for their teams. Remember, though, it’s about finding the right balance between energizing stress and stress that becomes counterproductive and potentially harmful.
1) Make sure you are able to recognize signs of stress and identify their causes.
• How do you typically learn what events, situations and conditions are creating stress for your employees?
• What factors in your department or work group tend to produce the most stress for people? Are these acknowledged and discussed openly?
2) Recognize that each person has a different capacity for dealing with stress — some are better at it than others.
• When coaching employees, are there specific behaviors or areas of skill development you can recommend for those that need to reduce their level of stress, such as improved time management, better planning, being more assertive, etc?
3) Help employees recognize that there are productive forms of stress.
• Do you ever hear stress discussed in positive terms? How can you help employees see that, in many cases, stressful situations and challenges aren’t altogether negative because they serve to make us stronger?
• What methods have you developed for managing your own stress? What past experiences have made you better able to survive new challenges? Have you shared these with your staff?
4) Attempt to raise the stress level up a notch, but only when and where it will be constructive.
• Can you think of situations in your work environment where a bit more pressure might be useful? What are they? What makes you think that raising the stress level just a notch might be useful?
• How can you assess whether or not your employees have sufficient resiliency to thrive on additional stress before adding more pressure to the situation?
When acknowledged and handled well — especially with the proper guidance and coaching — employees will see that stress can build resilience as well as confidence and the ability to deal with challenging circumstances.
Excerpted in part from the Leader’s Guide for the CRM Learning program, Stress is a Gift.
Need help in this area? Stress is a Gift uses a poignant example from nature to illustrate how stressors are essential to any living thing’s ability to survive and grow.
For all the buzz about balance, why is it that so few people say they have it? What should balance be like? What is the difference between ‘out of balance’ and just plain busy?
“Balance is not about calculating the right equation of time and effort,” says the Center for Creative Leadership’s Gordon Patterson. “It is about having clarity about what matters to you and making sure you are taking care of those things consistently.”
People whose lives are out of balance — whose work life has taken too prominent a role — have similar experiences. Some of the warning signs that your life is out of balance include:
- You have conversations with yourself in which you say “I’ve got to make more time for my significant other.”
- You hear yourself telling others that you really wish you had time to do certain things you just don’t get done now.
- Your relationships with your colleagues are less fun, less productive and less easy-going than they used to be. From your point of view, your direct reports should be far more serious about work than they are.
- You think that your family should appreciate you more than they do. They don’t realize how hard you work for them.
- You take your perfectionist and “type A” personality for granted and have not really even thought about altering your behavior.
- You’re good — you can multitask like there’s no tomorrow. People continually marvel at how you can “do it all.” They think you are superhuman.
- You pause mentally to put on your armor and to psych yourself up each day when you come through the front door of your office.
- You want to appear interested when your direct reports tell you about their newborn children, but you don’t want them to conclude that their job responsibilities are any less important just because they’ve become parents.
“If any of these descriptions resonate with you, it may be time to reassess what you’re doing, why you are doing it and explore what your balance looks like to you,” says Patterson.
You may find you are feeling more balanced when you:
- Accept that your needs and expectations have changed over the years and will continue to change.
- Are able to make a temporary choice to place one aspect of your life ahead of another, knowing that other things will be tended to in time and you ensure that “temporary” does not become permanent neglect of other important things.
- Embrace the presence of creative tension in your life. Balance does not mean easy or perfect.
- Stop blaming your struggles with balance on other people, organizations and institutions.
- Choose how to use your resources — what to do with your time, energy and passion.
Less Can Be More
Don’t assume that putting in fewer hours on the job will cause your work to suffer. In fact, time and energy spent off-the-job can enhance your productivity and your capacity to deal with work challenges. Shifting the mix of work and non-work hours can teach you:
Strength in vulnerability. Recognize that you can’t do everything and learn to ask for help. Leaders who successfully balance competing demands in all aspects of their lives freely admit their vulnerabilities and frequently are admired and respected for doing so. It makes them seem more human and more approachable.
The upside of limits. When facing a tough challenge or a huge to-do list, human nature urges you to push harder and work more hours. While it may seem counterintuitive to stop, ease back or even shift focus, that’s exactly what you may need to do. If you’re working late at the office – fourteen hours a day, day in and day out – you are tricked into thinking that your efficiency is being maximized by your intense work efforts. In fact, leaving early a few nights a week or delegating more may be the better solution. By setting limits, you are better able to distinguish when you really do need to push and when to step back and regroup.
The benefit of recharging. Our capacity to work is not boundless, although we sometimes appear to believe otherwise. Building in enough time to relax and recharge as we work is critical for clear and creative thinking, strong relationships and good health.
Gordon Patterson is a CCL Senior Program Associate.
Content reprinted with permission from Finding Your Balance, by Joan Gurvis and Gordon Patterson, Copyright © 2004 Center for Creative Leadership
By Susan M. Heathfield
Stress is normal. Everyone feels stress related to work, family, decisions, your future, and more. Stress is both physical and mental. It is caused by major life events such as illness, the death of a loved one, a change in responsibilities or expectations at work, and job promotions, loss, or changes.
Smaller, daily events also cause stress. This stress is not as apparent to us, but the constant and cumulative impact of the small stressors adds up to big impact.
In response to these daily stresses, your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to your muscles. This stress response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to any high-pressure situation.
However, when you are constantly reacting to small or large stressful situations, without making physical, mental, and emotional adjustments to counter their effect, you can experience stress that can hurt your health and well-being.
Stress can also be positive. You need a certain amount of stress to perform your best at work. The key to stress management is to determine the right amount of stress that will give you energy, ambition, and enthusiasm versus the wrong amount which can harm your health and well-being.
Important Stress Causing Issues, Characteristics and Traits
While each person is different and has different events and issues that cause stress, there are some issues that almost universally affect people. These are the stressors you most want to understand and take measures to prevent.
• Feeling out of control
• Feeling direction-less
• Guilt over procrastination or failing to keep commitments
• More commitments than time
• Change, especially changes you didn’t initiate or institute
• High expectations of self
What Affects Your Coping With Stress Skills?
During times of stress and uncertainty, you can anticipate some predictable issues, problems, and opportunities. For instance, during any change, members of an organization have:
• Different ways of regarding change. Some people have difficulty accepting and adjusting to change and uncertainty; others will relish the changes and view them as great opportunities. Some people initiate change; others prefer the status quo.
• Different amounts of experience and practice in stress management and change management. (What is devastating to one individual may excite another or only mildly irritate a third person.) Theoretically, people become better at managing stress and change with experience.
• Some people need to “talk it out.” Others suffer silently. Some find relief in complaining. Some talk and talk and talk, but are really supportive of the change. Others find ways to sabotage changes and undermine efforts to move forward.
• Different levels of stress and change occurring in other areas of their lives.
• During change, people will experience different amounts of impact from the current changes and stress producing situations. They will also experience different amounts and types of support from their spouse, significant other, friends, supervisor, and coworkers.
All of these and other issues impact your ability to manage workplace stress and change, to continue to function productively. It is important to recognize that people who are experiencing serious stress and change may not be capable of performing exactly as they have in the past.
Stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral problems which can affect your health, energy, well-being, mental alertness, and personal and professional relationships. It can also cause defensiveness, lack of motivation, difficulty concentrating, accidents, reduced productivity, and interpersonal conflict.
Too much stress can cause minor problems such as sleep-loss, irritability, backaches, or headaches, and can also contribute to potentially life-threatening diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
During stressful times or situations, people often blame themselves for being weak or for their inability “to handle it.” Often managers in organizations do not understand the normal progression of change or stress-producing situations and they expect employees to immediately return to total productivity after a stressful event.
Stress Results From Change
People have deep attachments to their work groups, organizational structures, personal responsibilities, and ways of accomplishing work. When any of these are disturbed, whether by personal choice or through an organizational process from which they may feel quite removed and uninvolved, a transition period occurs. During this transition, people can expect to experience a period of letting go of the old ways as they begin moving toward and integrating the new.
When you consider stress in the workplace, understanding these components about stress, situations that induce stress, and employee responses to stress, can help you help both yourself and your staff effectively manage stress and change.
Reprinted with permission from about.com
What can leaders do to better manage stress? Here are a few tips and tools from a team of experts from the Center for Creative Leadership: Vidula Bal, Michael Campbell, Joan Gurvis and Sharon McDowell-Larsen.
Know the signals. Learn to pay attention to your body’s response to stress. What triggers a feeling of stress and what are your physiological responses? Do you feel your heart rate going up? Do you get hot? Do you clench your jaw? Get a headache? The sooner you recognize that your body is going into stress, the sooner you can do something to manage it.
Create a ritual. Make it a habit to have a stress break. For example, every 90 minutes get up from your desk and walk around or get out for some fresh air. Do some deep breathing, shoulder shrugs, or just close your eyes for one minute. Taking a mental or physical break is an important strategy for dealing with day-to-day stress. When things are extra stressful, you can rely on these same tactics to get you through.
Get away. Find effective ways to set boundaries between work and home life. Whatever works for you – listening to music on the commute home, turning off the cell phone and email during personal or family time, participating in a social activity or hobby – make time for it and keep your commitment to having a life outside of work.
Focus on fitness. A regular exercise program is the best way to minimize the negative health outcomes associated with the demands of the job. Under stress we build up certain hormones; exercise dissipates some of that. Make a commitment to exercising at least 30 minutes twice a week. Also, incorporate healthy practices such as adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet while reducing added sugars, fat and sodium.
Build a support system. Ask for help. Build a network of people who can assist you and alleviate some stress. Acknowledging that you are particularly stressed can ease the strain a bit, too. Other ideas include getting a coach to help you organize and prioritize your life. Or create your personal Board of Directors: a support group that will help you cope with stress and leadership. Ask a diverse group (peers, your boss, a family member and a trusted friend) to work with you to understand your goals around managing stress and help you stay on track.
Re-group on the task. When dealing with stress from task demands (as opposed to relationship challenges) one of the best strategies is to look for ways to organize and streamline your work. Planning, organizing and prioritizing appear to be effective ways to manage task-related stress. Defining roles and clarifying expectations, managing a project schedule and completing tasks ahead of deadline are other strategies. Gaining focus may reduce stress during a task as well as before a new task is started.
Recover. Do more in less time by practicing the art of recovery. Athletes have long understood that pushing oneself hard at 100 percent capacity, 100 percent of the time, results in little or no long-term gains in performance. Building in enough time to relax and recharge is critical for clear and creative thinking, strong relationships and good health. Make sure that throughout the day you are allowing yourself real and frequent breaks – at least a 10-minute break every 90 minutes. And leave the job behind: time and energy spent off-the-job can enhance your productivity and your capacity to deal with work challenges.
Re-define balance. Forget the idea of balance as finally having equal or sufficient time for everything: career, family, friends, community and leisure pursuits. Instead, start making clear choices that support your core values. Life balance is complex, not really something we can ever hope to accomplish. Demands and interests change over time, and what felt like balance at one point quickly becomes outdated. But if your life reflects who you are and what you value, you will feel more in balance – even when there isn’t enough time.
How Leaders Cope
Leaders deal with the negative effects of stress in a number of ways:
• Physical exercise is the most commonly cited method leaders use to manage stress.
• More than 90 percent of leaders cite that they manage stress by temporarily removing themselves, either physically or mentally, from the source of their stress.
• Most leaders use a variety of sensory or physical activities to manage stress: exercise, outdoor hobbies, music, games, television, etc.
• Stress caused by job responsibilities and decision making is often managed by finding ways to gain focus and perspective on the challenge: planning, project management, clarification.
Reprinted with permission from the Center for Creative Leadership, www.ccl.org