by Dave Anderson
Stress is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a demand on mental or physical energy.” While you cannot totally eliminate stress from work or life, you can reduce it. While some stress is very beneficial: competitiveness, goals/deadlines and the like, this article will deal with reducing the destructive forms of stress. Everyone has various levels of stress that they can handle well. Because we are all different, choose the points in this article that will most directly remedy your own stress issues.
As you read over the following 9 stressors please understand that these things are a mere sampling of stress catalysts in the workplace. But also realize that, for the most part, you bring them on yourself. In other words, stress is a choice. This subject matter might make a great topic for your next management meeting. But it might also be uncomfortable because you’ll be holding up a mirror for your people to look into. Just remind them that the parts of this article that bother them the most probably have the most to teach them.
Key Point: The top cause of stress in the workplace is your own management style. It is true: where stress is concerned, human beings are their own worst enemy.
Let me elaborate on specific nine aspects of a destructive, stress-inducing management style:
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who never learn to say “no.”
To reduce stress at work you’ve got to stop letting your mouth overload your back.
Tip: When someone asks you to take on something that you know you don’t have the time to do, say something like: “This sounds like a worthwhile project. Unfortunately, I have a number of pressing obligations at this time that would prevent me from doing a good job with what you ask. But I appreciate your confidence in thinking of me.”
Not saying “no” is a choice! What is one thing you’re currently considering that you should say “no” to?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who do too much and don’t delegate to others.
Delegate or outsource your weaknesses and your non-priorities to others.
Tip: There is no shame in giving up to go up. There is great shame in spending so much time on the trivial or mundane that you have no time left for the ultimate.
Not delegating is a choice! What is one thing you will give up so you can go up?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who operate out of instinct rather than disciplined preparation.
The more you prepare the less you have to repair. High achievers aren’t foolish enough to try and “wing” their way to the next level. It is estimated by time management experts that the ratio of preparation/time saved in execution is 3:1. In other words, 10 minutes of preparation saves 30 minutes of execution: one hour of preparation saves three hours of execution and so forth. This makes preparation one of the highest returning investments in business and life!
Tip: Not only does preparation help you execute more proficiently; it builds confidence which is a primary stress-reducer.
Not preparing is a choice! What is one thing you can do immediately to improve your level of preparation for each day at work?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who can’t handle criticism well.
Even the most seemingly unfair criticism often has a grain of truth in it. Before you get stressed out and dismiss your next critic, look for that one biting bit of truth that will help you become a better leader.
Tip: When the day comes that you can acknowledge…and even thank…those that criticize certain aspects of what you do, you will have simultaneously taken a long stride toward higher effectiveness and less stress.
Not handling criticism well is a choice. What piece of criticism that you’ve received recently should you reevaluate with a more open mind in an effort to improve your leadership style.
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who procrastinate.
Procrastination immobilizes you and stresses you out repeatedly…over the same issue. Developing the discipline to make yourself do what you don’t want to do but know you should do is a key to growing as a leader and eliminating huge amounts of stress. To pull this off you’ll need to toughen up; tighten up and grow up.
Tip: Start asking yourself better questions when you feel the temptation to procrastinate: “What can I do right now to start this project?” “What is the first step to making this happen and how can I bring it about?”
Procrastination is a choice. What have you been putting off that is causing you stress? Apply the questions in the TIP to get things moving!
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who engage in blame games.
Focusing on blame rather than solutions creates stress and prolongs the problem. This includes when you spend time blaming yourself rather than fixing your mess.
Tip: When you’re tempted to blame, ask instead “What can we do now to fix this?” “How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” “What can I learn from this that will make me more effective throughout my career?”
Blaming is a choice. What or whom has so consumed with blame that you’ve failed to focus on solutions?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who make convenient decisions rather than decisions of integrity.
Integrity means you act and make decisions in accordance with pre-prescribed values. When you make decisions that violate your personal or corporate values you rightfully feel stress.
Tip: To make tough decisions easier, define your personal and corporate values. Unless you decide to stand for something specific you’ll tend to fall for everything in general.
Not making decisions of integrity is a choice. Do you need to establish or revive your personal or corporate values?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who are dishonest.
“The violence of the wicked will destroy them. Because they refuse to do justice.” ~Proverbs 21:7.
Tip: You can always try and rationalize why it’s best to do what is easy, cheap, popular or convenient rather than what is right. Ultimately you fool no one, lose everything and destroy yourself.
Being dishonest is a choice. What must you stop doing or start doing to align your actions with what you know is right?
1. High levels of stress are found in managers who are working in areas outside their strength zone.
Working in areas outside your strength zone makes you feel awkward, inferior and incompetent. All of these create stress. You can’t feel ultimately good about yourself until you are working in your strength zone.
Tip: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things. But it does mean that you’re better off if the new things build on current strengths and that when you do realize you’re unfit for something that you have the good sense not to engage in it!
© Copyright 2006, The Dave Anderson Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Dave Anderson is the author of over 50 sales and management training programs and the book, Selling Above The Crowd: 365 Strategies For Sales Excellence. He writes a monthly leadership column for Dealer Magazine and publishes the newsletter, Leading At The Next Level. Dave is president of the Dave Anderson Corporation, and LearntoLead.com, a sales and leadership training organization.
You can reach Dave at:
The Dave Anderson Corporation
PO Box 1119
Los Altos, CA 94023
Phone: 800-519-8224 650-941-1493 (Canada, Int’l)