Tag: stress management

Being a manager is both challenging and rewarding. Achieving results and seeing team members thrive as they settle into their roles is very satisfying. Great managers succeed in the role when they pay attention to the dynamics of team work. Great managers recognise that the technical aspect of the function needs attention. Results have to be achieved but the more challenging aspect of the role is managing people. When results are dropping, productivity nose-diving, co-operation vanishing and pressure is mounting from the leader, the role can be challenging and stressful.

In these situations the manager can experience a sense of loss of control. Natural instincts tend to push us towards pedalling harder in the hope the situation will be reversed. Actually the opposite action is required of the manager. This is the time to pause, step back and assess what is happening and why it is happening. Pausing is counter intuitive but necessary to gain control and in the process reduce stress. There is a direct correlation between control and stress levels. As we lose control we increase our stress levels. So obviously the key to reducing stress is taking control. How do managers tend to lose control?

Reacting in the moment

1. Do you find yourself constantly responding to requests and reacting to issues? Do you feel like you are always putting out fires? This type of behaviour becomes habitual and often we’re not aware of how we are feeding into it, encouraging it. It’s time to step back for a moment. Give yourself some space before reacting. Ask yourself “is this important and urgent” or is it “important but not urgent”? Of course your initial response will probably be it’s both important and urgent. However, when you dig at this question the answer is often that the issue is “important but not urgent”. If so, then take control. Figure out how and when you can work on the issue. In other words, plan.

Biting off more than you can chew

2. Break down tasks and activities to manageable sizes. Don’t be overly ambitious. Be realistic. You’ve a lot more control when managing small tasks or activities which means you’ll find the process of completing them less stressful. When the tasks or activities have been identified schedule them into your working day or week. In other words, plan.

Pushing out deadlines

3. With each deadline that is pushed out your sense of control and confidence in what you’re doing is eroded. Commit to deadlines and deliver to them. Be realistic about your deadlines and use your influencing skills when negotiating deadlines with others. People prefer when the deadline is longer than anticipated but it’s achieved rather than an ambitious deadline that constantly moves.

All of the above are small but necessary actions. As you implement these steps not only do you help yourself to manage your stress but you demonstrate best practices to key team members with the potential to be great managers.

Tricia Cunningham is co-founder and senior partner at LEAP.

Tricia Cunningham

 

Benjamin Franklin once said ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ That would appear to be the case when it comes to stress management, especially for those of you in management positions. Controlling stress levels will largely depend on your ability to prioritise tasks in a systematic way which prevents stress from building up in the first place. Whether you’re a new recruit or a seasoned manager, Tricia Cunningham recommends these 3 steps for stress management in the workplace.

Tricia, how can managers learn to reduce stress in the workplace?
In recent times with the downturn in the economy and the increasing need for people to be more productive at work, there has been a noticeable increase in the level of stress people are experiencing. Managers in both small and large organisations often feel pressure as a result of needing to get better business results with fewer resources, be they financial, human or material resources. Working with high levels of stress over an extended period of time can be very damaging to an individual. There are certain things outside a person’s control, about which they can do nothing, but there are many things they can control. The starting point for managing stress is with the individual refocusing and understanding what elements of their job they can control.

Step 1 re-focus
What are your core responsibilities? How will you be measured? What is it that you have to deliver on? And if that is in any way vague then a conversation needs to be had with your manager to make sure you are clear about your responsibilities, and what needs to be delivered on. It needs to be a joint agreement; it’s not about forcing something on somebody but rather having a discussion around it to ensure clarity and agreement on your ability to deliver what is needed.

Step 2 apply management tools
Use management tools to help you manage time and workloads more effectively. One such tool is Stephen Covey’s 4 Quadrants. This allows you to prioritise tasks based on 2 criteria – urgency and importance. Determine what is urgent and important, and what is important but not necessarily urgent, and therefore can be planned giving you more control.

The problem people often face is that they identify tasks that are important and not urgent, but do nothing to plan how they will be implemented. After a period of time passes they suddenly become both urgent and important which raises stress levels. We have a tendency to get addicted to the sense of urgency and we have to eliminate that addiction. We do so by ensuring that items that are not urgent but important are planned for well in advance and we work on executing that plan.

Covey's 4 Quadrants - 3 Steps for Stress Management in the Workplace

Step 3 remain aware of your own responsibilities
When people push you to do something, if your response is always to say ‘yes I’ll do that’ you need to remember that in saying yes you are saying no to something else. In saying yes to one thing, something else has to give. What are you saying no to? If something else gives way that is directly related to your responsibilities and the results you need to achieve, that will create stress for you.