Stressed out by that presentation you must deliver tomorrow? Can’t stand your obnoxious cubicle mate one more second? Boss is giving you grief for the sake of it and you’re dreading each morning? Well, you’re not alone. Neither are you powerless.
Here are some steps to take when stress, anxiety or any negative emotion, really, become overwhelming. They work for me, as they do for other individuals I know.
That said, two words of advice:
– although what I present you works, it is by no means the perfect way, the only way or The Way. We are all individuals and each one will eventually tweak, change and modify the method to find what suits best. Please take all that only as a start, a general guideline;
– ideally, you’d want to do all this right there and then. I know this is not always possible – we’re all human and, in the heat of the moment, it is hard to maintain composure and remember things we should do. We react as we are wired, mostly. In that case, do the exercise later – it is still hugely useful, if only as preparation for the next heated moments (they will come for sure!).
- You are not the only one in such a predicament: we all have rough patches and difficult moments. Some of us are better at hiding it, but on the inside we’re all the same color. That colleague that keeps his cool and turns robot-like in a crisis? Aloofness may be his way to keep the pain and anxiety from overwhelming him. That recently divorced mom of two, who gets out every night and feels wonderful now, that she’s single? It may well be that parties are her way of avoiding loneliness. They’re not really that tough; they’re just good at hiding it. You are not alone by any stretch. Remember that.
- Feelings are natural, they are not a flaw. We are wired to feel down, empty, nervous, anxious or furious. Don’t blame yourself; don’t let yourself tricked into buying in the trope of “you shouldn’t feel this way”. You feel what you feel. Let the feeling arise and go (and, as a side note, “should” is one of the most destructive words I’ve encountered – abandon it where it does harm!).
- Fighting the feeling will only enhance its grip. If you feel fear, feel it, it’s no shame. If what you feel is fury, let it be. Feelings only come to go away eventually. If you can, resolve to be a pipe for negative feelings, not a reservoir. Allow it to manifest, and then allow it to go away (refer to points 4 and 5 for that).
- You are not your mood. Generally speaking, you are not your brain. Do not identify with it. If you bump a toe on a bed post, your toe hurts, not the entirety of You. The same goes here: your brain oozes the mood, but you don’t have to drown in it. Simply observe your feelings, without judging them as “good” or “bad”. Replace “I am angry” with “I feel anger” or even with “My brain makes me feel anger“. Distance does cool down heated feelings.
- Switch to “Clinical Mode On”. “Clinical mode” is what I call when I observe what I feel without getting entangled, just like a wildlife biologist observes a lion hunting and killing an antelope. For sure, it is a tragedy for the antelope, and the scientist acknowledges and accepts that. He can even feel sad for the animal; but, in the end, he is just an outside observer keeping clear of the drama. In the same way, you can observe what is going on with you, but not get involved.
- Direct your attention away from the events that caused the feelings. Brooding is natural – and unhelpful. Once the situation is gone, let it be gone. Pay deliberate attention to the outside. Take a walk – if you can – and strive to consciously observe all and any details of the world. Colors of the items in a shop window? See how many different shades you can count. Benches with people resting? See if you can observe the shape and shade of each one or any differences between various benches. A cute young couple passing by? Maybe you can observe gestures and guess what they’re talking about. You will come back to brooding, eventually. That’s OK, we humans are prone to that. Observe that return as you would observe a flashing shop sign – “My brain keeps returning to brooding“. Just get your eyes and mind out again.
- Straighten up. That’s right, I’m not joking: straighten up your back and keep your forehead and eyes pointing forward. It’s a neat little psychological trick: physiology influences the mind. Walk like you are happy and you’ll feel less gloom-and-doom inside.
- Accept. “Yeah, right, I should just accept I made a mess”. Hey, I can hear your thoughts! Stop that! Seriously now, “accepting” does not mean “I don’t care”. It means “I’m human, I will make errors and that says nothing about me as long as I strive in good faith to correct the consequences to the best of my abilities“. We all have our inglorious moments. We’re not less because of that. Accept that truth of life and move on.
Of course, none of the above comes naturally and all of it takes effort. Some of it will not be your cup of tea, for sure. No problem, just try something else until you find your own, personal way to bootstrap yourself out of the hole. And, when you have discovered neat little tricks, maybe you’ll return here and share those trick. You might make many unknown lives a little bit better.
PS: when working with yourself (which is what I propose here), the hardest part isn’t what, it’s the how. We all know we should calm down; how in heaven do I do it when I’m in flames?
That is why I thought some ideas on the how of stress management might prove useful for some people.
Do you want to find out more? Get in touch with a consultant now or request a free demo!
By Catalin Octavian Blaga – Trainer Great People Inside
Trainer who turns business experience and psychology into impacting training programs… and more
There’s been a long debate whether great leaders are born or made… As pointed out in an article on Forbes, it turns out that both parties are right. A definition of leadership, as suggested by researchers, would be a mixture of some genetics and of a whole lot more hard work and persistence. In fact, one study from The Leadership Quarterly on heritability (that is, the innate skills you bring to the table) and human development (what you learn along the way) estimated that leadership is 24% genetic and 76 percent learned.
However, some people strongly believe that you are brought into this world as a leader – and you cannot do anything about it.
Well, this stands true for a small percentage of the population. As a matter of fact, over the course of history, there were some people that undeniably had the leadership gene imprinted in their DNA. It is the case of those who gained followers due to their sheer presence and charisma: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are just a few of them. People with a similar kind of gifts are born every day, even if they don’t have the same impact.
Research show that there are two innate traits that are common to the majority of successful leaders: extroversion and conscientiousness.
According to a meta-analysis led by Timothy Judge, Ph.D., a professor at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, extroversion is the best predictor of leadership effectiveness, followed closely by conscientiousness.
As it is mentioned in an article from Business Insider, “psychologists define extroversion as sociability and enthusiasm, while conscientiousness refers to your organization and work ethic. More recent research has found that conscientiousness is the only major personality trait that consistently predicts success, largely because highly conscientious individuals are good at setting and working toward goals.”
What does this mean for the aspiring leaders? Well, if conscientiousness and extroversion are the only innate traits that commonly predict leadership effectiveness – and even those can be worked upon – then all you have to do is to improve and develop your other skills and behaviours that would make you a great leader. Aside from the well known qualities that have defined great leaders since the beginning of time – the ability to communicate effectively, fairness, foresight and inspiration – the dynamics of today’s business world require leaders to develop a whole new set of skills and abilities if they want to thrive in the VUCA environment that we live in (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity).
Great People Inside through a&dc’ LIVED® model puts forward five elements that leaders need to focus on, in order to deliver tangible business results and shine in the VUCA world: Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotions and Drive. By mastering each of these five dimensions, the leaders will be fully equipped to face the challenges of an increasingly fast paced world of work.
Learning – Willing and able to adapt to new environments and challenges by drawing on learning and feedback from previous experiences.
Intellect – Thinks incisively, deals effectively with complex and ambiguous information, sees issues in the broader context and takes sound decisions based on this analysis.
Values – Acts in an authentic and consistent way, inspires trust and demonstrates integrity, courage and respect for others.
Emotions – Manages own emotions effectively, builds positive relationships and uses emotions to influence and inspire others.
Drive – Sets challenging goals, takes an action oriented approach and shows passion and determination to overcome obstacles, act decisively and achieve results.
These are all aspects that you can improve, and while some people are born with the innate traits that will make their leadership journey easier, none of them will prevail in today’s complex and unpredictable business world without working hard to constantly develop their abilities and without a insatiable hunger for learning.
We have an impressive assessment library with hundreds of dimensions that can be leveraged in creating a custom skills-based assessment that supports your organisation’s specific competencies and unique vision. Please contact us if you need to assess and develop the leaders in your company.
How can we define what employee engagement really is?
Everyone talks again and again about the importance of employee engagement. Nevertheless, you might still encounter difficulties when asked to define it. This happens because employee engagement is not something mathematical, it represents the connection between the employee and the company – the mutual relationship based on trust, integrity and appreciation. Even so, there are ways to measure it and according to Gallup’s 142-country report on workplace engagement, only 13 % of employees are engaged in their work. This represents a big problem for companies all over the world.
Why is it so important?
There are multiple factors that contribute to organisational success – business strategies, the quality of products or services, their price, effective marketing and even organisational culture. But the most important factor – the one that keeps the company’s engine running are the people. No organisation can achieve success without great people. But what qualities do those people need? Talent and skills are certainly important, but you’ll never be able to use them properly if your employees won’t do their best. A situation where it is guaranteed that your people will give everything they’ve got is when they share common values and identify with the goals of the company. Several studies have shown the benefits of having engaged employees, as it follows:
- Businesses with more engaged employees have 51% higher productivity
(Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., & HayesT.L., Psychology, 2002 Vol. 87, No. 2)
- Engaged employees outperform disengaged employees by 20-28%
(The Conference Board, 2006)
- Organisations with engaged employees showed a 19% increase in operating income over a 12-month period, compared to a 33% decrease in companies with disengaged employees
(Towers Perrin, 2008)
- In companies where 60 to 70 percent of employees were engaged, average total shareholder’s return (TSR) stood at 24.2 percent; in companies with only 49 to 60 percent of their employees engaged, TSR fell to 9.1 percent; companies with engagement below 25 percent suffered negative TSR
(Employee engagement at double-digit growth companies, Hewitt Research Brief)
So, the importance of employee engagement should be pretty clear for anyone.
Ok, I get it, it’s important, but what can I do about it?
Well, first of all, you need to understand what you must never try to do.
You cannot manipulate your employees in order to engage them
Several companies are continuously attempting to trick their employees by making false promises in order to boost their engagement level without actually caring for them. This might, of course do wonders on the short term, but, as soon as the people realise what they’re trying to do, it will tremendously damage their motivation, productivity and, in the end, your bottom line. Why’s that? Because they would feel betrayed. Just imagine how you would feel if you trusted someone, gave them so much of your energy and time and dedicated yourselves in order to accomplish your mutual goals (or at least that’s what you thought them to be), just to find out that they don’t really care about you – you’ve just been tricked. Of course you’ll find it hard to find your motivation once again and the eventual raises or bonuses won’t help that much now. We all need to understand that today, when it comes to people, manipulation and control are not an option.
Employee engagement must be nurtured
You can’t just give them a small raise, clap your hands three times and expect engaged people. This is a matter where all aspects need to be taken into consideration and none has to be forgotten. While you slowly build your employees trust and foster their engagement, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Share your vision. Your vision is what should inspire and motivate people right after they hear it. Focus on the things that your organisation ultimately produces. You should emphasize where the company is going in the near and more distant future and point out what’s needed to get there.
Simply giving orders for your employees to follow it’s detrimental for everyone, but making them understand what you have in mind for the company in the future and where they stand on that road will help them identify with your values and work harder towards achieving the common goal.
Offer recognition. The need to be recognised is essential to each and every one of us. Especially for the employees who give their best at the workplace. A survey made by HBR has shown that employees, when asked to rate the most impactful engagement drivers, they will, most often (72%), say that Recognition given for high performers is the most important factor. This can be done formally – a reward system based on performance, an “Employee of the month” program,etc. or you can just thank them personally for how much they’ve helped.
Be clear. A study made by AtTask in 2014 has shown that 64% of employees are often feeling confused about who’s doing what inside the company. Engagement starts with having something to look forward to. If you don’t set clear tasks and goals for your employees, they will surely have a difficult time engaging in their daily tasks. Your employees don’t need to waste time and energy on trying to understand what it’s needed of them.
Of course, using these tips won’t engage your employees overnight. But, if you integrate them into your daily routine, you’ll definitely see improvements and, in time, you might find out true what Meghan M. Biro said: “Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.”
We have an impressive assessment library with hundreds of dimensions that can be leveraged in creating a custom skills-based assessment that supports your organisation’s specific competencies and unique vision. Please contact us if you need to measure the engagement level in your company.