Nowadays part of the leadership journey very often includes the ability to reduce stress and build more efficient and well-balanced working environments. As leaders we can’t influence all the factors that impact our employees perceived stress levels, however, there are a lot of things we can do that will have a significant impact on how our employees experience their working environments and contribute to the organisation’s performance.
The first step is that we need to acknowledge some of the factors that cause stress and what can be done to prevent them from happening. Then we need to understand how behaviours and actions are contributing to these factors. As an individual leader it is very often difficult to recognise and relate to your own behaviour and how it is perceived by others.
Additionally, there is another challenge, and that is to recognise what the optimal conditions are for the people that are currently being led, since this is both different for people and their circumstances.
An essential part of developing your leadership capability is to receive feedback to further understand and recognise your own behaviours and understand how they impact the people you are currently leading. Getting feedback from the people around you is key to calibrating your leadership style and its impact.
It is important to underline again that we may not be able to improve all things, but just a small improvement can very often lead to more significant improvements.
The interesting thing about stress is that some stress is ok, and it is related to how we perceive the stress itself. Healthy levels of stress are very personal. We already know that it is important to have recovery time after periods of significant stress. We also know that sometimes we may get stressed in specific situations that if the exact same situation occured the day after it would not cause us any stress at all.
Stress is created by thoughts and the emotions connected to those thoughts. The thoughts might not be conscious and can therefore grip people in stressful situations. Since most people are not fully aware and in control of this process, we very often blame the situation or someone else for the stress.
Think about standing and waiting in line. If you try to find the fastest line, you probably will experience stress. If you instead consciously choose the slowest line, it will have an impact on your thinking and your stress level. It is not the line itself that impacts the stress level, it’s all about how you think when you are standing in the line.
After investigation into what areas of conscious and subconscious thoughts are that trigger stress emotions in people, we can group them into various areas. These areas are:
- Feeling Incompetent
- Risk of failure
- Not being valued
- Treated inconveniently
- Forced to work against values
- Lack of respect
- Lack of freedom
- Losing control of workload
- Feeling unsafe
- Loss of belonging – No identity with group or team
Since the strengths of all our individual needs are different, these areas have different impacts on different people. Take a look through the areas above and think about a specific situation where you yourself have experienced stress; did one or more of the areas above trigger the stress?
Again, some stress is good, so what we need as leaders is to find the right balance for the people we are leading. If you have people that have a very stable home environment, eat healthy, exercise daily and sleep well every night you are in quite a unique situation. Most groups of people that we meet consist of a variety of people in a variety of life stages with a variety of different needs.
Finding the right balance for your team and the individuals in your team is the key.