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Executive Leadership: Managing Executive Stress - Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: Managing Executive Stress

Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: Managing Executive Stress

We've all done it: situations at work weigh so heavily on our minds that they occupy our every waking thought, and since the laws of professional decorum keep us in check, we find ourselves lashing out at unsuspecting others away from the office. Our families, our fellow drivers, and our order-takers at the fast food drive-through are all prime targets for our unleashed ire. We skip our exercise routines, we lose sleep, and sometimes we self-medicate, watching ourselves turn into people we can barely stand to be around.

The negative effects of stress are well-documented, and by now we're all aware of them. Our bodies, relationships, minds, and emotions are all at risk; yet for all our cognizance, we still sometimes find ourselves falling into unhealthy stress management habits. Perhaps we feel we're doing more when we spend the late hours in the office, or perhaps we think the same force of determination and will that got us the big office can be applied to more complex problems that take more input from others and often more time. Whatever the reason, we can all use a reminder and a fresh idea, so consider this message a small container of both.

In an article for Forbes.com, Sharon McDowell-Larsen suggest we take a lesson from professional athletes. "You can actually do more in less time by practicing the art of recovery," she says. "Professional athletes understand that pushing themselves at 100% of their capacity 100% of the time results in little or no long-term performance gain. They build time to recharge into their training routines. You can do the same." The key words here are routine and recharge. Stress management isn't just a painkiller to be taken when those headaches show up; it's a lifestyle, a regular practice in your toolbox of success, perhaps as critical to your long-term success as whatever time-management and conflict-resolution habits you've developed.

Advice abounds on the Internet. Go on regular retreats. Don't forget your daily exercise. Spend time away from the office. Don't let things in other areas of your life slide. Remind yourself of what's truly important. Meditate. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Immerse yourself in a pleasurable hobby. Get some fresh air. All are wonderful pearls of wisdom, and perhaps you already practice them. But if you need a few new thoughts that maybe you haven't tried yet, here are a few to consider. Each provides a way to recharge, but within the workplace environment, and each can be built into some kind of regular routine.

Spend time with the rank and file.
Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Help the mail guy on his rounds, or clean out the fridge in the break room, or tell one of the departments not to call in a temp tomorrow because you'll be the temp for a day. Not only does this get you out of your stressful office, but it reminds you of why you do what you do, not to mention the people for whom you do it. On a practical level, it's great for company morale and it might spark some new ideas. On an ideological level, it lets you see your work from a different perspective, which is sometimes all you need for working your way through a difficult problem.

Do a few things the hard way.
Park your car two or three miles from the office and walk the rest of the way in. Write a memo by hand. Pay someone an in-person visit rather than picking up the phone. Go back to doing something the inefficient way before you streamlined the process and re-experience how things used to be. Whatever you do, focus on the moment and notice the details. This is kind of a real-life stop-and-smell-the-flowers bit of advice, but more than just slowing down and taking a deep breath, it encourages you to remind yourself of how things were. It's another exercise in new perspectives.

Rethink your brain collective.
Your trusted brain collective, that group of smart, competent, creative, trusted advisors you have carefully curated over the years, seldom lets you down. But somewhere in your organization is also a secretary who solved the maddening problem of people hoarding office supplies, and there's a physical plant guy who used a seventeen-cent binder clip to prevent a three-thousand-dollar equipment failure, and there's an accountant who found a way to get to level 70 in World of Warcraft (on his own time, of course) without ever killing another creature. Ask some of the managers who these people are, get them together in one room, and explain some of the things that are stressing you out. Maybe this new, second collective will come up with nothing. Maybe it will ask a few questions that lead to your next great idea. Or maybe it will hit a homerun and solve the long-standing, stress-causing problem that has mystified you these many months. The truth is that few of us are talented only in the realms from which we draw our paychecks. Tapping into those talents, the ones that might not show up on a resume, can result in gushing oil-wells of new thinking.

Whatever you do, take some time even in the office to put stressful problems on the back-burner while you recharge a different way. And be sensitive to others who may also be stressing-out at work. Perhaps you can bring someone along to the mailroom and thus address two people's stress.

Link: http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/30/executive-job-stress-leadership-ceonetwork-ccl.html


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Executive Leadership: Managing Executive Stress - Executive Leadership Articles

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