Do you have the essential leadership quality to cope with workplace stress and pressure?
Today's leaders are consistently subjected to increasing demands at work. Technology moves fast making it crucial to continually adopt new practices, fresh data is achieved and analysed daily, and let's face it - because we're able to get everything at such a high rate of speed, your immediate success is also in the spotlight.
It's enough to make your head spin!
However, being under pressure shouldn't be looked at as a good or bad thing. It's simply a fact of life. How you act, and the decisions you make under pressure, is how you prove your worth as a leader.
Here we'll take a look at the different types of pressure, how to combat the resulting stress, and techniques that enhance your leadership qualities to emerge as a winner in tough times .
In order to combat pressure, you have to know where it comes from.
There are three common places that can cause stress in our lives:
- Work pressure: Some examples are a demanding project, an intense boss, or heavy workload
- Personal pressure: These are things such as the stress of providing for your family, taking care of a sick parent, a strained marriage, or personal financial issues.
- Internal pressure: This is pressure you apply on yourself to be a better boss, leader, parent etc. (Click on this link to watch a TEDx talk about pressure and personal growth by Alex Cespedes!)
When you feel the pressure start to rise, take a look at where it's stemming from. Often, the root of it isn't going to be the task at hand, but something external you are letting get in the way of your decision making skills. However, there will be times when the job you are working on is the direct cause of the stress.
Let's look at what you can do to improve your leadership skills when under pressure.
1. Take a tip from the movies.
During movie productions, when someone isn't performing at their peak, the director will yell out, "Take 5!" When you start to feel the weight of pressure, it's okay to take a five minute breather to gather your thoughts, recognize what kind of pressure you're under, and then intelligently adapt to the situation and begin making educated decisions, instead of fast and irrational ones.
Some people feel that they have to react immediately when stress is applied to the situation, but there are times when you need to take in all of the information first, think it over in a realistic and rational way, before going forward. While not every situation will offer you the luxury of 5 minutes, when you can take the time, you should.
2. Actively practice focus.
Have you ever worked on a project with someone who is distracted by outside pressures? They tend to make a lot of small mistakes, and can actually end up distracting the whole team with their problems.
As a leader, you must recognize what pressure you're under, and if it is not a direct cause of what you are currently working on, then you have to put it in the back of your mind. All of your mental energy needs to be focused on what is in front of you.
Practice being focused daily. No matter what personal pressures you have going on, make it a point to leave them at home. Visually imagine yourself putting them in a box before you leave for work. Don't worry, they'll be there when you get back, but there is no reason to take them with you.
3. Break down tasks and simplify.
When work is the cause of the pressure, then you need to attack it head on. Is their an overwhelming project your team is working on? Take the time to break down the large goal and turn it into smaller, more approachable tasks. This will simplify the project, and turn the negative pressure into a positive motivator. Remember, some of the best work is done under pressure!
4. Have a plan.
Be sure you have a task management plan in place when the pressure is applied. You'll want to appropriately delegate tasks, find order in what seems like chaos, and realistically break down the goals. This will help you achieve success in any situation that can arise.
You never know when pressures will be brought on, so the better prepared you are for it, the more calm and intelligently you'll react. Eventually, this reaction will be second nature to you.
5. Embrace the pressure.
Remember that being under pressure is a state of mind, and sometimes you just have to push through it. It's the way you choose to react that makes the real difference in leadership.
Pinpoint where your stress is coming from, take a small break to collect yourself, focus on the goal, break it down into smaller and more achievable tasks, engage in a plan, and soon you'll make working under pressure look easy.