Why does stress matter?
Most of us realise it’s not visiting a gym that builds bulging biceps, but carefully stressing our muscles. Recognising if we're not careful, and stress our muscles too much, we risk becoming fatigued or injured. On the flip side, if we stress our muscles too little we won’t achieve the physical outcomes we’re after. The same reality occurs in the workplace too.
Achieving optimal team or business performance also requires stress. Too much can lead to people breaking down; and too little can lead to a business going broke from poor productivity! So how should leaders manage and use stress to keep performance, culture and wellbeing in the optimal zone? Let’s dig a little deeper.
The impact of stress at work
Things that stress us are called stressors, and it’s the accumulated impact of stressors that leads us to feel stressed. In turn, feeling stressed affects our wellbeing, relationships, connection with others, cognitive function, decision making, and overall performance amongst other things.
In the workplace, the range of stressors we experience is vast. Consider: the pressure of a looming deadline; the complexity of a task; micro-management; team disharmony; toxic behaviour; or lack of agreement are commonly cited as being stressful, as are many other things.
People’s reactions to stress are also diverse. For example, some people react emotively or lash out, some internalise and become resentful, some become aggressive or competitive, and others are seemingly impervious to stress or remaining optimistic. And then there’s the ripple affect, where one person's response to stress may be a stressor or, ideally, a stress reducer for others.
Practical solutions to optimise team stress and performance
The reality of stress, the dysfunction it causes and its toll on people’s wellbeing, connection with each other and performance are real. In turn, this means the ability of a leader to protect their team from stress is one of the most critical components to successfully saving or transforming a business. Unfortunately, few leaders really understand how to do this well.
Below are 5 practical steps you can adopt in your business to get started. Each is based upon the frameworks and philosophies we use at HD&U and has been proven within the fire of high stress/turnaround CEO roles for more than two decades.
- Monitor stress weekly, using a software like TeamLife.
- Aim to eliminate unnecessary stress, such as stress that arises from toxic behaviour, unreasonable expectations, lack of clarity about a role or objective, or conflict.
- Work on people’s awareness of how stress impacts them individually, and strategies that improve their resilience. Help your team to recognise triggers and take action early.
- Invest in group reflection and sharing activities so team members all understand how stress affects their colleagues and what they can do to support each other.
- Recognising some performance originated stress (eg - the need to multi tasking, approaching deadlines, important presentations etc) is inevitable, work out how you can get comfortable with it, and at the same time develop strategies to reduce it as much as possible
If you'd like to learn more, or understand how your business and team can be more proactive in terms of optimising performance by managing stress, reach out for a confidential, no strings chat with one of HD&U’s cash flow experts.