Some degree of stress is inevitable within every organization - business, academia, the arts, sports teams, and many others. But the level of stress often depends upon the tone the leader sets. Sometimes, leaders make a tense situation worse for their employees -- and they may not even be aware they are doing it. In my experience, it is these leaders who find themselves at odds with their team and often angry and resentful without understanding that have created a hyper-stress situation.
Leaders have the daunting responsibility of guiding their teams and the company itself to profitably grow, remain competitive and delight their customers. Being a good leader can be challenging -- particularly when things are not going as originally intended. It is often at these times that the baseline level of stress is amplified either due to the actions leaders take or in some cases, actions they avoid.
The increased level of stress that is created often slows down the organization's ability to do the very things it must. Employee frustration builds creating a vicious circle. For some people, it causes irritability, hasty decision-making, and according to the American Migraine Foundation, even physical pain such as debilitating headaches.
Leaders must be more self-aware and ensure that they are not the source of stress in the office. I have seen so many times, the results of high-stress environments impairing results. While some level of stress is inevitable, hyper-stress is avoidable. Here are six tips you can use.
1. Open and frequent communications
I can never emphasize enough -- communication is key to being a successful leader. Lack of communication and miscommunication often leads to errors and mistakes which, whether it's the leader's fault or not. Leaders need to be clear about what is important, set the right tone and culture and encourage open communications throughout the company. There are so many tools today to enable quick, easy communications including a blast voicemail to all employees in the morning, a text to get the word out quickly about something that is urgent, using tools like Slack and Basecamp, and all hands meetings when appropriate.
Similarly, you want to be open to communication yourself. Being unapproachable, no matter how stressed you are, will only cause your employees to feel like they have to hide the less-than-perfect news from you. Be present and available, and let folks know you want to hear from them.
2. Provide appropriate resources
Many leaders assume their people have everything they need to get the job done.That assumption is often wrong and the source of stress. Go out and ask your folks "Do you have all the resources you need to get the job done?" If they say they need additional resources, give it to them, otherwise, you should not expect them to deliver as intended.
3. Get out of your office
I always tell my clients nothing good happens in your office. You are cut off from the action itself and the people you are relying on. Walk around your office, go visit your stores, shipping departments, factories, service centers and learn what is going on. You will return with great ideas, and just being out there with your employees and speaking with them will dramatically reduce stress.
4. Make it clear that inter-office politics is not helpful nor acceptable
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Janet, the owner, and CEO of a marketing company in Atlanta. What impressed me the most about Janet's leadership style was that she enforced a strict "No politics, no gossip, no problems," policy in the office.
"Does this policy really stop employees from talking about each other negatively?" I asked while having lunch with her.
"I can't stop them from saying whatever they want outside of work hours, but in the office, my drama-free rule stands strong, and it definitely adds positivity to the whole company."
I was able to privately ask a few employees if the policy was actually enforced, and they ensured me it most definitely was. Janet's idea was brilliant and effective.By promoting positivity and reducing dissension amongst employees, people did not create further stress which allowed them to focus on achieving their goals.
5. Stop micromanaging
Micromanaging is a major contributor to stress. While the intention is to be helpful by laying out all of the steps, they remove any sense of creativity and ownership from the person they are speaking with. Since the employee probably has a really good idea as to how to solve the problem, they get resentful, angry and stressed.
6. Balance work delegation
The old expression, "if you want something done, give it to a busy person" unfortunately happens too often. Sometime you have the wrong people, or they are not properly trained. If that is the case, fix this problem as soon as you can. You want to make sure you have the right folks and balance the work between them, especially when various crises hit. Otherwise, your best people will get really stressed and ultimately leave the company.
High levels of stress and not helpful to anyone. As leaders, try to become more self-aware as to how your behavior either increases or reduces stress. These 6 Tips can help you understand common mistakes leaders make, and ones you can certainly avoid.