Leadership can be stressful. But effective leaders use stress as a constructive force rather than allowing it to become a destructive one. Stress occurs when conditions produce awareness that some action is required to satisfy a need, to solve a problem, or to prevent some undesirable result. Without constructive stress, motivation would be at an extremely low level, and very little would ever be accomplished. Adopt the attitude that stress is a challenge to your creativity — a welcome opportunity to perform well. Adjust your language to reflect this attitude. Constructive stress inspires people to act, to achieve, and to utilize more of their full potential for success.
Stress becomes destructive when the pressure to act cannot be met, or when one believes it cannot be met. If the perceived need to act requires more time, more money, greater skill or productivity than the individual can supply, the force of stress becomes negative. The result is physical or psychological damage — or both.
Even more damaging than the physical toll of stress are the psychological effects.
Continuing stress destroys the thrill and excitement of achievement because no accomplishment ever seems good enough. The resulting dissatisfaction with personal productivity causes a breakdown in relationships with people at work and at home. Undue stress hampers decision-making effectiveness, decreases personal productivity, and blocks creativity.
Minimize destructive stress with these ideas:
1. Set Goals
Clearly-defined goals and a written plan of action for both your work and personal life give you these stress reducing benefits:
You always know where you are going and, therefore, feel little fear of the unknown.
Obstacles are not perceived as threats because you have anticipated them and planned how you will handle them.
Making choices is simplified because your goals serve as criteria.
A written plan of action for achieving goals provides ready-made decisions regarding specific actions to take. Overall organizational goals and plans simplify the leadership of people. They specify the actions and activities needed and who is responsible for each one. The plan of action for achieving the goals of the organization provides standards and procedures for measuring individual and organizational productivity. You and your team members know automatically whether productivity is adequate. There is no need to wait until the end of the month or quarter and suddenly find that goals were missed.
One of the most effective ways to choose which activities you will perform is to evaluate their cost. Determine the value of one hour of your time based on your annual income.
When you know how much your time is worth, you have a better standard for choosing items of work you will perform personally and those you will delegate. Just as you would not be willing to pay a hundred dollars for a cup of coffee, you should not spend a hundred dollars worth of time accomplishing a five-dollar task. Compare the cost of your time to the worth of the activity involved.
Another approach to establishing priorities is to evaluate the contribution each activity will make to the achievement of organizational and personal goals. Focus on activities that make major contributions to moving you and your team members closer to your goals.
3. Prevent Burnout
Unless you handle stress constructively, burnout is likely. Burnout is brought about by unrelieved work stress and results in extreme emotional exhaustion and dramatically decreased productivity. Prevention, of course, is the preferred way of handling burnout. And, it is just as vital to prevent burnout in your people as it is for yourself. Effective leaders are positive role models; they handle stress constructively to prevent burnout.
Identify specific sources of stress, then plan and carry out appropriate actions to minimize or eliminate them. Common sources of stress include:
- work overload
- excessive time demands
- unanticipated or unrealistic assignments or deadlines
- interpersonal conflicts
4. Keep Your Perspective
Remember why you made the effort to clear out the stress producing mind clutter of old attitudes, old work habits, and old problems. Strive to enhance your enjoyment of life and your productivity by keeping all areas of your personal and business life in proper perspective.