Leaders: Stay Calm
Workplace stress has never been higher.
Blame it on ever shorter deadlines, the pace of a digitally enabled world, or the growing complexity of most industries. Whatever the reason, it’s never been tougher to stay calm at work and still excel.
Yet as the stress levels of executives continue to increase, so does the research on how to combat stress.
Here are some of the thoughts I share with the top leaders I coach about leading under pressure:
Hit “pause” before responding
A quick, emotionally charged reaction will almost always result in more work, more conflict and more of a mess to clean up. The next time you feel yourself about to snap, take a moment and pause.
Take a short walk, even if it’s just a lap around the office, and force yourself to think about the perspectives of everyone else involved in the situation. Reflecting on where your colleagues are coming from, and why they might disagree with you, will help you come back ready to broker a solution. Particularly if you’re a manager, it’s essential that your employees feel heard, respected and valued.
The worst environment you can create is one where your direct reports are always waiting for your next blow up. When you maintain your cool, you can see the big picture and offer a helpful response, which not only diffuses the tension, but also demonstrates your leadership abilities.
Avoid negative people
Do your best to avoid those that drain your energy and put out bad vibes. You know who I’m talking about… The doom and gloomers. They spread negativity like wildfire. You are in control of your thoughts and emotions, but it’s much harder to stay calm when you’re surrounded by anxious, cynical people.
Do your best to keep your distance from pessimistic colleagues, especially before a big deadline.
Focus on one thing at a time
Once you are in a positive frame of mind, focus on the task at hand. Humans are terrible at multitasking, so managing your time and prioritizing is critical to productivity.
Remember: if you slow down and get present, you can fully engage in each task, which often translates into higher performance (versus a bunch of unfinished, imperfect projects). It’s super easy to get distracted, so retrain your brain to respond based on a schedule rather than spontaneous cues, like a “ding” in your inbox.
Silence phone and email notifications when you need to focus. (This means staying off social media, too!)
Follow the 80-20 rule
Faced with a problem, most people spend about 80 percent of their time and energy dwelling on the problem. Instead, devote 80 percent to a solution and 20 percent to the problem. When you turn it around, you’ll likely find you’re less stressed and more productive.
There are sometimes good reasons to change our plans, such as a new set of circumstances arising or receiving new information about a situation. In the absence of a compelling reason, however, stick to the plans we have outlined for ourselves. Random changes will only confuse us and put us behind schedule.
Each of those fove techniques is a potent method of helping you stay calm at the office. But used together they will create in you a mental state that will remain serene, positive and productive no matter how many people around you are pulling their hair out in frustration.
You will be an island of calm in a sea of corporate angst. And you will also be the most effective person in the room.