- A Critical Partnership
- Managing and Retaining
- Visionary Leadership
- The Competitive Advantage
- Improve Retention
- Understanding Workplace Personalities
- Motivation Secrets
- Performance Management Ideas
- Effective Performance Reviews
- Retaining Technical Professionals
- Leadership Stress
- Keep Peace in the Office
Get a Better Handle on Leadership Stress
Tight budgets. Accountability for results. Corporate politics. Employee retention woes. Litigation concerns. Does the mere mention of these stressors accelerate your heart rate? If so, you must be in a leadership position—a manager, a key executive, or perhaps a CEO. Add to that list global manufacturing concerns, R&D challenges, time-to-market pressures, strict quality standards, and today’s tough EPA and FDA guidelines and chances are you’re not just any leader, but one in the chemical or household and personal products industries.
Workplace stress is a fairly common ailment; lurking among some 40% of the general workforce according to recent studies. However, leadership stress differs greatly from the usual kind suffered by typical employees. For instance, whereas a scientist might lose sleep over an especially complicated calculation that’s not working as expected in the lab, his supervisor, head of the R&D department, may be stressing over whether her inability to secure more government funding will cost that scientist his job. An administrative sales assistant may be overwhelmed by her cubicle mate’s annoying habits, while her manager is worrying about just how he’s going to motivate 25 people to increase their numbers by 30% before the end of the month.
The Leadership Burden
The responsibility and accountability leaders must bear what can be a heavy burden. The pressure to meet objectives, manage people and make tough—sometimes life-changing—decisions often weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of decision-makers as they struggle to keep a balance between effectively moving the company toward its goals and keeping those around them happy. And many times, these responsibilities come at the expense of the leader’s personal time and peace of mind.
But not all stress is negative. Certain types of stress actually help drive performance and can be the foundation for extraordinary innovation and accomplishment. The pressure to succeed, to meet goals and to beat the competition can be positively channeled into R&D, performance management and competitive strategies that enable individuals, teams and entire organizations to develop breakthrough technologies, devise creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems and deliver results that were beyond expectations.
For executives, the problem with stress occurs when the pressure becomes more dominant than the objective. During these times management styles tend to become more blunt and dictatorial, decisions become rushed and ultimately, the executive and the organization suffer very real costs as performance falters, and in the worst cases the executive suffers mental and even physical illness.
So what is the solution to stress? As an executive, there are some simple techniques you can use to manage leadership stress and possibly even maneuver it to your advantage. Here are a few guidelines:
1. Become a Better Delegator
As a leader, you’re the one who’s accountable for results. Your career rides on the performance of others, as a result you may be tempted to “do it all yourself” or micromanage every task. According to Wall Street Journal writer Kayleen Schaefer in her article, How to Delegate to Others and Lower Your Stress Level, “The reason so many leaders have trouble giving up projects is because they’ve risen up the corporate ladder by doing everything themselves.”
But the higher you rise in an organization, the less feasible the DIY strategy becomes. As your responsibilities grow, so does your need to effectively get work done through others. To become a better delegator, expand your skills in the following areas:
Do you hire people who are smarter and more technically capable than you are? Most executives say they want to hire the best, but in reality they tend to hire people who are slightly less competent than they are. If you are going to be an effective delegator you must build a team you can trust and hiring the right people is the most important first step.
Once you have the right people on your staff, it’s important to make sure your team’s skills are kept up-to-date. Create a proactive plan to regularly evaluate each person’s skills and knowledge and plan for their future training needs. The more current people’s skills are, the easier it will be to delegate with confidence.
Of course, competence alone does not make delegation work. You also need effective managerial systems. While it is beyond the scope of this article to review different management structures and philosophies, your challenge is to find the methods that best provide the information you need and fit the culture of your organization. Ideally, you want a system that ensures people clearly understand their goals—and your expectations—while giving you key indicators to monitor performance and ensure those goals are being met.
With the right people and processes, delegation is a much easier task. All that remains is to determine what to delegate and to whom. As a starting point, prioritize the tasks that only you can do—and then get everything else off your desk! Anything that can be done by someone else, should be done by someone else.
When you delegate, provide a concise explanation of what you expect and a clear deadline of when you expect it done. Ask follow-up questions to ensure that the person you are delegating to understands the project and is willing and able to meet the deadlines.