Stress management for leaders

If I could offer a fool-proof plan for a stress-free life, I’d do it. But the truth is that we all have to deal with a certain amount of stress in life; and as a person climbs through the ranks of leadership, it may become more challenging to manage that stress. But there is no excuse for allowing your stress to go unchecked. The way you choose to manage your own worry and frustration will affect your own life, and the lives of your team members.

An early mentor of mine repeatedly preached: “Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment”. As an energetic, eager young employee, that was wisdom I needed to hear. The temptation to go, go, go was strong; but without a central goal, what’s the point? Through that mentor’s guidance, I learned to manage my time to deal with the important tasks and to push away some of the more trivial things on my plate. Concentrating on the big stuff allows a person to focus their energy – yes, even their nervous energy — on a specific agenda of things that matter, to you and to your organization.

Another key to moving stress to where it belongs is by effectively delegating responsibility. As leaders we should be sure that everyone in our downline clearly knows their job functions and responsibilities. Then we need to make sure that everything that can be delegated is delegated. When everyone is carrying their fair share of the load then stress will be evenly allocated.

People perform best when they understand how and why things are being done. Be sure your employees know all about your company’s goals, objectives, and values. Performance is best and stress is minimal when everyone feels like they are an important part of the organization.

It is also important for employees to clearly understand why they are performing a particular function and how it fits into the big picture. The old story is that factory workers are more productive when they see and understand the finished product.  This same stress reducing principle can be applied to just about every business.

Empower your people by saying “I trust you. At Tractor Supply we empower our people to take care of every customer in every situation.  Instead of being stressed over a customer problem our team members take pride in resolving every issue.  The sign at the front of the store reads “Every team member has the authority to do whatever it takes” and in fact no one has ever gotten in trouble for doing too much for a customer.

Effective delegation puts the responsibility where it belongs and will take some portion of the stress off your shoulders. Accountability is a key part of delegation so we all need a systematic method of follow up to be sure we are attaining our workplace goals.

Another way to look at it are these words from another mentor who said “push decision making as far down the ladder as you can.” When your employees make their own decisions, they will find ways to overcome obstacles and will build their confidence.  Plus, you will earn respect for your coaching and trusting

The more responsibility you push down the ladder the more time you will have to deal with the big issues so whatever stress you have will be on the things that really matter. Your stress reduction goal should be to make as few decisions as possible and only ones that deal with the big picture.

Stress affects us in different ways and there is no guaranteed way to avoid stress but in leadership roles good delegation will likely do more to control it than any other single thing. I suggest following my practice of giving stress not getting stressed.


published Nashville Business Journal

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