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Managing Executive Stress

Managing executive stress is a challenge for most corporate organizations. In a 2000 report, R Wheatley from the Institute of Management in London suggested that 75% of executives report their health, happiness, home and work performance are all negatively impacted by stress.

Workplace stress management wasn't such a hot topic 20 years ago and you would think that with the flexibility of telecommuting, working-from-home, flexible work hours etc, our workplaces would be less stressed. Yet many leaders ... feeling exhausted overwhelmed and close to burning out from working crazy hours ... would say that it's the toughest it's ever been.

managing executive stress

More deadline pressures, fewer resources, longer hours, more travel is causing overload for leaders in many of today's commando style organizations. Consequently, anxiety and stress management strategies are a very real need for most leaders.

If you feel trapped in a cycle of excessive pressure and responsibility then some of these tips on how to reduce stress may assist.

Find Your Voice

Many executives find themselves stressed because they haven't mastered the art of pushing back and saying no. Often leaders find themselves saying 'Yes', when in fact they should be saying 'No'. Stress levels rise as you create even more pressure worrying about how you are going to get through everything.

I have coached many leaders in how to say "No" to their manager and still be seen as a top performer who delivers. Here's one of the simple techniques I have shared with them. When your boss is piling more work on - ask him or her this question: "Here is my list of current priorities. Over which of these does this task take higher priority?"

Questions like this ensure that you and the person who is asking more from you keep your workload manageable and no nasty surprises arise such as unmet deadlines.

Delegate & Grow Others

stressed-manOne of the best tools in your arsenal of managing executive stress is to make the best use of the talents and skills of those around you.

Often I hear leaders say they feel guilty about delegating to their already overloaded team members. Whilst a nice sentiment, the problem with this is that you are probably restricting their growth and their opportunities.

By knowing your people and knowing the type of work they love to do, you can delegate to them tasks that they will be only too excited to take on. It's rare to hear of anyone saying they feel overwhelmed or burnout when they are doing what they love. More likely they will find themselves in the state of Flow as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book of the same name.

Give the person you are delegating to the opportunity to say yes or no by asking the same type of question you would ask of your manager: "If you take this on, which of your priorities will suffer?" And a good follow-up question is "How do you think this is best handled?"

Hopefully, if they have people reporting through to them they'll delegate through their overflow and ask the same types of questions. (Do you see the flow-on effect?)

Eventually additional work will flow to someone in the business who has no-one to delegate to. You will find (particularly if on offer is a task/project that lets them use their strengths and they love) that they will innovate ways to improve their productivity. For example, in one organization I worked with, people who had been taking two hours to do a particular routine task, once offered more engaging work to do, brainstormed and discovered ways for the task to be completed in 45 minutes. Go here for Successful Delegation Tips

Put Some Structure In Place

Good Time Management and Organizational Skills are critical to managing executive stress. Planning ahead, managing work flow, and utilizing a prioritization system are all easily learnable and most importantly with a small amount of discipline easy to apply skills.

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