Managing Executive Stress

Managing executive stress is a challenge within many organizations. Stress management courses aren't always the answer - use these tips to get your life back in control

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. Unfortunately, many leaders who are feeling exhausted overwhelmed and close to burning out from working crazy hours ... would say that it's the toughest it's ever been.

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 genuine need for most leaders.

If you feel trapped in a cycle of excessive pressure and responsibility, then 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 are still 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

One of the best tools to managing executive stress is to use the talents and skills of those around you.

Often I hear leaders say they feel guilty about delegating to their already overloaded team members. While it is a compassionate sentiment, the problem is that you are likely restricting their growth and 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 "Finding 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 you could get both done?"

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 (especially if on offer is a task/project that gets the using strengths they love to use) 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, they brainstormed, and discovered ways for the job to be completed in 45 minutes.

Access Delegate Your Way To Success to fine-tune your capability in this critical skill set.

Access, How To Delegate

Put Some Structure in Place

Excellent Time Management and Organizational Skills are critical to managing executive stress. Planning, managing workflow, and using a prioritization system are all easily learnable and, most importantly, with a small amount of discipline easy to apply skills.

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