I got a request from SalesAndServiceNews.com to answer a question sent in by a subscriber, where I am on the “expert” panel for that publication. The good questions always evoke interesting answers. I couldn’t resist sharing this one with you.
Q. We’re stressed! As the manager, I feel overwhelmed. My reps feel it, too. We get everything done. Our customers are happy and company is doing well. So how can we reduce the stress in our operations?
A. Thanks for reaching out. I have a few suggestions that will help alleviate the pressure.
You say you get everything done (perhaps you are the only one on the planet, so this is amazing) and your customers are happy and the company is doing well, so you don’t have many of the external conditions that add additional stress – that’s good. One of the first things I would recommend you do as a leader is begin to Practice Positive Leadership by being in gratitude for the happiness of your customers and the well-being of your company.Have you stopped to think about how the company with its inherent happiness and wellness nourishes you? Have you thought about how amazing your staff is that they GET everything done and keep the customers smiling? Are you mindfully focused on how to best inspire the strengths that your staff has to offer? If not, consider these suggestions as part of my Rx.
Change the story you tell yourself about it.
Certainly I would recommend that you limit or eliminate the stressors you have control over (Is overpromising putting stress on you? Can you find an intern to help with the things that are nor urgent or important?) and then change what you tell yourself about the rest –the things you can’t do much about.
For the next week pay very close attention to the language you hear – inside your own head and out of the mouths of others in the office. Ask one or two trusted co-workers to do this with you. Notice what you notice while people are talking. Are they telling a “poor me” story? Is their story one of blame (That guy in production – oh man!!!)?Are they disasterizing a situation (This customer is REALLY angry I need you to get it to him FAST!!”) Are they awfulizing? (OMGGGGGGGGGGGGG! That’s so awwwful!) or maybe even catastrophizing? (If we don’t meet this DEADline, the client’s going to KILL us).
If you notice this kind of negative, inflammatory language, pay attention. Your body hears everything you say. These are the kinds of stories that put stress on your system as your primal brain (probably a good 55% of your brain) reacts to what it thinks is danger.
The crocodile in you isn’t parsing the language, its reacting to the vibration of fear. Fear causes stress.
It’s appropriate stress if there really is mortal danger and you need to run like hell. The more exposure you have to the tragedies of the world, the more fearful you become and the more stressful you become. Because our exposure is always expanding (e.g. CNN playing on every TV in every airport) you must be vigilant about what you allow to come in.
Violence and sensationalism in the media is junk food for the mind and its bad influence already keeps your body in a low level of fear/worry/anxiety/apprehension. That’s not good for long term good health, or short term happiness.
More than 80% of what most people take in from the outside world is negative.
(And just about 80% of what they hear/say in their heads is too). If you want good health, good spirits and good business, you must make an effort to focus your attention on the goodness of things and shut out some of the messages that pander to your insecurities and your (what seems to be – if you watch commercials) vulnerable health.
Listen carefully to hear the story you are telling to yourself and to your team. Are you focusing on what you do right or what you do wrong? Does your story appreciate those that contribute to the positive outcomes? Does it celebrate the successes?
Bring in a good dose of positivity.
Science has proven that positivity mitigates and can even reverse the negative effects of stress. The “happy hormones” like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin flow through your system flooding you with the very Rx you need to increase your well-being.
Science proves that when we are able to shift the positivity to negativity ratio (P:N) to 3:1, other things shift as well as you move from languishing (feeling stressed out) to flourishing. If you stick with it and bring others on board with you and get your P:N up to 5:1 you’ve hit the jackpot! That’s the High Performance Zone.
When there is five times more praise, recognition, accomplishment, acknowledgement, and affirmation than there is criticism, cynicism, sarcasm, thinly veiled contempt or apathy etc., there is higher team productivity and performance, better 360 evaluations and higher customer satisfaction. Seems humans just work better when they feel good – when they are happy about – or at least satisfied with – their work. (Feel free to join me at Positivity Practices for one of the many suggestions on how to increase your positivity levels.)
Take a stand for well-being.
Create habits like deep breathing every time the clock strikes the hour, or a moment of gratitude when you refresh your coffee or eat a meal (or both). A quiet moment of 100% focused gratitude for all of the of the people – the farmers, the pickers, the shippers, the roasters, the merchants – that brought this delicious foreign coffee delicacy to your cup at your work station will help shift your body from running on the sympathetic nervous system to cruising on the parasympathetic system. Keep your body running on “sympathetic” and you’re aging yourself as you wear out your organs; cruise on “para” and you are creating new brain cells everyday and keeping your organs running at tip top shape!
Reducing stress in little ways is quite effective if you practice your stress mastery techniques consistently.
With mindful awareness of where the stress comes from you can begin to eliminate it as you change the story you tell yourself about it. With that same awareness, you can look for ways where you can raise your capacity for experiencing more positive emotions.
Learn to spot your “energy gains” – things that increase your well being– and do more of them. Notice where your “energy drains” are, and do less.
Stress can be managed, it can be mastered and it can be embraced for what it is – an opportunity to change and become more empowered to create lives that support your well being and your dreams.