An area we often overlook is how well we manage ourselves, particularly during times of added pressure and stress. As a leader, you’re expected to be at the top of your game and to get the best from your teams. That’s a big ask on the best of days. It’s far harder when we’re not at our best physically, mentally and emotionally.
Nicole was the leader of a cross functional team responsible for rolling out an important initiative in her company. At the start she was excited to be given this opportunity and eager to prove herself. Now, several months in, she’s beginning to wonder if she’s been given the impossible task of herding cats! Each team member had their own agenda and goals and management was breathing down her neck. To top it off, she’s also just been informed that the project has to be completed ahead of schedule and under budget. She’s now tired, completely stressed out and seriously doubting her ability to pull this off.
Unfortunately for Nicole’s team, her response to the added pressure was to become rigidly focused on just getting it done …. no matter what.
Instead of managing up to calibrate expectations with reality, Nicole pushed her team even harder.
When problems came up, she refused to listen and told her team to just get on with it.
When team members pushed back on the budget reduction, she viewed it as questioning her authority and got angry.
Every leader has experienced this moment before, or been at the receiving end of a stressed-out boss. That point when you’re simultaneously running on an empty and wanting to pull your hair out at the same time.
Emotions run high and the knee jerk reaction is to take it out on your team members, or a hapless family member who becomes an innocent by-stander of your irritability. You lose credibility as a leader, you lose trust with your team, and you’re certainly not winning the popularity vote with your family. So it’s lose-lose all the way around.
Managing yourself is about developing the right coping mechanisms.
Managing your response to stress
Do you know how you typically respond when you’re under the pump? Are you aware of how this impacts the people you work (or live) with? Are you consciously being aware of your stress response and actively changing behaviours that are negatively impacting your team?
Managing your self doubt
When pressure is being piled on, inevitably, we reach a point when self-doubt rears its ugly head. What do you do to quieten that nagging voice of doubt? Who can you turn to for support and that much needed boost of encouragement when needed?
Managing your energy
You can’t be at your mental best when you’re feeling depleted and tired. Leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. Do you just drag yourself home, and push yourself harder the next day …. or do you have a daily plan to lift your energy and maintain stamina especially when you need it most?
Yes, a lot is expected of us as leaders and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Your ability to manage yourself will determine if you can continue to perform at your best even under increasing pressure and expectations.
How would you score yourself in this area?