Nancy Steiger, Partner, CEO Advisory Network
10 Tips - Leading Under Pressure
Let’s face it, every leader faces stress regardless of title, experience or personality. Stress is real! And in today’s work environment one thing’s for certain – stress can define who you are, if you let it. Whether the pressure is self-imposed or from your boss, your teammates, or from the situation itself, how you respond is what matters most.
A recent study revealed that four out of five employees experience stress at work, and nearly two-thirds want to quit because of stress.
We all know that serving as a leader is no breeze. From juggling countless meetings to managing employee behaviors to achieving goals and doing it all while staying within budget takes true talent and is sometimes achieved on a wing and a prayer.
Those who are called to leadership are often high performers with high expectations – they unnecessarily pressure themselves and others if they aren’t careful. But the leaders who are most effective are those who know how to deal with pressure in healthy and productive ways.
1. Manage yourself. Only when you can manage yourself, can you manage others in stressful situations. Learn to cope with stress by finding the positive in each situation. Self-care is also key to managing stress. Most people believe they have some form of self-care but in reality, don’t. Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.
2. Know your triggers. They come in countless shapes, sizes and just when you master one, another pops up. Some of the most common include tight deadlines, an unpredictable boss, or endless organizational demands. Sometimes the trigger can be as simple as having to make important decisions. Sometimes they challenge your personal and professional values.
3. Take time to breathe. When panic sets in pause, step back, take a few deep breaths and lean in toward reassurance – remind yourself that there are few problems in life that can’t be solved. If you can’t calm yourself in the moment, rather than reply in a way that might not best represent who you are, end the conversation with, “This is really important. I’d rather not respond now but think about it and get back to you with a more thoughtful response.”
4. Start with “why.” Attaching meaning to your work and remembering your purpose will ground you and your team in the importance of why you are there and what you are there to accomplish, together.
5. Learn to say “no.” Stressful situations often develop because of unrealistic expectations — our own or those of others. Steady leaders have mastered the art of saying “yes” and “no” when needed.
6. Stay focused. Even with tremendous pressure from every direction to get things done, if you keep your mind firmly focused you can complete the task at-hand.
7. “Let it go!” Another fatal flaw in over achievers is the belief that everything must be perfect. The second you accept yourself and model for your teams that it’s about progress vs perfection, you will feel the pressure suddenly lift.
8. KISS. Keep It Short, Simple! Great leaders know how to boil things down to what you need to know, right now and what you need to do. When things get stressful, get back to basics and just focus on the task at-hand and nothing else, don’t over-complicate things by trying to do too much at once.
9. Build resilient teams! Stressful situations often exist because of uncertainty. Hiring and supporting great teams is essential. Teach your teams to adapt and to respond to events and uncertainty rationally, rather than becoming overwhelmed. Break things down for them and help them focus on what they can control vs what they can’t control.
10. Be your best, true self. During times of stress you must bring your A-game as a leader. Your teams are counting on you. That means, pause… step back… take a breath… and remember who you are at your core. Your personal values are always with you. Stress just masks them in a dense fog. Clearing your head and steadying your pulse will allow you to tap into your true nature that often gets buried in a panic.
Leadership is tough business! It takes time, talent and tenacity to make it to the top… And if you want to stay there it’s going to require a little poise and grace from time-to-time. But take heart, these are the leadership lessons that make you stronger. The good news is we learn, we grow and eventually we let the unimportant things go…
After 25 years of successful healthcare leadership and executive experience, Nancy Steiger is helping leaders reach their highest potential as a mentor and executive coach. To learn more about Nancy and read more “Nancyisms” visit nancysteigerconsulting.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org