What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Workplace Stress & 5 Simple Stress Solutions for You (and Your Team)
If you are in a management or leadership role and you are paid to think (or you pay others to think), yet at the end of the day you feel overwhelmed by stress because:
- There’s more to do in a day than ever before
- Making good decisions quickly seems harder
- You spend more time putting out your team’s fires than getting your job done
- You avoid dealing with team conflict or having a tough conversation with an employee
- Procrastination is costing you time and money
- There are more problems than solutions
- A team member isn’t pulling his weight and it’s dragging the team’s productivity down
- You feel frustrated because you feel mis-understood more often than you feel understood by others
- You are putting in more hours and are late getting home more often than you (or your spouse) would like to admit
You are not alone and here’s some good news: You can eliminate unnecessary stress when you understand and sharpen your most valuable solution-finding-connecting-thinking-tool … Your brain!
The Good … The Bad … The Ugliness of Stress
We all experience stress and to a certain degree we need stress to be motivated into action.
However, left unchecked, even low levels of chronic stress will not only reduce your ability to solve problems and make decisions, your stress will reduce your team’s productivity and engagement. In other words, stress is contagious! (and, yes, stress can cause dis-ease and can kill you).
If you are an everyday, ordinary or extraordinary leader … PAY ATTENTION! The latest discoveries in neuroscience (or brain science) tell us why it’s critical to understand the strengths and limits of your brain, especially when it comes to productivity, effective communication, motivation and other ways leaders must engage people.
In other words, when it comes to being a Character-based Leader (i.e., leading from who you are) a brain scientist will be your best friend.
What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Leadership?
As if “everyday stress” isn’t enough for a leader to feel overwhelmed, leaders are also susceptible to another unique type of stress: Power Stress. Because people in a leadership position have responsibility to and for the well being of others you can add “power stress” to your list.
Brain scientists have recently been able to identify undeniable strengths and limits of the human brain when it comes to productivity, motivation and communication.
It is only very recently non-scientists have been able to decipher why these discoveries matter to you and I. More importantly, as executive, organizational and leadership consultants we can now answer WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) and apply these facts to assist leaders to do their best work.
Here are 5 Simple Stress Solutions you can practice to become a Sustainable Leader who is leading from the inside out, the outside in and is built to last for the long haul:
#1. Limit distractions when you need to do your most intense thinking. Turn off your cell phone, stop email notifications and close your door are just a few.
#2. Recharge your brain for 2-5 minutes frequently throughout your day (especially during the busiest few hours of the day). Take a brief walk, 10 deep breaths, sing, play or talk with a co-worker about something non-work-related.
#3. Get everything out of your head. David Allen said, “Your brain isn’t designed to hold ideas, it’s designed to have ideas.” Dump everything onto a piece of paper, a whiteboard or better yet, a MindMap program where you can close down the thread and focus on one project at a time.
#4. Prioritize prioritizing. In “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock, he explains why when we procrastinate, have difficulty making decisions or feel we are spinning our wheels, it is often because we haven’t properly put actions in the right order for execution. If you take your ideas out of your head #3 above, and put them on Post-its, you can clearly see what needs to be decided first. Only then can we get unstuck and take action.
#5. Invest in your team to reduce their stress. Include your team in creating realistic deadlines, avoid using “Lizard Brain Words” when you are frustrated and acknowledge people’s emotions (yours and theirs). Yes, it’s really okay to talk about feelings at work. You’ll be perceived as caring, not a wimp. Trust me.
Don’t be a statistic by ignoring or minimizing the negative impact of stress. You can only become a Character-Based Leader if you understand how you and others are wired (and how you are not). Being a satisfied and happy leader is critical for your and your team’s long-term success!
For more resources and practical strategies to reduce, eliminate and even leverage stress check out:
21 Ways to Eliminate Workplace Stress: Myths & Solutions for Busy Managers & Leaders
To Your Sustainable & Character-Based Leadership!