stress at work

Stress – Acknowledge, Accept, Action

The more people I work with, the more I see folks in denial about the stressful situations they frequently find themselves in. So often, people put blinkers on, put their head down and just keep going. Of course, there is a time and place for doing this, but not as often as people believe.

The challenge is, as human beings we are often in denial about the severity of problems and carry on regardless. We may sit there convincing ourselves that things will blow over, or we don’t want to make a fuss, or trying to focus on the things that are going right in the belief that the negative stuff will simply go away.

This can be foolhardy and dangerous for your physical and mental health as well as your career.

Why? Because when we feel stressed, our bodies release the hormone, cortisol. If high levels of circulating cortisol are prolonged, this reduces activity in the frontal cortex of the brain and compromises our attention span, so that we can’t concentrate properly; it adversely affects our short-term memory, perhaps meaning that we forget what someone has just told us; and it lowers our inhibitory mechanisms and therefore we are more likely to make rash or bad decisions. Plus, activity in the hippocampus in the brain is affected so that your declarative memory (factual information and previous experiences) is impaired, which is not helpful in a business situation. If you were looking at someone displaying these characteristics, I wager you would think they are incompetent or a fool. But what if this is you?
And if this isn’t bad enough, prolonged stress halts the production of new brain cells, which negatively affects behaviour and even alters neural plasticity. Even the structure of the brain and connections can be impacted. Of course, one should never underestimate constant or repeated stressors, nagging problems that don’t seem to go away, because they can lead on to depression and anxiety disorders.

How do you know when it’s time to shake off your ostrich feathers and lift your head out of the sand? When you are being inefficient to the point that people begin to lose respect for you or they stop asking you to do things.

Here are three things that can help:

  • Acknowledge – please stop pretending that everything is OK. It’s not a weakness to acknowledge that there are issues to address. Even if you only acknowledge problems to yourself, it is better than ignoring and allowing things to fester.
  • Acceptance – accept that the situation is not perfect, this will help you relax. Denial is highly stressful and unnecessary, especially in business situations. Accept there is a problem and you will start to be able to see more clearly.
  • Action – as cortisol levels recede after following 1. and 2., your frontal lobe activity will increase and you will put your brain in a better state to come up with answers.

Please don’t wait for a time when people think you are less than who you really are. You are not a fool, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the position you hold now. So don’t let stress and those high levels of cortisol secretions impair your effectiveness. Stay in control, use the 3As, stay healthy and enjoy your successes.

Are your prices clear? Have you made it easy for your customers to see where they stand financially? Sometimes we lose sight of the obvious, don’t you think?

Why Do We Complicate Things?

A client of mine runs a training company. She has an enormous amount of experience and employs other trainers to deliver her content. Things were going well.

That is, until she began to lose business to her competitors and work was not coming in as usual. With a sinking feeling in her stomach, she called me and we talked it through at length. We compared the various business models, websites, marketing efforts, client portfolios, training topics and so on. There didn’t seem any obvious differences between her business and those of the competition.

So we looked at it from a different angle. I asked her to explain the evolution of her business. How had it developed? What did you do to expand?

It turns out that as the years had gone by, she had added new services and new ways of doing things. Progress, you would think, as she increasingly met the growing demands of her client base and target market. The problem was that her pricing structure had become opaque. There were layers and layers of combinations and corresponding fees. It was really difficult trying to work out the costs of anything.

Neither her clients nor prospective clients thought to tell her, they simply went elsewhere.

Once we had identified the problem, she simplified her fee structure and made clearer what she offers and how she delivers. She then used the opportunity to get back in touch with people to bring them up-to-date and work picked up.

Are your prices clear? Have you made it easy for your customers to see where they stand financially? Sometimes we lose sight of the obvious, don’t you think?

If you’d like support to ensure you haven’t lost sight of the obvious, I offer a focused on-to-one Communication Clinic, over Skype. Contact me to find out more.

Collaboration and Legacy

John Smith was a Chairman and CEO of an advertising company.  Married with 2 children he worked incredibly hard.  His family were used to him ‘never being around’, he beavered away so that he could afford a fine house, great cars and lots of travel. 

Often away on business, over the years he has built up friendships through his work.  So it comes as no surprise that he was invited to a birthday party whilst in New York.  He went along and met a lady who made him feel better than he had felt for a long time. 

He left his wife and family and started again with a new wife and had 2 more children.  He worked even harder because now he had a second family to support.  His new family became used to him ‘never being around’, so he kept beavering away so he could afford a fine house, great cars and lots of travel.

That is until he realised that NO ONE CARES about his house, cars and travel.  He was the only one who cared what others thought of him.  The sting was bitterly sharp as he thought of both his families, knowing deep down that although they enjoyed the trappings, the heart ache of separation temporary or permanent was misguided at best and often toxic. 

We are not meant to live in separation.  We are meant to live in collaboration with those we love and those we work with. 

John’s deep seated unhappiness was affecting his health and he was frightened he could die and leave behind a legacy of despair.  Legacy is an interesting thought isn’t it?  Have you thought what people will say about you when you have gone?  Have you thought what you would like people to think about you?  Have you thought about what your life means or will have meant?  These are some of the questions John and I discussed at length.   

John worked out what he wanted his legacy to be and he felt a weight lifting off his shoulders.  But that was just the beginning.  The next thing he did was to put a series of actions in place to secure the path to leaving that legacy, but in the meantime making the best of his life.

John is now a lot happier.  He has a new business working from home.  It doesn’t sound so grand does it?  But business is booming.  He has partnered with larger magazine distributors, collaboration being key.  He is able to immediately respond to phone calls and emails, commuting is a thing of the past so he has freed up a great deal of time to concentrate more effectively on what leads directly to revenue and has cut out extraneous expenses and superfluous meetings.  John has taken full responsibility and is no longer a victim of circumstances.  This is part of the jigsaw puzzle for him to achieve his legacy.

His second family are happier because he spends more time with them, his first family are happier because he is communicating with them better and his health has improved. 

Sometimes we forget that for the majority of people the main reason we work is to generate revenue to live a life we want to live.  This may involve considering what we want to leave behind when we pass away, it may not.  But it will certainly involve how we live and enjoy our loved ones.  Collaboration is becoming a keyword in our society and legacy is an interesting thought don’t you think?