Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thrive on Stress

Pick your priorities.

->Remember your purpose - write down your goals and keep them visible.

->Set your schedule and allow some flexibility for the unexpected emergencies.

->Communicate your obligations and identify your resources.

->Ask for and acknowledge the responsibilities of others, then be prepared to support one another when appropriate.

->If there is a personality conflict, turn the focus to professional respect and responsibilities, or address the matter with appropriate professional communication when necessary.

->Identify the time of day and days of the week that you perform best under pressure, and be aware that everyone else may be different from your peak periods.

->Schedule your periods for managing the pressure and allow yourself periods for cooling down, being creative, or relaxing.

->When possible, do something physical before preparing to address a stressful situation, even if it is only a short walk.

->When necessary, take a short walk or a few moments to clear you mind after a stressful period so the intense concentration or emotions do not spill over into your other activities.

->Laugh, and most important, do not be so critical that you can not laugh at yourself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Unhealthy Stress

Some of the leading causes of unhealthy stress are the result of individual personalities infecting an organization. This can be caused by an overbearing boss, a lack or respect or trust for certain members in management, or by unrealistic expectations. Even the best of intentions can create unhealthy stress if it is based on unrealistic expectations. Stress can be slowly introduced if management expects everyone to automatically share the same level of passion, enthusiasm and commitment without first creating bonds and buy in with the employees. Employees will not feel the same amount of passion if there is not a personal connection or a sense of purpose. It is reasonable to require performance, but management should not expect passion without first making an investment in the employee.

Individual employees can also create stress and distraction. Personality conflicts are depicted as difficult coworkers, and typically the perception is a shared one. Difficult coworkers may be described as overbearing, subversive, interfering, unproductive, or uncooperative. These are dangerous labels for one person to place on another. The labels are most often the result of specific actions or comments. It may not be reasonable to expect that every personality will get along, but it is reasonable to require professional respect and cooperation. The first step in correcting this type of unhealthy stress is not to change people's opinions, but rather to address the actions, responsibilities and expectations of the individuals involved. Keep the focus on the professional requirements and communicate precise expectations, then assess the actions.

Unhealthy stress in an organization can be caused when the atmosphere is continually threatening, overbearing and unrelenting. Stress with purpose is like an adrenaline rush during a short sprint to the finish line. Stress without purpose and without end is like running an engine at full speed and never stopping to refill the tank, you are bound to hit a brick wall or empty your tank eventually. It is far better to plan for the short sprints and the breaks to refill the tank than to find yourself stranded.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Healthy Stress

The objective of healthy stress is to have specific focused goals with measurable targets and schedules. Healthy stress should create an atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation to achieve specific goals. If it is an extended schedule, then there should also be milestones to identify progress along the way. If it is a short deadline then there should be clearly identified resources for support. At the end of the schedule there should be a recognized period to temporarily relax, recognize the accomplishment and recharge the batteries. After all, not everyone is addicted to stress, but nearly everyone can use the short bursts of adrenaline that come with intense concentration toward a common goal.

Healthy stress provides rich rewards as a result. The rewards may be a sense of personal achievement, a sense of camaraderie, or monetary compensation. The type of reward is not necessarily as important as the recognition of the reward. If there is no reward for the stress, or if the outcome is detrimental to an individual or group, then the stress is not healthy and needs to be addressed promptly. Nurture healthy stress with teamwork, clearly communicated schedules, and easily recognized rewards.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stress Addiction

What do you know about stress addiction? You or your organization is addicted to stress? Let's be honest, some individuals and some organizations perform better under stressful conditions. Some organizations nurture a stressful culture as a means to continually pressure maximum performance with minimum manpower. Some other organizations leverage the energy associated with bursts of focused stress to overcome significant obstacles, and then minimize stress in between major hurdles to maintain a balanced workforce. How can you tell the difference?

Procrastination in dealing with important tasks is sometimes an indication of personal stress addiction. Some individuals acknowledge better performance under stressful situations. In some cases this helps to focus on a project. If this applies to you, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate your schedule, your personal goals, and your workload. By setting personal goals as commitments to complete projects or workload ahead of schedule, you can create your own deadlines and get ahead of the curve. Procrastination may be a sign that the workload is too light and you need to take on more responsibilities, or challenge yourself with more personal tasks. This will create an environment of balanced stress that you can manage by increasing or decreasing personal additional tasks to accommodate required or assigned workloads.

This does not mean that putting things off until the last minute is always a sign of stress addiction. If you continually put things off to the last minute, the result for your product or project will be in a bad quality. However if your projects or product are equivalent that would have been achieved earlier, then you are just being lazy and you need a stress inducing boss to get you moving. Last minute's work is a bad habit that will make you a clumsy person.

On the other hand, if items are continually addressed at the last minute simply because you have too many other priorities that take precedence and it is virtually impossible to catch up, then you have an unhealthy stressful environment and it is time to evaluate the conditions.

Have you ever experienced an organization that continually threatens potential layoffs, cancellation of contracts, or incessantly proclaims gloom and doom of current conditions? While organizations may perform better under short bursts of highly focused stressful conditions, it is not something that can be sustained effectively for long periods of time. Individuals within the organization will react differently to stressful conditions and will burn out at varying periods of time. After a period of high intensity it is necessary to allow a period for cooling down, refreshing and reenergizing the troops.

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