How to Manage Stress in the Office in Two Easy Ways

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The cut and thrust of business can feel like a high octane trip round a race track some days. There are the long straights and the pacey chicanes. By the time you make it to the chequered flag, you’re exhausted!

So how to make it seem more like a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive every day? The sort your granny and grandpa used to take. But with better outcomes and higher profit margins.

Stress can be the element that pushes you across the finishing line on a tank of pure adrenalin. It’s not all bad. But you definitely need a map of the route fixed in your head, plus a safety belt and a five point harness.

 

1. SHOW ME THE SCIENCE

When we’re stressed our body releases hormones that provide a highly powerful boost in energy. Cognitively, you’re ultra-sharp, you think fast and you remain alert. All of your senses are switched on and heightened, and you react swiftly.

This stress-response system is self-limiting. Once the perceived crisis has passed, hormone levels return to normal, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. You go back onto cruise control, and the rhythmic hum of your business resumes.

There’s plenty of research telling us that harnessing the stress response can be highly valuable. Here are two strategies on how to leverage this super-fueled state.

 

2. FORESIGHT

Jack Dorsey knows about stress. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. His opinion is that stress only becomes unmanageable when things that are unexpected. ‘The more you can set a cadence around what you do and the more ritual and the more consistency you can build in your schedule, the less stress you are going to have’

Foresight is what helps us plan for the unexpected – and manage stress well. People who get good at strategic planning tend to notice the unexpected sooner. And they’re prepared.

When a crisis arises, such people take advantage of the hormone rush. Rather than react to the event negatively, they shift up a gear – smoothly – using their increased energy to manage the crisis meticulously, as planned. Once the crunch time is past, a performance review can take place and plans can be changed according to what worked.       

Crises managed this way tend to be temporary and brief, and handling them becomes effortless over time.

 

PREPARED IN MIND AND BODY

John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister (1996-2007) is a man of habit. After taking office as Prime Minister, he made a point of walking almost every day, whether at his residence or in a bustling foreign capital.  He believes the ritual of exercise was a boost to his mind as well as his health. And he’s not the only one.  President Obama also credits morning exercise for his ability to keep a calm demeanor in high-stress environments.

Research from Princeton University in New York shows that walking briskly or jogging calms you, sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses the senses. Professor Elizabeth Gould says physical activity re-organises the brain so that anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function.

You’d always wear a helmet on the race track, right? And your brain needs protection in the workplace too! Regular rhythmic exercise can minimize many symptoms of stress. Nurture your brain with fresh air and a brisk walk, and your ride will be smoother next time a challenge looms around the bed.  

Hardwiring foresight into your business, and keeping thing fresh with regular exercise – two simple measures that can be implemented at any time and cost very little.

Your granny and grandpa would have appreciated the wisdom.

 
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No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

No Act of Kindness, No Matter How Small, Is Ever Wasted

Okay, so Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller rather than leader of a multi-national conglomerate. Even so, his words resonate with us in the business world today.

That’s because we know, in the deepest darkest corner of our corporate hearts, that they’re true.

The tricky part of management is the capacity to inspire, engage and teach resilience.  Leadership doesn’t spring from one single quality.  It needs a bucket full of authentic attributes for a standout leader to, well, stand out.

But one or two things are key.

In a previous blog, Virgin says get friendly. So let’s get friendly!, we looked at a very simple but effective leadership attribute.  Friendliness.  Let’s keep things amiable, and look at the power of kindness as well.   

Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval made it to the top of the advertising industry by means of a simple but powerful philosophy: it pays to be nice.  They believed, contrary to current wisdom, that nice people finish first. They wrote about it in their book, ‘The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness’ and continue to campaign on the enormous impact of small gestures.

They cite six powerful principles for engaging employees and stakeholders with niceness. Here are the two which stand out to us.

 

YOU NEVER KNOW

Strangers are important, and niceness shouldn’t be reserved for those you know. ‘You have to treat everyone you meet as if they are the most important person in the world - because they are. If not to you, then to someone; and if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.’

Thaler shares a personal story of a deal she secured - $40million worth of new business. The source? An act of kindness to a junior colleague 25 years before.  Just a simple act, in a single moment, created a significant and lasting memory for this person. Over two decades later with their careers having moved in different directions, they sought Thaler out. Ultimately because they knew no better person to trust their brand too. 


 

YOU WILL KNOW

Kindness has to be authentic, and you will know when you mean it, and when you don’t. What’s more, so will the person you’re dealing with.

Our clever selves already know that engagement isn’t about a single moment.  It’s a collection of moments that dictates your style. That’s why authentic and consistent kindness is a truly powerful thing. Your people know they can depend on you.  

Grow the ability to be nice without expecting something in return, or calculating the leverage you’re gaining. Kindness has to be habitual - authentic and firmly felt.

Nowhere will this pay off more for you, and all those around you, than when the pressure is on.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager says, ‘You can deliver tough messages with kindness.  You don’t have to be mean, short, or disrespectful to challenge people.  You don’t have to be brusque, or rude.  You don’t have to act like the boss.  Nor do you have to sugar-coat hard messages.  Be direct and be kind doing it.  That takes love.’

Deborah Khoshaba, Clinical Psychologist and Director of Training and Development for the Hardiness Institute, is of the same mind. ‘Authentic kindness is a decision to respond to the needs of others, rather than a compulsion to act good.’ 

Delivering outcomes with kindness takes mindful, authentic leaders. Khoshaba believes that those with the capacity to feel compassion and appreciate suffering have a much greater footing for a favourable reputation – which translates to their brand.

Here at #HR, we agree that kindness is a strength, often underestimated and easily undervalued. The effects may not be obvious or immediate. It requires biases to be put aside and a code of behaviour which is less about leverage and more about nourishing relationships.

But we’ll let Branson have the last word. He’s used a few key philosophies in building his eight billion-dollar businesses, but one of them is running a large business the same way as a small one – by being responsive and friendly.

‘If you aren’t making a difference in other people’s lives, you shouldn’t be in business – it’s that simple,’ he says.

The difference to make is a kind one – at every stage of the game.

 

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