Why are workplaces so often really stressful for people?  And what can we as leaders do to minimise that stress?

To fully understand that, we need at least a basic apreciation of how stress is generated.

There is only one source of stress

What generates stress for us is simply the difference between how things are and how we want them to be.  Nothing else.

Given that, there are any number of different ways that things are different, and our stress levels are determined by three factors:

  1. How many things are different
  2. How important are those things, and
  3. How big is the gap

So how can we play our part in reducing stress for our teams?

Being Authentic

In my experience, one of the biggest stressors is people feeling they have to behave differently when they get to work.  There is an expectation - often self-generated - that we should 'leave ourselves at the door.'

Trying to second-guess how others want us to behave, and generally trying to intuit what is expected of us can be immensely stressful.

As leaders we can take away a huge amount of this by being authentic oursleves, and giving them permitssion to be themselves too by demonstrating that we value them for who they are.  

But this can be incredibly difficult for us when we're operating in a high pressure results-focussed environment.

Getting Results - A Counter-Inuitive Skill

How much pressure is there evident in the best high performing teams you've worked with or seen?  Probably not much, just a quiet determination to see the job through.  There's an effortlessness about them that can be truly awesome.

In a football match, the winning team often makes it look easy while the losers are working like crazy under immense pressure and their performance simply gets worse.

I have a simple way of looking at this - as I do with most things.

Force v. Flow

Putting pressure on people to perform is all about Force.  It's a bit like shouting at a child, "Relax, dammit!"  It creates tension, and when people are tense they can't perform to their best.

Creating the right environment of positive energy and self-belief, however, produces a very different energy.  People start to achieve incredible things as they get into their Flow.

Flow is where we are comlpletely at one with what we're doing.  There's a total absence of stress.  Stress is about the future and what could go wrong, but when you're in the moment there is no future, only now.

So ask yourself:

"How can I be more authentic and encourage others to be themselves?"

"And what can I do to take the pressure off and create more Flow?"

 ...then take positive action to develop these skills and de-stress your team.