Thursday, May 27, 2010

Managing stressful situation

*Victims of stress
Granted the variation in stress-coping capacity, all leaders are susceptible to stress-related problems, but some more than others. Coping capacity depends on some personality factors, scholars say. Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, both cardiologists, have identified two types of personality, which they called Type-A and Type-B. Type-A people are extremely extrovertible, active, highly emotional, restive, polyphasic, workaholic, hasty, time-conscious, ambitious and success-driven. I call them the go-go, dream-dream, do-do, get-get leaders.

Said D’souza: “Type-A leaders rush to meet deadlines, become irritable and aggressive, their blood pressure rises, their cholesterol level increases, and in other biochemical ways they do damage to themselves”. Type-A leaders are very vulnerable to stress because of their characteristics and conduct. Their lifestyle exposes them to stress and its awful effects.

At the end of the behavioural personality continuum is the Type-B leaders who are on the softer side of leadership practice. They tread the leadership pathway with gentle, easy steps, calculating, calm, cool and collected. They are patient, oblivious of time and deadlines, realistic goal setters, introvertible, more tolerant and accommodating. Unlike Type-A people, they are more relaxed and go for leisure. Both types of leaders, however, are achievers because a leader’s effectiveness doesn’t depend on whether he is of Type-A or Type-B. But the stress coping capacity of each type of personality differs. Type-A are more likely to go down with stress-related illness than Type-B.

All effective leaders will experience stress in a measure. But we may all learn to manage the effects of stress such that we stay on top of it and our health and behaviour remain unaffected. I will state the coping mechanisms as tips.

* Control or avoid work-related stressors
To do this, avoid working without a schedule or plan; and when at work give no room for interruptions to prevent nerve jarring. Have intervention teams who help you investigate conflict, broker peace and write reports for your consideration and approval. Make your island bigger if you’re doing too little; trim your schedule if it’s getting too busy. Pursue change with steady calculated speed. Too many changes in one swoop will unleash stress and burn-out.
When decision-making becomes too tough and cumbersome, float a think-tank to help simplify the process and absorb some of the heat. You only need to look at their reports and decide what should be done. Don’t bottle up emotions and flaming feelings. Express them through interactive communication. Regard failure as a detour on the road to success and resist the urge to quit.

* Cut and share responsibilities
Effective leaders practise dispersed leadership that duplicates and deploys leadership talents such that authority flows upwards, downwards and laterally through the hierarchy. Dispersed leadership results in load-shedding and load-sharing, and thus keeps stress at the barest manageable minimum. Distribute “stress” across the hierarchy. Don’t share only the bucks; share the burden, too.

* Cultivate the appropriate lifestyle
Effective leaders don’t live anyhow. There is a lifestyle appropriate for effective leadership, which can help leaders stay on top of stress. Such a lifestyle is marked by exercise, good diet, good rest or relaxation, meditation, and communication through writing or speaking. These activities help to cope with stress when applied as relief techniques for tension. A walk might help you shed some heat off your system and get the blood flowing again when you feel dazed, dizzy and glued. Good green food and purposeful eating helps you build a strong healthy body with good immune function. Good sleep refreshes your mind such that you have a better shot at coping with further stressful situations.
Research has shown that people can reduce their stress level by expressing themselves in writing. When you have too many tasks competing for attention, put them down with the method statements for accomplishing them. And work on one task at a time.

* Change your thinking
Besides your genetic traits, your stress level is directly proportional to your perception of the stressful situations you face. If you’re always positive about your job, you have a better shot at reducing your stress level and stay unruffled.
Have a low stress month, Amen!

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