Saturday, October 20, 2012

Small Biz and Big Stress - Three Things Every Leader Needs to Know

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one – Hans Selye

It was reported in the September issue of Inc., that 43 percent of small business owners and managers say they feel more stressed now than they did a year ago. What are they stressed about?

·         54% say they are stressed about losing the company
·         51% are stressed about losing clients
·         41% are stressed about personal health
·         52% stress about repaying personal debt
·         38% stress about being on call 24/7
·         35% are stressed about repaying company debt
·         49% stress about being unable to bring in new business

We live in unprecedented times as it pertains to the economy and stress factors are clearly on the rise as Inc. points out. Even in the best of times leaders have various stress factors to reckon with. How leaders deal with stress matters not just for themselves but for those around them.

But there is a big difference between knowing what people are stressed about and understanding why and what a leader can do about it. Stress points come at us from many directions. Here are three things about stress you should be aware of and why it matters to your leadership style.

Stress that is out of your control. Many of the stress factors you deal with you have no control over. Comforting isn’t it? These stress points can come from a wide variety of sources that impact your life and business in one way or another. How you cope with this type of stress will lead to one of two things: more stress or a better management style.

In his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson writes, “When you look at life and its many challenges as a test, or series of tests, you begin to see each issue you face as an opportunity to grow, a chance to roll with the punches. Whether you’re being bombarded with problems, responsibilities, even surmountable hurdles, when looked at it as a test, you always have a chance to succeed, in the sense of rising above that which is challenging you.”

You may not have chosen the stress you face, but you do choose your response to it. When you face it, not in a destructive way, but with a belief that “this too shall pass”, you can lead by example take control of it.

Stress you cause. Let’s be honest, there are times leaders cause stress. This happens when leaders espouse unrealistic expectations, delivers inconsistent communication, or promotes an unclear vision. In his book, The 360° Leader, John Maxwell writes, “In an organization, security flows downward. When leaders are insecure, they often project that insecurity down on the people below them.” And this is the mistake leaders make by being the source of stress for their team.

Caring leaders conscientiously strive to relieve the stress that finds its way into the organization by being the stress spotter and finding ways to reduce it. Your team is under enough stress as it is without you being the creator of it. Are you a source of stress or a deflector of it?

Stress you capitalize upon. Ultimately, no one is immune from stress. It is a part of life and leadership and there is no escaping it. However, stress can be a positive motivator if you choose the right attitude. Mark Sanborn, author of The Fred Factor says, “Freds know that one of the most exciting things about life is that we awake each day with the ability to reinvent ourselves. No matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day. While we can’t deny the struggles and setbacks, neither should we be restrained by them.” What a great thought.

Tough times call for courageous leaders who will step up and embrace the stress and turn it into something positive. Instead of being discouraged and defeated by it why not recognize it for what it is; a blessing in disguise and an opportunity for growth and development?

To be sure, stress can cause many problems, health and otherwise. Yet it is when we take an honest look at the stress that is out of our control, the stress we cause, and the stress that we capitalize upon that we can begin to get it under control.

© 2012 Doug Dickerson

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