Ironically enough, the person who sits at the top of a company generally tends to have the most uncomfortable seat.
Stress and enormous responsibility are all par for the course at a certain level of authority; however, stress reduction techniques are a reality and certainly work to decrease internal pressure.
Some of the more common techniques include:
- Having a support group who really understand
- Getting a change in scenery
- Participating in a hobby
- Switching off when you’re not at work
- Developing an ‘in the moment’ mentality
Each one of these has significant value and can be life changing. Debra Nelson (president of her own executive coaching company) cites three reasons why the stress of a CEO is so high:
- The pace of their work life
- The reality of downsizing
- Social isolation
Probably the most important aspect of stress reduction is finding what works for you.
Forbes presents some of the ways in which CEO’s manage their stress levels:
- Robert Freedman (CEO of ORC Worldwide) meditates for 2 minutes every morning while drinking his coffee. This creative ritual is a deliberate form of destressing and it works for him
- Ryan Wuerch (CEO of Motricity) runs marathons, and then enjoys chips with salsa
- Luis Derechin (CEO of JackBe) exercises, particularly by enjoying long runs
- Jeff O’Shea (CEO of IntelliTouch Communications) rides his bike every morning and enjoys listening to music. He also claims that laughter is a great stress reducer
- Chris Twyman (CEO of Zapoint) maintains that it’s quality family time that is the best solution for him
- Robin Loudeermilk (CEO of Aaron’s Inc.) swears by the outdoors – whether its fishing, hunting or watching his sons play soccer
- John Benson (CEO of eFinancialCareers.com) states that time management is the key. With his structured schedule he is able to exercise, switch off from the office, go sailing or try something creative and new
- P Miller (CEO of Louis Allen Worldwide) relies on being able to talk to his business partner and maintaining open communication with a positive base
- Gary Bhoiwani (CEO of Allianz Life) focuses on solutions and this minimises his stress levels
Which one of these could you incorporate into your daily routine to help you cope with your daily demands?
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There are a thousand expressions that talk about working hard yielding rewards. Unfortunately, many people in the business world will dispute this philosophy. Hard work is certainly admirable and brings results, but it is not the only ingredient required to ensure business success.
Business fail because of a myriad of reasons. The simplest being that there is no demand or perceived need for your product. Sometimes we come up with a brilliant idea but it is either just before the wave of popularity strikes, or as brilliant as the idea is, there is no perceived value in the market – meaning that people don’t think they need it – even if they really do! Competition, substitutes, and pricing are also factors which impact on the success of a business.
Looking internally, business success depends equally on people and processes. Both the people in the business, and the processes running the business, need to be competent. If the people are not in the right positions, or if the systems and processes are not effective, the business will ultimately collapse.
It is most important to realise that business failure is not a personal failure. It is simply feedback from the market to tell you that something in your business needs to be changed.
This is the only way a business person can grow and mature their business when they do not succeed. In the words of Ron Holland:
“Failure can either be a stepping stone to success, or a stumbling block to defeat.”
Don’t ever let business failure defeat you!
There’s an expression that says: If you want loyalty, get a dog! Many ‘people-people’ would gasp at this, and many ‘task-oriented people’ would nod their heads knowingly. The reality is that one person cannot build and run a business completely on their own. Whether they expand inside the business, or outsource externally, at some point there is a need to develop trust so that certain aspects of the business run without the direct involvement of the business owner.
So who can you trust? Trust is an aspect of relationships which can take years to cultivate, but sometimes a business does not have that kind of time. The bottom line is this:
Trust those who are trustworthy.
Actions speak louder than any form of promise or commitment, so trust those who do not watch the clock; who do not only do their job description; who do not complain about work. Trust those who work proactively for the best interest of the company; trust those who are there when you need resources to help; trust those who display honestly and integrity in their dealings; and most importantly, trust those who your gut tells you to trust.
To trust another in your business is to take a risk, because with trust comes certain liberties and power. But without that trust the business can never grow.
“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.”
“Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions.”
The one thing that most entrepreneurs do not lack is energy. They seem to be born with an insatiable drive to get things done and to work very extended hours. This is both admirable and overwhelming. Those who’ve worked in entrepreneurial businesses will know the normal entrepreneurial culture: nothing that anyone else does is ever enough.
When one human being is planning, doing and achieving at a rate triple that of everyone else, it makes the average worker appear stagnant. Walt Disney said: “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” This is the mantra of many entrepreneurs. And it works.
With regards to the employees who can never keep up and feel that everything they do is never good enough, it is certainly not for the entrepreneur to slow his pace to pacify his workers. Instead there is a need to focus on the admiration and use it as a motivational tool to inspire employees to give their all and raise their personal standards.
If one person can achieve beyond average, so can everyone else.
“I’m here to build something for the long-term. Anything else is a distraction.”
Emotions are what colour our lives. They are the what give experiences meaning and memorability. The one thing that entrepreneurs are renowned for is their passion – and emotion! Entrepreneurs tend to be colourful in both a good and a bad way.
“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
It’s often not a loss of enthusiasm, but rather the display of frustration that differentiates entrepreneurs. Temper tantrums, blowing hot and cold, and extreme displays of emotion are all behaviours that those who work with entrepreneurs will be very familiar with.
The problem is not the display of emotion, but rather the impact that the display has on others.
For employees who are sensitive to the mood of others, this behaviour can be extremely stressful and even detrimental. It is unlikely that the entrepreneur is aware of their impact on others, because often once their display is over, they move on.
While emotional displays are common in many entrepreneurs, the entrepreneur needs to become cognisant of her ups and downs, how she expresses her emotion, and the impact this has on those around her.
Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will give the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.
In order to start a business there needs to be a spark of creativity. An innovator, maverick or unique thinker who has the capacity to see things in a way that others just don’t. This talent is rare and admired. This is the entrepreneur.
One of the greatest issues that entrepreneurs face is their ability to thrive in chaos. So often things are done in a way that serves the client, without any thought or structure going to the way things are done. Business processes and systems are often the last consideration on an entrepreneur’s mind. The emphasis is on opening a market, gaining market share and building a business… everything else comes second, to be dealt with as needed.
It’s not a matter of ability, but rather a complete lack of motivation to implement policies that will become standard operating procedures. Putting in place processes often offers no challenge to the mind that is seeking gaps and opportunities. Often entrepreneurs see processes as something that large corporates must have in order to keep a whole lot of people really busy, but not achieving business growth.
However, processes are what keeps the business on track and the people maintaining and improving their standards on an ongoing basis.
For the entrepreneur, as their business reaches a certain level, suddenly the way things are done in the office become a frustration. The need to standardise and optimise , with office and procedural functions, become a priority.
This is a natural progression from an entrepreneurially run business to a professionally run business.
The fact that it is natural doesn’t make it easier to grow through, but it does mean that the business is no longer a start-up and is now becoming an established organisation.
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Often we are advised to just pick ourselves up when we’ve fallen down. It’s easy to say, simple to understand, but can be almost impossible to do when it’s you who has fallen.!
The greatest approach to overcoming failure to have the mindset that failure isn’t actually such a bad thing. As Thomas Edison said: “I didn’t fail 1000 times – I just found 999 ways that it would not work!”
Each failure is one step closer to the success that you are working towards. It’s a humbling notion that if we take time to consider our failure, why we failed, how we can change, and what feedback that failure is giving to us, our next steps improve us and our performance. Failure is thus a vital step in innovation and growth.
This mindset is true for every aspect of life: Business, relationships, career and self-development. It is through not achieving what we had planned, that our path is enriched and our experience deepened. We are in complete control of how we choose to react or respond in the face of disappointment. We often experience negative emotions because the outcome achieved is incongruent with the result that was anticipated.
Failure is an event, not a person.
How profound to remove the personal from outside occurrences. A human being thus cannot fail – a human being can only grow and develop, and embrace the learning and opportunities which ultimately cement them to stand strong.
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To show you a graph proving how managing your emotions impacts positively on your career and life is probably a waste of time. Not because the data isn’t valid, but rather because it is only in the experiential management of your emotions that you can actually start seeing the impact unfold.
Emotions lie at the core of all human behaviour.
Before we think or act on anything, we have a feeling that charges through our system, to which we react. Most of us believe that we are in control and that the majority of our behaviour is controlled and chosen. This is true when we’re in balance and not caught off guard.
It is the massively charged human emotions – the shock, the frustration, the anger, the humiliation – which spiral our responses out of control. It is then that our internal regulator is hijacked, and we are faced with the consequent cost of an emotional outburst, and its resultant ripple effects.
Understanding your own triggers and emotional pulses empowers you to colour your life and experiences as you please, without having to rethink the collateral damage of an outburst. The emotionally intelligent person is able to experience the sensation of their emotions, without displaying anything inappropriate or incongruous.
“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals and values are in balance.”
The emotionally intelligent person knows themselves and their emotions. It’s not that emotions are bad – it’s just the inappropriate display of them from which we need to recover.
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Every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
One of the greatest misconceptions of modern times is the belief that ‘happy workers are productive workers’. As much as there is evidence to back this up, there is just as much evidence to disprove it.
Our emotions are the dynamics which colour our lives. They give moments meaning, frame our memories, and let us know how we’re doing. The truth is that our emotions drive us in different ways – and it’s not necessarily the good ones that make our work great.
Being emotionally intelligent is knowing ourselves, acknowledging our sensations, and knowing what does and doesn’t work for us. It is sometimes at the depths of desperation that we are catapulted forward to overcome a challenge; or it is the vehement anger that burns deep inside which ignites the passion to just get something done; or the simple sadness that forces us to face our own truths, from which a greatness emerges.
Artists across all disciplines are renowned for using their deepest feelings to spur their most prominent work. So too, is the average working person driven by stress, which gets them out of bed in the morning.
The fundamental question is not ‘are you happy enough to be productive?’ but rather, ‘what emotion initiates your efficiency, so that the best of you can emerge?’
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‘Pay yourself first’ is a well-known business principle. For many entrepreneurs however this is a foreign concept, because the business always comes first, the creditors second, and the business owner last (if at all!).
‘Pay yourself first’ does not refer to today’s salary; rather it considers how you save money, and how you plan long-term, so that your time spent in the working world pays you.
In this way ‘pay yourself first’ means invest and save today so that you are able to live a certain calibre of life tomorrow. Paying yourself first is one of the ideologies of self-care, along with exercising regularly, eating healthily, and finding time for yourself to do the things you love.
The value of paying yourself is not just about finances. The concept of looking out for your future self spills over into every aspect of life. So often in business people put everything else before their self-care. Pay yourself first by allowing yourself that time out to actually enjoying the various aspects of your life.
If you forget to make these critical deposits, when the time comes to reap what you have sown, your body may not have been able to withstand the accumulated years of stress and poor self-care. You may also find yourself alone, as the people who continually got in the way of your work, eventually got out of the way.
Paying yourself first adopts the same philosophy as exercising first thing in the morning – you’re not going to gain any additional health benefits from a 5am wake-up, but you are quite simply less likely to skip the gym session first thing than you are last thing. So, the more you embed the habit, the more you perform the act, the more you entrench self-care and enable you to look after yourself.
Do you need help establishing a routine of self-care? Book a coaching session today (the first session is FREE).