Leader Self Reflection

Leadership Awareness and Leadership Feedback were two of the topics I spoke on this month to a local Community Hospital’s management team. The session was focused on a leaders own willingness to look in the mirror at how they are influencing the team and what impact are they making. Harvard Business School Professor Robert S. Kaplan speaks about Leadership Awareness in this short clip – What To Ask The Person In The Mirror.

How Leaders Can Reduce Stress Levels In 5 Simple Steps

As the new year is already on its way, you and your employees may be feeling the stress of getting into the routine again – hitting deadlines, satisfying customers, setting objectives, handling problems. For many organizations, their leaders and workers, this saying still applies “These are times that try men’s souls.”

As a leader, you are in a unique position to either help minimize or worsen job stress. Here are five ways to assist you in reducing the level of job stress:

1) Minimize surprises. Be aware of how you can give people advance warning about what’s coming that impacts the organization, the department or the job. By giving advance notice, there is time for some mental preparation and readiness. Remember how you felt when someone just sprung hard hitting news on you or made a request you were totally unprepared for. This means you have to be honest about what may happen rather than sugar coat it. Saying “yes, this may impact our department with layoffs, more work without added resources, etc” versus “no, nothing to worry about just now.”

2) Keep a sense of humor.
As the old saying goes “Laughter is the best medicine.” Researchers now say it may be true. Laughter boosts your spirits, stimulates circulation and relaxes tense muscles. The well being effects of laughter can lower blood levels of stress hormone cortisol while elevating levels for “feel good” brain chemicals, endorphins. So find a way to bring laughter to your staff meetings, your conversations with managers and employees; bring fun into the office by allowing for some play before the stress and morale gets desperate. Visit the dollar store for some koosh balls, foam footballs, Gumpy dolls to have around your office or share a cartoon like this
Dilbert comic strip

3) Manage your own mood. According to new research, by Gerben A. vanKleef of the University of Amsterdam, discussed in the Harvard Business Review article, Smile, Don’t Bark, in Tough Times, you get better results by cheering your employees on and fostering cooperation than you do by coming down hard on them. The article further states, “That’s because mental fatigue and time pressure during stressful periods make the team members more apt to simple react to a leader’s mood than to think carefully about his or her message.” I recall several instances where my mood, feeling angry or frustrated, had an unintended but immediate effect on my team. Thankfully, my admin would come into my office and say “What’s wrong? Employee X says your mad. Now the team is wondering what to do next, ” so I could take action to address the wrong impression. It was a reminder to manage my own emotions with clarity.

4) Allow employees to vent. Yes, manage your emotions but let employee’s vent. (You need to find your own place to vent – that’s another article.) During stressful times, employee emotions can range from worry about the future, distrust, self-pity, frustration, resentment, and depression. Allowing employees’ to vent versus condemning their emotions, arguing or discounting their problems, provides a space for them to express themselves, talk it out, get it off their chests. There are times when you need to put on your therapy hat and let the employees say what they need to say to move on and get back to work.

5) Show empathy. Empathy means identification of oneself with another and the resulting capacity to feel or experience sensations, emotions or thoughts similar to those being experienced by the other. I call it “Wearing her high heels.” As others have said, walk in their shoes. As a leader sometimes we forget how much information we have that our employees may not have or training that allows us to deal with many diverse situations. During stressful times, it is important to reflect on the situation from another person’s perspective. Showing empathy can be a critical leadership skill that bodes well for both you and your employees during stressful times.