Globalisation, managing a business in a VUCA environment, and an increased feeling of isolation have made being a CEO more difficult than ever. In fact, two-thirds of CEOs are currently struggling with stress and exhaustion. But they don’t have to be. CEOs need to work harder to rise above it, identify the cause of their stress, and proactively manage it.
As a leader, stress can impact both your mental and physical health. It can also lead to poor decision-making and inefficient work. If you want to be the best that you can be, you need to control your stress effectively and ensure that it doesn’t control you.
This process begins with a better understanding of stress, how it originates, and how you can mitigate it. There are four major types of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. Each of these has its own nuances, drawbacks, and even benefits.
1. Time stress
The clock is ticking and there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish everything that you need to do. As deadlines loom ahead, you start to wonder whether you’re even capable of fulfilling the duties of your position.
Time stress involves the pervasive feeling that there’s never enough time in the day. This type of stress tends to occur as deadlines approach. CEOs are responsible for a tremendous number of deadlines, and realistically they can’t all be met. A CEO may find that they simply cannot achieve all their goals, and this can lead to feelings of failure.
But time stress is also one of the easiest types of stress to handle as it’s related to something tangible and immutable. Though you can change your habits, there’s nothing you can do about time itself. Because of this, being realistic about your goals is one of the most critical aspects of relieving time stress.
- Brush up on your time management skills. You may not have enough time because time is simply slipping away unnoticed. Pay attention to how you’re spending your time and work to optimise it.
- Delegate your tasks intelligently. You may actually not have enough time in the day, especially if you have been trying to handle everything yourself. If a task can be handed off, it should be.
- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Don’t take on too much. Part of being a leader is ensuring that you aren’t put in the position of over-promising and under-delivering.
The more control you have over your time, the less stress you’ll experience. After all, you’ll already know what you can and can’t do, and you’ll be able to avoid over-booking yourself. Here is an article on how to effectively delegate tasks in order to free up time in your day.
2. Anticipatory stress
The new expansion seems to be going great, but there’s no way of really knowing until the doors open. Are you going to be prepared?
CEOs may begin to experience stress before a major event, especially if the results are uncertain. This is natural; it’s that fight-or-flight instinct kicking in before an upcoming ‘battle’.
Since you don’t know what you should prepare for, all you can do is wait and worry — and that, in itself, can become damaging. Anticipatory stress is one of the most insidious forms of stress because it can be constant. After all, there’s almost always something new around the corner. Anticipatory stress also conveys no true benefit: worrying about a situation that you can’t change doesn’t help.
- Prepare yourself. The better prepared you are for upcoming events, the less you will have to worry about.
- Be confident in your decisions. Though you may not always be able to make the right decision, you should be able to make the best-informed decision. You are, after all, still human.
- Focus on tangible actions. Rather than worrying, look for something that you can investigate or improve. This allows you to take control over the situation in a functional way.
3. Situational stress
All the data is gone, and the backups are nowhere to be found. Could this spell the end for your business?
Even the best-prepared leaders will occasionally face an emergency. The emergency above — data loss — has happened to nearly a third of all organisations at one point or another. This type of stress is generally blended with panic, and that can lead to exceptionally poor decision-making. Emergency situations often require immediate action, and they can have devastating consequences. CEOs will often feel under pressure to quickly make the right decisions to steer their business out of danger.
- Take a breather. Even in an emergency, you need to take the time to think things through; otherwise, you could simply compound your problems.
- Seek out advice. A knowledgeable mentor or experienced business partner may be able to reframe your perspective and give you some useful tips.
- Remove yourself from the situation. If it’s a specific environment that is triggering your stress, remove yourself from it to fully consider your options.
4. Encounter stress
It’s that time again — downsizing. You know that it’s part of running a business, but that doesn’t make the meetings any easier.
CEOs need to deal with people, and not all of those dealings are pleasant. From employee reviews to firings, there can be many social encounters that are less than pleasant.
CEOs may feel stress when approaching negotiations, dealing with angry customers, or having to censure their own employees. Encounter stress can also simply arise from having to be in constant contact with many individuals, as having to be social and ‘on’ all the time can be exhausting. This can lead to a feeling of brain drain and impact a CEO’s ability to work.
- Remember to make time for yourself. It’s important to get some alone time in every day so you don’t always feel as though you’re performing your duties as a CEO.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Learning more about why people feel a certain way and how you can have positive interactions with them can help put you back in control.
- Don’t take it personally. You can’t please all the people all the time; learn to accept the fact that sometimes people will walk away unhappy.
Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to eliminate all the stressors in your life — but you can turn them to your advantage. CEOs need to be extremely mindful when managing their stress levels, as stress can come from all four corners at once. A little bit of stress is motivating, but a lot of stress can lead to poor decisions and negative social interactions. As long as you can identify why you’re feeling stressed, you can work to alleviate that stress.
A supportive network of peers and mentors can help a great deal. For the most part, stress is unnecessary; it only serves to cloud the mind. Through TEC, you can access a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network where you can learn stress management techniques from other leaders. Sign up for TEC today to begin building a path to better decisions.
Leadership isn’t just about IQ or technical skill – in fact, these are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. When 58% of all success in jobs are accounted for by emotional intelligence, it’s a clear sign that emotional intelligence has a vital role in the workplace. It has also been discovered that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make an average of $29,000 more per year than people with lower degrees of emotional intelligence.
What is ’emotional intelligence’?
In the 1990’s, psychologist Daniel Goleman coined five main components of emotional intelligence that affect leadership:
Self-aware leaders have a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. This skill also allows them to be aware of how they’re perceived by others. Having this knowledge, better equips them to respond in a way that delivers the results they need.
Self-regulation allows leaders to control their emotions when making decisions or responding to certain situations. Leaders with self-regulation rarely verbally attack others; make rash decisions or compromise core values.
Motivation is passion that goes beyond the material of money and status. This is about being fundamentally driven by a purpose deeper than something that might not last. Self-motivated leaders consistently work towards their goal with a high standard for the work they produce.
Leaders lead people. Empathy is the ability to successfully manage a team of people by understanding their drivers and emotions. It’s through empathy, that a leader can help develop the people on their team, challenge them and give constructive feedback.
5. Social Skills
Social skills relate to conflict resolution, communication skills as well as forging strong relationships with others. Leaders with strong social skills are good at managing change and set an example to others with their behaviour.
Aside from these five core characteristics, there is also: charisma, confidence, the managing of relationships, and the regulating of one’s own expectations. These all fall under the banner of emotional intelligence. To be truly inspiring and memorable, a leader has to be able to display these characteristics.
How Jeff Bezos (Amazon) displays emotional intelligence
In 2015, Amazon found itself in the cross hairs of The New York Times, following the publishing of a lengthy critique about its rigorous employee standards and harsh working environment. It may have gone even further, if it wasn’t for the swift intervention of CEO Jeff Bezos.
Jeff Bezos was able to use the opportunity to turn the criticism around, by announcing changes within the company and directly addressing the concerns that had been raised. Rather than fighting the claims, he leaned in, and was able to deliver the changes that his employees and the public desired.
How Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) display emotional intelligence
One of the best examples of overall emotional intelligence comes from Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the two initial founders of Google. Now one of the largest organisations in the entire world, Google still reflects the atmosphere of a spunky start-up. Much of this has to do with their emotional intelligence. As a business grows, it’s often normal for the culture to dilute or change radically. It’s only through emotional intelligence – an understanding of the drivers of their employees, of the context of the business – that Google has been able to retain their playful company culture.
Well-known for their corporate code of conduct, “Don’t be evil” Google has developed an entrenched reputation as a well-meaning and forward-thinking corporate entity. The success behind their strategic initiatives also relates back to the emotional intelligence of their executive team and their ability to be ‘ahead of the curve’.
(Since the inception of Alphabet, Google’s motto has been replaced by “Do the right thing.”)
Do you possess emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence may very well be the line in the sand that separates a “boss” from a true leader. Through emotional intelligence, CEOs and entrepreneurs are able to inspire confidence and motivate others to follow in their footsteps. And, just like any other skill, it can be learned.
With over 21,000 members, The Executive Connection has turned the development of emotional intelligence into a science. Contact us to find out more.
By 2016 TEC Speaker of the Year, Ashton Bishop, CEO at Step Change
It’s 5:30 p.m., and you’re just about to leave the office — but are you actually leaving?
Let’s unpack this.
Work is technically over, but has your mind stopped thinking about it? Are you still coming up with solutions to your work problems as you’re commuting home?
This kind of ‘grit’ is what a lot of people equate to ‘resilience’. But is this what resilience is? Is this what we should all strive for?Read More
By Harvey Martin, TEC Chair – I was reflecting on Andrew Dick’s article a few weeks ago regarding stress—how he talked about being self-aware of stress and the impact it was has on you. ‘The only way to get something done right, is to do it myself!’ One of the most common reasons for stress, is the fear that ‘Unless I do the job. It won’t be done correctly.’ […] more
By Andrew Dick, TEC Chair – For every leader, there will be those things they know, that they can do well, and those things that they simply can’t see. It is in this second category that blind spots dwell, and it’s here where serious challenges to a business’s continuity will arise.[…] more
By Andrew Dick, TEC Chair – Just last week, I sat down to a fascinating presentation from Lynn Leahy on the topic of stress among senior business leaders. As I looked around the room at the attendants, it was clear that many were experiencing that same stress and could benefit from building their resilience towards it.[…] more
A bit like Yoga, being involved in a choir is very popular at present. There are choirs out there that you can join for all different types of people and groups, especially community ones.
It’s really important that we start the day on an “emotional high”. If we are emotionally high, we perceive the world to be a better place and work more productively as a result. It’s all targeted towards positive psychology that leads to better outcomes. If we Feel Good, then we Think Good, and then we Do Good. At a business level if we improve morale, and have a positive attitude, then productivity increases.Read More
One of the major wellbeing issues that have emerged recently is sedentary behavior. This has been identified by VicHealth as the number two issue that negatively impacts workplace wellbeing. Stress is still number one. Sedentary behavior is quite simply when we sit for too long. The solution is easy. Move.Read More
Appreciation and gratitude are often lacking in many workplaces. This is really confusing to me because they are free. So why are they missing and what is the problem that we have with this very simple concept? Read More