Strategy and stress often travel together. It is almost inevitable when the organization sets goals and measures progress toward those goals. How do leaders ensure that stress does not hamper the progress of the organization?
A common source of stress results from setting overly optimistic goals. As time progresses and the goal seems less and less likely to be achieved, stress increases. It can start at the top and cascade through the levels of the organization, those responsible for achieving the unrealistic goals feel the heat.
Even worse, when goals are forgotten soon after they are created, the realization that nothing has been done results in a crisis mode and stress ensues.
Our individual perception of what constitutes too much stress differs: what’s stressful for one might be a walk in the park for another. Employers should pay special attention to recruiting the type of people who thrive with the levels of stress that have been established as standard operating procedure (SOP) within the organization.
Stress levels increase when a person doubts him or herself, or hears they aren’t meeting requirements. In his book Good to Great, James Collins talks about the importance of having the right people in the right seats on the bus. If we believe someone is a good hire who is doing the wrong job, then getting them into the right seat is paramount. However, in some cases, there is no right role and that calls for other difficult and stress-inducing decisions.
We know that stress can be good for us, but it’s a question of balance. In her book Danger in the Comfort Zone, Judith M. Bardwick, discusses the consequences of too little stress: people believe they should benefit ‘just because.’ When fear is minimized, there is an increased sense of entitlement, which results in reduced productivity. At the other extreme if too much stress is present: productivity is still low because people fear losing their jobs and are afraid to act. Bardwick argues that when the likelihood of success or failure is about 50/50 productivity is at its highest.
Some stress is good; too much is not. Ensure that you create an environment in which individuals feel safe stretching toward their goals. Dealing with stress in your business isn’t simply a question of minimizing it, but channeling it in a way that provides every individual with the best chance of success.