Being the boss is never easy. Pressure comes from all sides. Demands are great. You are expected to know it all. There are days when you simply want to throw up your hands and say "Calgon, take me away!". Harvard Business Review shares tips on how to stay calm and how to reduce stress in the midst of it all.
Here are some highlights on stress relief.
Sit. Breath. Be a Better Leader.
Article by Harvard Business Review
Meditation is not just about finding yourself. Scientific studies show the positive affects of meditation on the brain. Last year, an article in Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging by researchers from Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany, found that brain activity changed in a group of 16 participants who had not previously meditated. Among the enhancements: learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, and perspective taking. Meanwhile a study at American University published in 2009 in Cognitive Processing found that college students who meditated experienced enhanced brain activity. Here’s how:
Focus on what matters. What the scientific research is getting at, says Michael Carroll, who teaches meditation as part of becoming a more mindful leader, is that meditation can help leaders pay attention to what really matters. ''There is so much information coming at us, we struggle to remain agile which is the most critical leadership skill. The practice teaches us to slow down instead of trying to be faster, better, or quicker, and rush past our experience instead of trying to have it.''
More control. Meditation enables leaders to stay in the present moment as opposed to worrying about the next dismal economic report or upcoming quarterly earning. Not that those things are not important. ''Often leaders get caught up in what happens next versus what is in front of them right now,'' explains Williams, the executive coach. By dealing with what you can control and letting go of what you cannot, you can make better decisions. It also helps to approach problems in a non-judgmental and non-reactive way. The more in control you are, the more you can focus on what you are going to do. ''Really great leaders are in complete control of their emotions even in the worst situations,'' he adds.
Better stress management. The best part about meditation is that anyone can do it–anywhere–for free. ''This is something that executives can do anytime, while waiting in line at an airport, or waiting at a stop light in the car,'' according to Dr. Martyn Newman, author of Emotional Captalists: The New Leaders, and managing director of leadership consulting firm RocheMartin. You don’t have to go off on a ten-day mountain retreat, or take up yoga or tai chi. Dr. Newman recently taught meditation skills to executives at one of Asia’s largest telecommunications companies and reports that participants said they were better prepared to handle stress and conflict and felt more productive after practicing meditation techniques.
How do you do it? Here are five easy steps to meditate and establish calm.
1. Pause. Turn off cell phones, blackberries, and computers, and give yourself a moment of quiet. The immediate physical impact: blood pressure decreases, and brain activity is less frenzied.
2. Get comfortable. Get into a favorite chair or sit on a cushion. The physical environment should not be a distraction.
3. Focus on your breath. Observe the in-and-out flow of your breath, and stay focused on that sensation. Breathe from your diaphragm not your chest.
4. Clear your mind. Put the to-do list aside. ''Think to yourself, 'I'll catch up with this thought later,' not 'Don't think of this because it will only make your mind wander','' says Williams.
5. Practice every day. A meditation session can be as short as five minutes, sitting on the edge of the bed when you first wake up. There is no formula. Make it work for you.
We Need More Mature Leaders
Harvard Business Review Blog
Maturity is experience-driven perspective and awareness of your emotional patterns and triggers. It is the ability to suppress impulse and master emotional reactions. Many of our leaders today have other excellent leadership skills, but only a remarkable few are able to control their impulses and put others' needs first.
Know your triggers. Leaders are sometimes consumed with so many day-to-day responsibilities that they rarely stop to reflect on how and what they react to. But understanding your own triggers and vulnerabilities is a must — you need to recognize the kinds of events that bring out the worst in you. Think about the times you've flown off the handle or lost control. What set you off? Think about the vices you have and the opportunities that would lead to indiscretion. Be realistic. Then look for the subtle signals people give off in response to your behavior. If you don't like what you see — you are at risk.
Assemble a "personal board of directors" Everyone needs to vent. Find a person or group of people you can trust to share your feelings and experiences with honestly so that you don't snap and get defensive under pressure — and publicly. If you can't find these people in your organization (and many leaders cannot), look elsewhere in your personal network for those who will both listen to your frustrations and give you honest feedback about how you're being perceived when you show your emotions. (Selfish plug here! As a member of the EcSELL Institute, you benefit from a community of like-minded, forward thinking peers that are eager to help each other be better. It is like Young Presidents Organization but specifically for senior sales managers)
Define your personal code. Maturity is expressed through your judgment — what you decide and how you react. One of the best things you can do to enhance your judgment is to define your personal code, or your fundamental beliefs about work and life. Take a moment to write down five things you believe in as a leader. Share your list with the people who report to you. Think about how powerful it would be for your people to understand what you believe in at your core, and what behavior is acceptable under your leadership.
Retrain Your Brain
Harvard Business Review Management Tip of the Day
Every leader faces a share of irritating screw-ups and minor setbacks. In response to those annoyances, some leaders get irritable and stressed out. Others keep on moving. To be in that enviable latter category, you need resilience. Train your brain to bounce back from hassles rather than get snagged by them. Find a quiet place where you won't be interrupted. Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Notice yourself inhale and exhale. Don't try to change your breathing, just be attentive to it. As thoughts, sounds, or other distractions come up, let them go and return your attention to your breath. By doing this 30 minutes a day you will teach your brain to go to a quiet calm place when it is stressed, rather than triggering your fight or flight response.
Remember you never need to go it alone. The EcSELL Institute is your partner, your ally. Become part of our community and you'll never need to be lonely at the top again!