Blog Performance Work-Life Balance

Three Key Ways to Decrease Work Stress

Last week we outlined three key areas in which work stress can arise.

Cash insecurities, team performance and an accumulation of random problems can all add towards elevating work stress, eventually impacting your capabilities, your personal life and your physical and mental health. From there, we explored real-life scenarios in which our clients had rectified these work stress triggers, removing their own issues and creating a far more balanced workflow.

It’s all well and good to hear about the negative effects of stress and a few scenarios where people were able to decrease some of the work stress creators in their lives, but what can you do today to begin getting your chronic stress triggers under control?

Three Strategies for Removing Work Stress

Get Clear on Your Money

Understand it takes less time to keep your cash clear than it does to manage the stress and problems that stem from flying financially blind. 

If you don’t have a basic budget, create one immediately. If you have an accountant available for the task, utilise them. If not, ask Google! Ignorance on how to do things is not a valid excuse. 

Clarify the flow of money going in and out of your business each month. Then work on creating a forecast for what your revenues should be over the next 3-12 months, depending on your business type. The longer it takes you to recognise revenue the longer your time horizon should be. 

Lastly, review the information often. Identify the weak links you find in obtaining a strong revenue base and work towards strengthening them. Then sit back and congratulate yourself on moving from a reactive to proactive state in one of the most important areas of your business and alleviating a heap of work stress.

Improve Your Team’s Clarity on How to Help

If you are paying someone to help you grow the profitability of your business, you owe it to yourself and them to be crystal clear on what you expect from them. 

Start with your most valuable and strategic team members. Ask yourself whether what they bring to the business justifies the cost to the company. Then ensure that they have clarity around their specific role and the responsibilities it has. 

Question #1 – what is the position accountable for delivering (and be specific)? Question #2 – how will everyone know the person in the position is delivering on what they are accountable for? These should be KPIs or KPRs. 

Review these points of clarification with the staff member and get their feedback. Once you reach an agreement on what is required of the position, ask yourself whether the person in the role:

      1. Understands the position
      2. Is motivated by the position
      3. Has the required skills to be successful.

If any of the answers are negative, you will need to do more work on either training them, moving them to another seat, or moving them out of your company. Regardless of which path is required, it is far better than not receiving are paying for.

Create a Weekly Management Meeting 

If you don’t set a time each week where you can identify, discuss and resolve key issues facing your company you are guaranteed to have chronic levels of work stress. This is likely to have negative effects on your health and overall quality of life. 

Most business leaders meet with their team once a week. Ensure a key component of each meeting is to discuss issues – usually the last agenda item of the meeting. Then break the discussion into three steps:

Step 1 – Identify the issues or concerns people see within the company. This could be with customers, employees, processes, technology, safety, productions, etc. When people bring up an issue, don’t settle for the initial problem description. Define precisely what the problem is. Rarely does the first description do so.

Step 2 – Once the core problem has been identified, invite the team to add their insights for how they see the problem occurring and ideas for solving it. Most of this should focus on ‘what’ the problem is rather than on ‘how’ to fix it.

Step 3 – Identify a solution that has clear owners for each of the required activities and set defined deadlines. Be sure these tasks are reviewed at the following meeting to ensure the issues remain visible until they are fully resolved.

By implementing one to all three of these strategies we have little doubt you will both reduce your amount of chronic work stress but also see an improvement in your profitability and team morale. Your business should be a tool to improve the quality of your life – not rob you of your health and vitality. Like any powerful tool, if not used correctly it can be highly destructive. Take some quick initial steps toward improving how you manage your company and it won’t take long to begin feeling the health benefits that will come from it. 

Enjoy the process!

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Blog Performance Work-Life Balance

Chronic Stress: Its Affects & the Solutions

Many say ‘Stress is a killer.’ This is only partially true. 

Short-lived jolts of stress – known as Acute Stress – are perfectly normal and are actually beneficial. Chronic Stress, on the other hand, can be a major problem. This is where the body doesn’t have the opportunity to go through the recovery process, remaining in a state of stress for a longer period, causing harm to your body and quality of life in many different ways.

Below is a good reminder by McKinsey & Co on how we are negatively affected by chronic stress. 

[Click to Download]

Where does the challenge of chronic stress appear for many business leaders? 

Obviously, running a team or business is a high-pressure, target-rich environment filled with continual triggers that can lead to symptoms of chronic stress – whether those are physical, behavioural, emotional or cognitive as outlined in the above infographic. 

Here are a few of the most common chronic stress creators for business leaders:

  1. Cash Insecurities

Not knowing if you can pay your employees or vendors is an awful feeling that can create an endless thought loop of stress. Most of us have felt this at some point in our careers, sensing this impending dark cloud constantly lingering in our periphery. Even when you can find a moment of calm, your mind soon remembers the concerns and the cycle of stress begins again. 

  1. Team Performance

There is nothing quite as stress-inducing as the thoughts and feelings around paying employee’s salaries yet still feeling the responsibility for ensuring their work gets done. This is the easiest time to question why you have a company in the first place. You have magically figured out how to work harder, have more pressure, yet make the same or even less money than when you were running the company alone. Why is it so hard to find humble, hungry and smart team members?!

  1. Accumulative Problems 

When you are a business owner or even run a team within a larger business, unplugging from your work is difficult to do. One of the biggest chronic stress creators is the consistent concern about what the next big problem will be. And because you don’t know from where the problem is going to arise there is a constant sense of stress around these unforeseen, often imaginary issues. 

Not feeling in control can have the same effect on your heart as actually enduring the stress-inducing problems. So even when problems aren’t hitting you, they are still impacting your body and its health.

Your body responds to this loss of control in the same way it responds when stressful events happen. It increases:

            • The number of stress hormones in your body
            • The amount of inflammation in your body
            • Your heart rate and/or irregular heartbeats
            • Your blood pressure

Following are some prime examples of how business owners we’ve worked with have improved some of their chronic triggers for stress:

  1. Clear Cashflow Forecast 

On of our clients had had enough with feeling the fear of not knowing what she could and could not afford to pay for in her business. Her solution was to do whatever was necessary to obtain an accurate 3-month cashflow forecast. Although it took a while to implement the necessary processes and disciplines, within a couple months of testing and tweaking she not only found financial clarity, she also identified some quick cost-savings wins that more than remunerated the time and effort. 

  1. Better Accountability Chart

We challenged a client to reassess how their management team was lacking accountability for their results. Fortunately, this leader trusted our guidance, setting aside judgments on what should be required of a manager and acting on our suggestion. Our request was that he spend time clarifying each of his managers’ roles in two key areas. The first: describing specifically what the role was accountable for. It didn’t take long for the leader to see how expectations weren’t clearly defined, either to them or to their managers. The second area: to identify objective ways to measure whether the manager was delivering on their role’s requirements. This necessitated a significant amount of thought by the leader, making it abundantly apparent that there could be a disconnect between the leader’s expectations and the manager’s objectives. The end result was a better-performing management team that had improved clarity on how to fulfil their responsibilities as well as support the company leader, creating s significant reduction in stress throughout the management team.

  1. Clear Process for Responding to Problems

One of the business leaders we work with struggled with the concern of impending problems. She found it consuming her personal life and made it a key deliverable for us to assist her with. After some investigation we found that her company didn’t have a clear and proactive way to identify, discuss and solve problems. This meant that many problems were not identified early on because they weren’t big enough to receive attention. So what could have begun as a small error rapidly escalated into lost revenue and the client firing the company. 

This is like the principle of forest fires. By eliminating a single spark, you can save an entire forest; so by recognising and resolving small issues early on, you eradicate the possibility of major problems arising.

We helped our client and her team allocate a portion of their weekly management meetings to identifying any issues and resolving them before they escalated. These clear resolution strategies were then tracked week-over-week until the issue was fully resolved. This allowed our client to feel she was in control of seeking problems out rather than waiting for the next big issue to land on her desk. More than that, the stress she had been feeling in her time outside of work completely evaporated.

These three examples demonstrate how problems can get the better of us, creating untold levels of stress. But how, with a little planning and thought, they can be easily rectified, not only removing any stress they instigate, but also improving company functionality and productivity.

This outlines the ways in which chronic stress can creep up on us, but also how this can be rectified. Next week, we will take a look at three specific strategies for removing chronic stress from your business life.

Until next week, enjoy the process!

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