Stress: One of Four Key Leadership Issues of the Decade

Reducing work-related stress could very well top the list of priorities for leaders and managers in the coming year. Work-related stress distracts, rather than adds to mission fulfillment. Too much stress robs organizations of their ability to innovate, think creatively, solve problems efficiently and make decisions effectively.

Numerous surveys and studies confirm that job pressures are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults. This job stress carries a costly price tag for US industry of over $300 billion annually. But these direct costs pale in comparison to the long term health effects that rob valuable team members of their well being, and the ability to stay healthy and live healthy.

In Tom Rath’s recent book, Well Being he writes, “people usually underestimate the influence of their career on their overall wellbeing. But Career Wellbeing is arguably the most essential of the five elements (Career/Social/Financial/Physical/Community). If you don’t have the opportunity to regularly do something you enjoy….the odds of your having high wellbeing in other areas diminish rapidly. People with high Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.”

“Stress is difficult for scientists to define,” says the American Institute of Stress, “because it is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms and differs for each of us.” The most commonly accepted definition of stress, attributed to Richard S. Lazarus is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” Another recognized expert in the field, Hans Selye, M.D. supports this definition this way, “a nonspecific response of the body to a demand.”

Job stress gets very personal for me. I believe that my father who died at the young age of 69, experienced job demands that required skills and talents that were not in alignment with his natural ability. My father chose agricultural sales roles for much of his career. 18 years ago I was able to share his Kolbe A™ result with him at the twilight of his career. My father was a Mediator, with Preventing Quick Start. Prior to his death we had a very candid conversation about how his natural gifts were mismatched in many of his jobs, how this made him feel, and the consequences he suffered. He always felt like he never met the expectations his managers had for his performance. My father was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 47, but died of a massive heart attack.

The key to reducing stress is to change how you respond to it. Here are four steps to help you minimize the negative consequences of work-related stress:

• Identify it (link specific feelings of stress to the actual workplace demands and requirements that are causing it)

• Influence it (change the way you respond to it)

• Prevent it (discuss possible solutions)

• Manage it (provide tips and tricks for dealing with current situations that simply cannot be prevented or eliminated)

The Kolbe A™, Kolbe B™ and Kolbe C Indexes can pinpoint the differences between people who are matched and aligned with their roles and those that aren’t. “Self-awareness of conative strengths paves the way to self-control over when and where to use those strengths,” emphasizes Kathy Kolbe. By comparing the Kolbe A™ (natural talents and strengths) to the Kolbe B™ (demands of your job) to the Kolbe C™ (the work-related requirements as seen by your manager) we can identify areas of frustration (I have these talents but I don’t get to use them everyday in my job) and drain (I don’t have enough of this striving energy to meet the demands and requirements of the role). Both frustration and drain create stress, but the stress is heightened with drain. Imagine every day a plant needing twelve ounces of water to grow and thrive, yet it is only given two ounces. Soon you will see it drying up, withering, and turning brown. It’s not healthy and will die unless the prescriptive formula is corrected so the plant can thrive.

Great leaders give each person just what they need and free them from the rest. Great leaders understand how to reduce, rather than add onto the stress of others. Great leaders know they must take the career wellbeing of others seriously.

Let’s make 2015 the year of Well Being!

STRESS Copyrights© and Registered Trademarks™ are used with permission from Kathy Kolbe