Setting Yourself Up for Success: Manage Your Stress Behavior

My business causes me to work with hundreds of people every year. I’m typically at a company for nine to twelve months, usually during periods of high stress. (Management consultants are brought in to make change.)

As a result, I’ve had the chance to observe the stress behaviors of people on every rung of the organizational ladder.

It should come as no surprise to you that the way people react and treat their team mates, subordinates, and customers during moments of extreme stress is how they’re remembered and judged. I’ve seen executives on the fast track be taken out of the running because of the way they talk to their subordinates when they’re under stress.

When you own your own business it’s even more critical to manage your stress behavior. It’s tough to do ‒ there can be a lot of stress associated with being an entrepreneur.

Let me offer you three ways to keep your cool when you’re about to lose it:

    1. The Question: Using your “quiet” voice, pause and ask what can be done to remedy the situation. This seems to defuse the tension and move the focus to finding a solution.
    2. The Confession: Admit to the person or team that you are feeling stressed over the situation and you’re concerned that your stress behavior will kick in. Add to your confession that the reason you’re so stressed is because the outcome is so important.
    3. The One Liner:   This is my favorite. Develop several standard lines you can practice and throw out with just the right timing and tone to diffuse tense situations.

If you do lose it, apologize immediately and take a few minutes to collect yourself. It might not make up for the outburst, but taking accountability for your stress behavior puts you on the path to being able to manage it in the future.

Published by Leah Ward-Lee

Leah Ward-Lee, the author of "$1,000 Start-Ups", is a serial micro-entrepreneur. She opened her first business at ten after lobbying for and receiving a shoe shine kit for Christmas. She pulled her wagon through the neighborhood, going door-to-door, offering to shine her neighbor’s shoes for twenty-five cents a pair. Once her wagon was full, she took the shoes home and polished them. Unfortunately that business was short-lived. She hadn’t tagged the shoes and couldn’t remember whose shoes were whose, so her dad went with her to retrace the route until every pair was returned. Since then she’s had businesses developing and teaching college courses, instructing aerobic classes, owning half a plane that was rented to a flight and maintenance school, and renting homes. She’s also owned a consignment store, a gift shop, a gift basket business, a consulting firm, hosted The Executive Toolbox (a weekly radio show), and a publishing company. She also spent twenty years in the US Army, served as the Chief Information and Technical Officer for two major insurance companies, and has a second career as a management consultant. Leah resides in Dallas, TX and on Amelia Island with Sammy and Goliath, her two rescue dogs.


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