Leadership Training and the Demonization of Stress

In my experience, a lot of leadership trainings can demonize stress. They can make it out to be this terrible thing that has all these negative impacts on the body and mind, on productivity, efficiency and on effectiveness in getting the results that you want.  Leadership trainings can make it out to be one of the big demons and it can be but there is a whole other side to stress, good stress that is rarely given good press. The physiological responses that result from our stress responses can be negative but they can also have a lot of beneficial impacts on how we work. Leadership trainings often neglect to teach what good stress can do for you and how you can use it to your advantage.

There are several good impacts that stress can have on us. The first thing that they can do is they can drive us and really gives us motivation that pushes us forward. This stress enables us to achieve a lot more than if we didn’t have that stress at all. So imagine working with someone who is quite laid back to the point that their productivity isn’t where it could be. These are the kind of people who by having some good stress could really increase their drive and motivate themselves.

What actually happens is that the adrenalin is released into your body and increases your heart rate and it primes you for action. That good stress enables you to then be raring to go. Imagine that on a Monday morning, you get up in the morning and you’ve got your adrenalin pumping and you’ve got your heart rate going and you jump out of bed raring to go, excited about the week ahead and what you’re going to achieve.  This would be useful whether you’re in a leadership position or life in general. That’s the first thing that good stress can really do for you. It can give you a lot more drive and lot more “umph” to then accomplish the things that you want to accomplish.

The second thing that it can do is to enhance your memory. Leadership trainings often imply the value of having a good memory, but few talk to you about how some good stress can actually enhance your memory. There’s one study that is quite wonderful where they took 2 groups of people and they told one group that they would be examined the next day and the other group didn’t think that they would be examined but both groups were told to learn some materials that night. Now when people knew that they were going to be tested, their ability to retain the information increased and the result was that they were able to retain and deliver the information much better.

It would be irresponsible to say that it was just down to an increase in adrenalin and good stress in getting the result but it’s likely that it played a part and many other experiments that show us that good stress can enhance our memory. If you want to remember something then potentially elevating your good stress could be a good way of doing it. In contrast, bad stress can have a negative effect on that.

The third area important in leadership training where good stress can have an impact is on your people skills. It can actually enable you to be more receptive, more in tune with what else is going on and the ability to feel what other people are feeling can be increased. The result of that is that you’ll be able to communicate and relate to other people.  So good stress in general has had a bad press in the past but good stress can be beneficial for you and to the leadership world.

How can you increase good stress? All good leadership trainings should teach you the why of what you’re learning, the what you are learning and the how you can implement that. One of the best ways to increase good levels of stress is to set goals. This is a very old technique, goal setting, and if you just thought that goal setting would enable you to get to a goal but you didn’t know how, then the way that you used it may not be as effective. That’s why we teach things slightly different to some leadership training companies and really layer in the information so then you’ve got the power and control to reach the outcome that you want to reach. Goal setting can be wonderful because you’ve then got somewhere that you are heading and you can break that down into small steps and you can use another tool which is fantastic (which are rewards along the way) to get your outcome.

The brain responds really well to rewards and to goals that it can then see the milestones of and tick off along the way as it achieves those goals. Linking in to some other wonderful research that got a lot of data from other sources is that it’s important to set new goals and before you finish the goals that you’re working on. If you’ve got a gap where you don’t have a goal in the future for you, you’re not likely to be moving forward at that time. Not as much as you would be if you have a goal in place.  So constantly have goals and achieve those goals and then have new goals that will push & stretch you going forward. They are the key things that are important in this area where we’re looking at good stress. The overall message is don’t be scared of stress.  Just make sure you’re using it to your advantage so that you could be more driven and enhance your people skills and your ability to remember things that you want to remember.

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