The Real Deal with Stress in Leadership Training

Stress often gets a bad press and we’re going to look at an example that shows why it really deserves that bad press in this particular set of circumstances. Stress can occur in many different ways and each individual is different in how they create a stress response in their body in terms of what would need to happen to trigger a stress response for them. In this scenario you probably have experienced similar things in your own life.

Imagine a situation where people are gathered together in a meeting setting and it’s going to be announced who’s going to head up a new project. There’s a particular individual who hasn’t ever been given an opportunity to head up a project and he’s really hopeful that this time might be the time.  Then, again, it’s announced that someone else has been given the role. The way that it affects this particular individual is very negatively, they feel unappreciated, not good enough, irrelevant and like they are constantly being overlooked. Their sense of status is really affected and the result is that their body becomes really stressed. As this is happening time & time again their body goes into a chronic stress situation which means they become unable to be in any leadership position.

When you’re in a chronic stress situation a whole bunch of negative things occur as a result of this. You are less motivated, less able to perform well, less able to have clarity of thoughts, less creative and all of these things mean that the person’s contribution to the team is depleted and they’re not working optimally. As you can see the nature of this is cyclical as they don’t come across in meetings well but the reason for that is they’re already in a chronic stress situation.

It may have started out that they were on an even playing field with other people on the team. On first occasion or on second occasion other people will be chosen to be leaders but because of the way that this individual process the information they then became stressed about it, processing it in a negative way and ends up getting them a negative result. If you’re working with the person as a leader or a leader in a coaching role at that time you want to be intercepting things then but if you haven’t, the knock on effect would be the person in a chronic stress situation would not be performing the way that you want them to perform.

Subsequently along the line and this is a worst case scenario, is that the individual may go for work unwell and another symptom of chronic stress is that the immune system is lowered so they’re going to get ill more often, not just stress ill but often physically ill. If they end up getting flu or other things that physically limit them then they become unable to come into work. Obviously the effect of that is not building the relationship with other team members, they may not be in a good position to contribute and when they come back they may feel out of touch, unsure of what’s going on. These cycles just spin deeper and deeper. Each time this kind of cycle goes around, it’s getting harder to pull that person out and to rewire this neurological circuitry that’s being laid down.

So the sooner, as a leader, you can notice these things the better.  In leadership trainings, it’s really key to be trained to become aware of how these things happen, what to look out for, how to draw a person back out and save them before it becomes a very difficult task, a much more time and energy draining task. You can definitely save a person even once they’ve been in the cycle a few times and got deeper & deeper but the aim would be through leadership training to get in there as quickly as possible, to minimize any damage, to help people see things differently, give them an opportunity to see things in a way that empowers them rather than put them in a cycle that gets deeper & deeper.

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