Overworked? Good Management Practices for Stress


Joel Quass, author of Good Management is Not Firefighting



Book excerpt from Good Management is Not Firefighting:



Stress is the silent killer. Our bodies still respond to the “fight or flight” reflex ingrained in our ancestors millions of years ago. The need for that reflex reaction to situations is not always needed in today’s society, but our bodies have not yet evolved to the point where it can recognize the difference between facing a saber tooth tiger or a room full of potential investors. Managers who cannot set boundaries between their professional and personal lives risk early burn out.



I’m sure every generation says, “In today’s world we face different challenges from our parents’ generation.” But as instant messaging (IM) technology spreads, the line between work and play becomes even more blurred. We have moved past pagers, and now our cell phones are our constant companions, making us accessible to anyone—friend, business associate, boss, bill collector, or phone solicitation for a service or contribution. We are on 24 hours a day. E-mail and apps (applications). are now common on most cell phones. Then there is Digg, My Space, Facebook, Delicious, LinkedIn and Twitter. An internal filter for your sanity is essential.



In a business setting one would think that Type A personalities are more at risk for stress related symptoms, but my experience is that their metabolism is better geared to most fast-paced professions. It’s the Type A wannabes who experience the most stress—trying to exchange their personality for one that they feel will give them an edge. Wannabes would do better if they understood and made the most of their own habits and traits. This would give them a greater chance of success with less physical and emotional damage to themselves and their support groups.



You have seen the senior managers in your business and how relaxed they seem. They generally are friendly and genuinely concerned about what you are saying. They make a point to look you in the eye. They are able to talk with you about the health of your family and then walk into a board meeting where they face decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of employees or discuss deals where billions of dollars hang in the balance. The senior executives display a presence that has helped them achieve their position in the company. Most of them don’t have ulcers, don’t have heart attacks or suffer from anxiety about their company roles. They are able to separate work from their private lives and do the things that are necessary to keep them fresh and able to face new challenges as they develop. I’m not sure how much of this is learned and how much of this trait is inherent, but any insights you can learn from your senior management on how to separate work from your private life would be very helpful to you as a manager.



If you look at your area of business responsibility, and you do not see anyone having fun, then you are looking at trouble. Even during the worst times of the civil war, President Lincoln understood that he had to keep the mood light. Lincoln would tell stories to relax his cabinet and generals. When challenged about Ulysses S. Grant being a drunkard, Lincoln famously said, “Find out what whiskey he drinks and send all my generals a case, if it will get the same results.”



Lincoln’s other generals were not winning battles. In fact, Lincoln watched the Army of the Potomac sit in one place for so long that he sent a note to his general asking if he could use the army since it was obvious the general was not. Now that is getting your point across. But the point is you are responsible for the mood in your area. Your employees look to you for leadership when faced with organizational challenges. When the situation is grim, finding ways to lighten the mood and focus on what can be done reduces the stress level. It is very helpful to the organization’s ability to meet the challenge, whatever it might be.



It is very easy to get drawn into working 24 hours a day. Even for the most organized person, there is always something else that could be done. In the next chapter we will look at organizational tools that will help you prioritize what should be done and what could be done. It is important to differentiate between the two. Most people work so that they can have a life outside of work. But for many people work becomes their life, and the life they wanted outside of work never happens, at least not in the way they had imagined. I’m not telling you not to climb the ladder.



I’m just telling you that there is a cost in doing so and that you need to use every tool available to keep your physical and emotional expenses low. Thinking of it purely in business terms, you need to maximize your return on investment (ROI) by cutting expenses where you can.



Keeping your mind clear of clutter and your body sound can pay off in many ways while climbing. You are better able to separate home from work and make the real decisions when the extra effort is needed, those times where the actual payoff results in promotion or your extra effort results in increased sales or saved expenses. Putting in extra hours just to put in extra hours doesn’t earn you anything and fuels your eventual burn out. Guard against this and maybe eat an apple instead of that honey bun in the employee break room vending machine. Remember what John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”





Fighting Fires? Stressed Out? Unorganized? Having trouble Leading? Learn to successfully manage using what you already know.

For more information on coping with stress, visit my website: www.goodmanagementisnot.com. Be sure to click the “contact us” button to be notified when my new book, Good Management Is Not Firefighting, is released. The book is ideal for new managers, yet packed with timely reminders for experienced professionals.

Joel Quass (BA political science and geography at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA) began his management career at eight when he managed a publication distribution business. At 10, he advised local executives in risk reward situations for compensation while transporting their equipment. At 12, he managed a beverage dispensing operation situated in a local subdivision, and by the time he was 18, he was managing a retail gas station with eight employees.

Now in his early 50s, Joel wants to pass on to others what he has learned over many years in management. He has written a book, Good Management is Not Firefighting, and has developed a line of motivational posters.





Image Copyright 2010 Good Management Is Not.com

Learn more about good management practices with Joel’s book and website. Remember also to keep visiting The Ultimate Stress Blog, eat your veggies, tell some jokes and don’t overwork yourself.

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