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How High-Impact Leaders Deal with Stress

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

This week, we cover the last element of the EQ-I’s 5 core emotional intelligence competencies: Stress Management.

Who wouldn’t want to reduce the amount of stress in their life?

How high impact leaders deal with stress

We’re constantly faced with decisions. Variables like the “size” of the decision, the number of unknowns, and the timeline all create relative degrees of anxiety and stress.

What’s more, decision-making brings accountability. When we commit to a choice, we are also committing to the consequences of that choice.

In times of stress, we fall back to the level of our training. [Note, if you really want to get science-y about it, check out this article.]

So, in a leadership position (and, quite frankly, life) two things are vital:

The Ability to Recognize Our Stressors

If you can’t name it, you can’t do anything about it. You’ve got to do some inner work to figure out what sends you through those anxiety-ridden patterns that short-circuit your decision-making.

One of the biggest causes of stress – and our new topic next week – is “poor time management”.

Whatever the particular stressor, you’ve got to figure out the root cause or catalyst. Call it your ability to read the terrain. Once you can spot the signs of an impending stressor, you can shift course and just avoid it all together.

Sometimes though you won’t get the benefit of that visibility and opportunity to shift. In that case, you want to...

Make Your Default Setting "Excellent"

When we can’t avoid a stressor or shift course around it, you want that fall-back level to still be as effective as possible.

You train yourself. You figure out how you learn, how you create and adapt habits, and how to organize and manage your time. Less stress is a natural outcome of these activities.

You also create backstops / checkpoints in your systems and within your organizational structure. You develop a network of quality advisors. Trust and confidence in your team and your processes means less overall stress in your life.

Stress management tips for leaders

Stress Management has three EQ subsets.

1) Flexibility

It hits the fan from time to time. Sometimes we can plan for it, and sometimes not.

When you have to shift off course or overcome an obstacle, do you dwell on the issue and the disruption to your original plan, or do you jump quickly into problem solving mode?

2) Stress Tolerance

What are your stress management techniques? What do you do to ground yourself? Workout, yoga, meditate, play a sport, practice a hobby…

My personal prescription is a combination of physical and mental/spiritual practices for stress management.

Whatever your combination, EVERYONE needs some effective stress management tools.

3) Optimism

Even if the plan has to change, you're confident in your ability to still hit the objective.

The ability to maintain a positive outlook, ESPECIALLY when things go a bit sideways, is a trait of high-impact leaders. Generally, this means maintaining your composure and applying logic and reason. If you don't have a solution, you're confident that you can quickly find one.

The combination of flexibility, stress tolerance, and optimism mean better stress management overall. The positive impact is magnified when these skills are paired with work on the other EQ competencies.

The Stress Management element both closes and restarts the EQ circle. When leaders commit to strengthening their overall EQ, it creates the opportunity for a virtuous cycle that allows you to maximize your potential.

Coaching is about helping you figure out how to create that cycle for yourself.

The first time through, things can be a bit bumpy. But small wins won consistently aggregate into big wins.

About the Author:

Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, and yoga. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for helping others identify and unlock their potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.

Ascent Consultants provides business and project management consulting, as well as executive and leadership coaching. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we lead companies and individuals to extraordinary outcomes.

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