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Self Development

Are you Practising Safe Stress?

How stressed are you? How stressed are your employees? Are you using this stress well – or is your business on the brink of disaster?

Richard Hawkey

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A new company has entered your market at the same time as a flood of cheaper, foreign-made, alternatives have hit the shelves. Existing clients are down-scaling their repeat orders, blaming the ubiquitous “financial crisis”, the Greeks and head-office budget cuts. You spent 2011 pulling the cost-cut lever and your margin is now in lonely single figures.

This is a nightmarish situation that many organisations find themselves in. Thank goodness you aren’t one of them, and don’t have to try and meet 2012 targets with 58% of your employees verging on exhaustion and suffering from debilitating sleep disorders, or having to worry about when the 37% who are experiencing unexplained chest pains will be off ill for extended periods, invoke your disability insurance or worse, drop dead. At least 49% of your staff aren’t demotivated and thank goodness you don’t have to try and tackle this bear with 51% of employees so disengaged they are merely ‘living for Fridays ‘. Or do you?

The reality

These figures were taken from surveys conducted between September 2011 and January 2012 across a variety of South African companies. The survey was compiled by several doctors and is aimed at raising awareness of some common physical, cognitive, behavioural and emotional symptoms of excess negative stress. The results have been startling; some more notable ones include:

  • 25% of employees surveyed report significant difficulties in being able to concentrate;
  • almost 27% feel a debilitating loss of meaning in their lives;
  • 21% struggle to control their anger and/or other emotional outbursts such as crying;
  • 26% complain of chronic abdominal upsets, a similar number have noticed a marked increase in the number of colds and coughs they are getting, and
  • 31% hobble through the day with generalised, unexplained aches and pains.

Is this the profile of a team you want to take into battle? Are you really sure you and your team aren’t just suffering in silence?

So why should you bother to read this column or pay any attention to what I have to say? I am nobody famous and don’t hold a medical degree. And therein lie my credentials – I am Mr White collar Average, trying to stay on this crazy urban treadmill without falling off; perhaps a bit like you?

A little over a year ago I did fall off that treadmill; literally burning out and slipping into a severe clinical depression – something I arrogantly and ignorantly didn’t think happened to people like me. I took this very personally, and in my search for answers I discovered that the effects of excess negative stress are so severe and impacting so many people that it is now being widely referred to as the ‘Black Death of the 21st Century’.

Perhaps that is somewhat melodramatic, but what isn’t overstated is the empirical evidence that proves the drop in productivity, creativity and morale, coupled with the increased operational and reputational risk and higher absenteeism, presenteeism  and staff turnover that go along with high levels of negative stress.

Those are hard, bottom-line issues that warrant proper and dutiful executive attention. In many organisations the consequences of stress are given about as much sincere attention as a supermodel’s handwriting.

By giving hard facts and simple, practical advice based on my own experience as well as the input of many medical professionals, I am trying to change this; empowering individuals to build personal resilience which organisations experience as improved productivity, creativity and morale.

Over the course of the next seven columns I will expand on the concept of ‘whole life balance’ as a powerful framework for combating excess negative stress and building personal (and hence organisational) resilience. The columns will build upon one another, providing practical tools, tips and techniques – leaving you with a personalised stress management plan which I urge you to share with your teams.

In the next online column we will assist you identify how stress is manifesting itself within you, as well as provide a practical tool for identifying key stressors in your life. Self-awareness is crucial before we can move on to explaining various strategies for dealing with those stressors and providing comprehensive and holistic advice on how to build your resilience.

I look forward to your comments and insights as we side-step the potholes down Burn-out Boulevard together.

Stress busting tip #1: Breathe deeply and slowly

Most of us pant like a dog when we breathe, inhaling shallowly and making our shoulders rise and fall. Taking deep, slow breaths simply allows more oxygen to enter our bodies, lowers our heart rate and helps us think more clearly. Put a hand on your tummy and concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply, counting to three in your head while your diaphragm/tummy expands. Hold that breath for the count of three.

Repeat five or six times. This can be done during especially harrowing meetings, prior to sales calls, taxi dodging on the M! or in bed at the end of the day.


Richard Hawkey is an anti-stress evangelist, author, speaker and productivity consultant. Having suffered from a stress-related breakdown himself, he has since combined this general management and leadership experience with the profound lessons he learnt from mismanaging stress and subsequently burning out. He is the author of Life Less Lived and the founder of equilibriumsolutions – which has developed the first online stress management tool aimed at both employees an employers. Richard can be contacted at richard@equilibriumsolutions.co.za

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. EstherI

    Mar 8, 2012 at 10:46

    It’s about time we all stopped kidding ourselves! Stress has this nasty habit of creeping up on us all, displaying signs that we explain away…I look forward to learning more about ‘practising safe stress’, building up somewhat of an immunity to the silent killer! Awesome article…I’m breathing deeply as I wait for the next one!

  2. Estelle Estelle

    May 29, 2012 at 21:53

    The “breathing thing” seems so obvious, but I realise it is a habit I need to work on. Thanks.

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Self Development

Why Your Professional Persona Matters

You don’t have to become a different person to succeed in business.

Timothy Sykes

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For superheroes, getting into professional mode is as easy as slapping on some spandex, a mask and a cape. For the everyday entrepreneur, however, the proper work mindset is less about attire and more about adopting a professional persona.

Your professional persona is your personal branding in the workplace. It refers to the way that you conduct yourself publicly in a business setting, and the image you project to coworkers and colleagues. Far from contrived or inauthentic, it’s simply the polished-up way that you present yourself professionally.

How do I develop a professional persona?

It’s actually extremely easy to develop a professional persona. All you have to decide is who you want to be in the workplace, and then take efforts with your attitude, dress, and conduct to become that version of yourself. Action follows intention, and over time, you’ll find that adopting your professional persona feels as natural as putting on your coat before leaving the house.

Now that you understand what a professional persona is, let’s talk about why you should work on cultivating one and what you stand to gain.

Create a self fulfilling prophecy

Success is typically hard-earned and slow in the making. However, if you take the time to develop a professional persona, it can help bring success sooner. If you conduct yourself casually and informally in the workplace, you’re less likely to be taken seriously and might spend far longer in the career trenches.

But if you make a concerted effort to conduct yourself with the professionalism of a manager or CEO, you’ll make yourself a more desirable candidate for advancement. Since you’ve already demonstrated the appropriate attitude for higher level positions, you’re more likely to be thought of when opportunities arise.

Related: 25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

Focus on what’s important

When you establish a professional persona, you put yourself in the right state of mind for work. This can help you attain your career goals.

Say, for instance, that one of your big career goals is to become a leading authority in your field so that you can become the next TED Talk celebrity. With this specific goal in mind, you can tailor your professional persona so that it can help advance you toward this goal. For instance, you might begin speaking at local networking events or starting a topical podcast. Doing things like this will help you establish a professional persona of being an expert in your niche.

Make yourself indispensable

One of the best ways to create job security is to make yourself indispensable in your position. A professional persona can help by letting you establish recognisable and dependable hallmarks in your working style.

For instance, perhaps part of your persona is that you are the person who always meets his or her deadlines on time. In time, this will become part of your professional identity and will be part of how people see you in your office or field. When others know and trust that they can depend on you, you’ll make yourself indispensable. Over time, this can have a powerful and positive effect on your career.

Be taken more seriously

A casual attitude is fine when you’re hanging out with friends. But in a professional setting, it may be holding you back. When you present yourself with a more polished professional persona in work settings, you’ll be taken more seriously. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at work, of course. But it does mean that you should conduct yourself with an air of professionalism and should never engage in bad habits like gossip or use language that might come back to haunt you later.

Remember: You get what you give. When you act respectfully in the workplace, you’re more likely to be treated with the same respect.

You’ll get more followers

More and more, entrepreneurs are using social media to attain a higher professional status or to attract more business.

When you take the time to develop a professional persona, you adopt a personal style, a way of articulating, and potentially even an aesthetic. These things add up to more clear and compelling personal/professional branding. This can help you maintain a consistency on social media platforms that makes your posts recognisable. Over time, this can lead to additional followers, which can mean more opportunities for selling, career advancement, and more.

Develop a thicker skin

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t take things personally in the professional sphere. But anyone who has ever experienced rejection or criticism in their career knows that this is much easier said than done.

Your professional persona can help give you some personal armour. When you have a professional persona, it can be easier to separate your personal life from your work to a greater degree. No, this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any pain when things go wrong, but it will allow you to compartmentalise in a positive way, so that an issue at work doesn’t impact your personal life quite as much.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

6 Steps To Cultivate A Success Mindset

What does a winning mindset mean to you? It’s what has separated the likes of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt and Floyd Mayweather from fellow professional athletes. Adopting a similar approach could help you achieve massive success in 2019 and beyond.

ACCA

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A winning mindset is the trait that allows you to persist even when defeat looks like the most probable outcome. People with a winning mindset are much clearer about the process to attain their goals. They are not afraid of failure as long as they believe that they’re doing the right thing. That’s the difference between winners and losers.

1. Persist and understand that you must put in the work before you see results

The most successful people embody the principle of a winning mindset, because very few people in the world, be it in sports or business, can succeed without having to overcome obstacles. It’s seldom that talent is all one needs to succeed in any endeavour, otherwise most people would be successful.

A good way to understand this principle is to observe professional athletes before and during tournaments. Anybody competing in professional sports, such as the Olympics, has the talent but not all professional athletes are winners. A number of their memorable victories were achieved when they came from behind, when it looked like they were losing.

2. Press the reset button for the new year

The new year is notorious for long lists of resolutions that are not honoured and ultimately remain wishes. That said, the dawn of a new year tends to bring with it positive energy and a commitment to do things differently.

Entrepreneurs need to approach the New Year with a simple goal to do better than the prior year in whatever endeavour they are undertaking. It is important to build on current success or failure, and then commit to go one up. That way, the goal won’t seem unattainable.

Related: Many SMEs Start With Great Plans But Fail To Take The Big Leap

3. Take small incremental steps

The first step is to be clear about the goal and to write it down where you can see it every day. The second thing is to map the process of how you will get there, broken into small steps. From there onwards, focus on the process and not the goal as this allows one to achieve small but important victories. This needs to be backed up by an appropriate support system, associating with like-minded people.

4. Don’t stop upskilling yourself

Success in business is about creating shared value and solving real-world challenges that customers grapple with. Skills are therefore necessary to achieve success, so upskilling oneself is never a bad investment. It’s good to know something about everything, but ultimately one needs to know everything about something.

Some skills will be brought in through hiring staff, others through outsourcing and in some cases through strategic alliances.

5. Remember that no goal is static

One of the most important things to always remember is the goal, and that the goal is dynamic; it will have to be adjusted along the way. Business leaders can therefore celebrate the small victories fully aware that there is more work to be done. Achieving temporary success is easy, especially with all the tenders around, but building a sustainable business and staying on top requires persistence and hard work.

Related: Organisational Design Disruptions Do Not Occur In A Vacuum: Future Business Models

6. Your top tool is in your head

It’s all in the mind, backed by passion and a strong desire to succeed. If anything, business leaders need to train themselves to be uncomfortable with the status quo, not to get too comfortable with the present.


Why Not Consider The Acca Qualification For 2019?

ACCA professionals are more than accountants. They think holistically, consider challenges in the context of business and have strong strategic and leadership skills. Visit www.accaglobal.com for more information.

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Self Development

Taking Care Of Mental Health Is Powerful, Not Weak

Charlamagne Tha God talks success, anxiety and mental health.

Lewis Howes

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It’s time to open up. No matter what you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.

There is nothing shameful about having anxiety. Think about this acronym for FEAR – you either Fear Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The more you confront the things in your past you don’t want to do with, the more you’ll be able to move forward. So, are you going to run from your fear, or face it?

On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about anxiety and PTSD with a man who has become an unofficial mental health advocate: Charlamagne Tha God.

New York Times bestselling author Charlamagne Tha God is best known for being co-host of the nationally syndicated hip-hop iHeartRadio program “The Breakfast Club.” He is also a social media influencer; an executive producer with his own production company, CThaGod World; and co-host of the popular podcast Brilliant Idiots.

Charlamagne says that refining his life’s mission and examining his past helped him take control of his anxiety.

Don’t allow anxiety or depression to cause you to keep suffering. Learn about Charlamagne Tha God’s mental health struggles and what he did to restart his life on Episode 721.

Related: The Business Of Anxiety In Business: Giving Heroes Permission To Feel Vulnerable

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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