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?
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.
The 5 Gut-Check Questions Confronting Entrepreneurs Every Day
The day you forget why you began is the day you’re done.
Entrepreneurs make an astounding number of decisions daily. They are faced with choosing which opportunities to move on and must solve problems big and small.
By setting up a framework of questions to ask yourself daily, you’ll give yourself some markers to help guide you through these difficult situations. Knowing where you stand on these questions will empower you to make good choices that ultimately lead you to your desired outcome. It will give you a deeper understanding of your motivations and your feelings about your business, and can help you clarify future plans.
Here are five powerful questions all entrepreneurs should ask themselves daily to ensure they are consistently moving toward their goals and making the best decisions for themselves and their business. Ask yourself these questions with an honest and open mind, and see where they take you.
1. Why are you doing this?
What makes this one little question so powerful is that it forces you to examine your desires and impulses, and helps you chart how those motivations change over time. It forces you to look at things from a different perspective. Asking yourself this question every day reaffirms your ambitions and the mindset behind why you are doing what you’re doing. If you don’t know why, you’re in trouble!
Asking this question opens the door to a plethora of other questions that will give you food for thought. What is the reason for launching your business? Why are you passionate about doing this? Are you the right person to run this business? These answers may change over time. At first it may seem difficult to truly nail down the “why” behind your motivations. Maybe there are competing interests that are driving you. But when you really think about it and drill down into this question, there’s probably a simple answer. Just be sure you’re being truthful with yourself.
Why you do something also gives rise to the question: what do you hope to achieve? You need to know what your end game looks like, and what success means to you. Is it about attaining a certain level of wealth? Is it about being the top in your market? Is it about earning respect? Are you looking to rule the world (or at least a niche market), or are you simply hoping to earn a living doing something you love?
Start your day by asking yourself this question and see where your answer takes you. By spending a few minutes pondering this, you’ll gain clarity that will help you steer your career in the direction you want it to go.
2. What is your company’s purpose?
See if you can answer this question in a single sentence. A good place to start is with your mission statement: what are the formal aims, goals and values of your company or organisation? This should be clear and concise – it should get to the heart of what your business is about.
Your company’s purpose is the foundation that all else is built on. It should have enough flexibility to grow and allow for change, but be specific enough to be meaningful and relevant. Ultimately, this question should help you understand what the heck you’re really doing here.
This question should be at the forefront of your mind when making important decisions. Ask yourself whether this new venture or idea would reinforce or logically contribute to your company’s overall purpose. Are you staying true to your calling?
That’s not to say that your purpose can’t change over time. However, if it does, the change should be purposeful and executed with care. Thinking about this will help you identify your long-term business goals and may lead to bigger questions, such as: What do you want your company to mean to your customers, what is your company’s place in world and what is its ideal market?
3. Where is your business at right now?
The goal with this question is to take both an analytical and emotional assessment of your business. This is a chance for you to take a hard look at where your company sits. Is it on the right track? What seems amiss? What is going right and how can that be reproduced throughout your business?
It’s also important to acknowledge your emotions and to be mindful of how you are feeling about your business. What is your gut instinct saying? Are you feeling anxious or excited about the business? Whether you are having negative emotions or positive ones, it’s important to recognise what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way.
This will give you a chance to better understand your mental state and how that may be influencing your decision making. It’s also about understanding what kind of vibe you are putting out. Are you feeling clear-minded and balanced? Or are you feeling off-kilter and out of sorts?
Being in tune with your emotions and having a clear view of what’s going on with your business will ensure you’re on an even keel. It will help you avoid overreacting or under-reacting to situations.
4. What lessons are you learning?
Every entrepreneur faces an uphill battle to achieve success. Every day you should be learning and growing, and the best way to do this is through a great deal of reflection on the lessons that present themselves each day.
Ask yourself whether you’re learning from your mistakes. Failure is a part of every entrepreneur’s journey. The question is, will your mistakes allow you to learn and grow? If not, you’re liable to fall into the same pitfalls and missteps. Conversely, are you learning when to jump at an opportunity and when to let it go? This is the ultimate lesson every entrepreneur is trying to learn, and it’s never an easy one.
The next time you’re weighing whether or not to take a risk, try asking yourself: “When I’m 80, will I feel sorry if I hadn’t gone for it?” Jeff Bezos does this as a way to crystallise whether he will regret not taking action on something. In the big picture, it’s often what we fail to do that we see as our biggest mistakes in life.
5. What’s next?
If you ask yourself one question every day, this should be it. As an entrepreneur, you always need to be anticipating what’s next. You need to anticipate what’s coming down the road and formulate a plan to take it on. This is the question that forces you to look up from that pile of work on your desk and think about the big picture and next steps for your business.
What strategies will you need as you keep pushing your business into the future? What trends or shifting interests are coming up that may affect your business? How will new technology impact the way you manage the company?
Disruption will happen in every market because change is inevitable. Businesses that survive see that wave coming and start making adjustments early on. So, in a way, change is predictable because it will always come. Innovation and ingenuity will always be the key to success – and those who seize opportunity will ride the crest of the next wave.
So when you ask yourself “What’s next?” make sure you have your blinders off and are looking at things with a curious and open mind. Make sure you’re staying open to new ideas and embracing creative solutions. Keeping looking for the “wow” factor.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
5 Inspiring Quotes From Madiba To Stir You Into Action On Mandela Day
In honour of Mandela Day, here are 5 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspiring quotes.
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior
If the harshest thing you have to say about someone is partly true, say the other part.
Did you know that in every language, there are more negative words than positive ones? It seems we need lots of words to describe our negative feelings, but we’re content with a handful of positive ones.
For instance, researchers have found that most cultures have words for seven basic emotions: Joy, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, shame and guilt.
That’s one positive emotion, and six negative
It’s no wonder so many of us have a hard time keeping our negative comments in check. Over the past six months I’ve been working on the verbal language that I’ve been using that I don’t even realize hurts others and in some cases makes them feel inferior. I even noticed that I’ve used a couple on my personal and business website. This is a “no-no” that I needed to fix.
This post will list 25 negative words you should avoid…so that you stop hurting, belittling and intimidating those around you!
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