Leadership In Action – Are You the Most Stressful Part of your Team’s Day?

In an HBR[1]  article, it was reported that 75% of Americans say their “boss is the most stressful part of their workday.” While the levels of stress and anxiety have clearly risen over the past year, the thought that we as leaders are part of the problem should be a wake-up call. While all of these “Leadership in Action” posts are designed to help us become more engaging servant leaders, the following four points are a good foundation for moving forward.

Focus on Being Effective Not Efficient
When leading others, being efficient does not lead to productivity. We can use software and other tools to track tasks and assignments. However, without effective conversation and context, those lists do not engage the individual. As a leader, you want to be focused on the impact you have on your team members. It is vital to spend more time up front on assignments, so there is clarity and acceptance around the expectations of the job.

Connect the Dots by Answering the Question “Why?”
In setting up the context for a new project, connect the dots for you team members. How does this project match up to team goals, contribute to the organization’s success, and impact our customers’ success? When our team members know why they are doing something, not only are they more engaged, but they are also able to be more innovative.

Create Certainty
While there is a lot of uncertainty in our world, as a leader you can create a sense of certainty for your team. When you articulate projects and tasks within a context of a strategy, it helps the team members see how their effort contributes to their own certainty. Creating certainty is articulating a strategy- the cause-and-effect relationship between what we do and what impact that has on our business.

Reinforce What is Working
As our team members are working on the project, we want to guard against the natural focus we have on problems and mistakes. While issues do need to be addressed, a focus on the problems disengages the team. As a leader, you want to focus on what is working, what is helping us achieve the goal. This builds a belief in the team that their effort makes a difference, which provides the grit to overcome the problems and issues that are still holding us back.

Keeping these four foundational leadership practices at the core of what we do every day not only results in greater productivity, they help reduce the stressful impact we have as leaders on our team members’ lives.

[1] Mary Abbajay, “What to do when you have a bad boss,” Harvard Business Review, September 7, 2018, hbr.org