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Your Weekly Leadership HVA (High Value Activity)

CORE Bites 35

Hello Lifelong Learner ...

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions) to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites #35: A couple of weeks ago I had an opportunity to challenge myself on a cardio stress test. For those of you unfamiliar with this type of test, you're hooked up to equipment to monitor your heart and then you're taken through various stages on a treadmill. You start by walking slowly and then the speed is increased and the treadmill is tilted upwards in predetermined (timed) stages until you reach your maximum heart rate.

Thankfully, my test was not prescribed due to a medical condition but, instead, I requested a stress test out of curiosity to gauge the effectiveness of my current cardio training. No abnormalities were found and when the technician said “You have a beautiful EKG” I was elated.

While this may appear to be totally unrelated to anything to do with managing people, I started thinking that if a medical stress test like this can be a powerful tool in identifying abnormalities in the heart and help to determine optimal maximum heart rate, is there a way for us — as leaders — to perform a 'managerial' stress test to identify how we're doing in the handling of the various stressors we encounter on a regular basis?

The HVAs listed below will help you master the pressure and stress in order to make them work for you.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Step: These HVA TIPS will help you capitalize on the benefits of the healthy stressors and manage/control the deleterious impact of any unhealthy stressors that enter your life:

  • Stress Conditioning: Stress is your mind’s (and body's) natural reaction to any increase in pressure or demand that disrupts your 'normal.' In small doses, stress can be beneficial — such as when it helps you elicit the extra endurance necessary to accomplish a task or reach a deadline. This type of healthy stress has also been shown to increase cognitive functioning and unleash creativity. In a manner similar to someone conditioning themselves to run a marathon, stress conditioning requires that we expose ourselves to short stints of stress to build up our endurance. The trick here — again, in a manner similar to someone training for physical endurance — is to ensure we have sufficient rest periods between these stressful situations.
  • Know Your Stress 'Personality': While the aforementioned Stress Conditioning can lead to positive outcomes, this is only true when you're able to discern when you cross the line between beneficial levels of stress and the levels of stress that are unhealthy. Unfortunately, those of us with Type A personalities — competitive, self-critical, perfectionistic, "I can do everything" personalities — are at a distinct disadvantage here because we're often so passionate about what we do, we tend to disregard the fact that all the long hours, demanding workloads, unrealistic (frequently self-imposed) deadlines are making us ripe for burnout. If you are in this category — and many of us are — the next bullet point is for you!
  • Keep an Eye on the 'Check Engine' Light: Much like the glowing orange 'check engine' light on your car's dashboard, your body's stress warning indicators alert you that something isn't quite right and, left unchecked, you could end up with a major 'engine malfunction' (I don't need to expand on what this means in a physical sense!). While this list is nowhere near complete, some of the psychological symptoms include an inability to focus and make decisions, mood swings, short-tempered, aggressive outbursts, a lack of motivation, low confidence, decreased social interaction, and no longer finding pleasure in hobbies that used to be enjoyable. Warning signs can also manifest as physical symptoms including high blood pressure, changes in weight, fatigue, no appetite (or its antithesis, compulsive eating), and headaches, back ache and shoulder pain.
  • Know When to Push the Emergency Stop Button: If you look at the photo at the top of this email, you'll notice a red button. Individuals taking a cardio stress test are advised that if they start to feel chest pains or any other major discomfort, they are to push this button which immediately shuts down the treadmill (in essence, stopping the stress on the heart). Similarly, if you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed in the preceding bullet point, perhaps it's time for you to push the 'emergency stop button' and make a change. Maybe that change will be a small one like taking a walk, going for a workout, doing yoga, or meditating; maybe that change will need a more aggressive approach such as renegotiating priorities and/or deadlines; or, if you feel burnout is imminent, perhaps it's time to seek counseling through your EAP (or similar) provider.
  • [Bonus HVA] Leading During a Stressful Time: If you're the leader of a team that's been dealing with a lot of stress lately, a creative way to give employees a little breather is to arrange a fun group outing to an offsite location away from the glare of fluorescent lights and meeting rooms (and away from any reminders of the stress the team's been under). Or, have the team pick a day for volunteering — corporate volunteering in your community has been shown to reduce stress and promote better mental health. Or, let the team decide what would be a great way to blow off some steam (without breaking any laws!).

Lifelong Learner, stress is inevitable but learning how to adapt is within your control. If you follow the steps listed above, I'm certain you'll also end up with a "Beautiful EKG" on your 'managerial' stress test.

I'd love to hear how this HVA works for you!

Have a brilliant day ... and enjoy the journey!


Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA

RESULTant and Behavioral Engineer

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability

to choose one thought over another."

William James 

Looking for previous issues of CORE Bites HVAs? Go to our Archives Repository.

An online version of this CORE Bites HVA (current issue) can be viewed here.


GDPR Authenticity Information (the legal stuff):

Clearview Performance Systems, Inc.

24573 N 119th Pl, Scottsdale, AZ 85255 USA

Authorized Representative: Neil Dempster

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