Handling Difficulties and Stress: Six Tips for Leaders

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You were passed over for the promotion. Your boss criticizes your team’s performance. Your company is struggling. Your new marketing program falls flat.

If you’ve been a leader for long, you’ve likely dealt with one of these scenarios or numerous other difficult situations that most leaders will face at one time or another. These situations can put you under extreme stress. They can make your stomach turn. They can even make you want yell, curse, and throw things!

But then you remember – your team is watching.

So how can a leader handle a disappointing or stressful situation with self control and class? Here are my six tips.

1. Take a deep breath. Breathing calms your nerves. So, the next time you receive a piece of news that makes you want to instantly react, take some breaths and think on it. Resist your heart and your emotions’ desire to instantly react, and instead give your head some time to get in the game. Remember, we lead with our head and our heart! 

2. Be aware that little eyes are watching! My mom used to tell my older brothers and sisters that “little ears are hearing and eyes are watching.” That was me. As the baby of the family, I was learning from my older brothers’ and sisters’ words and actions. I looked up to them; therefore, they were to model what I was supposed to be like. This illustration serves us well in business. As a leader, you must realize that others are watching how you react to difficult situations.

3. Be open…to a point. It’s okay if your team sees you occasionally frustrated or disappointed. After all, if you always act like everything is perfect – even when it’s not – your team may be suspicious of your always-cheerful mood. If it’s appropriate, let your team know that you are confidently dealing with this issue both mentally and emotionally. 

4. Mask it up. It’s appropriate to put on a mask when you are involved in a situation that is yours to bear. For example, if you’re not seeing eye to eye with your boss, a board member is giving you heck, or your company is experiencing financial pressures, these are your burdens to carry. Don’t make your team stress over issues they are not in charge of or have no control over.

5. Convey confidence. Your confidence level is crucial to the confidence and morale of the team. If you are dealing with a disappointment or a difficult situation, it is your responsibility to keep the troops moving in a positive direction. You do this with confidence. You share facts accompanied with actions and a strategy. Followers will run far and fast from a leader who acts burdened and oppressed.

6. Keep a journal. I like to journal my difficult experiences. It helps me think about and work through my emotions so that I don’t become over emotional in the real world. It also helps me keep track of what I’m learning. I kept a journal during the 2001 recession, and when a tough economy returned in 2008, I was able to reflect on my journal and plan proactively based on what I wished I would have done differently in 2001.

 Learn to respect the challenge of a difficult and disappointing situation. Be intentional about learning as you progress through the difficulty and be aware that others will also learn from you as they watch how you handle it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ilquia Gonzalez Anderson June 19, 2011 at 9:50 pm

I knew I could count on you for some words of wisdom, Linda! Although my business does not fit the “corporate” mold, your advice will help me get through some rough patches. I especially like the part about letting your team see your frustration occaisionally. I need to work on the ocaisionally part! Thank you!

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Linda June 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Hang in there. Know that we go through seasons. Learn what it is that God is trying to teach you. When you’ve shown Him you’ve learned it… then off we get to go to a new season. This is what I’ve learned along the way. :)

Take care Ilquia and thanks for your comments.

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