Wednesday 18 May 2016

Keeping calm when all around you are losing their heads: a manager’s guide

There’s a common perception that we’re all working longer and harder than ever before. A close eye on overheads and an increasingly competitive marketplace means less people are often doing more than they’re used to and this can only lead to one thing: a stressed-out, unfulfilled team.

As managers we have a role to play in ensuring the continued productivity and resilience of our team. Learning some simple stress-busting techniques to keep your team productive during busy, stressful times is time and effort well spent – for yourself and your organisation.

For some, relaxation techniques are seen as a luxury that many managers can’t afford, however this viewpoint is slowly changing with recent studies indicating that managers trained in mindfulness have been shown to make more rational decisions, which rubs off on their team. The skill of being able to detach from your feelings during periods of stress, means business decisions are more focussed and considered, based on evidence rather than emotions – and that can only be good for business.

It follows that those managers who plan a small amount of time into their diary each day to refocus and retain a calm centre, will provide more measured management to their teams which will, in turn, drive better performance and deliver improved results for their organisation.

There are a number of signs evident in the workplace that managers can look out for, as an early indication that they may be bearing more than their fair burden of stress:

  • Forgetting someone’s name as soon as you hear it
  • Listening to colleagues while doing something else at the same time
  • Eating without being aware of eating
  • Reacting emotionally to work scenarios
  • Daydreaming when going about your daily tasks
We’ve compiled three simple exercises that managers can build into their working day to help keep calm at work, enabling them to better support and develop their teams.

With five minutes to spare: Become aware of your breathing

The purpose of this step is to really think about the act of breathing – you don’t have to breathe in a certain way, for a certain length of time, just think about what you are doing. Find a quiet space – a closed office or small meeting room is ideal – sit down and really focus on what you are doing. Concentrate on those parts of your body you use when you are taking a breath in; savour the moment before exhaling and relish in the calm that flows across your body as you breathe out. The objective is not to let the mind wander or enter a trance-like state – it is about taking notice of our body and what it does to stay alive. If other thoughts start to enter your head, acknowledge them, then click your fingers as a cue to bring your focus back to the physical act of breathing.

Ten minutes – concentrate on your colleagues

This is an exercise in observation. By taking in the actions and behaviours of those around us, we gain a deeper appreciation of them as individuals, which leads to improved working relationships. This helps managers make more grounded choices when communicating with others during times of stress. People watching is a popular pastime, usually undertaken for pleasure, but its value as a mindfulness exercise when done in relation to the workplace in underrated. The objective here is not to spy or pry, it is about observing what makes your most important asset – that is, your team, tick and using that knowledge to inform your future managerial decision making. Ask yourself questions as you observe: Why are they here? Are they happy? Nervous? Irritable? Why? What does the way they hold themselves say about them? Does the way they interact with colleagues match up with their body language? To spend just ten minutes observing those around you and learning from what you see, will result in much calmer team dynamics.

Fifteen minutes – take in the task

Multi-tasking is a skill in itself, but do you ever wonder about the quality of your outputs? There is nothing more productive and rewarding than being fully present and totally focused on one piece of work at a time. Mobile phones, emails, social media, and intranets are all competing for attention while we complete work tasks to the best of our ability. This exercise takes about fifteen minutes. Pick a task, any task that sits on your to-do list. Remove yourself away from all distractions, switch off all competing technology and just concern yourself with the task in hand. If you start to daydream, click your fingers as a cue to bring your focus back to the task you’re doing. When your fifteen minutes is done, review your work. The knowledge that the task has had your undivided attention brings with it a sense of pride, which in turn reduces anxiety and stress. You’ll find that after one task well done, you’ll be able to review your own workload – and that of your team – with a renewed clarity and focus.