Monday, January 9th, 2017
THE TIMES DEMAND AN ODD CEO SKILL
How to manage anxiety. That’s it. That’s the skill.
We live in an anxious time, personally and in our companies.
In fact, we are like the frog in the boiling water.
We often don’t sense or feel the anxiety, but it is there.
What is involved in the skill of managing anxiety?
—Recognize your own anxiety. Know what helps you manage it. Physical
exercise, stepping away from your workplace to a neutral location,
having a non-organizational confidante, having a work buddy that laughs
with you about how crazy tough things are all help.
—Create ways to let the organization express anxiety. I know this is taboo and
runs against the demand for optimism in leadership, but denying reality is the
biggest contributor to anxiety and causes much larger problems, like lack of trust
and being afraid to tell the truth and diluting engagement.
—Give big picture context to all associates so that the challenges you face make
sense. Give anxious energy a place to go like wanting to clobber your competition.
—After coming up with plans, goals, let people talk about barriers to meeting them and
then make plans for the barriers. Fantasy goals create huge anxiety based on
—Get out and touch your people. This is the time to make contact. It is common for top
leaders to begin to hide in the office or corporate headquarters during times that creat
anxiety (ie. acquisitions). Don’t. Be visible. You don’t have to have answers. You do have to
let people know you are in charge and real and accessible.
—Here’s an odd suggestion and it works. Do active listening. It can feel really awkward.
So what? It works. Reflect back to people what they are saying. Do it literally or in different
words but exact same meaning. Anxiety goes down when people feel heard and when people
feel heard, they tell you more. We, as leaders, often stop listening too soon. Reflective listenig
will put you in touch with the undercurrent of your company
—Remind people and yourself that you are not crazy to experience anxiety. We live in an anxious
world of economic insecurity, of random acts of violence, of concern for our planet’s health,
for an atmosphere of anger and hate and polarity. We, you, are not crazy to be anxious.
It is often the correct response. The skill is how to manage it.
PS–Things don’t get bigger when you name them. Their impact gets smaller.