When business is brisk we appear invincible and our self confidence is high, however when the chips are down, how do your staff describe you as a leader?
In times of stress, most leaders (through no fault of their own) fall into the trap of becoming overly focused on one of two key aspects of their teams – either people, OR profits. This is because our stress reactions encourage us to default to our comfort zone.
People focused leaders devote their efforts to ensuring that above all else relationship are maintained. In the short term this approach often leads to high group cohesion as staff reciprocate the cordial atmosphere shown by their leader. However, over time if this leadership approach is not balanced with an equal focus on profits, an avoidant culture can develop where difficult conversations are deferred (in order to main relationships), and accountabilities are lacking. This ultimately leads to poor product and unsatisfied customers, business failure, and job losses.
Profit focused leaders devote their efforts to ensuring that high returns are maintained. In the short term this approach often leads to high group effort as staff strive to reach the demanding goals set by their leader. However, over time if this is leadership approach is not balanced with an equal focus on people, a cutthroat culture can develop where blame is cast for failures, and silos formed. This ultimately leads to a stressed and fatigued workforce, and reduced product quality (due to poor communication and collaboration), and business failure.
There is of course a rarer breed of leader – a leader able to balance both people, AND profits (even during times of high stress). These leaders create High Performance Teams – teams that achieve extraordinary results that surpass expectations. Through a consistent balanced focus on people AND profits, leaders of High Performance Teams ensure that staff are both:
- Clear on where the business is going, as well as their role in the business’s success, and;
- Feel that they have the support necessary to achieve (and exceed) expected results.
The good news for leaders with a natural people OR profit focus is that although preferences may be static, skills are not. With personal insight and skills training any undue leaning to the people OR profit side of the scale can be consciously corrected for, resulting in the more balanced people AND profit focus demonstrated by leaders of High Performance Teams.
So how do you avoid becoming a people OR profits leader during times of high stress?
- Become familiar with your leadership preferences (people OR profits focus) – If you’re unsure ask a critical friend for their observations.
- Identify your signs of distress – Cognition (e.g., black & white thinking, catastrophizing), Emotions (e.g., moodiness, irritability), Behaviors (e.g., social withdrawal, sleep/eating habit disruptions), and Physical sensations (e.g., racing heart rate, sweating).
- Take corrective actions to maintain balance (particularly during periods of high stress) – make conscious efforts to keep both the financial, AND personal implications of decision making at the forefront.
While you cannot change your leadership style overnight you can over a certain period if you work at it consistently, so good luck !