It’s all too much stress!

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Thoughts from that Coaching Bloke


At the time I sent out my last newsletter there was a lot of huffing and puffing about Kevin Keegan’s future (or lack of it) at Newcastle United FC. I asked my subscribers some questions about the nature of stress at work and I thought I’d summarise their views here:

1. Are managers in organizations working under too much stress?

This produced a 91% Yes response which is perhaps not suprising. But how do we account for ‘stress-envy’; that modern phenomenon of building our self-worth by claiming to be frantically busy at work; getting the most emails; taking most work home; working the longest hours?

2. What are the causes of such stress?

  • Trying to meet demands from both above and below.
  • Trying to apply ‘their’ solutions to other people’s problems.
  • In terms of Newcastle United: Unrealistic ambitions fuelled by the fact most teams in the Premiership are better.
  • Staff attitude/ability to work and complaints of poor/inadequate communication.
  • Not enough time to think things through and spend good time with their people
  • There is no such thing as stress! it is not a disease nor is it a symptom. People do suffer from apprehension, trepidation, fear and nervousness.
  • Incompetent staff, restrictions, not enough support from fellow collegues, overwork.
  • Long hours/lack of flexibility in working hours Constant interruption Insufficient resource Being expected to achieve specific outcomes in situations over which they have insufficient control.
  • Longer work hours, micro management, aggressive top management behaviours, feeling of failure and the corporate consequences, lack of support, culture of politics.
  • Unrealistic expectations and poor communication. short of staff, money and control.
  • Poor organisational skills, working to objectives which are not SMART. Lack of assertion ie saying “yes” to tasks without considering impact.

3. What more can be done to alleviate stress?

  • Learn that not everything (system) that is broke needs fixing – sometimes it needs ‘thrown out’. Realising that cooperation works much better than coercion – find ways to get people onside.
  • In terms of Newcastle United: sell your best players, realise you’re not good enough and serve a couple of seasons in the Championship; drinking lager in front of 50,000 people and the TV cameras always helps….
  • Time management and clear boundaries and limitations….for you and your staff.
  • Better selection procedures for managers to ensure they have good people skills. More people. Clear job spec.
  • People need to prepare to plan their actions better, then evaluate their actions. Planning is the key issue here. All business must enure that they have rigid processess and proceurdes in place and that all staff adhere to them. Do not challenge any processess as this will only cause anxiety. Excellant communications and compliance with the system. In fact business should do more to weed out weak personal characteristics, as stated in 2, during the recruitment process.
  • Meetings to voice misunderstandings, team work, Basic communication.
  • More use of flexible hours/home working Improved communication, reality check on expectations of Boards/shareholders; set people up to succeed rather than to struggle and/or fail More respect for home/private lives.
  • Progressive and supportive top management who trully listen and do not seek to clone more managers in the current macho style and who walk the talk, a culture of respect and focus on performance in the positive sense.
  • An acceptance that one person can’t do it all and that short term fixes are not effective management in the long run.
  • Coaching managers to be more organised and assertive. Encourage communication to raise and address issues and concerns.
  • Better training.

4. What can business teach football about the art of management?

  • I have no idea – it would depend on the business and the management expertise and experience. And, of course, what the footballers wanted/needed… But I guess the footballers could teach business about the benefit/necessity of teamwork and having everyone on the same side, aiming at the same goal. Maybe that’s it – it could be reciprocal?
  • You are where you are because of the sum of your parts. Any team made of of felons such as Woodgate and Barton are going to get exactly what they deserve. Keegan’s the only one on Tyneside with realistic ambitions and honest expectations.
  • Risk management. Evidence base to manage physical/emotional/mental health of the players. Education – do the players understand their bodies and how to make best use of them – Determination – personal positive energy and collective purpose.
  • Ensure that there is absolute clarity in the hierachal staus and make sure the ‘power’ to make decisions is in the right hands at each level.
  • Football is a religion, business is profit the two do not mix. On the other hand both are about managing expectations.
  • The value of Money.
  • That real life operates in shades of grey The nature of a league table is that someone has to lose!!
  • Have a clear strategy and work on strengths.
  • How the impotant thing is 1 the customer and 2 the product ever thing else must support this.
  • Communication is vital.

About 

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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