How To Better Manage Stress When You’re Managing a Team

Everyone deals with a certain amount of stress in their personal life, and if you’re reading this, you likely have a double-dose of work-related stress to boot. In the world of small business, workplace stress can come with some very high stakes, especially for those in leadership positions. A 2018 study suggests that the way a leader handles stress could have a serious impact on employees and, ultimately, company culture and productivity.

I’ve held different leadership positions in small business, from project manager to managing partner, and I’ve seen the way stress can contaminate the whole team’s morale. I’ve been on both sides of the equation too: absorbing other people’s stress and passing my own to my team. It’s the worst feeling to know that you are negatively impacting your team and then duplicate that stress and hardship by toughing it out for the sake of your employees, the company and your dream. (Never forget the stressed-out slogan of 2020, “we’re all in this together!”)

I have had to make the tough choice to step away before everything came crashing down around me. I can only imagine what it was like for my team to deal with my intense and unpredictable emotions, but I knew I had to make a drastic change when some of them started looking for a way out. Luckily, I was able to take the time I needed to take care of myself, ask for help from others and make a full recovery from total burnout. I was sad to lose some really good employees, and I will never forget the valuable lessons I learned from this experience. It took a lot of humility, but I communicated my situation clearly and honestly with the remaining team and they understood where my unpredictable responses were coming from.

According to a Fast Company article that reported on the study, when dealing with a “hot-headed manager,” employees are 62% more likely to quit compared to those with managers who communicate when stressed. It also shows that employees are 56% more likely to stop participating, and 47% are more likely to be frustrated. All this can add up to a nosedive in productivity, overall dissatisfaction with their jobs, resentment toward the individual leaders, and ultimately, a high turnover rate.

So what can you do to ensure you are providing a positive experience for your team versus a negative one in times of stress?

1. Learn how to manage your expectations.

Entrepreneurs can expect periods of elevated stress as part of the ebb and flow of business. However, it’s important to recognize that you have the power to manage your own expectations for yourself, your team and your company. Taking a more mindful and realistic approach can have a dramatic impact on mitigating much of your stress.

Setting unrealistic deadlines for ourselves and our teams is one of the easiest stress-building traps to fall into. Breaking big steps down into individual tasks to develop realistic plans and deadlines can ease much of the stress we feel as we strive to grow. Of course setting ambitious goals is part of the fun of entrepreneurship, but we all need some space to walk before we can run! A big part of my own stress was caused because I wanted everything to be perfect, and I wanted to move too fast to achieve the big dreams and goals I had set for the company and myself. Once I slowed down and let go of my perfectionism, my mindset shifted. We started making faster progress towards our goals, and I got more sleep at night.

By giving everyone enough time and space to do their work and do it well, you will lift some of the weight off your shoulders and your whole team can breathe a sigh of relief.

2. Don’t overlook your personal needs.

If nothing else, 2020 taught us that no matter where you are in your career or business path, you need to intentionally check in on your own health and recognize when something needs attention. We don’t always get to leave our worries at home, and our physical, mental and emotional health all have bearing on our performance at work. Putting your health first doesn’t mean taking time away from work; it means taking care of that priority before it has an effect on your work and your team. Based on my own experience, take the time to check in with yourself, establish that your basic needs are being met (no more skipping lunch to work!), and make some time to unwind each evening. Your stress will start to fade over time, if not immediately.

Once you recognize that your health is your greatest asset, and that taking care of yourself ensures you can show up and do your best every day, the pieces start to fall into place and self-care becomes an important part of your routine.

3. Find partners who understand.

Your other greatest asset is the people around you, so it’s critical that the clients and employees you choose to work with understand the importance of supporting each other’s wellbeing and personal boundaries. Taking an inventory of your values will show you exactly what kind of people you can count on to support you—and who will value your support in return.

Moral support is every bit as important as the referrals, insights and other kinds of support you get from your network. Your emotional power partners can be any internal partnerships with individuals who share your vision, or with other entrepreneurs who have similar goals. Be sure to take the time to figure out what your strengths are and what you need in a partner before making a commitment.

Overall, what we need to remember is that our stress isn’t just our own problem: it affects the people around us. It’s our responsibility to take care of ourselves first so that we may better care for our businesses, our team and our families.


This article originally appeared on Forbes.