Managing Sales Rejection Anxiety

  It is a rare person involved in selling a product or service that doesn’t at some stage feel nervous or worried about the outcome of a pitch or presentation, client meeting, explanation of what we can do for you, or effective delivery of a product to a customer. A certain level of anxiety is normal and desirable, because it is essential for both learning and performance. Too much and we cannot function, but too little and we do not care if we function well or not. With the former we focus on what can go wrong, whereas with the latter we simply assume it will go right and are not engaged in the outcome.  Every now and then I deal with - as a coach and trainer - people in sales and business who exhibit an uncomfortable level of anxiety that negatively impacts their confidence and ability to perform and get results. This often has a corresponding impact on the satisfaction they have in their role, their career choice, and can tend to spiral a bit as they remember what they did wrong (or maybe could have done better) rather than what they did well. After all if we only focus on building our weaknesses we’ll only ever have strong (or improving) weaknesses and weak strengths. This is one of the keys to being successful in sales - find out what you are good at and master it. Are you great on the telephone? Then work on your telephone contact plan and cold call routines. Are you a relationship-builder? Then work in an area that rewards getting to know and genuinely build a relationship with key individuals. Are you great with systems and a linear thinker? Then work in an area that has clear systems and a defined step by step sales process.  Sales anxiety manifests itself in two broad clusters of experience – emotional and behavioural. Emotional reactions to sales rejection are typified by anxiety when the phones goes, often worrying that a client (not a specific client but clients in general) is calling to complain, taking the loss of a client or failure to close a deal as a personal comment on ones self-worth, or a heightened level of self-consciousness about what clients and colleagues think of you professionally. Behavioural reactions to sales rejection are typified by avoidance, procrastination, and relief that common experiences anticipated as being problematic are over. What are some of the ways we can manage and/or minimise these challenges which are very normal for many people? Well, in addition to the items mentioned above - finding out what type of sales you are good at and do that – here are 10 useful tips. 1) Remind yourself that every point of contact, whether it results in a sale or not, is an opportunity to make a positive impression and an opportunity to build your company’s and your individual brand. Maybe it was a professional service, a pleasant smile, the way you engaged, or being willing to reschedule. Maybe it was knowing your limits or why you could not help someone. It all adds up to a positive impression and a greater likelihood of passing that impression on to other potential customers, or coming back to you if things with an existing supplier go wrong.2) Prepare. Know the company - be they an existing client or a prospect - the market and, if possible, the individual customer (as best you can). Research web sites and make sure you’re abreast of the business section in the newspaper for a start. Find out what’s going on in that company or for that company in the market. What are the challenges they face and why are they challenges? Ask questions relevant to needs and how the product is intending to be used so you can provide advice and information. This all helps build a conversation, inquire, and identify what is important.3) Sell a solution, not a product. Products are a dime a dozen, solutions are not. Identify the way in which working with you can be easy, understands identified needs, is consistent with the values the client holds dear, recognises the current problem in the eyes of the customer alongside their desired alternative, and is responsive to situations as they arise. Remember, convenience and emotion sells more product than anything else.4) Develop a means of building personal armour and the principle of depersonalisation. It can be very easy to take things personally (I know I do but that’s one of the reasons why I work hard for my clients – their challenges matter to me) but at the end of the day we need to find a balance between caring and caring too much. Remember, a decision to reject a pitch can mean a number of things, not all of whom are bad or a negative reflection on yourself. Perhaps the timing is wrong, perhaps the pitch was not quite as good as the best one (but also much better than the worst one), perhaps those you’re talking with are not the decision-makers, or perhaps they’re just exploring the market. Whatever the reason there are plenty of reasons why rejection is not about you and about other things. If in doubt about all of this - see point Number 1 above.5) Focus on what you can control. Preparation, research, product knowledge, and follow up. Remember, selling is like holding out your hand for someone to shake it. Whether they take it is up to them but whether they do or not you’ve done what you can do.6) Work hard to never be late. Why add stress trying to find a park or get through traffic unnecessarily. Others may keep you waiting, and this can happen for various reasons but show you respect their time by how you manage yours.7) Schedule your week. When’s the best time to meet with clients, make phone calls, design presentations, create material? Schedule them when they suit you and when you’re at your best. And when you need to do things not at your best how can you best schedule preparation, self-talk, and logistics? That way you’re showing your client your best when you’re in contact with them whether it be by email, telephone or face to face.8) Follow up, always. Even if it’s simply a thank you. People remember that, and that you valued their time. Time is the one thing we cannot replace in our day and we should respect it.9) Test and measure processes and be clear on what adds value. What works and what doesn’t work in terms of getting a sale? Do we really understand our market and what they need or want? If we don’t test and measure then how do we know where to spend our time, energy and resources? If we only measure sales completed then in what way do we understand conversion, enhance relationship building, and retain repeat customers?10) After a tough day or challenging process, debrief. Catch up with a mentor, colleagues, your line manager and debrief. What worked? What didn’t go according to plan? What did you come across that was new? What did you have a chance to practice? What was one way you came away with a positive? And so on. Reflect, don’t ruminate. Put the lessons into the next day, and celebrate the wins along the way.

Building Team Resilience Long-Term

  The impact of stress in the workplace is well known, and in an increasingly complex market and society pressure to varying degrees is experienced across all levels of an organisation, no matter the occupation, purpose, or marketplace. The consequences of high workplace stress include poor morale, reduced performance, unreasonable resistance/insecurity when experiencing major change, increased low-level conflict, and poorer personal health outcomes. Longitudinal research has identified two factors, in particular, that contribute to a higher risk of experiencing workplace stress – complexity of role and responsibilities, and time pressure to achieve and perform. For many jobs these factors are a necessary requirement of a role, but how they are managed is the key. It is the obligation of all employers, and by default all managers as agents of their employer, to take reasonable steps to reduce workplace stress and manage it as effectively as possible. Commensurate with those obligations are the positive benefits of effectively managing expected and unexpected work stress to reduce long-term harm.  This does not mean stress must be removed but that reasonable steps must be made. Managing stress is, at the end of the day, a partnership between the employer and the employee and both have responsibilities. Health and safety legislation highlights, among other things, the personal responsibility of a manager to actively demonstrate their efforts to manage the occupational health of those they are responsible for on premise, to be pro-active, and to take responsibility for team and broader workplace culture. In practice this means that individual managers can be held accountable and raises significant implications for occupational health practice and responsibility. There are a number of simple and effective points to consider when looking at a program that improves managers’ stress reduction capability, and in turn reduce employer liability and promote employee performance, wellbeing and overall team adaptability.1.   Create a supportive cultureWorkplace cultures that deny stress is a problem tend to result in extreme reactions when stress does occur. Similarly a culture that has a habit of being dismissive and demeaning of those feeling vulnerable or struggling can generate an obstacle to effective request and delivery of genuine and valuable support. A supportive culture exists when people feel they can talk about stress openly and without impact on their reputation and credibility, and where asking for help is seen as a sign of wisdom not weakness. A supportive culture is a vehicle for discussion and ideas, identification of opportunity, creative thinking and is a sign of resilience. Stress, after all, is not an either or. We are under stress all the time – that’s part of life. But occasionally it can rise above our ability to manage it the way we should be or need to, and how we manage it and the decisions we make around it are what’s important.2. Appreciate people’s differencesEveryone is different — whether by personality, background, skills, or outlook. One person’s stress is another person’s welcomed challenge. Ensure the right people are selected for the stressors most likely to be encountered on the job, that each individual is aware of their own warning signs and trigger points, and measures are put in place to enable effective reflection, discussion, and self-management.3. Develop recognition and awareness of personal responsibilityWhen under stress people react in both different and similar ways. There are various behavioural signs, physical symptoms, and emotional reactions that may indicate unusually high stress levels. It’s also a matter of people understanding what is within their control and what they take responsibility for, and outside of that possibly need help with. Get to know each person’s personality, temperament, preferential style and key experiences and what their individual signs. Encourage and provide systems and mechanisms that allow people to self-manage effectively while balancing performance responsibilities. In other words, instead of reinforcing the responsibilities we all have to manage ourselves proactively companies need to have policies and practices in place that demonstrates support for this.4. Resolve issues as they ariseTry as much as possible to not let a matter fester, especially when its impact on an individual or a group is apparent. One of the universal truths around managing stress in all its forms is earlier conversations about it. Focus on early identification and early action. Value the time it takes to discuss, analyse and manage issues. If we don’t those issues will often hang around and re-surface later with greater history than we may be able to manage effectively. An earlier awkward conversation is much better than a critical hostile or highly resistant one much later.5. Develop the team by design not by accidentGood workplace relationships are a very important buffer to serious stress occurring. Team building that increases knowledge of interpersonal differences, conflict resolution and problem solving skills, appreciation and recognition of individual talents, and the flow of information across team members can be very effective to counter stress. Good consistent communication, sharing, and development of reduced defensiveness (i.e. it’s not about me it’s about the work we are all involved in and I am part of) that is inclusive and involves all team members as best as possible helps a team set, monitor, discuss, and maintain their own standards and expectations alongside some humour. Building the team skills in these areas develops resilience and, operationally, the ability of a team to adapt and bounce back or evolve over time to new circumstances and expectations.6. Heighten opportunities for personal control over ones workThere is a large body of research showing that control over how a heavy workload is managed is one of the most effective ways to manage stress at work. Strategies may include flexible work hours, working from home, clarifying priorities, use of innovation, and improved devolution of decision making. This doesn’t mean the same as reducing workload, but clarifying what’s negotiable and non-negotiable, and where the areas of most effective personal practice and performance may lie on a day to day and week to week basis.7. Remember everyoneInclude part-timers, volunteers, and remote workers in all initiatives alongside full time employees whenever possible in communications and gatherings. If it’s not possible to include everyone then ensure people are not forgotten and included and listened to in other ways.8. Plan for contingenciesIf the worst case happens what will you do? Get ideas from the team, or at least key members of the team where possible critical incidents may apply that affect outcomes. Options should be available in a workplace stress policy, and include employee assistance, peer support, medical advice, and stress management interventions.9. Constructive feedbackEnsure feedback provided is two way and focuses on being constructive, relevant, specific, helpful and forward thinking (rather than overly dwelling on the past). Feedback is critical to clarify, explain, discuss and expand understanding of intent and impact. Lack of feedback or poor feedback is often cited as a key cause for stress that is avoidable, and impacts understanding of expectations and early resolution of issues when they are relatively minor. The keys for constructive feedback? Timely, relevant to the objectives of the role, non-personalised, enables opportunity for discussion and explanation, honest, specific, and focuses on opportunities for growth and development.10. Respite planningPay attention to rest and recovery. Plan ahead for work load and organisation of work demand and timelines, value time out, celebrate success and what it means to an individual and the team as a whole, and enhance autonomy when possible and necessary for individuals to manage their choices around individualised moments of rest and respite from major critical events and ongoing unusually high demand that can be unexpectedly fatiguing.

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR PRO-ACTIVELY MANAGING THE RISK OF WORKPLACE BULLYING AND HARASSMENT 

Earlier today I had the opportunity to catch up with a colleague I hadn’t seen for some time. Our Skype conversation wasn’t purely one of old friends getting reacquainted with personal news - important although that is - it was as a result of a request for input and advice regarding a client interested in developing means to address workplace bullying. In particular, as a result of some recent events, how the client could manage bullying at work effectively. There is no question that bullying at work is a significant drain on creativity, time, productivity, and effective relationships. Anyone who disagrees, I would respectfully suggest, likely has bullying tendencies themselves, has never experienced bullying personally, or has become desensitised to cultural norms around them that have developed over the course of their tenure. Efforts to remove and manage workplace bullying are performance multipliers rather than compliance requirements. Managing workplace bullying is a vast and complex topic enmeshed within subjective personal experience, organisational cultural norms (e.g. is it OK or not OK to show weakness or difficulty here?), time, the strength of collegial relationships, personality (e.g. why does it bother me and not anyone else?), and national cultural differences (e.g. whether speaking up against someone in authority is appropriate or seen as rude and disrespectful). It is this complexity that is often overlooked and only becomes apparent to observers once significant time has passed, acute coping mechanisms used to tolerate the intolerable have become less effective, and either a formal complaint or significant behavioural reaction to a catalysing incident becomes apparent to those not directly involved in what has been developing over time. Breaking this complexity down is difficult but important particularly if there is a desire by a team to intervene earlier rather than latter in an evolving conflict, a desire by an organisation to be in the best position to limit fall out from a continuing clash, and/or a desire by a senior management team or human resource professional to limit strategic loss of knowledge and skills as a result of an entrenched and apparently unresolvable gulf in perspective between individuals in dispute So, to keep things simple, after two decades working in the workplace conflict field in companies big and small, public and private, and across industry groups here are some of the key lessons I have learned that, if mastered and implemented well, will definitely assist any organisation or team manage bullying and other forms of conflict as effectively as reasonably possible Early conversations. I rarely put tips in order of importance because, let’s face it, it can be very hard to justify the order decided but in this case early conversations are by far the number one piece of advice by a long way. The opportunity to clarify expectations, deal with issues when they are merely embers rather than a raging inferno, being approachable, provide an outlet for frustration and a listening ear, and managing assumptions are critical. Too often I have come across situations that, for want of an earlier conversation would have been resolved or, at the very least, significantly lessened. This, of course, requires the necessary soft communication skills, emotional intelligence, and an environment that rewards and supports managing relationships pro-actively (coaching, mentoring, part of our culture) Define bullying as clearly as possible. There is a lot of grey area when it comes to workplace bullying, understandably so given the subjective nature of interpretation of intent and impact. But there is also a lot of black and white that can clarify regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable and, just as importantly, why in the context of the specific work people do, the manner in which interaction takes place and disagreement is managed, and the desired culture the employer wants to promote. The rationale for what is acceptable and not in the workplace is important as it provides a mandate for change that goes beyond personal opinion and sensitivity. Provide behavioural examples and guidelines that assist education, give confidence, and assist communication decision-making. Just because someone feels uncomfortable or doesn’t like a message, for example, is not on its own evidence of workplace bullying Establish a threshold for action. At what point can it be expected that action will be taken, and why? What are the options available? Where does the responsibility lie for action between employee and employer, and how can barriers for effective action be reduced to resolve significant conflict or allegations of significant harm? It may, hypothetically, be a formal written complaint, it may be when a manager or other duly authorised officer is approached in confidence, it may be as a result of an overt argument showing specific characteristics of threat and/or intimidation, or any other threshold indicator. Make this threshold clear, train for and support subsequent interventions, and resource a process that is timely, confidential, and seen to be independent and fair. An important component is to provide opportunity for an issue to be actively managed whether a formal complaint is received or not. Too often a formal complaint is believed to be a minimum threshold for action when it should be a supplement to more discrete (or sometimes quite overt) monitoring and measures to address an issue that have already been taken Don’t be afraid to talk about it, even as a query or point of discussion. Workplace bullying is not a taboo subject or in the ‘too hard’ box. It’s in the uncomfortable box and not providing a mechanism to disclose, discuss and inquire makes it much harder when beliefs become more entrenched as impact escalates. Bullying is very context dependent, and awareness of that context is an important factor for people to consider. It is a real and tangible outcome of behaviour that passes the ‘reasonable’ test as to what constitutes harm – that it would be expected another group of reasonable individuals, all factors being equal, would also likely find a behaviour unduly and unjustifiably harmful. Most of the time such behaviour will cause offense but not everything we find personally offensive, intimidating, or we are in disagreement with constitutes bullying. There is a difference between being uncomfortable, for whatever reason, and case to be made for harm to have been unreasonably caused Treat bullying as a performance matter, not one of health and safety. This can be a bit of a controversial perspective as bullying can be highly subjective and individually-oriented with regards to interpretation and impact. However, it’s strategically important the conversation is moved from personal sensitivity to normalised behaviour that is not desired whether intended to harm or not. Whilst bullying has very real health and safety implications, its placement under the lens of health and safety tends to place responsibility on the victim(s) rather than the individual or individuals who engaged in the behaviour or action(s) in question in the first place Pay attention to culture. Workplace culture is the unspoken amalgamation of what is OK to do and not OK to do around the workplace. It can include symbols and traditions, typical conversations and the way issues are raised and managed. How do we deal with conflict? How do we manage dissent? Are people afraid to speak up, speak out, or speak about? How do we manage performance? Is the way we do things around here, when no one is holding us to account, the way we desire to? Aspects of culture both enable undesirable behaviour and promote desired behaviour, and the way we manage critical business as usual that pushes us away from our towards people is an insight into the culture we have.  

INFLUENCE STRATEGIES: THE MULTIPLE DOOR THEORY OF INFLUENCE

  When it comes to communication we often tend to think tactically rather than strategically. What I mean by that is the tendency is to think short-term - the next conversation, our next email, the next telephone call. There is no question this type of thinking is both necessary and valuable. It’s a skill set for another blog; in fact many more than one. After all planning the next step is important, as is responding to immediate needs. Every meeting or conversation, however, takes place within a larger context. It is within that wider context of personal brand, expectations and assumptions, values that are shared and different, and agendas known and hidden that such conversations take place. This is where the skill of 'influence' lies. Not in the meeting or conversation itself but within the perspectives people have prior to, or after, contact between people.  When it comes to trying to get people to understand our point of view it is vital to be willing to listen even if only to disagree, generate goodwill, or build a relationship. These are all medium- or long-term endeavours. Rarely are they short term unless the nature of the relationship is very immediate and purely transactional. Increasingly I’ve been asked to give advice as to how to do that - whether it be to develop a team, resolve an ongoing employee dispute, or improve an existing relationship. Whether one-on-one coaching, running a workshop or giving advice at a strategic HR level there needs to be a way to think strategically around how we build influence at work. Several years ago I developed what I came to call the Multiple Door Theory of Influence. It was a way for people to step away from thinking about the next point of engagement with an individual or a team, and see how those points of contact fitted within a bigger picture. As a result we can form a strategy of influence, playing the long game, and identify where and in what way we can gain the most leverage in terms of building the influence we want, over who, and with regards to what. That's a short summary of an involved process.  The Multiple Door Theory of Influence uses the simple metaphor of a house with three doors – a front door, a back door and a side door. Each door represents the three key means by which influence typically develops, whether that be at an individual or group level. Each door creates an opportunity to set precedents, establish boundaries, clarify issues, and convey what is important and unimportant. This gives us three options, or combinations of options, for building influence using a simple model easily applied across a range of circumstances and over whatever time frame suits our objectives. With the model we can plan where we apply our efforts, in what way, with who, when and where. Naturally, as with any plan, flexibility is essential. The long-term nature of the model allows for that flexibility and shift of focus when required.  Put briefly the front door represents conversations, be they one-on-one or with a group. They may be informal or a robust meeting of minds. Whatever their nature they are face to face. Planning revolves around what the content of the meeting(s) needs to be (as opposed to what we want it to be), who is involved and why, the lead up to it and the follow up afterwards. The side door represents influencing people through others. Every team has those within it more influential than others. Those people listen to, look up to, admire; the informal social leaders who mentor, train and show others what is unacceptable and acceptable around here. It is these individuals who in turn influence others and without their support, conscious or otherwise, introduction of change and establishment of what is OK and not OK to do around here is much harder to implement. The final door is the back door – team culture or team brand (impression giving and emotional connection). Team culture, very simply, reflects the norm as to how we do things around here. It may be how conversations take place, how mistakes are treated, how feedback is given, how customers are served, how colleagues are managed, what behaviour is supported, or what behaviour is unacceptable and how that is defined and managed. It defines a team and what is really important because it reflects how we behave towards people and what we think. Two factors more than any other help determine culture within a team. They are observations of a) how conflict is managed (reduced), and b) how poor performance is managed (expectations clarified). Master those two core leadership functions and any leader places themselves in a strong position to determine the culture they have through design and not accident.  There it is, put simply, the Multiple Door Theory of Influence.

CREDIBILITY AND THE POWER OF OUR BRAND

  Recently I’ve had a number of discussions centred around the concept of credibility. In particular assumptions made that cause others to believe we, as an individual or company, don’t have the necessary skills (or product, capacity or support) and who therefore do not listen or take an interest in an offer of product or service as a result. This originated when having lunch with some colleagues the topic of conversation shifted to frustration at organisations (in different countries) unwilling or unable to take on good advice. It also applies to individuals when we assume someone not from our background could understand or assist (or someone not from our country) and is too small/too large/too hot/too cold/too much of one thing or too little of another to see where we’re coming from and be able to make a difference in some of the fundamental challenges we are facing. Size of economy doesn’t matter, what matters is the capacity to innovate in this regard. It is outcome of the ease with which business can be done (regulations), the open access to essential information (communication technology and attitude to learning), tolerance of diversity, historical degree of entrepreneurialism (cultural values and economic systems), and immediate need (urgency).  Sometimes those assumption that work against us having credibility in the eyes of others are based upon suspicion and rumour (including occupational reputation) and/or known facts that give pause to time spent listening, learning and taking on board what we might have to say. Usually, however, those assumptions are based upon false generalisations and can be summated within the phrase, ‘You don’t understand what we do or know enough about what we do.’ This, of course, begs two questions. First, if an organisation or individual does not themselves fully understand their role, challenges, purpose, and process (a more frequent occurrence than business are often willing to admit simply due to size, complexity or lack of reflection/review) then is it not both foolish and somewhat arrogant that they expect others to? That is the point of fresh eyes and a different perspective. Second, if an organisation or individual does clearly understand these factors then for what reason is it believed that an individual or group cannot add value by improving and providing an alternative view on critical aspects of how an organisation operates, what it produces, its relationship with its market and its strategy for the future? Persuasion against these incumbent mindsets is assisted by  number of factors, a key one of which is perceived relevance and credibility.  Credibility hinges upon the reputation we have. Reputation isn’t a product of how we talk about ourselves but of how others talk about us. For others to talk about us they need to watch us or at least listen to those who have some knowledge of who we are, what we stand for, and the work we do. Credibility is gained through relationship management, time, and the lens through which product, service and interpersonal contact occurs. Corporations understand this all too well – the ability of a brand to be larger than the actual strength of its products or services. This is the assumption that by virtue of visual exposure to a brand image, frequency of product sighting in a market, or brand name entering into regular social and professional conversation the brand must, essentially, be a good one and therefore of value (or at least a viable competitor with a sound promise of value). This is how great brands thrive and become self-sustaining. It is also how former great brands survive long after the product or service they had was competitive in quality or price – through brand inertia and customer loyalty.  The same principle applies to individuals and the concept of an individual brand, based as it is on the work done, how one is spoken about, and the impression we make. Individuals with a good reputation based upon a) sighting of work samples (social media has made this a quick, accessible, and affordable reality), b) frequency of delivering solutions with brand champions (current established brands that have name recognition in the marketplace), and c) the frequency of someone being positively talked about in commercial conversations (professional, knowledgeable, created a solution, easy to work with, ethical) will more easily gain credibility with those they do not know and with whom they have had no previous contact.  These, then, are the three factors individuals need to develop in order to build credibility in a new market they have targeted for growth. A plan building on these factors needs to form a key component of any marketing strategy. It is a long term strategy that turns the individual’s brand into a self-sustaining engine over a period of time. This strategy needs to take ‘known facts’ and clarify their accuracy and relevance. This in turn creates a compelling case to listen and learn, to stop and consider – to reflect on what is deemed important and why, and the obstacles and opportunities for progress previously undiscovered or dismissed. Once we shift thinking, or at least introduce the possibility that current thinking has been surpassed or new thinking will generate different results, behavioural change in processes and systems will follow – all as a result of how we have sown the seeds of credibility.‚Äč

MANAGING TEAM STRESS BASICS

  The impact of stress in the workplace is well known, and in an increasingly complex market and society pressure to varying degrees is experienced across all levels of an organisation, no matter the occupation, purpose, or marketplace. The consequences of high workplace stress include poor morale, reduced performance, resistance to change and increased conflict. Longitudinal research has identified two factors, in particular, that contribute to a higher risk of experiencing workplace stress – complexity of role and responsibilities, and time pressure to achieve and perform. It is the obligation of all employers, and by default all managers as agents of their employer, to take reasonable steps to reduce workplace stress and manage it as effectively as possible.  This does not mean stress must be removed (not that it's possible to do that anyway) but that reasonable steps must be made. Managing stress is, at the end of the day, a partnership between the employer and the employee and both have responsibilities. Health and safety legislation highlights, among other things, the personal responsibility of a manager to actively demonstrate their efforts to manage the occupational health of those they are responsible for on premise, to be pro-active, and to take responsibility for team and broader workplace culture. In practice this means that individual managers can be held accountable and raises significant implications for occupational health practice and responsibility. There are a number of simple and effective points to consider when looking at a program that improves managers’ stress reduction capability, and in turn reduce employer liability and promote employee performance, well-being and overall team adaptability.  1. Create a supportive culture Workplace cultures that deny stress is a problem tend to result in extreme reactions when stress does occur. A supportive culture exists when people feel they can talk about stress openly and without impact on their reputation and credibility, and where asking for help is seen as a sign of wisdom not weakness. A supportive culture is a vehicle for discussion and ideas, identification of opportunity, creative thinking and is a sign of resilience.  2. Appreciate people’s differences Everyone is different — whether by personality, background, skills, or outlook. One person’s stress is another person’s welcomed challenge. Ensure the right people are selected for the stressors most likely to be encountered on the job, that each individual is aware of their own warning signs and trigger points, and measures are put in place to enable effective reflection, discussion, and self-management.  3. Develop recognition and awareness of personal responsibility When under stress people react in both different and similar ways. There are various behavioural signs, physical symptoms, and emotional reactions that may indicate unusually high stress levels. It’s also a matter of people understanding what is within their control and what they take responsibility for, and outside of that possibly need help with. Get to know each person’s personality, temperament, preferential style and key experiences and what their individual signs. Encourage and provide systems and mechanisms that allow people to self-manage effectively while balancing performance responsibilities. In other words, instead of reinforcing the responsibilities we all have to manage ourselves proactively companies need to have policies and practices in place that demonstrates support for this.  4. Resolve issues as they arise Try not to let things fester. Focus on early identification and early action. Value the time it takes to discuss, analyse and manage issues. If we don’t those issues will hang around and re-surface later with greater history than we may be able to manage effectively. An earlier awkward conversation is much better than a critical hostile one much later.  5. Build the team Good workplace relationships are a very important buffer to serious stress occurring. Team building that increases knowledge of interpersonal differences, conflict resolution and problem solving skills, appreciation and recognition of individual talents, and the flow of information across team members can be very effective to counter stress. Good consistent communication, sharing, and development of reduced defensiveness (i.e. it’s not about me it’s about the work we are all involved in and I am part of) that is inclusive and involves all team members as best as possible helps a team set, monitor, discuss, and maintain their own standards and expectations alongside some humour.  6. Heighten opportunities for personal control over ones work There is a large body of research showing that control over how a heavy workload is managed is one of the most effective ways to manage stress at work. Strategies may include flexible work hours, working from home, clarifying priorities, use of innovation, and improved devolution of decision making. This doesn’t mean the same as reducing workload, but clarifying what’s negotiable and non-negotiable, and where the areas of most effective personal practice and performance may lie on a day to day and week to week basis.  7. Remember everyone Include part-timers, volunteers, and remote workers in all initiatives alongside full time employees whenever possible in communications and gatherings. If it’s not possible to include everyone then ensure people are not forgotten and included and listened to in other ways.  8. Plan for contingencies If the worst case happens what will you do? Get ideas from the team, or at least key members of the team where possible critical incidents may apply that affect outcomes. Options should be available in a workplace stress policy, and include employee assistance, peer support, medical advice, and stress management interventions. 

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