De-Stressing Your Team!

Stress and Stress Management Tips!

Imagine for a second that it’s 1 PM Thursday and deadlines loom, reports are due, deals have to close, quotas need to be met and the team that you manage is about to go off the deep end due to the enormous level of stress!

On second thought, it’s likely you actually don’t have to imagine but rather have lived through that scenario and many others not only on Thursday, but on every other day of the typical work week.

In the title insurance world, as in many industries,  the stress we may feel can come from many sources and not only from within.

Getting real estate deals closed all parties to the transaction are facing stresses that can magically move from one participant to another whether it be banker, broker, buyer, seller or attorney.

And while everyone deals with the angst differently, non-stop stress and it’s close associate anxiety can often inject themselves in ways that are extremely counterproductive to the day-to-day operations of a business, regardless of what that business might be. It’s simply unavoidable.

But, as a result of the Big S, productivity can drop, sick days can rise and employee turnover can become a problem.

So what can a manager do to help mitigate (stress can never be alleviated) the stress felt by employees?

From Harvard Business Review, here are some tips…

Focus your team on the things that matter
The first step, says Davey, is to identify the unique contribution your team makes to the organization. Begin by asking, “What does the company expect from my team that no other group can accomplish?” Don’t answer this alone in your office. Involve your team. Once you all agree on your team’s purpose, it becomes the guiding principle for how everyone should spend their time and the litmus test for what work team members should take on and what they should let go.

Edit their workload
Evaluate each project based on whether or not it’s in what Davey calls “the sweet spot” — what you’ve previously identified as your group’s unique purpose, what they’re good at, and what’s important to the larger goals of the organization. “It’s the manager’s responsibility to develop an action plan that allows everyone to be more productive and to insulate their teams from low-priority work that may trickle down from senior management,” she says. When a new assignment comes your way, don’t automatically say yes. “Remember to consider each project with an eye to whether or not it takes advantage of what your team, and only your team, has to offer,” Morgenstern says.

Schedule uninterrupted work
“When you get distracted by something at work,” says Morgenstern, “it takes at least 20 minutes to refocus on the task at hand.” Encourage your team to set aside an hour or more (Morgenstern’s team gives it three hours) each morning for quiet, proactive work. “Be sure everyone understands that there are to be no interruptions unless it’s an emergency,” she recommends. By making it a group goal, you increase your collective focus and prevent backsliding. Also check that your team members know how to break larger projects up into smaller tasks that can be accomplished in the amount of time you’ve set aside for strategic work each day. “Once they use this time effectively,” she says, “their productivity will improve.”

Fix your meetings
“Meetings can be a huge waste of time,” says Davey. To avoid that problem, “every meeting should include standing agenda items to allow for productive discussions and decision making about the team’s core assignments,” she says. Morgenstern suggests that managers establish no more than three objectives, decide who needs to be there, set limits on the duration of meetings, and use the last 15 minutes to clarify how the participants will move forward. Above all, make sure a meeting is really necessary. “Sometimes an email or memo can accomplish the same goal in a much shorter amount of time,” she suggests.

Set limits on e-mail
Technology has created an always-on culture, where work bleeds into evenings and weekends. But that can be counterproductive if your people never feel they have a break. Morgenstern suggests setting boundaries on the work day and limiting after-hours emails to urgent issues. “So many people are addicted to their phones, but over time, most people realize that there’s very little that can’t wait and that it’s far more important to connect to what’s meaningful to us both personally and professionally,” she says. The brain is actually wired for rest, adds Davey. “Without taking time to recharge, we create unsustainable levels of stress and anxiety.”

Lead by example
When setting new norms for your team, you need to walk the talk yourself. “The movement against busy starts at the top,” Davey says, pointing to the way Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn schedules time for what he calls “nothing.” Talk to your team about what you’re doing and why, Morgenstern recommends, and if one of your strategies isn’t working, admit it, try something different, and move on. Show that you’re committed to making a change both individually and as a group. “It takes a while to break these habits,” she says, “but once you all get used to a deeper sense of accomplishment, you’ll never go back.”

For more on this discussion of stress reduction visit HBR here.


Article author Michael Haltman is the President of Hallmark Abstract Service in New York.

HAS is a provider of title insurance in New York State for residential and commercial real estate transactions.

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