Monday, November 22, 2010

Stress And Performance

In most work situation/ jobs, our stress response causes our performance to suffer. A calm, rational, controlled and sensitive approach is usually called for in dealing with most difficult problems at work: Our social inter-relationships are just too complex not to be damaged by an aggressive approach, while a passive and withdrawn response to stress means that we can fail to assert our rights when we should.

In workplaces where people are constantly afraid and insecure, employees are at risk of "numbing out" to protect themselves. We see it in the blank faces of clerks, the lack of enthusiasm by front line workers, and in the remarkably insensitive ways managers and employees treat each other. The very mechanism which allows a person to survive an emotionally painful environment also makes it difficult for them to respond sensitively and empathetically to others. The organizational conflict and customer service consequences of this are obviously very costly.

This numbing process affects far more than the interpersonal realm of organizational performance. It affects all aspects of decision-making, innovation, and safety. With the thinking impaired, people are at greater risk of causing serious mistakes and accidents. They are also obviously less likely to make wise decisions and create process improvements.

To create a high performance organization, an organization which brings out the best in its people, we need to understand how stress affects people's intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal functioning.

I recently saw a poster, in which a man was standing on a surfboard in a complex yoga posture, balanced on one leg, – on the crest of a large ocean wave. Underneath, the inscription read: “You can't stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” Stress emerges from believing you can control or stop the waves. Performance is about learning how to ride them.

Those in our profession who have learned how to transform stress into enhanced performance understand the foundational principle: what's important is not what's happening but how we're relating to it. We are frequently unable to control the way our cases develop or their outcomes. But we always have the ability to choose how we respond to these developments, rather than merely reacting automatically and unconsciously. If we can make conscious and skillful judgments and choices, rather than mechanically responding from habit and emotion, the results will naturally take care of themselves.

With the following equation we can understand the relationship and difference between pressure and stress (Pressure= Stress/ Resilience). Although pressure is healthy and important for completing any project, deadlines and performance commitments etc... Whereas stress is a state of mind, an experience while completing the task, which is very much within the control of an individual. And if we have unnecessary and waste thoughts while doing a job, the concentration level, decision power, performance and the focus to complete the job with details goes down drastically. Resilience is the amount of pressure an individual can handle, based on their belief system and thought process.

Through trial and error modern man has found a unique stress buster—knocking at the door of soul. When all outward sources of solace dry up it is but natural to look within, and to know, to understand the nature of the `self` and its requirements. This kind of mental orientation helps realize one`s inner potential and achieve personal growth. Spirituality, or knowing one`s `self`; and one`s relationship with God; is rapidly catching the imaginations of modern men.

In addition, leaders must learn to deal with stress, scare, worry and anxiety that disturb and destroy the 'calmness' and 'peace' of mind. It has been argued that if leaders are free from stress, they will be in their centered state and higher state of mind, as a result of which they can precisely see things as what they are, and can make the accurate and right decisions.

Stress and pressure, the way it is created today at work is through fear, and we expect that this fear shall help in motivation. Fear is a negative input, and can only result in negative output. Fear drains out energy it is not at all a motivator. Concentration suffers, and focus narrows as our brain becomes overloaded.

To remove stress from our daily lives, we have to work on the quality of thoughts. And understand that pressure shall always be there. Temporarily we all have experienced that mind is diverted when we are on a holiday, in a party, watching TV or a Movie, Shopping etc. What happens here is mind gets stimulation for a while and we feel relaxed. But stimulation is not relaxation.

For a more reliable system we have to work on our thoughts, turn them into positive, through a continuous and conscious practice of positive thinking, we are not only relaxing, but restructuring and reforming our whole personality from within. Like the mythological phoenix, we are burning the old samskaras, (impression left by previous thoughts or actions) habits and tendencies in order to be calm and serene always. This process is not only much quicker than other systems which work on an external basis only, but the results are also more reliable and permanent.

The art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it waste thoughts and all that creates worry is probably one of the secrets of energy in our great men.


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  3. Deepak Pillai @ Linkedin
    Merchandising Services at 'The Nielsen Company'
    Mumbai, India

    Hi Sonia,
    Happy to see your post (after a while though). Absolutely agree with your thoughts on resilence. Pressure is really inevitable in the modern life, only way to overcome is with inner strength (and courage that comes with it) to sail through the resposibility pressures without getting stressed.
    Thanks for sharing

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