Stress is a part of life. To avoid it is impossible. As a project manager you have the skill set, however, to manage the stress and in so doing reduce its impact on you, your team and, most importantly, your project.
So you know that stress is going to effect your project or your team at some point in its lifecycle. Therefore, the problem isn’t stress itself, but how successful you plan for and deal with that stress.
First, there’s identifying stress. That’s the easy part. We all know from experience how it feels to be stressed out. You can see it in the mirror as your hair gets progressively more gray. You can’t turn that frown upside down any more. Your body is achy and your mood is fragile.
That’s just how everyone expresses stress in their daily lives. Now add to this scenario the project manager, responsible for a fixed set of deliverables to produce in a fixed timeframe and with fixed resources and sponsors breathing down you back, and you’ve created a over-boiling pot of stress.
Believe it or not, there can be such as thing as positive stress, which is generated in an environment that boosts productivity and focuses your team on the end goal. But, of course, what we’re talking about is negative stress, which demoralizes staff, reduces efficiency and dulls the focus of your team. So, how does one turn negative stress into positive stress?
While it’s easy for you to determine whether your feeling stress, it might not be as clear for you to discern in your team members. Read “How to Monitor Your Team’s Health” for help with that. When it comes to turning the boat of stress around, though, you probably have your own techniques, and we’d love to hear them, but listen to ours. They’re practical and helpful. They’re listed below.
Positive comes from positive, meaning that if you want to cultivate positive stress you need to first have laid the groundwork for a positive relationship within and with your team.
Socializing is a great way to achieve this, it lets off steam and also solidifies bonds between team members. There are many ways you can combine team-building with de-stressing. In fact, asking your team for suggestions is a good start. Try little things: buy lunch for the team or take then iut for drinks after work. Perhaps organize a sporting event to foster working together in a fun way without the spectre of the project looming over their heads.
The more the team knows one another, the more likely they’ll build real friendships, loyalty and a positive attitude towards the normal and everyday stress of the job.
Once you’ve made the team a team by helping them to work together and play together, now that there’s unity you need to create a goal for them to work together towards.
That, naturally, is the project.
How do you shift from the fun and games to the serious business of work? Communication is crucial, such as setting up regular get togethers in which you reiterate the project goals, congratulate successes and boost confidences when tasks, milestones and the project itself is successfully completed. When you have these meetings the responsibility is yours alone to make sure each and every team member leaves with a passionate sense of direction and the energy to work diligently towards that goal.
Rallying is a great tool for teams, and projects are a team sport. However, teams are made of individuals and they need a different approach. Each member of your team must feel that they are an important and integral part of the whole, which they are. It’s your job to show them. How do you get a person to gain confidence in completing their assigned tasks? Try these methods:
- Acknowledge a job well done
- Offer positive feedback when conducting staff reviews
- Give bonuses for outstanding performances
- Award salary compensation when applicable
- Set goals and provide awards/prizes for achievement
Stress can be environmental. It can be caused by any number of external issues, but sometimes you have to look in your team for what is called the “instigator.” That is a person (though it can be more than one) who generates a negative attitude and corrupts those they come in contact with. This will undoubtably impact the performance of your team in a negative way. Therefore, the sooner and more directly you deal with this problem the better.
One way is to identify the negative attitude of the instigator during your regular review sessions. You can agree with their assessment of a situation and, once you have identified it, work towards resolving the problem. This is called pin-pointing the stress points or “weak links” in your team. It’s sounds judgmental, and it is to a degree, but being a manager means making judgements, and you can be equally charitable when the stress point is no longer causing stress but working as a productive member of the team.
Now, all of these points are pointless if you’re not in a position of authority, unencumbered by negativity and stress yourself. You are the leader and so you should be steering the team as well as being its barometer. In other words, practice what you preach: be upbeat and positive.
Take care of yourself. Stay fit and healthy. Mediate. Remain focused yet inspirational. This is the leadership frame of mind and you must achieve it to successfully complete the project.
Leaders also know the value of efficient tools to help them take care of their projects and team. Remember, stress reigns unchecked when you are unprepared. ProjectManager.com is a robust online collaborative software suite of features designed to help the project manager help their team. Have a look by taking advantage of our 30-day free trial.