The most important task of any manager in very stressful, high pressure and extremely demanding situations is to keep calm and to keep one's shirt on. It's not about finding quick solutions in the first place. It's about avoiding chaos, about stabilizing the situation, and re-injecting self-confidence into the organization. And only afterwards looking for adequate solutions.
To get around the risk of facing stressed leadership I'd like to present two formulae which help me to stay even-tempered and focused during critical times and crisis. They are straightforward in concept and with will and repetitive practice also in execution:
The START Formula – This is a preventive concept, i.e. knowing and applying it assists in minimizing the risk to encounter possible headless chicken situations.
The SWITCH Formula – Once you find yourself in a situation where you are about to lose your head you better exercise this method to stay on course and to keep your cool.
THE START FORMULA
If you live by the START formula you significantly reduce the risk to be dragged into situations where you might lose your temper and head.
S - Stand Up
Make your point and explain your strategy and action plan. Don't allow others pushing you around. Don't be afraid to say no, especially if you’ve already got too much on your plate.
T - Trust
Trust in yourself and others.
A - Action
Action your strategy and plans. Push back if needed. Eliminate all possible distractions like unnecessary meetings, phone calls, etc.
R - Respond
Be responsive and responsible. Keep your line managers, peers, and all other stakeholders always informed and regularly ask for their opinions. If you need help, be brave enough to ask for it.
T - Take It Easy
Don´t take yourself and your tasks too serious. We are all replaceable. Don’t give in to stress or anxiety – no matter how far behind you are or how badly you’ve messed up. Relax.
THE SWITCH FORMULA
Once you find yourself in deep and unknown waters applying this method will help you to keep your wits and calm.
S – STOP
Stop running and chasing your tail. Sit down. No further movements.
W – Wait
Make sure you allocate yourself as much downtime as necessary.
I – Inhale
Inhale and breathe. It clears your head. It'll balance the analytical processes of the mind with your emotions and gut.
T – Think
Contemplate about the situation you're in. Try to understand the root causes and interdependencies. Important: Always allow more time than you think you’ll need.
C – Calculate
Calculate and plan. Set yourself and your team clear goals. Break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily milestone targets. They should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). Leave a sufficiently big buffer between every task.
H - Head and Proceed
Once you are clear about your objectives and your action plan, and only then, move on and execute.
We all know that the more we rush, the higher the chances we fail. Still, often we do it with or without realizing it. In consequence we often create more waste and churn, trigger unnecessary activities, put too much pressure on others and make them feel uncomfortable, and might fail to spot real problems or real opportunities to improve.