Getting the Best from Staff under Pressure: Leaders Set the Tone | Stepshift

Getting the Best from Staff under Pressure: Leaders Set the Tone

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

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When organisations have a lot on, staff can be put under significant pressure. How leaders manage this high pressure, high stress environment and the way it impacts on staff will invariably determine whether staff thrive from the pressure or are crushed by it.

Pressure is a good thing. Most managers and staff don’t come to work to experience a peaceful retreat. They want to achieve, and be part of a team that is achieving something significant; they want to perform and to know what they are charged with doing really matters.

The problem can occur for people when they are in environments where pretty much everything adds to the pressure, and release valves are hard to find. When goals are more demanding, deadlines are shorter, meetings more frequent and support resource is diminished, there needs to be occasional opportunities to release the pressure that people feel.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that releasing pressure is somehow going soft on people, sending the wrong message or letting them off the hook. The reason for pressure release systems on machines and cylinders is so they can continue to perform optimally rather than explode.

As a leader you will have your own ways of recognising stress in yourself and others, and you will also have remedies you can facilitate. Some things to consider here are:

  • Humour: ensure from time to time there is the opportunity to lighten things up.
  • Support: at times show empathy and support e.g. if someone has been under significant pressure, can they be encouraged to go home early and spend time with their family.
  • Appreciation: ensure people know, and are reminded, that their effort and contribution is valued.

Managers, staff and teams can thrive under pressure or be crushed by it. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge and ensure some relief is provided where required. This will positively impact on both staff and business performance, and it will also reflect positively on your leadership.

If you want to learn more about managing your team in high pressure work environments get in touch to see how we could help.



Kevin McMahon is a Partner at Stepshift, helping New Zealand business leaders to get the best from themselves and the people they lead through executive coaching, leadership development and business consulting.

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