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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Nov 24, 2023


It’s common to experience stress at work and then struggle to perform at our best. We might even react in ways we regret later. This week we explore how to maintain composure under pressure.



Hello and welcome to episode 211 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we share practical tips to improve your leadership. This week we explore how to maintain composure under pressure.

It’s common to experience stress at work and then struggle to perform at our best. We might even react in ways we regret later. Perhaps it’s a comment from a colleague that annoys us, or our computer crashing and losing what we’ve been working on for hours. We then say or do something that’s not us at our best, or we might even feel unable to say or do what we’d like in that moment. But there are practical things we can do, both in the moment and as part of our daily routines, that can significantly improve the way we handle pressure.

Here are four things you can do beforehand:

  1. Get plenty of sleep. Find a sleep routine that works for you and stick with it. Getting to bed around the same time and ensuring you have around 8 hours a night boosts your energy levels and resilience.
  2. Start your day with exercise. This burns off stress hormones and allows you to begin your day with greater resilience to stressful situations that might arise. Find exercise that works for you. For example, if you commute, you might build a slightly longer walk into your routine. Or if you’re working from home, set an alarm to prompt you to take a walk.
  3. Structure recovery time into your day. This might include taking breaks away from your work, going for a quick walk during the day, or even catching up with a colleague for a coffee away from the office. We are not great at sustained work and attention beyond 60 to 90 minutes, so short breaks across the day will help you to recover and reset. Even 5 minute breaks to step away from one task and mentally prepare for the next one make a huge difference.
  4. Deal with any relational difficulties. Poor working relationships can place a lot of strain on our work day and lead us to become frustrated. We may then say or do things that don’t reflect us at our best. We don’t have to be best friends with everyone at work, but having open conversations with others about how you can best work together will help reduce stress and annoyance.

And now five things you can do In the moment:

  1. Notice your emotional state. Just as we have a stream of conscious thoughts during the day, so we also have a steady stream of emotions. Tune into your body and emotional state. If you sense yourself moving up the emotional curve, do something about it before you reach the top.
  2. Name it to tame it. Naming the emotion we are feeling helps us to manage it more effectively. Research even shows that putting a label on an emotion reduces the intensity of that emotion almost immediately. So if you feel angry, note that emotion.
  3. Focus on your breathing. Simple techniques such as box breathing can rapidly calm our emotional state. Think of it like a box - breath in deeply for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale fully for four seconds, then hold for four seconds.
  4. Have an escape plan. If you are feeling close to losing control of your emotional state, have a plan for how you might exit the situation.
  5. Say sorry. If you do go over the edge and say or do something you regret, apologise to those involved. This will help others to understand that you weren’t at your best and that you intend to do better next time. An honest apology goes a long way to maintaining and building effective relationships.

These are just some practical things you can do beforehand and in the moment to help us maintain our composure and respond well when under pressure. If you found this helpful you can check out our Harnessing Your Emotions five day challenge for more tips - . Have a great week.


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