Taming Anxiety: Techniques That Work

by Maurice Schweitzer

The Goal:

Reduce anxiety by adopting two methods that help improve performance and results.

Nano Tool:

No one is immune to anxiety: when you’re faced with uncertainty or high demands, or in a situation that’s novel, consequential, or public, you’re likely to experience it. Today, anxiety can feel like a near-permanent state. And although you might be able to conceal your racing heart rate and sweaty palms, research shows that feeling anxiety can be quite harmful. Anxious negotiators, public speakers, and test-takers do worse. And people who feel anxious are less discerning and become more likely to seek and rely upon bad advice.

When we do reveal that we’re feeling anxious, we’re commonly counseled to “just calm down.” But that’s an impossible ask. Anxiety causes both high activation (rapid heart rate) and negative feelings (worry about unfavorable outcomes); trying to simply lower our activation and switch to feeling positive by “calming down” doesn’t work. Instead, we have discovered two powerful ways to control anxiety and its negative effects, both described in the Action Steps below.

Action Steps:

1. Reframe anxiety as excitement. This first action step is quick and easy. Telling participants in a study to state out loud “I’m excited” when they were anxious reduced their negative emotion even though their heart rate remained elevated. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, they focused on the potential upside and their performance improved. Try it yourself. The next time you feel anxious, smile and state out loud, “I am excited!”

2. Use a ritual. You see them all the time in sports: athletes wear “lucky shirts” (in Tiger Woods’ case, it was red), bounce a tennis ball a precise number of times before a serve, or adjust a cap before pitching. There are religious and cultural rituals that comfort us during some of life’s most stressful periods, including the death of a loved one. In our research, we found that rituals — even when they’re made up — lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve performance. In one study, we told participants that they were going to sing in front of others. Before doing that, we told one-third of participants to draw a picture of how they were feeling, sprinkle the picture with salt, crinkle up the page, and throw it in the trash. We told another third of participants to calm down, and we gave the last third, the control group, no instructions. The group that performed the made-up ritual before singing performed the best. We replicated the study with other made-up rituals and other performance tasks including public speaking and math tests. We even measured participants’ blood pressure. Which group experienced a large drop in blood pressure? Each time, it was the one performing the ritual.

How Leaders Use It:

Leaders inevitably deal with their own stress and anxiety — as well as the anxiety of their team members. Introducing and sticking to rituals can help. Entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss starts his day by making his bed followed by 10 to 20 minutes of meditation and 30 seconds of light exercise. He ends his ritual, which he says helps him “push the ball forward and feel better throughout the day,” by drinking a strong cup of tea and journaling.

Leaders inevitably deal with their own stress and anxiety — as well as the anxiety of their team members.

Babette Ten Haken, founder and president of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, takes a cue from Olympic athletes, advising salespeople to “visualize the meeting in your head, rehearse, and have a walk-through. Then breathe, [and] shake your arms and legs to get your circulation going.” Sales coach and consultant Anthony Iannarino suggests a similar pre-sales call ritual: “Get yourself into the physical state where you portray the energy and the passion you need.” That could involve listening to energizing music, pumping your fist in the air, or changing your posture to stand tall and confident.

Tennis great Rafael Nadal has a series of rituals he performs before and during matches, which he credits with keeping him focused by “ordering my surroundings to match the order I seek in my head.” They include putting two water bottles in precise positions near his feet; tucking his hair behind his ear, pulling his nose, and adjusting his shorts while bouncing the ball before serving; and drying off with a towel after every point.

Source: Wharton

Five Ways to Master the Art of “Managing Up”

By Dave Wilner

As a young sales manager I was once told that I was “virtually unmanageable” and “the most exhausting direct report” my boss had ever had. This was news to me. My team was killing it – the top-performing sales team across a $6 billion-plus business. How on earth could I have been anything other than her favorite employee?

Some two decades of experience later – nearly all of it managing teams – I have more insight into the agony I inflicted on my former boss. Here are some tips on the fine art of “managing up” and making life easier for the higher-ups.

Don’t Whine
It can be easy to get caught up in the negative – especially if, like me, you are a grump by nature. But perpetual grousing about team members, organizational shortcomings, or the negative aspects of your job in general can prove to be the proverbial death-by-a-thousand- cuts to a boss with much bigger fish to fry than your day-to-day gripes.

You will, of course, encounter roadblocks, concerns, or challenges that warrant discussion with your boss. Rather than forwarding problematic emails or dropping by their office with random, transactional beefs, aggregate those issues that require constructive conversation; then, work through these items with your boss in a regularly scheduled bimonthly or monthly one-to-one.

And, as for straight venting – which we certainly all need from time to time – save it for someone else. The same stream-of-consciousness rant you would communicate to a peer or friend will not necessarily reflect you in the best light to your boss. Save the venting for your friends, family, or the unlucky soul in line next to you at the coffee shop.

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The ‘hybrid model’ of working remotely and in the office could create big expenses for companies and give rise to two classes of employees

by Jack Kelly

We are getting closer to the end of the pandemic and companies are focusing on the future work arrangements for their employees. A number of big tech companies, including Salesforce, Facebook, Google and Amazon, have coalesced around a “hybrid” model, in which there will be a combination of both working inside an office and at home. Some places, like Spotify, are still offering the opportunity for people to work from anywhere they’d like or out of the office, if they so desire.

The flexible hybrid model is attractive to both the company and its workers, as the corporations will save a fortune in real estate costs and employees gain more control over their lives. It’s not perfect and there are some serious issues to contend with. Once companies bring back workers, there will be additional expenses incurred, potential legal liabilities concerning risks to the health of their employees and the possible evolution of an emerging dual class system.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, employs more than 135,000 people, along with a comparable amount of contractors. CNBC reported, “As Google prepares to return workers to offices in 2021, it is warning it may take a productivity and financial hit in the process, according to the company’s annual 10-K report.”

Bringing back a large percentage of these folks will be a large and costly endeavor. Google said in its financial statements, “As we prepare to return our workforce in more locations back to the office in 2021, we may experience increased costs as we prepare our facilities for a safe return to work environment and experiment with hybrid work models, in addition to potential effects on our ability to compete effectively and maintain our corporate culture.”

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Employee retention: 8 strategies for retaining top talent

by Sharon Florentine

In a tight talent market, retaining talent is of utmost concern. Experts offer advice on how to keep your most valuable business asset: your employees.

If you wait until an exit interview to find out why a valuable employee has decided to move on, you’ve missed a golden opportunity — not just to keep a productive member of your team but to identify and fix issues within your organization before you lose others. Instead, touching base with employees about what motivates them while they’re still on staff is part of a key strategy in gaining an edge in today’s tight talent market: employee retention.

Why employee retention is important

Employee retention is a critical issue as companies compete for talent in a tight economy. The costs of employee turnover are increasingly high — as much as 2.5 times an employee’s salary depending on the role. And there are other “soft costs”: lowered productivity, decreased engagement, training costs and cultural impact.

The payoff for organizations that focus on employee retention is well worth the time and investment, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Increased performance, better productivity, higher employee morale and improved quality of work, not to mention a reduction in turnover, are all organizational benefits.

The bottom line is that by focusing on employee retention, organizations will retain talented and motivated employees who truly want to be a part of the company and who are focused on contributing to the organization’s overall success, according to SHRM.

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The Next Decade Will Be a Leadership Game Changer

by Stanislav Shekshnia

Success begins with a clear-eyed understanding of the trends that will define the years to come.

Leadership is contextual. Successful leaders set agendas and choose strategies in accordance with opportunities and risks posed by the external environment. The ability of leaders to understand and interpret the vagaries of the moment for their organisations is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world. 2020 brought that point home all too emphatically. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated some trends which, in many ways, will define the development of business in the next decade. Here’s a rundown.

Turbulence of a new quality: 2020 brought turbulence of the sort the world has rarely seen and exposed the helplessness of even the most powerful companies. We hardly knew what hit us, and in the beginning at least, could not grasp the scale of the problem nor the solution.

What we did realise was our own vulnerability and the very real prospect of similar cataclysms in future. As the CEO of a Russian media company said: “It is clear that it will hit us again. It is not clear what ‘it’ will be.”

Recent surveys of board chairs and directors as well as CEOs in Europe by human capital consulting firm Ward Howell, of which I am a senior partner, show that while most companies in this part of the world are still trying to make sense of the global crisis, some have started studying ways to deal with a new level of turbulence. One of the trends is creating organisational capabilities and resources to counteract unpredictable large-scale disruptions, in addition to developing traditional risk maps and mitigation strategies.

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