Stress, Fortune magazine, and being a great CEO

Forbes has just published an interesting article on the relationship between stress and decision-making.

I’ve long struggled with stress, but not in the way you might think. Here’s my problem: I get stressed, and I don’t think it’s a problem. In fact, I quite enjoy it. I don’t even call it stress. I call it ‘focus’. When I’m under pressure I ignore all the distractions and concentrate only on what needs to be done.

Other people call it ‘stress’, though. Throughout my career, I’ve received consistent feedback from colleagues that I appear stressed and that it makes them stressed. I’ve heard this from managers, from peers, and most of all from my staff.

Unfortunately,  no-one has ever been able to tell me why this is a bad thing.

I don’t think I  suffer because of stress. I never have insomnia, for example, or physical symptoms any more serious than a fluttery eyelid. As I said above, I enjoy it.  And because of that, I find it difficult to relate to my staff who complain. Deep down, I have sometimes suspected they just want an easy life. And much as I like and even love my staff, it’s not really my job to give them an easy life.

Over time, however, I’ve started to understand that stress affects my staff’s performance as well as their happiness. I’ve started to recognise that not all work is the same. ‘Staccato’ work – small, short tasks – can be done under stress. But ‘legato’ work — slower, longer, more reflective, perhaps more fundamental —  requires staff to feel a sense of control and calm. I do recognise that sometimes my head is not in the right place for this second type of work, and that stress might have something to do with it. And maybe that’s even more true for my staff than for me. 

I can just see some of my peers rolling their eyes at this elementary insight. But it wasn’t elementary to me.

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One Response to Stress, Fortune magazine, and being a great CEO

  1. Pingback: Do CEOs experience less stress than their staff? | CEO confidential

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