Winning The Mental Game of Stress
Preventing Team Burnout at Work
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Optimally-performing teams are aware of the many challenges
that can threaten them and they quickly handle them before
they rage out of control. Working closely together for extended
periods of time can cause strain, stress and even burnout.
This inevitable workplace stress is something that needs to
be looked at carefully and adjusted for. The team leader and
team members need to be continually tuned in to the early
signs of stress so direct measures can be taken to prevent
Let's first examine the many ways stress can manifest itself
15 Potential Signs of Team Stress and Burnout
- Indirect communication.
- Sloppy and inaccurate messages.
- Gossip and talking behind people's backs.
- Insensitivity to others' feelings.
- Negative attitudes.
- Reduced sense of humor.
- Lack of caring attitude.
- Breakdown of social manners and civilities.
- Lack of pride in team functioning and work output.
- Lack of traction and follow-through.
- Reduced sense of team belonging.
- Lack of team cohesiveness.
- Reduced team identity.
- Reduced problem-solving activities.
- Festering stress issues.
Any of these issues alone may be an individual matter. Taken
as a group, as a pattern, as an enduring plague, they most
certainly will become team issues. Often one individual on
a team can infect the rest of the team with negativity and
a non-caring attitude. A major role of the leader is to be
alert to these types of situations, and to act on them before
they do individual or team harm. As such, it's important not
to ascribe intentionally bad motives, industrial espionage,
character issues or pathological issues to these behaviors.
Often these have nothing to do with the team itself, and stem
simply from individual stress and other issues. The goal is
to address them while they are still non-team issues.
It is important to realize that signs of stress do NOT indicate
that your team is beginning to falter or break up. Stress
in any team is inevitable, and normal, even within high-performing
teams. The key is to consider stress as a normal human response
to the challenges of living and to assist your teammates in
getting over each stress hurdle.
13 Leadership Strategies For Dealing With Team Stress
The aware, knowing leader has a wide and deep skill set
with which to handle the various team-disrupting stress issues
that will arise. Here are 13 key ones.
- Increase contact with individuals you deem to be stressed
to get a better sense of what they are experiencing.
- Gain a sense of the person's degree of stress and burnout
- Show caring, sensitive concern for them as human beings.
- Listen deeply and seek to understand their situation
without judging them.
- Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.
- Indicate that you are there for them, anytime they want
to discuss any issues.
- Recognize their good work on the team and make sure they
know they are appreciated.
- Use your sense of humor to broach more sensitive subjects,
if you think this is appropriate.
- Encourage people to take care of themselves and take
some time off if need be to tend to personal matters that
may be getting in the way of optimal team functioning.
- Suggest more work-life balance activities as a buffer
to the stress they are experiencing at work.
- Offer 1-1 coaching on issues the person may want to work
- Have some team-building experiences out of the office
to renew the sense of fun and teamwork that may be lost.
- Reclaim the sense of team identity by having "team bonding
activities" that reaffirm who the team is and what their
Often, individual stress is team stress. Small stressors
can lead to larger stressors, unpleasant work incidents and
burnout. You, as leader, can mediate this stress and keep
the team on the success track.
Your mandate as team leader is to be a combination cheerleader,
navigator, counselor, analyst, orchestrator, catalyst and
all-around facilitator of good team things. The team can use
you as a stress buffer, burnout prevention resource, business
coach and fixer-upper of issues and strains that befall the
team. Plan in advance for the inevitable stress that will
come your team's way and have processes and systems in place
for dealing with these challenges in healthy, positive ways.
Your team will thank you.
To learn more about how team building can help your organization
reach its potential, visit Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game
Coach at www.mentalgamecoach.com/Programs/MentalGameOfTeamBuilding.html.
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA 2005, 2008 All rights reserved.
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Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
Article Source: MentalGameCoach.com
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