Stress Thoughts-Part 4

Recently I suffered through a frustrating and contentious meeting, and that was stressful. I needed a walk, a few minutes to sort out why I was stressed, but instead I had to step right into another meeting. It was a follow up meeting to build out an implementation plan for a plan the team had come up with, so I expected a low level detail discussion that wouldn’t be stressful at all.

Instead I walked into a fight of sorts. The plan had been blasted by someone else uphill and now we had lost days and were at zero. I was mad. Why wasn’t I involved in the discussion that led to that decision? Why was I just finding out? Stress is often defined as fight or flight and it was triggering fight, starting with wanting to revisit the decision to cancel a decent plan to solve a time critical problem.

The team was in a uproar of stress because they had lost time and were feeling the pressure, maybe a sense of failure at picking a plan that turned out to be unsupportable.

So I just sat and listened, let them vent, and tried to think. What was important? I wasn’t vested in the plan, why spend time trying to resurrect it? I just needed a plan. They needed time to vent. Then slowly I took control of the meeting, offering no criticism, just saying “let’s come up with a better plan”. Forty five minutes later we had a new plan,they were calm,and I was calm. Strangely even my stress from the earlier meeting was gone.

It would have been easy to start blasting, in the meeting and outside. It would have felt good to drag someone else into it, to force the train back on the track, just to let loose some of that pent up aggression. But it would have taken time, emotion, energy, and no guarantee of getting it done, every guarantee of adding a lot of stress to everyone involved.

I’m not saying to never fight, or never flee bad situations. There are times when it’s necessary – just not that many times. Work the problem with the constraints you have. My approach is this: it doesn’t matter how you got here, what’s the best decision you can make right now? That approach is hugely effective for me.

It’s another example of seeing that stress wave coming at you and deciding whether it will impact you or wash around you. Awareness of stress, factoring that in as you decide the next step, that’s the win.