- By Ian Bradley
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Many of the executives that I see in my Montreal practice for executive coaching talk about their hectic days. As I listen to their stories, I am quietly asking myself a key question:
Are they in some measure able to control the stream of tasks, or is the onslaught occurring without a filtration or buffering system?
Take for example the extremely busy COO of a large manufacturing firm. His direct calls to action come from a small number of plant foremen, other requests for his time and energy are filtered through his secretary.
I also see a manager of a credit union who is vulnerable to the requests of staff in his entire branch as well as annoyed customers. Each and every time he leaves his office, people add things to his to-do list. Needless to say, his email is constantly beeping, and there is no secretary.
Both executives are busy; the former has a sense of control, the latter not so much. You don’t need to be a psychologist to determine whose under more stress.
The issue of control has been at the heart of research on stress management for over thirty years. Control, even if it is perceived rather than real, aids coping. Lack of control produces strain.
If you are a manager subject to myriad requests, train your staff to use one channel communication be it email, memo or regular staff meetings to add things to your own “to-do” list. Use walking around time to build relationships, learn things and develop group cohesion. Don’t turn these times into occasions where people can grab you to clear their own agenda. Learn to say something like:
“that’s certainly an important problem, please summarize
it in an email so I won’t forget..”
Also, if you’re fortunate enough to have a door, use it and keep it closed for certain parts of the day. I have many clients without doors who get to work an hour earlier just to get this privacy.
If nothing else works, take breaks. Getting out of the office at lunch for a walk. Even a short walk will break that steady climb in background level of arousal that comes from performing one task after another.