February 28, 2015

Pressure at work: caffeinate or meditate?

Executive coaches are hired for senior directors to ensure they continue to be as clear thinking as possible. Ideally they’ll lead a business onwards and upwards and inspire and motivate (all going well) their colleagues and teams. Realistically though, not every company offers the exec coach benefit to every principal in their leadership line-up. And even in businesses that do – there’s no guarantee that those executives will be noticebly calmer and more strategic.

Most professionals at some time or another will have to manage pressure at work leading to increased stress. The most common factors for this are:

  • the content of work – do other people or departments depend on your work being accurate and timely
  • workload – the amount or the speed of a product or service being delivered is just too much for a contracted 40-hour per week team
  • clashing personalities – it’s great when everyone gets on and puts in equal effort. It’s super-tough when personalities clash and still have to work together week after month
  • a difficult boss – people rarely leave companies, they leave bad managers
  • no clear route to progress
  • expectations not met – by not being clearly defined and well managed
  • limited financial reward for the effort invested or the results produced

So when stress occurs what are some ways of dealing with it?

Lots of workers at all levels of seniority manage stress on a regular basis. It might be work related (as in the list above) or it might be that we’re bringing personal stress (family, finances, fitness, relationships, health) in to work with us – which is pretty normal.

Communication is a decent first step and in an ideal world we’d all be collaborators with clear shared visions, putting maximum effort in to get there as quickly as possible with the most benefit for the most people – customers & company. In reality though … that’s rare!

My question about caffeinating or mediating is based around whether speeding up our brains(caffeinating) or slowing down our minds (meditating) is a more effective way of increasing productivity.

Coffee has become an increasingly acceptable stimulant over the past 50 years. It used to be that instant blends were the norm however now more and more of us are choosing the strength of that stimulant (1 – 5 from weak to super-strong). Coffee can help to integrate a home life with a work life. A late night watching tv or a few glasses of wine with friends don’t leave such obvious footprints on our work day once the 2nd cafetierre’s been gulped down.

And then there’s the late nights of emergency meetings or perfecting pitch presentations. Coffee’s a normal part of squeezing more awakeness out of a flagging work force. Sounds like – in moderation – it’s all good.

Mediation on the other hand works by slowing the mind down. When a person invests 10-15 minute a couple of times a day focussing on their breathing, paying attention to their physical body and the life-force that flows through it, the results they produce stand out over time. Meditation delivers clarity (on many levels – personal & professional) and that clarity makes decisions simpler and solutions more creative.

Looking at these 2 choices, caffeination or mediation, I’m reminded of a very wise executive coach in London I worked with for 2 years. When stuck with a decision of which of 2 excellent virtual assistants to hire she asked, ‘do you have to choose between them?’ – the answer turned out to be ‘no’ and so I hired them both. This I’m sensing is the answer to the caffienation or meditation question: if they both get result in different ways ‘do you have to choose’?

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