#41 from R&D
Innovator Volume 2, Number 6
Fritz is president of Organization Development Consultants in
Naperville, Illinois. He
is the author of 26 books, including Rate
Your Executive Potential (John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY,
1990). Dr. Fritz also
created the People
Compatibility Software System, which evaluates the
compatibility of people on the job.
If being a boss
of a research team is worth striving for, then being the boss of the entire R&D function ought to be the ultimate
why are so many top people acting as if they don't like it?
Why so many complaints, so much pressure? Why is stress so prevalent among people who should have the
greatest influence on their R&D division?
executives aren’t deliberate enough about dealing with the
inevitable stress in their lives.
Perhaps they think stress will just disappear if they don't
dwell on it.
approach to stress management, it seems to me, has five steps.
identify the source of your stress
select the particular stresses you want to deal with
be realistic about the barriers to overcoming them
develop a personal stress management program
make the plan work
I—Identifying the Sources of Stress
checklist can help identify the sources of your stress.
Consider each item carefully and indicate how stressful it
is for you on this scale: 1 = never, 2 = seldom, 3 = sometimes, 4
= often, 5 = always.
I am unclear about my priorities at work.
demands for my time at work can't be satisfied.
3. I think
about my health or other personal problems almost every
4. There are
too many demands on me.
5. I fear I am
not well qualified for my job.
6. I am
concerned about the effectiveness of some of the people I must
7. There is
little chance for the R&D organization to become what I want
it to be.
8. I never
seem to have time to finish what I start.
9. I have to
work under conditions that prevent me from doing my best.
I have too much to do and too little time to do it.
I don't have the support I need at home.
I often can't rely on the loyalty of some key employees.
The fear of failure is constantly on my mind.
I have a poor relationship with some of the people I must
work with regularly.
I am interrupted too often.
I feel pressure from home about my work hours.
I spend my time fighting fires rather than carrying out a
My division is continually threatened by financial
I don't have the opportunity to use my special knowledge
and skills in my work.
I always seem to move from one deadline to the next.
As you study each
item on this checklist, specific reasons for your response will
come to mind—people, events, circumstances, disappointments,
problems and frustrations. The
key to stress management lies in your ability to go beyond these
stressors on the list in terms of severity.
Try four groupings with five items in each. Give an "A" rating to the five you consider to be
causing the most stress. Give
a "B" to the five factors which are next in importance .
Give a "C" to the next five factors .
Give a "D" to the last five factors which are the
least important stressors now.
Now you are ready
to think through the barriers to progress. Suppose you put
time pressures (such as items 2,4,8,10,15,16,17 and 20) in your A
group. Answer these
questions about each item:
Why is this
What are its
Can I solve it
If not, who can I
get to help?
What must I do
When will I
How will I
IV--The Plan of Action
Now you have the
beginning of a Personal Stress Management Plan. While there are no
all-inclusive, guaranteed techniques to alleviate stress, a number
of practical, commonsense guides can help you bring stressors
problem to a confidant. This
tends to broaden perspectives and unclutter your mind, so you can
arrive at a sensible course of action.
Select someone you can trust, who is not only an excellent
listener but will also keep your confidence.
Find someone worse
off. Not every
situation is life-or-death. Don't
worry about the little things.
Visit a hospital or nursing home to see first-hand how
small your problems really are.
You will not only live longer, but you will solve more
problems faster and with better results.
Focus on positive
yourself that you can make use of the stressful event in your
personal development. For
example, "Now I realize that I must never get myself in this
kind of a situation with the CEO again."
This will not only help you grow, but it will reduce the
after-effects of the stress.
As the old saying goes, anything that doesn’t kill you
makes you stronger.
Don't wait too long.
If the stress is severe enough to bother you, do
are that waiting won't make it any better.
In fact, delays on your part are likely to increase the
Put yourself in a position to divert or stop the
stressor. If you are
convinced that one of your key researchers is no longer qualified
for the job, select someone else.
You will probably feel less stressed after doing this.
If you must make an important presentation, prepare for it.
If you have something to get off your chest, do it soon.
you've been eyeball-to-eyeball with a stressful event and faced it
down, take credit. Not
only has your skill brought it under control, but you can now take
on other stressors with more confidence.
Many people can
bounce back from stress without too much difficulty.
They survive and succeed because of their overall positive
attitude. No matter
how bleak things look, they maintain an optimistic inner spirit
that helps them surmount obstacles.
These people refuse to acknowledge defeat--to them defeats
are merely temporary setbacks.
V—Making your plan work
To deal with each
stressor adequately, you should evaluate its frequency, severity
and net effect. To
put your analysis in focus, you should record and track your
commitments to action.
caused by this one particular stressor has been eliminated or
brought under control, take on the others you have identified in
order of their priority.
By and large,
stress results from facing the unknown consequences of change.
For vice presidents, directors, and managers of R&D,
change is inevitable. Stress
ebbs and flows in direct relationship to your overall sense of
adequacy. The best
leaders find ways to complement their individual abilities with
their colleagues’ strengths.
When this happens, they not only position their
organizations for growth, they reduce stress as well.
remember that coping with stress is personal, only you can do it for yourself.
circumstances reveal the true nature of your leadership.
Little by little, you either grow stronger or weaker, until
one day a crisis reveals what you have already become.
If you're at the
top, you can never totally eradicate stressful situations.
But you can find ways to minimize their impact.
In so doing, you will maintain your effectiveness as an