Darren Timmins: Don’t let stress bowl you out

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Here at Otravida we understand how important it is that executives develop the ability to cope with, and manage, stress in the workplace. In light of Jonathan Trott’s withdrawal from the Ashes tour due to a stress-related illness we decided to look at lessons from the sports world to see what your organisation can do to avoid the sort of fallout the English cricket team have suffered in the wake of his absence.

Unless you’re superhuman, it’s expected that you’ll experience stress at one point or another in your working life. Recently there have been two well publicised absences from the banking industry, Sir Hector Sants from Barclays, and Antonio Horta-Osorio at Lloyds. Both were due to stress in their high profile positions, and the problem has now become so severe that some bankers will require health checks before they take up a senior position.

You might ask why a professional cricketer is getting stressed. After all, what’s stressful about spending Christmas playing cricket in the Australian sun? But stress is often unavoidable. Working in a senior corporate position it’s almost inevitable that you will encounter it eventually. This is no different for leading cricketers. They’ve got the hopes of a nation resting on their shoulders and some find this harder to handle than others. This means that it’s important to be able to manage and prepare for stress. So what do HR teams need to do to minimise stress related fallout? We believe there are 4 key steps:

Build a team who are flexible and adaptable

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to build a versatile team. We live in turbulent times and we’re all too aware that things can change in an instant in the contemporary business world. This means it’s crucial to equip your talent with the intangible skills they need to deal with problems that come their way. For example, since we’re using sporting metaphors, Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League final(my favourite game of all time) starting team featured a midfield where 3 out of 4 players were out of position due to injury. They were also missing their captain and leader, Roy Keane. However, the team still possessed the mental agility to cope and succeed through this and eventually won the final in dramatic circumstances. This is the perfect example of adapting to stress, Man Utd didn’t let adversity stop them, they simply adapted to be successful.

Look beyond your industry for talent

There’s no point in repeatedly looking in the same places for talent. Variety is the spice of life and diversity is vital in building a successful business. Try to bring in leaders who have worked in other fields as their experience and knowledge of a different environment could be the difference between success and failure for your organisation. Even better, look to bring in professionals with depth of experience across a number of sectors. This way you know they can adapt to different environments and can effectively manage change.

Develop internal capabilities

As an HR professional you need to be aware of the talent you’re developing internally. Businesses should be looking to build talent pipelines to senior level for professionals with both the right tangible and intangible skills. Mental qualities like resilience, versatility and adaptability can’t be easily measured but they still need to be entrenched into future leaders so they can manage problems in the future. A good sporting example of this is La Masia youth football academy in Barcelona. We all know that the Catalan club have developed some of the most technically gifted footballers in the world, but they also look to develop intangible skills in their young stars. This means that when it comes down to the crunch their talent doesn’t go missing and they can perform to the best of their ability even in incredibly stressful environments and situations. This is what HR teams need to build within their future talent, the ability to be resilient and perform not only when the going is good, but when things get messy.

Utilise expert partners

Sometimes you can’t do it on your own, and the best way to find the top talent your company has been craving is to align yourself with an external expert. Utilise consultancies that have in-depth knowledge and experience in their field as they’ll be able to build recruitment strategies that find your business the very best future leaders. These companies will have a ready-made network available to them to source this talent and will have an understanding of what skills are needed, both tangible and intangible.

What does your organisation do to manage stress amongst its senior professionals? Let us know by commenting below.

Darren Timmins is Head of Otravida Search, an executive search and selection organisation delivering bespoke and agile talent solutions.

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