To say this past year has caused all professionals to experience some form of performance anxiety would be an understatement. It’s more likely that we’ve all dealt with not only the feelings that accompany performance anxiety, but also the feelings that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t smart enough or we just simply aren’t enough.
As leaders, this is an ongoing battle. Not only do you have to focus on developing your employees or your team, but you also must focus on developing yourself in your role and as a leader. In some settings, this can be a very daunting task.
However, there are ways you can manage this anxiety and these feelings and as we move into 2022 I want to make sure you have access to all of them in order to prepare yourself for what looks like a similar year ahead.
We talked about setting your goals in my previous blog and how SMART goals can help you not only set realistic goals but also track your progress throughout the year. This is the all-important step one.
Step two is all about learning what to do when you fall behind on your goals or don’t achieve them at all.
This is what we’ll be discussing in this blog.
Along with what you as a leader can help do for your team to lower this anxiety related to their performance and avoid any additional pitfalls.
Specifically, we’ll be discussing the following:
- The Job of Every Leader in Turbulent Times
- Managing Relationships & Expectations
- Skills & Strategies to Manage Performance Anxiety
By themselves, these tactics improve a situation, but altogether these tactics will not only improve your current dilemmas, but they will also alter your professional life and relationships in ways you would never expect.
Performance Anxiety: The Job of Every Leader in Turbulent Times
Looking at the past year I think it’s safe to say that a lot of hurdles arose that no one could foresee coming. When that happens, who do we place the blame on?
Is it the team that doesn’t react and adjust quickly enough? The leader that didn’t plan around a situation like this? Or is it the organization that was built on the idea everything would always remain the same?
The answer here is, the blame does not get placed on anyone. We work in a time where anything can go wrong at any moment. Being flexible is a great skill to have, but when a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic hits and it takes us longer to adjust than we normally would, that’s ok.
Not only have businesses had trouble adjusting to these times, but people also have as well. These issues increase stress for everyone, and it’s reflected in their personal and professional lives. As a strong leader, you need to be cognizant of that.
As leaders, we need to do a better job of communicating with our team members during times like this to let them know it’s not only ok for them to feel anxious, it’s completely normal and expected. Once that’s clear, you can work together to manage those feelings and overcome them.
Good communication skills and empathy are two traits that are absolutely necessary for any good leader to have. In times like these, it’s your job to put them to the test.
Managing Relationships & Expectations
All relationships have been altered by the changing work landscape. Not only those in your organization or your team, but also those at home.
Working from home has its benefits as well as its pitfalls.
One of the main pitfalls, and one of the main reasons so many individuals are rushing to get back into their office, is the mixing of work-life and family-life or home-life.
When you work from home it can feel like you’re always on the clock. Your bedroom might have turned into your office this past year and your kids may have been stuck at home alongside you. These are all difficult things to adjust to and challenges that you’ve needed to overcome.
So, how do you manage these relationships and these challenges while still achieving the same level of performance you have in the past?
First, you need to manage your relationship with your boss (or if you are the boss, manage your relationships with your team). Set clear guidelines around when you need to be off-the-clock and how to handle situations that come up throughout the day. Adaptability is important in an environment where deadlines and processes are constantly changing!
Our lives have changed, it would be unrealistic to assume your schedule doesn’t need to change alongside it.
Instead of constantly feeling that performance anxiety because your work hours have shifted throughout the day, keep clear lines of communication open and set clear expectations. Not only will it help you, but it will help your team as well.
Many of us believed the shift to remote work would be a simple one, but I’m sure many of those individuals would agree, there’s a lot more to it than simply setting up your workspace.
Do your best to manage those expectations and adjust them accordingly to reduce your performance anxiety and keep your team and yourself refreshed and running smoothly.
Skills & Strategies to Manage Performance Anxiety
Time for the real nitty-gritty side of things. What are the exact tools we can use to help us manage our performance anxiety once it’s actually hitting us?
Here’s where you may need to do a bit of reflecting, because for each of us, what works can drastically differ.
However, here are a few that have helped individuals in the past.
Don’t groan just yet! I know you’ve heard this before and your first thought could be “Phil, you clearly don’t know what my schedule is like, I don’t have the TIME to exercise.” However, I’ll ask you this, what time do you get up in the morning? What time do you go to bed? Can you push either of those by 20 minutes?
Research shows that just 20 minutes of physical activity a day can decrease anxiety and increase brain function. So, I challenge you to try it out for just one week. It can be as simple as walking your dog for 20 minutes or doing yoga while you wait for the oven to preheat, just try it for one week and let me know if you notice a difference!
Intense exercise is something I’ve added to my routine and I’ve never looked back.
Another quick and incredible way to reduce performance anxiety and increase overall well-being. Similar to exercise, just 10-20 minutes of meditation per day can provide a number of benefits to your mental and physical health.
Nowadays it’s so simple to find meditation services online and for free and I implore you to take advantage of them!
Arguably the most important of these strategies is nutrition. Ensuring you’re well-fed with nutritious foods causes a chemical reaction throughout your body that will make you feel more energized, alert, creative and motivated.
Don’t feel like you have enough time in the day to make meals for yourself? Try meal-prepping on the weekend. Not only does it save time, you can challenge yourself to make one new dish each week and that way you’re not only managing your performance anxiety through nutrition, you’re learning a new skill in the process!
You knew it was coming. After a long day of work the most important thing you can do for yourself is rest. Turning off all distractions and getting a good night’s sleep is the foundation of each of the above strategies. Without it, they will most likely all fail.
My recommendation is to remove yourself from your phone and your computer each night at least 2 hours prior to getting in bed. This will act as a trigger for your brain to begin shutting down and help you get a full night’s rest.
Create a nightly routine to ensure you’re ready for bed and for the next day.
Performance Anxiety & Goal Setting
After my last blog I’m hoping you took the time to write out your goals for 2022. What I want you to do now is go back to those goals and identify any areas you can adjust them to reflect what you’ve learned in this blog.
Will these goals be so challenging they’ll affect your work-life balance and increase your stress? Could they ultimately increase the stress of your team? If so, you’ll want to adjust them.
If you have trouble doing so, I would love to hear from you. As an executive coach I’ve heard all sorts of stories about high-level leaders dealing with challenges they themselves have caused. With a little adjustment in where your goals have been set and where your sights are set, we can work together to minimize any challenges that could come up.