Surviving and Managing Workplace Stress


Written Transcript/Summary – Surviving and Managing Workplace Stress

AYL Podcast #10 Summary

Surviving and Managing Workplace Stress ~ 5 Take-Action-Now Steps!

When you are stressed in the workplace, how do you show up for others? And that goes for home life too. It may be that you work in a small, medium, or large organization. OR…You may be an entrepreneur trying to get your business of the ground. Stress has a way of seeping into most areas of your life. While mild stress, perhaps encouraged by events that drive up anxiety to some degree, can actually work to an advantage for some individuals, it does not for all. We each have a threshold as to how much stress we can perform effectively with before we start dropping the balls as we say. Under high levels of stressors, particularly when the conditions that bring it about are chronic:

  1. We start to lose our ability to see patterns.
  2. We lose our ability to be a creative thinker.
  3. We can react inappropriately to deadlines and demands.
  4. We may be delivering hard messages without consideration or notice of how they land for others. That in itself is damaging to relationships, which brings about even more
  5. If we feel out of control internally, we typically try to exert more control over our external
    world. This may not bode well for others around us.
  6. We may not notice the nuances that are going on around us. Or for some, it might be the complete opposite and you notice every little detail which may produce even more concern for you.

While working with clients I find that self-awareness of personality type and emotional intelligence are key items to help us understand what stressors impact us and why. And, such information can help one create an action plan to better support yourself to manage your stress.

Of course it may not be possible for you to have access to personal assessments or a professional to support you with a worthwhile debrief of such reports. But it may be something you wish to consider doing in the future.

So, here are 5 Action Items you can do now to help you better manage your stressors! And… anyone can do these!

1. Schedule yourself into your weekly calendar – Many of you who are reading this will be reacting to what I have just put down as the #1 action item. You are not alone… my clients do too! You are likely so busy doing… so busy going to meetings… so busy trying to meet the expectations on you… so busy managing relationships. Where is the time for you? Schedule 2 one-hour sessions during the work week, time to catch up on your business reading, or get through that pile of paperwork to be looked after, or complete reports that are sitting on your desk or in your computer and always in the back of your mind, OR just take the time to do the much needed thinking as to how to move forward with an initiative or decision.

Question: What time of the day are you less likely to be interrupted by meeting demands, etc.?

Question: What might get in your way of this action item being successful?

Question: What else could you do that will ensure you are committed to this time for you each week?

Question: How will you let others know that this time is booked?

Question: What will you do to give yourself permission to take the time for you?

2. Recognize what relationship repair work you may need to do. Avoiding those difficult and challenging relationships will only seek to feed your stress. It is time to deal with this and clear the slate for a fresh start. The most difficult conversation… is the one you are not having.

3. What activities seem to help give you energy in times of stress? Identify these and make certain you put them into your daily schedule. You really need to take care of yourself in such times to maintain a balance.

4. Treat others with respect… all the time. You are adding to your stress with that relationship if you do not. You will set up a situation for relationship repair work to be done. Relationships – you have to invest to withdraw!

5. Get on your follow up! If you are making promises of follow up to others, make certain you do just that. Failure to do so will generate emails and calls to you as people are trying to check in to see where things are at. This just increases what is coming at you… and it won’t stop until you get back to them. A delay in such follow up will erode the relationship, which means it is eroding trust of you… and possibly your team, your division, and/or your company. The only way to do this is to get in front of it; deliver on your promise to get back to them, even if you have to deliver not so great news.

Surviving and Managing Workplace Stress

Re-energizing Divisional Teams

Group Of Business People Working Outdoors With Work Related Imag

Written Transcript/Summary – Re-energizing Divisional Teams

AYL Podcast #9 Summary

Re-energizing Divisional Teams

Does your team or teams seem to be busy but just going through the motions of getting things done?

Have the team members or the collective group been fatigued by the demands of the workload for some time?

Do you struggle as the busy, even ‘’run off your feet’’ leader to find the energy to be the inspirational lead that you should be?

Does it seem that team members a now failing to connect to the bigger vision of the company as a whole?

Have the lines of individual roles blurred over time?

The above questions and the common responses are present more often than they should be.

If you are answering a yes to the majority of the questions presented here, perhaps it is time to consider taking the following action…..reenergizing your divisional team.

This doesn’t have to be a complicated process. It’s possible that you could do this in a half day with a smaller team. IF you have several team members then you need more time to allow for contribution by each member. Two half days sessions should be sufficient. And of course there is always the exception. Remember….we are talking today about RE-ENERGIZING THE DIVISIONAL TEAM. If you have never set this up to begin with you may definitely require a bit more time.

Remember in such discussions we need to consider how we collect data when needed so that you get maximum contribution from individuals team members. Some items, such as values, can be extremely personal to many people. In such situations, I would suggest you learn to use post it notes to collect people s thoughts, collect them in a vessel which gives them privacy, and delegate someone to post them on the wall or white board ( whichever you use). While posting this information it should be clustered in like thoughts. In this manner you will be able to get the information out there with anonymity, and have everyone participate.

  • Establish the divisional strategy based on alignment of the overall organizational strategy.
  • Define the vision for this team to deliver on strategy (Who must we be as a team to deliver to the organization?).
  • Identify and embrace the values of this team (What personal/professional values are important for us to uphold as a divisional team that are in absolute support of the organizational needs?).
  • Develop and craft the divisional team’s mission statement if you haven’t done one or the mission statement needs to be refreshed. (What is your purpose, to whom, and how do you need to be to convey your intentions to all aligned groups and the greater organization?).
  • Discuss, reach agreement and commitment. Record and distribute the following to team members:
  1. Discuss & Refresh – Who owns what on this team (role definition)? Look to your defined roles and job descriptions, if you don’t have them in place – they should be and you need to get busy developing them. Perhaps they have been in place for some time and need an updating. If you have the luxury of an HR department they should be able to support you in this endeavor. If not, you and the team have some work to do to be absolutely clear on this.
  2. Discuss & Refresh – How do we build a foundation of vulnerable trust? Think to how the team comes together in meetings, on tasks, in idea generation, in debriefs, in decision making and general discussion. What is the trust level? Can you be comfortably vulnerable with each other in discussions in order to be authentic? Strong levels of trust should be at the foundation of every team. It can take work to get there if it is not in place. A suggestion – you may wish to have someone external to the team facilitate such conversations. This is the time for a representative from Human Resources, or Organizational Development departments to be of service. You may wish to give consideration to an outside consultant or leadership coach to guide this type of meeting, you do need someone who has an objective ear to the discussion.
    • What workplace behaviors arise from the values you have agreed to or refreshed?
    • It is worthwhile to discuss and adopt an agreed upon language that you use that is respectful of others. e.g. Instead of ‘’being in conflict’’ can you and team members be comfortable with the phrase ‘’creative tension’’.
    1. Discuss & Refresh – How will we make decisions as a team?
    2. Discuss & Refresh – How will we communicate and collaborate?
    3. Discuss & Refresh – How will we resolve conflict?
    4. Discuss & Refresh – How will we hold each other accountable?
    5. Discuss & Refresh – Who do we, as a team, need to be to commit to collective success?
    6. Discuss & Refresh – How do we assure high performance?

    Teams need to be conscious of how they treat and perform with other members. Dysfunctional teams can get in the way of performance for each other, for the department and for the organization as a whole. Putting the work into building greater trust on teams is vital to contribution, effectiveness and productivity. Refreshing the points that I have brought to you today is important – don’t be running on exhausted or stagnant agreements of past. Team members also change over time, you may have members who have not been part of prior team building processes. Remember, the dynamics of a team can change with even just one new member.

    Doing such work with your team gives you leverage when something goes wrong. Agreeing to commitment to these areas makes the difficult conversation an easy one when you need to deal with challenging team situations. Refreshing such work is revitalizing and makes agreements highly relevant to the ever changing needs of your team and the organization.

    To Better Leadership, Always!

Re-energizing Divisional Teams

The Stages of Team Development

Group Of Business People Working Outdoors With Work Related Imag

Written Transcript/Summary – Leadership and The Stages of Team Development

AYL Podcast #8 Summary

Leadership and the Stages of Team Development

Definition of a Team

“A team is a small number of people who come together with complementary skills and are committed to a common and agreed upon purpose, performance goals and approach. As a team they hold themselves accountable to the agreements, both as a whole and individually.”

Typical Indicators of the Four Stages of Team Development


  • Polite, Impersonal
  • Hesitant Participation
  • Test Behavioral Expectations
  • Discusses Peripheral Problems
  • Attempts to Identify Tasks and Parameters
  • Decides on Information Needed
  • Watches Team Leader Closely
  • Accomplishes Minimal Amount of Work Together


  • Conflicts
  • Competition
  • Disunity, Tension
  • Fluctuations of Relationships
  • Concern over Excessive Work
  • Polarized Group Members
  • Watches Team Leader Closely
  • Accomplishes Minimal Amount of Work Together


  • Establishes Procedures
  • Able to Express Emotions Openly
  • Sense of Team Cohesiveness, Spirit
  • Trust Among Members
  • Common Goals
  • Developing Skills
  • Respects Members’ Contributions
  • Accomplishes Moderate Work


  • Informality
  • Members Willing to Help Others
  • Close and Supportive
  • Builds Links to Other Teams
  • Flexible and Open
  • Functions Do Not Become Redundant
  • Distinct Roles & Contributions
  • Accomplishes Maximum Work

Suggested Team Activities in Each of the Four Stages of Development


  • Provide opportunities to make contact, bond, and get to know each other
  • Clearly define and discuss expectations and boundaries, including personal needs
  • Clarify roles and responsibility within the teams and cross teams
  • Acknowledge and empathize with members feelings of confusion, ambivalence and even annoyance
  • Communicate team members personal needs


  • Discuss team performance compared to goals and objectives set
  • Focusing on managing the workplan, milestone and resource needs
  • Focus on team process issues, and clarify decision-making roles and responsibilities
  • Discuss what has been learned
  • Plan for celebrations of team success


  • Conduct regular check-ins to ensure sharing of information and resources, feedback, and evaluation
  • Check problem solving and decision making processes to ensure effectiveness
  • Clarify key cross group dependencies and encourage more contact cross group
  • Plan for celebrations of team success


  • Experiment with and develop new methods for meeting team goals
  • Consider implications of the work from a change management perspective
  • Think about how to transfer knowledge created by the team
  • Consider implications of work for the broader business
  • Identify and decide how to address cross team gaps
  • Cross train within the team for development and expertise sharing
Leadership and the Stages of Team Development

How to Lead Creative Teams

Creative team working round a laptop

Written Transcript/Summary – How to Lead Creative Teams

AYL Podcast #7 Summary

How to Lead Creative Teams

Welcome to Advance Your Leadership with Bev Benwick. This is Podcast # 7… How to Lead Creative Teams.

Frequently, I have the opportunity to work with a leader of creative teams. This is not always a smooth conversation as some leaders really struggle with inspiring the creative minds and wrestle with the creative personalities in the workplace.

I personally had this experience decades ago when I headed up a company that had several creative people, 3 of my 5 teams where exactly that. And….at that time in my career I was one of those ‘’no nonsense’’ leaders…you can imagine how popular I would have been with those who wished for a culture that promoted their creativity. Fortunately, I did observe what was going on and tried to alter my style somewhat at that time…although this wasn’t easy for me. Over the years I have grown to highly value the creative worker…..and that has been my motivation to lead differently in this regard.

Being creative naturally is a gift! Do our companies need creative departments….of course. Your industry will determine the need for the creative teams….but most companies that I work with have either a marketing team and a communication team. If given the size of your company, neither exists, than you likely have an individual in the role(s) or perhaps you outsource such activities. On the other hand….your company may employ a number of creative teams for product development as well.
Are the leaders of such teams, or you personally, leading in a way that promotes and inspires creativity…..or do you or others lead in a way that actually serves to minimize or stall creativity.

I would like to support your leadership with some thoughts about – being a better leader of creative teams:

  1. Exercising your coaching skills with this type of team will go a long way towards success with a creative team. Using a telling or coersive style of leadership falls flat with such a group. Making suggestions and asking for the thoughts of team member, or simply being far more inclusive than you may normally be can really payoff and bring about greater inspiration and contribution.
  2. Generally speaking, most creative people are visionary. If you are a leader who is rooted in tasks and details by your natural preference, you will need to think out of the box with regard to your leadership of a creative team. Leadership is not management, although you may certainly have some management activities to do in your day as well. But.leadership is the transformational piece, not the transactional piece. Vision must be articulated with excitement and clarity to your team. Who do you need to be to inspire, motivate and engage these people, not just the heads..but as well the hearts of these team members to bring about a high performing creative team.
  3. I find most people access their creativity when in a ‘’fun’’ or ‘’light environment. This is not always easy to fulfill in a busy work environment particularly if the overarching company culture is highly structured and stoic and/or reactive. If you have ever dealt or walked into the creative offices of an advertising firm you may well know what I am referring to here. Even look to the new corporate cultures in the technology sectors today. I am not saying that the company doesn’t have a serious nature towards its goals or objectives. What I am referring to is how they treat their creative teams. I ‘most often see an easing of the so called ‘’rules and regulations” in the culture for such teams. I see companies looking to offer agility and inclusion as a way to attract such creative talent. Hmmmmm…what does that tell you about the needs of creative people to do what they do best. What activities or different ways of doing work can you come up with to best inspire your creative group?
  4. Pretty much everyone has an expectation to grow and develop as they join
    a company…creative folks too! Leaders do have a responsibility to be the initiator of such for those that work for them. Creative people usually love to be challenged. Change up your game as a leader…..create a development or learning plan for each member of the team. What might that look like…here are a few of ideas:
    1. Let team members take turns at leading team meetings and preparing the content and agenda. You may wish to pair people up here to do so. Remember…you are still the leader and must use effective delegation to ensure this activity doesn’t fall off the wagon. If you have young team members….they need a lot of guidance…so to assure success….communicate/guide/ and create milestones that put the preparation in front of you to guarantee a productive and informative meeting. This is helping each member develop some leadership skills.
    2. Rotate different types of assignments. Let team members have some variety in what projects they work on. This will help develop further capacity in them….and is a bonus for you when something goes sideways or you have team member reduction for whatever reason.
    3. Develop presentations skills of everyone on the team. This may be presentation skills for internal or external use. As a leader….you again want to effectively delegate such a development activity. Lay out the plan, use guidance, discuss thoughts with those involved, and create milestones that allow for a check of quality and progress.
  5. Create an accepting culture on your creative team relative to idea creation and sharing of ideas and information. If you truly want people to be ‘’creative and out of the box’’ then you must foster an environment or team culture that promotes adventure and risk with regard to putting ideas forward. I find creative teams love to brainstorm…..without judgement. Actually this is true for many teams when they are asked to generate ideas with the exception of those teams who really do enjoy the debate, but debate seems to be specific to certain professional environments. So…..let your style and the environment create a ‘safe’ atmosphere to promote the creative activity that lets these teams flourish. Slapping down or readily negating ideas will only shut down contribution and productivity of creative individuals and teams.

I hope this has given you some ideas about bolstering up your own leadership qualities to bring something different to your creative team!

Thanks for joining me today!

To Better Leadership Always!

How to Lead Creative Teams

A Better Understanding of Resolving Conflict at Work

Business people

Written Transcript/Summary – A Better Understanding of Resolving Conflict at Work

AYL Podcast #6 Summary


Conflict is an interesting thing in the workplace. Sometimes even the smallest of situations can escalate into conflict even when appearing to be a pretty benign item. Many companies have a culture of high conflict in meetings or interactions. Some business cultures appear to be relatively calm, but no doubt have their moments of tension.

What happens when people are at what we might term as – butting heads? Or perhaps you witness the Win – Lose attitude with people around you. Or….you practise this behaviour yourself.

Is conflict a product of:

      • the workplace culture?
      • of leadership styles?
      • of poor systems and processes?
      • Trust issues?
      • Personality clashes?
      • Competition between departments/line of businesses

My answer would be a resounding YES….and many more!! However, when we really look at the conflict itself and the people involved….here in lies the secret as to how we focus our attention in a conflict situation and how we respond to the conflict at hand.

What’s interesting is that how we focus our attention and respond to the conflict can actually add to the conflict situation with absolutely zero intention of the individual who sets off the spark. Most of us are unaware that this is even happening if we are the catalyst. So….if we feed the conflict….or poor gasoline on the fire….does the conflict ever go away? This question is worth considering….. tendencies such as resentment, frustration, irritation, anger, anxiety, worry, fear may partially or fully derail relationships greatly impacting the activities and outcomes of those that need to work together to bring about business results.

Let me share a story with you in this regard: As always names and business descriptions are altered.

Sarah, a Director of Finance, worked for an exceedingly busy company with offices in many states. She was excellent in terms of putting into play processes and systems that made her department function exceedingly well. Given that one of the functions reporting to her was the payroll dept., you can understand how important accuracy and efficiency in this system was. Payroll errors are the one area where you don’t want to have mistakes! But…with a recent change…something went off the rails! Department heads were up in arms as they were confronted with numerous complaints from their individual workforces. Frustration and anger grew throughout the day….and eventually led to a meeting of all department heads and Sarah. These leaders tried to temper their anger to convey their concerned message to Sarah. Sarah was a Thinker….very analytical person, she was also a ready to take action kind of person. As Sarah was in the meeting the wheels of her intellect where going at Warp speed. She was working things out in her head as worried leaders spoke to her. Quite suddenly, Sarah thought she had the answer! If you had been sitting in the meeting watching her….you could readily see the light bulb in her head switch on. She leapt out of her chair…made a quick departure from the meeting and moved to action. What do you think might have gone on for the other leaders in the room that she just left?

Well…if you had said they were still in conflict…you would be correct….most of them were. Why would that happen? There are some very specific needs relative to our personality type that would not have been met with Sarah’s quick exit. Her ability to quickly problem solve and move right to action to try and solve the errors and rectify a bad situation, while of great value, still left many who felt like she did not listen to them….like she did not give any value to relationships in the room, like she was unfair by not staying and talking this out. A few, were able to move on pretty quickly…mainly those that matched Sarahs analytical style. How long do you think it might take for Sarah to regain those relationships….and do the relationship repair that was needed?

How do you focus in conflict – I suggest that you write down what is resonating with you as I speak to this……

The thinker or analytical person will put their attention on the following:

  • What the conflict is about
  • Opinions and principles
  • Analyzing and tolerating differences
  • Clear and spot on delivery
  • Maintaining a firm and possibly unwavering stance

The feeling person, or one who tends to come from their heart will put their attention on the following:

  • Who is involved
  • Needs and values
  • Accepting and appreciating differences
  • Tactful delivery
  • Ensuring give and take conversation or atmosphere

What is your inner experience relative to the conflict situation:

  • For some it is challenges to or of trust
  • For some it is challenges to or of authority
  • For some it is challenges to or of beliefs
  • For some it is challenges to or of values

What is the desired outcome that you want?

  • For those that have trust concerns, it is a defined process or the ability to see progression
  • For those that have authority concerns, it is complete resolution or closure
  • For those that have beliefs concerns, it is intact relationships
  • For those that have values concerns, it is respectful listening

I wish that I was able to speak with you individual here with regard to your responses. But….I am certain you can see how different our attention and reactions or responses are to the conflict of others in the room.

Let’s look back to Sarah again for a moment. What could she have done differently that would have left all in the room in a good place relative to the conflict at hand? If Sarah had taken the time to for open listening and further exploration, if she had taken the time to check in with each person as to how they were doing in terms of intact relationships, if she had taken the time to put forth her thoughts on a possible solution- things would have been much different. We can only hope that Sarah went to work to do relationship repair or she would have ongoing conflict to deal with and that is never productive. Let’s hope she didn’t remain blindsided as to how others saw this behaviour as that of an aggressive adversary.

Leaders need to grasp these conflict differences and understand the value in this awareness. How often does conflict play out in your workplace? Probably with a fairly high frequency. I have never worked in an organization, as an employee, as a leader or in my Executive Coaching role where I have not seen or heard of many conflict situations.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you show up at times of conflict?
  • What do you believe others would say of your behaviours or tendencies at such times?
  • How do you currently take care of the other leaders or employees in the room?
  • What could you do differently knowing what you know now?
Leaders: Understanding Conflict in the Workplace