Thursday, December 19, 2013

Real-World Tactics for Reducing Stress

Make regular appointments with yourself and keep your employees happy

It’s no secret that we live in a hyper-caffeinated, always-connected world. Work/life balance is a pipedream for most professional people these days, even more out of kilter during the Holidays.

Fortunately, there’s hope. And you don’t have to go on retreat to India or Nepal to find a solution. One of our clients, CEG Worldwide, does a lot of coaching and research for elite financial advisors. In a recent study, CEG found that six out of ten high-income advisors were very satisfied with their current success despite the constant stress and anxiety that comes with managing millions--sometimes billions of dollars of other people’s money. As many of you know, year-end is often a time of wits-end.

Uncertainty about politics, the economy and the markets means many advisors have to reassure their clients continuously and they have to do a lot more hand-holding than they used to. CEG managing principal John Powell said a lot of advisors simply don’t take time for themselves and work too many hours, even though many times the long hour are sincerely in the interest of serving their clients better.

Face your stress head on

Here are three stress-reducing techniques that Powell recommends:

1. Trim your mix of clients. Examine your existing client base carefully to see if you are serving too many non-ideal clients. Sometimes it’s just better to let them go than to bend over backwards trying to save a relationship that isn’t meant to be.

2. Time block. Smart advisors block out time on their schedules for client meetings, during which they won’t accept phone calls or other interruptions. But they rarely do the same for other important tasks—from business planning to family time to exercise. Make regular appointments with yourself; block out that time on your calendar and treat that time it as sacredly as you do the time you reserve for your clients, Powell recommends.

3. Step away from the desk. CEG reports that some of its coaching clients significantly increased their earnings once they started taking more time off. Vacations forced them to be more efficient at the office. Also, when they were away, their creative juices start flowing again because they were away from the distractions of their normal environment.

Keep your people happy

Another good way to reduce stress around the office is to keep your employees happy. Jen Agustin senior director of marketing at a marketing technology company, Bizo, wrote recently that there are three keys to keeping your staff happy: (1) Top management sets the right tone; (2) Employees feel trusted; (3) You hire people with the right culture fit, not necessarily all the qualifications you seek.

1. Set the right tone at the top. No matter what size the company, Agustin said the “tone” ultimately gets set at the very top and trickles down to every employee. That tone can be positive in the form of fun, honesty and transparency, or in unfortunate cases, it can convey feelings of intimidation and mistrust. Which type of organization would you want to work in?

2. Show employees you trust them. At Bizo, you can work from home whenever you need to, but Agustin said 20 percent of its employees work from remote offices located across the globe, from Abu Dhabi to Omaha and Honolulu to Seattle. But it doesn’t stop there. According to Agustin, the only vacation policy Bizo has is, “take it when you need it.” When it comes to expenses, the rule of “treat the company’s money as if it was your own.” HR, are you listening!?

3. Make prospective employees feel like part of the team—during the interview process.  Instead of the usual interrogation or ambush style interviews, take candidates out to lunch or happy hour, or invite them to non-confidential meetings and ask them to participate as they would if they were already part of the team. “Past work experience is certainly important, but there’s no substitute for hiring someone whose positive, helpful attitude will ultimately trump any missed checkboxes on an interview questionnaire,” related Agustin.

We couldn’t agree more.


Stress is unavoidable, especially in the professions most of us have chosen. The good news: You have control over how you react to it, who you work with, who you surround yourself with and how you get yourself back to the right work-life balance.

Tags: Jonathan Powell, CEG Worldwide, reducing holiday stress, Jen Agustin, Bizo, keeping employees happy


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