The definition of stress might be clinically described as ” a psychological reaction of the body when it is subjected to heavy demands. (Oxford Dictionary) Clear decision making in a crisis affected by stress.
Research tends to say that death, divorce and even moving house are the most stressful things we can face. The implications can be tremendous and we all react differently.
I have always had my own definition of stress which I describe as “the feelings we get when we are faced with circumstances that seem out of our control.” For me I get stressed when I feel that things are happening to me, those around me, or my professional tasks that I lack control over. I get angry, frustrated and very stressed when I am being acted upon and feel like there is no immediate way to change the circumstances. Put simply when I have control over events or I have a set of strategies and course of action that I am confident in, then I am less stressed.
Acute stress is immediate and it can provoke an immediate reaction. Constant stress may not provoke immediate reaction but it certainly pushes or pulls us in different directions. I think there is a way we can make different choices.
We can get better at managing stresses. We can train our brain and our actions to make better choices and take smoother pathways given the circumstances.
Daily and regular habits that become entrenched become automatic. We don’t even need to think about them. We intentionally create some of these behaviours because we want them in our lives. They require little energy. Some require no energy at all. They might range from how we interact with people through to regular exercise plans. These habits are helpful because under normal circumstances they help us perform well in areas that we don’t want to invest significant energy. We value them and they support a smooth life.
When Stress Hits Hard and Automaticity Fails
In a time of crisis we might find that default behaviours fail. Calm and considered thoughts and actions might turn to erratic or reactive behaviours. Introverts become extrovert and vice versa. This is when things can be at risk. We need to be aware when to pause and control habits that normally might be smooth but turn on us unexpectedly. There are times when pace needs to slow, extra steps need to be taken, recognising that we may not be in the best shape to make good decisions or take immediate actions.
Our brain is a funny thing. It does not always fully understand the difference between reality or fiction. What we tell our brain may not be the best advice and what our brain perceives can be misleading. This is when we should employ the power of “reframing”. “This is a crisis” verse “This is a challenge.” It is important to load descriptions of events with words that include solution pathways rather than major catastrophes. At the time of writing this, the world is facing a global crisis however we all know there will be a way through. One way we can respond is to describe “problems” reframed as “challenges” or “opportunities” so that our mind stays open to new directions and pathways forward. I once had a colleague who seemed to be negative about all my ideas and decisions. It was as if he was combative every step of the way. I needed to learn that he was helpful and important to me. He helped me find the obstacles that I may not have seen. By reframing his responses I could see them more openly.
If we are off-balance we are unsteady and less able to respond appropriately. We will naturally be off kilter at times but knowing it and moving back to balance is essential. My first solution is to find “time.” You don’t always need to respond immediately. Time will give you a chance to gather thoughts, more information, steady your emotions and reframe the situation. We all have different strategies that will work best for us depending on our personality and interests. Whatever the case, we need to recognise the unbalanced mood or situation then find ways to return to balance quickly and effectively. Lets be human but great leaders adjust quickly, at least for enough time to take new positions or actions from a good place. Clear decision making in a crisis is better framed as clear decision making while balanced in a crisis.
Preparing for Uncertainty
If nothing else, the recent pandemic crisis has taught us that the world can be unpredictable. Although we should keep a positive attitude and optimistic view of the future we should prepare for uncertainty.That doesn’t need to be a negative. We are better positioned to respond to change when we expect it, even though the exact nature of change is not known. If we reframe change and crises as opportunities and challenges we expected then we are better positioned to lead them well.
Preparing to Win
We may not always have a smooth ride. The outcomes may not be perfect. In fact they rarely are. Winning needs to be framed correctly also. Success might be better termed in criteria that considers the process and pathways we took. Do we comfortable that we did the very best job we could? Were our intentions abundantly clear and positive to everyone? Did our relationships remain mostly positive, authentic and did they reflect integrity? Were we mostly balanced or did we spend a lot of time reacting, off kilter and on edge? As a consequence of our leadership was stress reduced or dod we potentially maintain or increase it?
We may not always be able to control all parts of the outcome or the cards we are dealt in the first place. We have a lot more control however over the steps we take and the role we play in managing a crisis. Being self aware and equipping ourselves with better default behaviours will help us succeed. We can achieve better outcomes if we take some of these very important steps and employ suitable strategies.
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.
Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.