Entrepreneur’s Stress Management Begins With Situational Role Clarity

Written by Mike Shapiro | | March 8, 2017

entrepreneurs stress managementWhen you think about it, as the owner of your own business, you fill a number of different positions: salesperson, operations manager, employer, financial manager, fiduciary, steward. Performing the duties of each of these positions requires you to play various roles: leader, problem solver, coach, mentor, counselor, helper. Moving among these multiple positions can be stressful, so it’s helpful to learn some techniques for entrepreneur’s stress management.

Before diving in, read each situation for clues about what’s really being asked of you.

Much of the advice out there on managing stress focuses on using your own internal processes to control your reactions to external events. The underlying assumption is that you can’t change those events, but you can change the way you react to them.

That’s good advice but doesn’t get to the root cause of the stress. That’s because it erroneously assumes the role you will play in any situation is an unchangeable given, and that the only thing in your control is your own reaction while you’re playing it. But the fact is, you can set the stage for a more constructive approach to any situation by first clarifying your role in it.

In a previous post, we talked about how a rigid view of the roles behind the titles on an org chart can be an obstacle to getting things done.

Some of the stress we’re talking about here is due, not necessarily to the difficulty of the work itself, but to a lack of clarity about what is really expected of you at a specific moment in time — what role you should play.

There are some concrete role-definition steps you can take to head off stressful situations before they arise. Before moving into action mode, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What kind of intervention on my part does this situation require or demand?
  2. Which of my many roles is being called upon right now?
  3. What actions are appropriate for that role?

3 techniques for entrepreneur’s stress management

Adopt a role-appropriate attitude when facing a challenge

Suppose a prospect hasn’t responded to your presentation. Owner-You might take it personally and say “Guess she’s not interested in my company or its products.” Salesperson-You would see it as just another cue requiring a response tailored to the situation such as “Time to follow up.”

As Owner, you may be quick to interpret a lack of response as lack of interest or rejection. But the Salesperson’s position requires him to relentlessly promote your products, and one of the activities expected of that position is to be persistent in following up. The Salesperson can’t afford to let the lack of response from a prospect prevent him from doing his job, and neither should you.

So, when you’re wearing the Salesperson’s hat, you follow up and see whether they need more info or clarification of something you’ve already sent them.

Break a project into manageable pieces, noticing that different roles may be called for.

Suppose the task is “Write a business plan.” At first blush, this appears as a single, intimidating activity. That might discourage you from getting started. But a closer look reveals it has at least 3 distinct elements, each one calling for different activities on your part:

  1. Develop ideas. This calls for Brainstormer-You to come up with many possibilities. You’re not trying to come up with a finished product or even a draft. You’re just an idea generator.
  2. Prepare a rough draft. This calls for Drafter-You to put some words around the ideas and organize them in some way. Your brainstorming is already done. And you don’t have to worry about editing or making it look good.
  3. Editing for final draft. Now’s the time to for Editor/Refiner-You to polish it up. You don’t need to come up with new ideas, and you have the good fortune to have a draft ready to work on.

Shift away from a default “tell-and-act” mode to a more consultative role in staff interactions

Oftentimes you’ll be presented with the opportunity to intervene to dislodge a roadblock faced by your team. Getting clear on the role you should play will help you decide which of several possible actions to take:

  • Make a key decision yourself or advise team members and ask questions for them to follow up on?
  • Solve a problem the team is struggling with or just listen as they describe it?
  • Counsel a team member on what to do or coach her to reach a solution?
  • Resolve a conflict among staff or mediate as they work it out themselves?
  • Handle a matter yourself or delegate to one of your managers?

Next time you need help with entrepreneur’s stress management when you’re struggling with a project, task or decision, take a moment to examine the role you should play, and the actions required of that role in that specific time and place.