(The article first appeared in People Matters and has been reproduced with the permission of the author)
All of this is like taking paracetamol for fever without understanding the underlying reasons; we are dealing with the symptoms and ignoring the root cause!
What is the root cause? Most often (I may even be ambitious and say always) it is our inability to cope or manage something or someone in one word “our incompetence”. Oops! I know you want to stop reading…that is a natural reaction to the word incompetence… humor me, read a few more paras and you won’t regret it.Take our young heart attack colleague; eighteen months ago he was the epitome of success. He was a top performer, not only within his team but across the organization. This meant larger projects and more calls – meetings – project reviews - travel schedules, the works. Sure, he put in all his efforts into making the most of this success but he wanted to move at 6th gear, in a car that had only 5 gears! He still didn’t have the skills needed to operate at this new level even though his role demanded it.
I was operating in that stage many years ago I moved jobs, changed managers all the while complaining… until one day realization dawned upon me when my spouse very nicely pointed out that one thing common in all these changes was “me”! I am still smarting at the comment but haven’t forgotten the lesson!
Now that we know unconscious incompetence is probably at the root of our stress incompetence cycle – what do we do? Here are a few ideas that work for me and for folks that I have coached...
I call it ACT
Acknowledge, change and team up.
De-stressor 1 – Acknowledge and own your capability gap and seek councel from a trusted colleague or friend.
De-stressor 2 – Change your approach. Stop doing what you have been doing or start doing something (I have a boss who is so fast with numbers that it stresses me. I brushed up on my tables and now, carry a calculator)
De-stressor 3 – Team up with those who complement your skills (I am terrible with documentation; I hired an assistant who is an ace at it)
The most important De-stressor of all, which is why I took it out of the bullet list – learning to say no!
In our eagerness to advance, we blithely take on more and more! We all get into the trap of bigger, better, more. Recently a newly promoted manager met me upset that her manager gave a portfolio that she believed fitted in well with him to another colleague. Size of portfolio, number of people reporting to them – scale has an allure for many ambitious professionals. I had to coach her that she was better off creating a dramatic win in her current portfolio rather than expanding. Quality mattered more than quantity.
This leads me to the last piece of the puzzle: the aspiration – capability mismatch. Our aspirations are huge, most of us want to advance through the corporate ladder rapidly, however, not all of us have the capability or the chance to do so. Some of us reconcile and find interesting options but many of us are never able to reconcile and this becomes the beginning of bitterness, negativity and ultimately stress, all of which ZAP the mind and body off its energy!
Hopefully, you now have the answer to the conundrum. And if you don’t yet, once you are out of the denial phase, you will.
5 TIPS TO STAY AWAY FROM HEART ATTACK
1. Be aware that you always operate at your highest level of incompetence
2. Focus on the root cause - don’t blame and treat the symptoms
3. Learn to say no – remember quality not quantity matters
4. Focus on skill not scale
5. Understand your capability and match your aspiration
Elango R is Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS. You can read the authors blogs at http://agastyaelango.wordpress.com and follow him on twitter @agastyasays