How To Cope With The Demands Of Team Management
July 28, 2016
The life sciences industry is often a high-stress environment, with long hours and the changing regulatory landscape putting heavy workloads on R&D and Commercial team member’s alike.
This workplace pressure is magnified if you’re in the position of managing a team, with your burden of responsibility increasing as you navigate compliance issues, employee training, and possible workplace conflict across your whole team.
There’s no question that stress can be a powerfully negative factor for life science managers, and that in order to succeed in the field, managers need to learn to cultivate calm in their working days.
Tips to Reduce Stress
a. Start the day with a difficult or dreaded task. The flush of pride and relief from getting it out of the way will give you great momentum to attack your day, rather than letting it lurk about in the back of your mind making you feel stressed and even guilty.
b. Write down all the things that are bothering you, scale their true importance, and bullet-point solutions. In this way you can cut them down to size, and assess whether each one is actually worth worrying about.
c. In that vein, also ask yourself: will this be important next week/month/year? The human brain revels in drama, so notice when you’re starting to wallow about in worst-case scenarios, and move your thoughts onto something more productive. Such as…
d. Writing down the positives in your life and work. They don’t need to be huge, just small things that you’re happy about in the present moment will do the trick. Showing ‘gratitude’ might sound airy-fairy, but the act of writing down positive things has been proven to reduce stress and make us happier.
e. Identify your triggers. It might be a toxic team member; it might be monthly reporting; it might be your own line manager: we all have triggers that send our stress levels through the roof.Write each one down and create a ‘battle plan’ for the next time the trigger arises—it could be doing a meditation practice before performance review days, going for a walk around the block before responding to an angry email, or mastering your reporting software to make the job easier.
f. Next time you notice your heart start to race or your stomach feels fluttery due to stress, stop and take notice of that reaction and identify it for what it is. Then close your eyes, take 20 deep breaths, focussing only on the slow intake and release of your breath.
Obviously the middle of an office crisis might not be the right time to close your eyes and zone out, but do insert a pause and take a deep breath to calm your mind if you feel like your emotions are getting the better of you. A regular yoga or meditation practice should also help to bring calm clarity to your working days.
g. Reclaim your time off in a meaningful way. As tempting as it can be to relax around the house on weekends ‘doing nothing’, you’ll often find your weekend is eaten away by necessary household chores and probably an hour or two of work emails. Instead, schedule in some things you actively love doing, turn off your emails, and try to get away for the weekend or even a day’s drive into the countryside to refresh the mind.If you do have to fit in some work, get up early Saturday morning to get it out of the way, or leave it to Sunday night so you can prepare for the week ahead. See your friends!
h. Make better health choices. A diet high in alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat or salt will only exacerbate your stress responses, making it more difficult for your body to retain a state of calm under pressure. Research has proven that exercise produces ‘nanny neutrons’ which calm the brain, so get to the gym/park/pool regularly to tame that stressed out brain.
i. Get ready for work the night before. Spend 10-20 minutes in the evenings setting your clothes out, organising your lunch, and writing your to-do list for the next day.This is a common habit of highly successful people and you’ll be amazed how much more positive and effective you’ll be in the mornings.
j. Get your perfection gene under control. If you’re a natural perfectionist, then you are probably your own worst enemy. Force yourself to delegate more, and accept that sometimes things really are ‘good enough’ without obsessing over every detail.Decide which jobs require your perfectionist eye, and then lower your standards slightly for the rest so you don’t burn out entirely, or hold your team to impossible standards.
k. Learn to communicate better. This might be asking for help, it might be asking for clarification, or it might be going directly to a team member to sort out a conflict that’s been festering. By dealing with an issue head on through good communication, you can finally resolve it and banish it from your mind.
As a manager, you need to get your stress under control, not only for your own good, but also to properly support your team as a leader and role model.