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Stress management and conflict resolution

How to show up as a leader while managing stress and conflict resolution

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

Stress management and conflict resolution

How to show up as a leader while managing stress and conflict resolution

By Tessa Buhrmann

, |

4 min read

When conflict arises, it can result in stress. And, when stress levels increase, so does the likelihood of conflict and confrontation. But, remember, if you’re feeling stressed, chances are that your residents and home owners are feeling much the same.

It’s a vicious circle that someone has to stop – and that someone is you. So how can you be the tough guy, and make those hard calls, while still being understanding and kind?

What stress is and why it isn’t always a bad thing

Stress is the body’s way of responding to danger – either real or imagined. It’s the fight or flight response that our body kicks into as a way of protecting itself. When working effectively it can help us remain focused and energetic, and helps us meet our challenges.

But what happens when our stress levels get beyond this and we start feeling frazzled and overwhelmed?

Says leadership coach Daphna Horowitz: ‘When we’re under huge amounts of stress and anxiety, such as when we have to manage complications involving the different stakeholders in an estate, our brain goes into survival mode, our emotional brain flares up, and we go into that instinctive fight, flight or freeze response. The problem is that when we go into this response we aren’t really thinking clearly. We’re thinking from a knee-jerk place of preservation and survival that results in our reactions being less considered and we come across less effectively.’

We’ve all been there, right? So strung out you forget your own name, never mind the names of all the people on your board. So we know something’s got to change. So, to be effective managers we need to manage our own stress, and to do that we need to manage our perceptions and reactions.

But how do you stop the fight or flight response? The most important thing, according to Daphna, is to recognise that you are experiencing the stress response, because when you know you’re in it, then you can move on to dealing with it. Most of us are unaware that we’ve slipped into fight or flight, because it is so instinctive.
There are a few thousand self-help books out there, and possibly even more management and/or life coaches who – for a fee – will talk you through it. But it really all comes down to one thing – taking a good, hard look at yourself, and realising that you are not the centre of the universe.

Keep calm and carry on

In 1939, right near the beginning of the Second World War, the British government brought out an iconic poster that has spawned a million imitations: Keep calm and carry on. It’s great advice, but it’s not that easy to do, so you would do well to emulate possibly the calmest group of people on the planet. Buddhists are known for their calm, contemplative lifestyles, and the secret to their equanimity is their acceptance that you can’t change what happens to you – but you can change how you react. And, the thinking continues, it’s the reaction rather than the original incident that causes the stress. So it’s not surprising that most stress management and conflict resolution techniques revolve around managing yourself – your responses, and your motivations – rather than managing the ‘problems out there’.

Build relationships and trust

The main goal of estate managers is building relationships and trust between stakeholders, and communicating effectively. That isn’t always easy, so bear in mind that, in order to be trusted, you need to be trustworthy. Self-help guru Don Miguel Ruiz outlines what he calls the ‘Four Agreements’ that can help you achieve trustworthiness.

  • Be impeccable with your word (or just tell the truth – always!).
  • Don’t take things personally. Oooh, this is a hard one, but remember, it’s about the end goal, not about you.
  • Don’t make assumptions. It’s so easy to assume you know what someone’s intentions are, especially if you disagree with them. So resist the temptation to make snap judgements.
  • Always do your best. Always. Your best. Your very best.

Assume positive intent

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but at the end of the day all stakeholders do want the same thing at a very big picture level – this would be a beautiful estate that is well managed and well maintained in a cost-effective way. Where the conflict comes in is how to define that, and how to attain it. But always keep the common goal in mind. Nobody really wants to fight. They just want to achieve that goal.

Everything is an opportunity for learning

There are things that are within your control and there are things that aren’t. Some situations you will have handled well, while others – hmm, let’s just say they could do with improvement. And that’s the crux. Even a non-success is not necessarily a total failure. It’s an opportunity to step back and reflect on the situation in order to understand what you would do differently next time, and to learn from it. This is a huge way to show up as a leader – to say, ‘you know what, maybe this wasn’t handled so well, so let’s learn from it and do it differently next time’. It’s the perfect opportunity to show your stakeholders that while you are not perfect, you are trying to be.

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