“Do you hear voices?” It’s a question that some folks would NEVER answer in the affirmative. It is a sign of madness to admit that you hear voices, voices whispering what you should do next. Yet, to be honest, I have heard whispers when in stressful situations.

The urgent whispers ask, “Do you have the answers to these questions? Provide them NOW!” or the insidious, “You didn’t really think you were good enough to do this job, did you? You’re just pretending, aren’t you?”

For me, every moment of leadership means, not silencing the voices, but finding the wherewithal to laugh in their faces. Tammy Lenski (Conflict Zen) asks the question:

When you experience stress, what is it whispering to you?

It is a question that each of us must answer. Recently, I was challenged to have a conversation about a topic and to make a decision (hold someone accountable or not); I didn’t have an answer. I needed to reflect on it. I decided to put the decision off until I could think about it, reflect on it, and laugh in the face of the urgent whispers that demanded immediate action.

Sometimes, those voices must be listened to, but for now, better to let the laughter drown them out, let the whisper sputter and disappear until next time.

What have I learned from stress?

I’ve learned the following:

  • I do my best thinking when stressed…stress that requires action burns away the fluff, helps me focus on the elements of a problem, gives me a surge of adrenalin that is pleasurable.
  • As a leader, I have to resist problem-solving by myself–hard given the boost of MY problem-solving–and instead, trust the process and my team to come up with a more balanced response.
  • I’m a better person when I’m aware of my stress and don’t let it push into rash decisions. Stress serves as a visceral indicator of whether the angle I’m approaching a problem from is the right one or not.
  • Stress makes me ask tough questions. If I’m stressed, I’m most certainly biased and have an agenda. Why do I have that agenda, and is it the right agenda? (often, it’s not)

Read what others have written about learning from stress.

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