I have a theory about those who work in leadership and management. These hardworking individuals, be they CEO’s, VP’s, Directors, Managers, Supervisors or Team Leads, are all in what I call the Pressure Cooker Position.
These high performers report to superiors and are also responsible for teams of direct reports. All day, every day they manage the ebb and flow of fast paced work environments; moving and shaking, putting out fires and jumping through hoops to keep their organizations running profitably.
So, what happens then, when uncertainties arise? Where does the leader go to blow off steam? Complaining to superiors can be interpreted as weakness. Sharing with subordinates is never an appropriate avenue. It’s tempting to swap frustrations with contemporaries but, is that really a good idea? Where can you go to brainstorm and flesh out ideas when times get tough?
For people in this position, the heat is turned up, the pressure is building and the top is locked down tight. With no safe place to go, you boil and steep until you burn out, blow up or worse.
In my corporate job, I became intimately familiar with this feeling. I suffered in silence and eventually imploded. Toward the end of my time I became physically ill, emotionally exhausted and felt little or no professional satisfaction.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have sought out a healthier way to release the pressure.
Try this: V.E.N.T.
V: Voice your concerns but not just to anyone. If you are going to go to a superior, have a plan, map out possible solutions to your predicament first. An up-line complaint is better received when accompanied by a well thought out resolution or suggestion.
E: Engage the support of a friend or mentor outside of your organization. Releasing the steam with a person who is detached and uninvolved can provide valuable perspective.
N: Never complain about a serious work problem to someone you live with or who benefits from your income. Although some spouses and partners can be objective, I’ve found that the vast majority try to fix the situation (just quit!) or offer confusing advice (here is what I would do). Neither is particularly helpful and can wreak havoc on the relationship.
T: Train your supporters to simply listen, like what author Michael Neill calls “a rock with ears”. Listen from a place of neutrality… not to agree or disagree, but to hold space. What you really need at a time like this is a sounding board. Someone who will simply be there without intervening, or one upping you: (you think that’s bad…listen to what happened to me!) In a perfect world this person would ask for permission to offer advice only after you are completely done with your rant. YOU can decide if you want input or not.
Allow me one final suggestion that is outside of my pithy acronym: When a human is not available, a piece of paper and a pen or a smart device keyboard can be VERY effective. I invite you to write out exactly how you feel. Don’t stop to correct or edit. Write like your life depends on it. Don’t hold back. Then rip it up…grind it, erase it, delete it. Get it out and clear your mind for more important tasks.
Once you have vented your frustrations, you will are able to think more critically. Problem solving will become effortless, allowing you to remain motivated, focused and professionally fulfilled.
Trust me, release the tension and you’ll be cookin’ in no time.