In their latest book “The Healing Self”, Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi outline the “Airport Solution” to chronic stress in the workplace. The “Airport Solution” summarizes strategies that can be implemented to reduce the stress of flying. These same strategies can be utilized in the workplace to reduce chronic stress. This is without a doubt timely, but what tools are available for Team Leaders? And how can these practices be easily incorporated into their work life to enhance team culture?
When these tools are “sanctioned” by the workplace it not only helps relieve stress, but also gives the team the means to manage this stress both in and out of the workplace. So in providing these tools, we are not actually fishing for our team but we are, in fact, giving them the line and the right bait so they can fish for themselves. The strategies identified in “The Healing Self” are as follows:
• Detach yourself from the stressor
• Become centered
• Remain active
• Seek positive outlets
• Rely on emotional support
• Escape if you must
Let’s look at these individually.
Detach yourself from the stressor
How can your team detach and separate from the stressors that are an absolute reality of life at work from time to time? Journaling is certainly one tool that is effective and easy to implement in the workplace. It can be used to self-counsel, debrief or just vent. Have you held a toolbox talk on the benefits of journaling and given everyone a journal to kick off the practice? Prompts can be provided to team members to assist with ideas for journaling; these can be general prompts or team specific prompts. As a Team Leader, could you weave this practice into the work day? Here’s an idea – you could start each team meeting with a ten minute journaling exercise.
What does this mean for your team? Perhaps a “Mindful Monday” 15 minute practice to start the week? Could you start each meeting with one minute of mindfulness to allow people to truly arrive before starting the agenda? Maybe a “lunch and learn” so people really know the benefits of these practices. By building these practices into the work day you also send the message that this is who we are and how we do things. It promotes the significance of the “Airport Solution”.
Have you considered booking in walking meetings? Does the workplace encourage people to take regular breaks during the day as respite from our sedentary lives? How is remaining active encouraged? I know at my workplace this was most successful when there were internal champions dedicated to promoting health and wellbeing. How could your team implement “squat challenges” and “minute plank breaks” into the working day? Perhaps organizing your work groups into teams for “step challenge for charity” could promote activity. There is nothing like a little competition to inspire people to get moving!
Seeking positive outlets
We now know that we are more likely to hold on to the negative rather than the positive. So how do we learn to hang on to the positive? Could it be a “wins” board set up for all to see? How about ending team meetings with each person celebrating their “win of the week”? Maybe it could be as simple as asking your team how they have fun and incorporate it into the work week.
Rely on emotional support
Firstly, do your team members have the skills to support one another? Practicing Mindful Listening is one way team members can support each other during difficult times. The mindful component distinguishes it from the distracted listening that we so often offer our colleagues.
Once people have explored mindful listening you can use common language within your team that alerts team members that support is needed. For example, one team member might say “I am just off a call and feel shaken up; I need some mindful listening.” Team Members could practice by starting team meetings with each person having one (timed) minute to be “heard”. Listen out for – what is really going on? What are their challenges? What are their goals? What are their wins? Really enforce that this is a team that has the skills and will take the time to listen. This then lays the groundwork for emotional support.
Escape if you must
Know that it is okay to escape, but ensure that it is seen as a last option. It’s really about the Team Leader providing team members with the tools for when the proverbial hits the fan. Tools such as breathing, journaling, seeking positive outlets, and seeking support from team members through mindful listening. But what happens if this does not change things? Escape. Go for a walk, go home to regroup, and come back the next day having safely recovered.
Team Leaders have so much on their plate but incorporating the “Airport Solution” certainly seems to make sense. You are not only addressing the stress that is an absolute reality of our working worlds but you are also teaching the skill of how to do it for yourself. So once your team members learn how to fish and feel confident about their fishing prowess perhaps they will pass on this skill and teach someone else how to fish!