People Acuity Newsletter – February 2021

Leading When Stress is High

If you ask most leaders how work is, the most predictable answer is, “Busy.” But, if you dig a little deeper to find out what that really means, you’ll hear things like:

  • “Trying to fix one problem, while six more unfold.”
  • “Attempting to manage the pressure from above and below me.”
  • “Working too many hours and giving up too much of my family and personal life.”

In other words, “I’m stressed!”

Even before the global pandemic, we were facing a workplace epidemic that had nothing to do with COVID-19 – at least according to Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady. She suggested that “work-related stress is a growing epidemic,” citing the fact that 15.4 million workdays were lost due to stress the year before the pandemic (up 25% from the previous year). And, during COVID, the stress levels jumped to the highest ever recorded by the American Institute of Stress, with 88% of all employees experiencing high stress all or most of the time.

Many people don’t realize the formula for stress, and how they make it worse for themselves and others around them. It looks like this:

Pressure is normal and can actually help you perform better – but not if you ruminate about it.  When you add negative rumination to the equation, you release more adrenaline into your system, which speeds up your heart and builds up plaque faster (leading to heart attacks).  Cortisol, the stress hormone, is also produced, which blocks your production of white blood cells and suppresses your immune system.  Not exactly the best thing to happen to you in the middle of a global pandemic!

Then, if you add to it the common response of verbalizing your negative emotions, you compound your negative feelings, reduce your own emotional and physical resilience, and deplete the energy of others around you.  The more you ruminate, the more your productivity will go down, right along with your energy and performance – and that of everyone around you.

We need a new response to stress if we are going to get right-side-up again in 2021.  That is why we have written this brief whitepaper (see below), What Great Leaders Do Differently Under Stress,” and provided you with an exciting online learning program to help you, Igniting Performance and Energy.


What Great Leaders Do Differently Under Stress

You’re up against a critical deadline on the most important project of your life – and your kids are fighting around you as you try to conclude your ten hour workday at the kitchen table. In the middle of all this, your email pings, reminding you that you’re late (again) on your credit card bill. Your heart rate goes up, you start sweating, and your mind stops focusing. You feel like you’re going to blow a fuse any moment.

Stress like this lowers your mood and energy level, and negatively impacts your relationships and work performance – not to mention your health. It is also painfully contagious and ripples out in ways you may have never considered.

View and Download the Whitepaper

Igniting Performance and Energy – Online Program

Self-awareness, by itself, is no longer enough to make it in today’s complex, ever-changing new world. It can help you start to move the needle on your energy and performance, but if you want to enthusiastically and excellently perform in today’s complicated environment, what you really need is the Proactive Awareness that helps you ignite and sustain performance and energy permanently.

Now you can take this online program any time and anywhere using any Internet connected device! And for a limited time, this program is offered for only $19.95!

Learn More and Register
I have never seen a more comprehensive and effective development experience!  Learning to affect performance by helping people see themselves differently has led to a whole new level of success and enjoyment in our work and the people around us. We posted the highest numbers in ten years after our People Acuity experience.”
Robert J. Hager, CEO , Border State Bank

Technology Is Great When It Works, But What About When It Doesn’t?

Many of us have been working remotely for almost a year now, and have gotten a pretty good handle on the situation. We carved out our dedicated work space, adjusted our schedules, and got the kids to understand what “Mommy and Daddy are working now even though we are still in pajamas!” means. No matter how much experience we have with it though, there is always one thing mostly outside of our control, leaving us at the mercy of the gremlins that inhabit cyberspace and sometimes just pure, dumb luck – technical difficulties.

They can creep up at the most inopportune times, and vex even the most calm, cool, and collected among us. Blunders of the tech variety can be embarrassing, waste time, make you feel unprepared, and might even require a complete rescheduling of your day (depending on the severity of the issue); and afterwards, you need to figure out how to handle it. Since we’re all susceptible to the dreaded tech trolls, below we have a few suggestions on how to proceed in the aftermath of their visits.

Nothing To See Here… Move It Along

Remember in junior high school, when you and the rest of the band were walking onto the recital stage with your clarinet, but unlike everyone else you tripped and fell into the 3rd chair trumpet player? You didn’t have a choice then other than to get up, pretend it never happened, and perform your melodic duties during the concert. Much like that all-too-familiar occurrence, in the case of tech difficulties, once you can log back into the Zoom or onto the webinar, the best thing to do – in that moment – is to let it be forgotten. While you’ll want to address it at some point with your manager, and perhaps apologize to the attendees, it’s best to not completely disrupt the business at hand by dwelling on the mishap – simply continue on with whatever was planned. Should someone ask about it, we recommend acknowledging the technical issue, apologizing for the interruption, and letting everyone know you’ve recovered and the meeting can proceed. You can also access the reaction of participants to ascertain whether or not a post-Zoom one-on-one to further explain would be helpful.

Oh… Could You See / Hear That?

Depending on where you live, a simple ambulance driving by with the siren on could be a regular occurrence. If this is something you deal with, a polite “Let’s pause for just a moment please”, followed by literally pausing your presentation or conversation, and turning your microphone off or down if possible, is all that’s needed. Don’t try to yell over the emergency services going by – you’ll never win that shouting contest, especially if “winning” means your colleagues can hear and make out anything you would be saying.

Background distractions and things not meant to be broadcast require a different approach. It’s important to remember that probably everyone able to peek into your world through your webcam is either in a similar situation or knows someone who is, regardless of what’s going on, and they understand that we are all human, and our living rooms do not a professional corner office suite make. If your dog drags the garbage can through the frame or your child decides to behave like a holy terror right after your 10am management call starts, we recommend not interrupting when someone else has the floor. At the next appropriate moment, you can issue an apology, which if followed by a “You know how it goes some days!” will probably get you a lot of vertically shaking heads in agreement.

Perhaps you didn’t realize the Zoom call has connected, and you’re ranting out loud to yourself about the new employee in accounting who can’t seem to get you your expense reimbursement check in a timely manner – How would you wipe the egg off of your face and move on from this unfortunate incident? If it isn’t clear to others what exactly they were privy to overhearing, then don’t explain to them what the context was. It’s best to address this situation one-on-one, whether the subject of your ire was on the Zoom at the time or not – even in a remote working world, there’s a virtual water cooler, and what you said will be made known. While it’s best to be patient and compassionate, and remember that everyone has had to shift their lives around due to COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions, and that hasn’t been smooth sailing for some, frustration can sometimes get the best of us, and we spout off about something at the worst possible time. Be sure to apologize directly to the person your rant may harm, and if that part of the conversation goes well, you may both just end up laughing at how stressful, crazy, and upside down we all feel on some days while the pandemic continues to make life adjustments necessary. (As a side note, we also recommend learning a lesson from this specific situation – to remember from then on until forever more the ideals of compassion and understanding – as well as never forgetting that the mic or webcam might be on without you knowing it.)

If the snafu on your end is close to pandemonium and has completely thrown the work proceedings off course, quickly and handily squash the chaos, and follow with a mea culpa. And also remember, your sentence should fit the technological “crime” (so to speak) – it’s doubtful an interruption of this sort would require going overboard with numerous and repetitive apologies, gift baskets, or long emails of remorse.

We all try to put our best foot forward at work, and the past year of upheaval has tested even the most stoic and resolute among us. We hope the advice we shared is helpful when tech trolls attack. Remember too, your willingness and ability to move on from embarrassing technology issues will be mirrored by others who witnessed the situation.

If you’d like to learn more about how People Acuity can help prepare your organization for our new world, please call us at 952.797.4317, email us at, or simply use the link below.

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