The Intersection of Stress & Career Success

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Life has been stressful for all of us on so many levels recently. Like some of you, I have spent a lot of sleepless nights since March wondering if my spouse, an essential worker, will come home from work and give me COVID-19. However, unlike some of you, I probably wouldn’t survive it — if I got it. An invisible disability for most people who have them, I have several autoimmune diseases and my symptoms are exacerbated by – you guessed it – STRESS. 

Life has been stressful for all of us on so many levels recently. Like some of you, I have spent a lot of sleepless nights since March wondering if my spouse, an essential worker, will come home from work and give me COVID-19. However, unlike some of you, I probably wouldn’t survive it — if I got it. An invisible disability for most people who have them, I have several autoimmune diseases and my symptoms are exacerbated by – you guessed it – STRESS. 

When I was first diagnosed and my symptoms were at their worst, they manifested in extremes like panic attacks so bad I’d have to pull off the highway when I was driving to take deep breaths to stop myself from hyperventilating or passing out. Even when properly medicated with a prescription, when I’m in a high stress situation, I still have varying degrees of social and physical anxiety. The downside is that the extent of the anxiety can make me less likely to stand up for myself when confronted by disrespectful people, aggressive personality types and people who are completely oblivious to their own stress behaviors – which seem to be a lot of people these days.    

If you’ve read my other articles, or my old blog https://cindygoyette.com/hr-lady-but-not-really/ , you know I’m pretty self-aware. I know who I am. I know my strengths and my limitations. I am a life learner always seeking to grow and evolve for the betterment of myself and those around me. I’ve been studying human behavior a lot of my life. My first encounter with an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist early in my career fueled my natural curiosity to study the intersection of unique talents we are hard-wired with, job design, internal motivation, and career choices. While I have taken as many personality profiles and behavioral assessments I can get my hands on, I have found the most enlightenment from the Birkman. https://birkman.com/

When I took the Birkman assessment for the first time, I was in the throes of leading a complex, talent integration of three small, global business acquisitions into one business unit of a tech company I was working for. Suffice it to say, it was a super stressful time. Millions of dollars had been invested and lots of changes were about to take place for all the employees that would re-define who they reported to, what team they were on and what their daily job duties would be going forward. And, as many of us know those three variables (manager quality, team dynamics and job content) have a huge impact on job satisfaction and employee retention. On top of all that, a big part of my job was to effectively assess and keep as much talent as possible for business continuity and ROI. 

The Birkman consultant gave each of us our individual reports and explained three key aspects the assessment reveals: 1) our USUAL behavior, how we ‘show up’ to the outside world, depicted by a diamond for our most effective and productive self at work, 2) our internal motivators (NEEDS) that are invisible to others and, 3) how we are likely to behave when our Needs are not met (STRESS). Then, we gained an understanding of what our Stress behaviors look like and were given practical strategies to help us move out of stress and back into our Usual productive self.

“When you find your DIAMOND and stick with it – you make space not only for your brilliance, but also, for others to perform and SHINE from their true strengths as well.”

Cindy Goyette, Career Coach & Advisor

While the insights I gained were profound in my personal development and ability to better manage my stress, they were paramount in my work helping company leaders ensure they have the right talent to execute their business strategy. Since that time, I have been certified as a Birkman consultant and I have been combining the strength of the Birkman data with strategic workforce planning, job design and talent profiling for maximum performance outcomes and employee retention. 

As a talent strategist, I help leaders ensure they have the right talent to execute their business strategy. When companies have the RIGHT TALENT to execute their business strategy, PEOPLE are:

  1. in the RIGHT chair (their job content – i.e. what they do with their time and talent aligns with their interests and what motivates them, uses their experience & skills, and challenges their growth)
  2. paired with the RIGHT Manager and team members (who are equipped with management and coaching abilities, complementary skills and diverse backgrounds)
  3. in the RIGHT company & culture (this includes company size, industry and state of organizational evolution that is aligned with their values and supports their career aspirations and development)

When those three things are not aligned or not existent, talented people often erode to lesser versions of their USUAL most effective and productive selves. Why? Because any one of these three aspects can put people in their stress behaviors. According to Birkman, stress behavior is “ineffective, negative behaviors (frustrated, acting out behaviors) that are observable by others and that occur when our Needs are not met.”

I tell all the people I coach, self awareness is imperative to setting yourself up for career success. Your internal motivators, your Needs, are not obvious to other people regardless of how transparent you think you are. Your Needs need your voice to speak up for them because people around you are not mind readers. And, when your Needs go unmet – you can easily spin into stress behaviors which are many times the opposite of us being our best self at work.  We’ve all worked with people who are happy-go-lucky on some days and nothing short of their evil twin on other days – leaving us wondering who they really are and confused about how to work with them given their inconsistent behaviors. 

I have seen it all too often when candidates focus solely on the chair (i.e. the job title) they are seeking…then they take the position only to find that they are incompatible with their Manager’s personality and/or management style — or their team is not inclusive so they cannot thrive in their position and they quickly self-eject by leaving the company. I’ve also seen candidates focus solely on the company’s mission because it aligns with their passions. They accept the job, find out the job content was misrepresented, or just not what they thought, and therefore not aligned with their interests/talents so they leave because the job was too easy or too boring or they didn’t know how to do what was expected.

We are all complex and unique humans and some stress pushes us to grow while some stress leaves us debilitated. Regardless of which stress you are currently living with, we all need healthy and simple strategies to counter our stress behaviors — so we can be our BEST, most PRODUCTIVE SELVES at work. Life is too short to spend so much time in a job or company that doesn’t LIGHT YOU UP. If you’d like to increase your self awareness, learn how you are likely to behave under stress and/or just want to BE the best version of yourself at work, I’d love to help in your career journey. Check out my website https://cindygoyette.com/

If you are a past or present Career Coaching client and reach out to me — I will reply to you with your Birkman Stress Management Report for FREE. These are stressful times and I’m here to support your continued success. YOU MATTER.

PEOPLE MATTER in Business.

Cindy Goyette, CC, SPHR, MA – cindygoyette.com 2020

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