Conversations that matter: A wake up call for managing stress and mindset 

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In the bustle of professional life, it's easy to overlook the subtle stressors that accumulate daily. These micro-stresses, as discussed in my previous blog, are seemingly insignificant challenges that build up and impact our wellbeing and productivity.

Recently, I had feedback from a CEO client that served as a potent wake-up call for me, reminding me of the silent influence of stress and the importance of self-reflection and vulnerability.

black and silver rotary phone on brown wooden table

My client astutely pointed out that I seem less focused on her business lately and rushed in my delivery. Rather than get defensive, I welcomed her candid observations as an opportunity for honest reflection. It’s true, I’m spreading myself too thin. This realisation led me to dig a little deeper into my behaviours and the underlying beliefs I hold around productivity and success.

Stress, vulnerability and the ego

Stress often intrudes on our ego and identity, subtly shaping our self-perception. As a hard worker who thrives on adrenaline and busyness, I came to believe that feeling slightly overwhelmed was a sign of achievement and momentum, a badge of honour even. This unconscious belief was driving me to power through without acknowledging the toll it was taking on my work and health.

I hear similar sentiments from my leadership coaching clients all the time; “I thrive on stress” or “I love to be busy.” When we unpack these beliefs, however, we often find an unconscious fear of failure lurking beneath and hidden anxiety around their capabilities.

Despite 1 in 4 Australians experiencing anxiety, it is often interpreted as a weakness in leadership, largely due to its association with vulnerability. This is all ego. In reality, anxiety is a natural part of being human and when accepted and integrated into leadership, can result in more authenticity, trust, likability and connection.

I love the work of Morra Aarons-Mele, a respected authority on workplace anxiety, who stresses the importance of acknowledging anxiety without stigmatisation and embracing vulnerability as a leadership superpower. As she says, “that's how we humans grow and thrive: we integrate all of our experiences, both hard and not hard, into our narrative, into our identity, into our leadership.”

Vulnerability is the path to stronger leadership and great teams

Vulnerability is a key skill that can often elevate a leader’s credibility rather than diminish it. As the psychological phenomenon of the Pratfall Effect suggests, admitting to an occasional mistake or weakness makes competent people seem more human, approachable and relatable.

Leaders who create space for vulnerability also help build psychologically safe work environments where people feel comfortable to be themselves, fostering more creativity, innovation and risk-taking. This is how cultures of trust and inclusion are built.

I had a moment of vulnerability with my team this week which served as yet another reminder for me to check in with my own stress levels and mindset. My daughter has an intellectual disability and is on the autism spectrum. We’re having issues with school refusal and it all overwhelmed me this week. In the team call, I knew I wasn’t my best, and so I let the team know what was happening in my world. Soon the tears flowed.

They held the space for me beautifully; within a few minutes I felt a sense of relief and calm. Not only did I feel better knowing they have my back, but they felt better knowing why I was being a bit off.

How do you feel about being vulnerable? Here a few questions to ponder:

Do I embrace authenticity in my leadership?

  • Am I comfortable sharing my values, beliefs, and vulnerabilities openly with my team or am I projecting a facade of strength and invincibility?

Am I willing to admit mistakes and learn from them?

  • Do I create an environment where admitting mistakes is encouraged and seen as an opportunity for growth, both for me and my team?

Do I encourage open communication and feedback?

  • Am I approachable and open to receiving honest feedback from my team and peers?
  • Does my team feel safe sharing their thoughts even if they challenge me?

How do I navigate uncertainty and change?

  • Am I transparent about my concerns and anxieties or do I try to maintain an appearance of unwavering confidence?

Do I empower others by demonstrating vulnerability?

  • Do I share my own growth experiences, challenges, and personal stories to motivate and connect with my team? Do I encourage them to do the same?

Want to take your leadership to the next level?

I love working with leaders and teams to peel back the layers and help them reach their highest potential. We have a range of one-on-one and group programs that can be tailored to your needs. Book a call with me today to discuss how we can help.

Yolanda Beattie | Director | Future IM/Pact
Yolanda Beattie
Future IM/Pact
Future IM/Pact founder, Yolanda Beattie, brings a lifelong passion for inner work and the nature of consciousness to her leadership and teams development experiences, honed professionally over the past decade working with leaders and teams across a range of industries. Having spent the first 15 years of her career working in funds management, she combines her mindset development skills with industry insights to create powerful learning experiences grounded in practical application.

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Related content

I find many of my clients (and myself and my team) are struggling more and more with micro-stress. The subtle, often unacknowledged stress we encounter everyday that piles up and depletes our energy. I share some practical tips to help mitigate and manage micro-stress in our lives.

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