Project Management

Stress is the Spice of Project Management

Is there anyone who does not love stress? The way it leaves you awake and bloodshot deep into the night, hoping that a bookcase falls on you so can take some time off? Maybe that is taking things too far, but Margaret Meloni writes for PM Student that stress really can be the spice of life for project managers.

Stress with Finesse

A little bit of pressure brings the best out in people and their work. Meloni refers to this as “eustress,” as opposed to true “distress,” which is the stress that brings you down. Everyone has a different level of acceptable stress, so it is up to you as a project manager to know how much pressure you can take and how much pressure your team can take. Meloni continues:

The challenge you face as a leader is to understand how to use stress effectively. First you need to understand your tolerance for stress[;] then you need to understand the tolerance levels of your team members. Then you need to find ways to provide the right levels of stress. You will need to rein your stress junkies and you will need to teach your stress averse to increase their stress tolerance.

The best way to do this is by rewarding the behavior that aligns with the practices you want to see. Give a pat on the back to the so-called stress junkies when they are able to meet deadlines sooner and do not fixate so much on firefighting. Staying up all night to finish work should be actively discouraged by comparison. As for the risk-averse people, you should give them the confidence boost they need by telling them that you know they can hit a tight deadline or achieve at a high level of quality. And if all else fails, there has to be a bookcase somewhere.

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