Managing Stress in the Moment

  • By Shawn Sommerkamp
  • 17 Jul, 2017

Every human being on the planet finds themselves, at one time or another, in a stressful situation that they can’t escape. You know what I mean. You are in a meeting at work, and a colleague undermines you in front of everyone. Whoa! At this point, stress jumps on your back like a mad gorilla. What do you do?

Proverbs 12:16 (NASB)  "A fool's anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor.

 We can easily say what we want to do. We want to pour a glass of cold water over their head or yell at the top of our lungs or at least crawl under the table and hope everyone just leaves the room. These are natural responses, of course, since our most primitive instinct wants to kick in – the instinct to survive. When someone attacks us, we want to attack or run. Those instincts serve us poorly in professional life. As the verse above says, showing anger (or fear or stress or annoyance) is dishonorable.

Learning how to manage stress in these precarious situations is key for career advancement. Here are three practical ways to find immediate balance.  

Pray For Strength

In the split second it takes for our blood pressure to rise, we can also find peace in a simple prayer. “Father, help me to be calm,” is one prayer I offer up. This helps us not only rely on someone greater than ourselves, it helps us keep in mind that God is in control, all the time.  

Centering

This is practice where you learn to become aware of your posture while taking a slow, deep breath. When frustrated, we tend to lean slightly forward (fight) or slightly backward (flight). God created in us the sigh, a way to help us automatically center. Trouble is, when we are in a tense situation, we tend to hold our breath. In that moment, breathe slowly and calmly, and you will find yourself begin to stand straighter and taller with confidence. The urge to strike back or run away disappears.  

Slow it Down

When feeling the tension rise, make a deliberate choice to slow down your speech pattern. Yes, talk slower. What will actually happen is you will be talking at just the right pace. When stressed, we tend to speed up from the cortisol and adrenaline our brains start pumping through us. These chemicals are what prepare the body to quickly respond to stress. When you slow down your speech, you offset the surge of energy that often overacts.

James 1:19  "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."

Practicing the three techniques listed above allows us to hold to the guidance from James. As we are quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, we can show the righteousness of God to our colleagues. Not only does this shine the gospel light, it also fosters great relationships in the workplace and does wonders for career advancement.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

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By Shawn Sommerkamp 20 Nov, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:18   Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Give thanks, no matter what is happening in your life.  This is easy…right? 

A national polling firm named Penn, Schoen, & Berland conducted a survey, mid-2012, evaluating American attitude toward thankfulness. They conducted more than 2,000 interviews across the US general population. I’m only going to share a few pieces of the overall report:    

  • 90% of people said they would describe themselves as people who are generally grateful for their family and friends
  • However, only 52% of women and 44% of men express any thankfulness regularly
  • 60% say when they do express thankfulness, they do it to make themselves feel good

Where is the one place people are least likely to express gratitude? WORK 

  • 74% of the 2000 respondents never or rarely show gratitude at work (for anything)
  • 70% want their boss to be thankful for them (even though they don’t express thanks)
  • 81% would work harder if they were thanked by their boss or company 

Based on this survey, that hardest circumstance to give thanks exists in and around the workplace. Isn’t that amazing? The place we spend the most waking hours (about 2,200 hours per year, about 110,000 hours in working lifespan) we aren’t thankful for.  Wow! 

The truth is our career is not just a way to make a living - it’s a way to transform the world. It’s the place God placed us so that we could make the biggest difference in our service to him.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 17 Nov, 2017

by Dave Mitchell

Do you remember when these 3D-Hidden Object posters came out? They were quite the RAVE…

They were not what they appeared to be at first glance… If you wanted to understand what the poster was really about, you had to stop what you were doing, get real close to it – focus on it, and back away very slowly… and then – like magic – 3D images would appear / seemingly emerge right off of the paper (3D effect). The embedded 3D images were disguised and hidden to the untrained/unfocused eyes.

Some people (me included sometimes) would get frustrated if we could not see the 3D images fast enough – some were easier than others… and missed the ‘magic’ of the poster.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 17 Nov, 2017

Mark 10:43-45  "… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 If you search the internet for articles about servant leadership, you will find something like the following excerpt every time:

“the phrase ‘servant leadership’ was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970…”

Robert Greenleaf worked for AT&T for many years researching management, development and education. He became the founder of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership and the modern servant leadership movement. He is credited with awakening the servant leadership theory in modern corporate America.  

Christians are of course aware of this concept through our understanding of the life of Christ. Whether or not we have heard of Robert Greenleaf doesn’t matter. We know leading first as a servant is the way to greatness because Jesus tells us so. He was the ultimate servant leader and the opening verse to this article shows His teachings on the matter. His very journey illustrates its truth.

Yet this principle of life somehow died across the millennia. By the time Greenleaf started his analysis and publications in the early 70’s, the American marketplace had become rife with power hungry and arrogant executives and managers. They were leading by sheer coercion and intimidation.  

Greenleaf was inspired to write his now-famous essay after reading another work of fiction by author Herman Hesse called Journey to the East. It’s the story of a group of men on a mythical journey.  

The central figure of the story is Leo who escorts the party as a servant, doing their menial chores. Interestingly, he also sustains them with his energetic spirit and singing. He is a person of unusual presence. All goes well on the journey until Leo vanishes. The group, as a result, falls into disorder, and their wonderful journey is abandoned. They simply can’t make it without the servant Leo. The narrator of the story and party member, after some years of searching, finds Leo and is taken into the Order that had sponsored the journey. There he discovers that Leo, whom he had only known as a servant, was in fact the ostensible head of the Order, its great and noble leader.

As inspiring as this story is, when we consider the principles of servant leadership in our own career setting, enthusiasm tends to wane. Even as we imagine Jesus kneeling before his disciples and washing their feet, it becomes difficult to translate His actions into our own roles at work. After all, how do we become servants to those who either report to us or those we work with?  

Philippians 2:3-7  with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

We are called to consider others better than ourselves. It is based completely on our perspective, what is in our mind. This is the most important and foundational step – a willingness, like Christ, to see ourselves as lesser than others, to put others’ interest ahead of our own.

In this mindset, we find the following practical characteristics, those highlighted by Greenleaf and found all across the scriptures:  

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of people
  10. Building community

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 17 Nov, 2017

In last blog, we reviewed the underpinnings of servant leadership, and listed the key characteristics. This time, we will provide a bit more information about each one. Please note that this is not meant to be exhaustive but instead, a way to expose you to the idea of servant leadership principles. If you are interested in exploring this further, please send me an email directly.  

Here is a brief expansion of the 10 characteristics of servant leadership:

Listening
You'll have a better understanding of their world when you deliberately choose to listen instead of speak. You will also learn key words to use when responding to them as you carefully hear their perspective. Acknowledge what they are saying from time to time once they have finished speaking. Make eye contact (if in person), and make sure to do nothing else that could distract (if by phone). Avoid coming up with a solution and don’t compare their situation to any of your own.  Remember, "Listening is so much like loving it's hard to tell the difference."

Compassion
Servant leaders care about other’s suffering and try to help. This can sometimes just mean showing patience while the employee or co-worker is trying to work through their situation. This is about being available, being there for others and even making it known that you are ready to help when needed. Ask them how you can help.  

Healing
This characteristic relates to the emotional health and "wholeness" of people, and involves supporting them both physically and mentally. First, make sure that your people have the knowledge, support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.  Next, make sure that they have a healthy workplace. Then take steps to help them be happy and engaged   in their roles.  

Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the ability to look at yourself, think deeply about your emotions and behavior, and consider how they affect the people around you and align with your core values. You become more self-aware the more you keep at the front of your mind the Thought Tuning™ process (which uses your Core Values).

Persuasion
It is attempting to elicit an individual or group to think or do something they would presumably not think or do without your influence. The key here is using influence rather than authority. This is different than manipulation in that persuasion aims to serve while manipulation aims to take. A cousin of persuasion is inspiration, so consider how your energy level and enthusiasm resonates to the rest of your team.

Conceptualization
This is the idea of seeing the forest without focusing too much on one tree. This is the difference between thinking (and acting) strategically vs. tactically. It is a lateral mindset over a linear mindset. Before you take a step on the road, look down that road and determine the best path.  Estimate risk, and create a mitigation plan. This is lateral thinking. Contrast this to linear thinking where you start out on the road and only address issues as they arrive, stopping the journey to fix the immediate problem without knowing what might occur next.  

Foresight
If conceptualization is in the right hand, foresight is in the left. Foresight is when you can predict what's likely to happen in the future by learning from past experiences, identifying what's happening now and understanding the consequences of your decisions. This is where you learn to trust your intuition.  If your instinct is telling you that something is wrong, listen to it! This is also where you can draw on the experience of your team and fellow workers. Be willing to ask for their input.  

Accountability
Accountability is about taking responsibility for the actions and performance of your team, and their role in the organization. Whether you're a formal leader or not, you have responsibility for what happens in your department or company. Show others that you have the courage to report, explain and be answerable for resulting consequences of the team.

Commitment to the Growth of People
Servant leaders are committed to the personal and professional development of everyone on their teams, without showing favoritism. Help them understand their own personal goals and be willing to assist their progress reaching them. This means being selfless with your time and available when asked for help.  

Building Community

The last characteristic is building a sense of community within your organization. Provide opportunities to interact with everyone on the team as well as with those in other departments. Select members to organize social events such as team lunches and external activities. Encourage people to chat informally away from their desks, and dedicate the first few minutes of meetings to non-work-related conversations. Encourage people to take responsibility for their work, and remind them how what they do contributes to the success and overall objectives of the organization.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 16 Oct, 2017
Written by: Dave Mitchell

Have you ever noticed that voice in your head…the inner critic…that quiet but consistent message you hear every time you approach the boarder of your comfort zone looking to do something brave, courageous and out of the norm?

If so, you are not alone – we all have them. What does yours tell you?

Some of the more common ones are: ‘You are not good enough.’ ‘You are not smart enough.’ ‘You don’t have what it takes to be successful.’ ‘You don’t have a voice – they will never listen to you.’ There are more, but I think you get the picture.

Some refer to this voice as your Gremlin . It tells you not to try, never to take a risk, always to play it safe, and to play it small. Their message is clear: ‘ You really don’t have what it takes to get to where - you want to be & even if you got there, you would not last very long.

It likes to whisper and hiss thoughts in you like: ‘It aint gonna happen.’

Recently, I heard a slight noise in my kitchen area. I did not pay much attention to it at first because it was faint, so I played it off like it was just my imagination. Being that denial seldom works, the sound grew louder and louder over a few months to where I had no other choice but to take action.

Finally, after failed attempts to find the hissing noise, I hired a plumber to help me figure out what was going on. We pulled out the dishwasher and there it was – under the black mold on the back wall, a pinhole leak in the hot water pipe.

By Shawn Sommerkamp 15 Oct, 2017

Isaiah 11:3  He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears

Now it’s time to look at the third internal blocker that holds us back. The I in FAIL is Interpretations.

Interpretations come from within our own minds and can often happen so quickly that we think they are only reflexes to some external truth. They are, in fact, only opinions we create about an event or situation or person or experience. We simply believe them to be true.

One of the most well-known and terribly damaging examples of the Interpretation internal blocker is the story of Job. More precisely, the story of how his friends misinterpreted the catastrophic events that befell him. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were their names. One of them is quoted as saying, “I have observed those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.”

Their interpretation was very wrong. They believed God sent trouble upon wicked people only. If you are suffering a calamity, then you must be involved in something wicked. Yes, God disciplines us for our own good and He does so out of love. But they jumped to the wrong conclusion. As a result, they missed an opportunity to express deep love and support to a friend who had lost everything.

We can do the same thing with our own career events. If we are passed-over for a promotion, we are convinced the manager hates us, we are not deserving, this is not the right company for us, the other person getting the promotion did something slimy to get it - and the list goes on.

When we think in this way, it only creates in us negative energy, the fight or flight response. And we know by now, making executive decisions while in a state of negative energy won’t benefit anyone, least of all us.

Psalm 112:7  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

When an event unfolds, the best way to handle it is to simple remember who you are at the very core. Once again, we come back to our Core Values. It is through Thought Tuning™, the six step internal process that reassess our thinking in terms of our care values, that we will remove this blocker each time it occurs.

We don’t have to look at news as bad or good, it simply is news. How do we choose to respond to it? How do we want to represent ourselves in this new situation? Where do we want to take our career?

Although Interpretations may feel instinctive, they come from what we tell ourselves about what is happening. Make a deliberate choice to turn the event over to God as part of his divine and awesome plan for your life. You could very well make the wrong interpretation and end up hindering growth.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

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