How Do You Show Up Under Stress?

You’re up against a lot these days.

So, what are you learning about your tendencies under stress…the behaviours you default to? And how might those reactions be getting in the way of your ability to create or bring into being the results that really matter to you?

And let’s not make ourselves wrong for any of this. We learn strategies early on to protect ourselves from perceived threats. The invitation as an adult is to examine those same strategies – now embedded into how you show up. How well they are standing up based on what you know now?

So where to start? Did you know that how we react under stress is distinctly related to our strengths? Cool right? Let’s look at the three main types:

  1. “Ability to build strong relationships” can get distorted under stress to “Have to be Liked”
    – If you are someone for whom building relationships comes easily, you find it easy to trust and be trusted, you mentor and coach readily and find collaborating comes easy, the reactive distortion of that under stress can look like you are avoiding conflict, not connected to what you think or want but are more concerned about optics, being liked and being seen to be in service.

2. “Ability to see through the complex” can get distorted under stress to “Have to be Right”
– If you are someone who is known for your ability to see the big picture and the connections therein and to courageously speak up for the truth & the larger system the reactive distortion under stress can look like you are aloof, uncaring, logical, superior, needing to be right and avoiding risk.

3. “Ability to make things happen” can get distorted under stress to “Has to happen my way – now!”
– If you are someone who is known for your ability to be decisive, purposeful and strategic about getting results, the reactive distortion under stress can look like you are holding on tightly to your version of perfect, being aggressive or overly competitive about urgent action done your way and therefore not as interested in the input of others.

Think about the people you work most closely with and their natural strengths – and therefore reactive tendencies. You know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of these styles – at their best and at their worst.

These shadow tendencies are all brilliant strategies to protect ourselves – and sometimes are even the right tool to use in a situation – but as an unconscious go-to they have a negative correlation to efficacy…probably the fanciest combo of words you‘ll ever hear me use.

Think about it, when fear is running the show, we aren’t playing to win, being pulled forward by a compelling purpose but instead are playing to not lose. It’s a very different come-from place that tends to reinforce the status quo. So we stay stuck in place.

But you be the judge – just notice, get curious with yourself: when you slip to the shadow side of your strength, are you enhancing the collective capacity around you to create?

And look just as importantly at the cost to you. I’m guessing you might see lost opportunities to contribute ideas & collaborate on building even better solutions as well as giving others the chance to learn and grow.

It’s a lot of energy to continually hang our worth on the validation we get externally. The good news is that our people will ultimately lean out from us doing too much of this. We all recoil energetically from too much push, too much being made wrong, or too much being appeased.

So this work ultimately involves changing the way we think about why we do what we do. But first the invitation to you is to become better aware of what those tendencies are and in what situations in particular they get triggered in you.

I have worked with hundreds of leaders over the years on this very process. There is a particular 360 tool I use to do that. You can try a free version of it here. Just scroll down to “Free self assessment”. It will reflect back to you your own perception of how you show up and give you starting point of which of the three tendencies is yours to better own and integrate. I can’t think of more important work for a leader to do.

more leadership and facilitation articles