Stress takes its toll on Top Executive.
The news has recently highlighted that BMW’s CEO Harald Krueger collapsed during a press conference at the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show last week.
People were understandably shocked, including his colleagues. Not much is clear about the incident – however it has been written that before he took to the stage, he felt ill and someone — probably Mr Krüger himself — decided to go ahead with the presentation anyway.
Was it the right decision? It was certainly understandable. He is a new chief executive who was due to speak at his home motor show. Cancelling would have looked bad. It would certainly have fuelled gossip.
I totally understand this feeling – even though I am a so called expert on stress, running a busy and growing organisation I too have been in this position. I had surgery on my knee earlier in the year following a post Ironman injury, and within a few days put myself under pressure to go out and deliver an important event for a client. I didn’t collapse but I came into the office the following day clearly compromised and thankfully my team performed an intervention and sent me home!
Thankfully, Mr Kruger is now recovering well.
Stress is often seen as an emotional response. However it starts as a physiological response – the emotions are a by-product. The most probable explanation for Mr Kruger’s collapse is that he picked up a bug on one of the international trips that are routine for chief executives. That combined with his inability to take the time to rest and recover (and that stress and tiredness supress the immune system) may have led to his collapse.
In this case, as in most others, prevention would have been much more efficient and effective than cure.
Ensuring that adequate support has been built in for senior executives and being wary of over packing diaries. Build in ‘buffer’ days after business trips to allow some recovery time. It is highly likely that Mr Kruger’s experience was a consequence of too much pressure on the mind and body.
Further to this, he had recently been appointed to this position. This intensity of workplace pressure would also have taken its toll. Starting a new job is a major source of stress.
In order to prevent executive burnout, follow our top tips:
- Create a stress free schedule. Build ‘Buffer Time’ into your day. Aim for at least three buffers per days. Try 15 minutes in the morning, an hour for lunch and 15 minutes in the afternoon. This allows time for reflection, rest, food, fresh air and allows you to return to your activities without being overwhelmed. Also most of us are overwhelmed with a constant flow of information – ‘buffers’ allow an opportunity to be mindful and present in the moment. Relax, take a breath and take stock! Overtime this will build your resilience to stress!
- Be assertive, say ‘no’ where appropriate. If your people are upwardly delegating workload to you or your inbox is overflowing it may be time to start saying ‘No’. For me this means ‘Negotiation Opportunity’. Negotiate appropriate outcomes, timeframes and deadlines. Do so in a positive manner with the focus on finding solutions.
- Take time off. Use your annual leave and personal days each year. Even if you don’t travel to an exotic location- just time spent relaxing at home away from your typical workplace stressors will relax you and build your resilience.
- Digitally Detox. Turn off your phones and gadgets after a set cut off point every evening. This will allow your mind and body to fully disconnect from the day’s pressures. Try this at lunch too—just focus on eating lunch or chatting with your colleagues—don’t spend lunch texting or checking emails.
- Exemplify! Lead by example – look after yourself and lead by example which gives others the permission to do the same.
All the techniques, if utilised can help prevent executive burnout – and it’s easier to prevent it than treat it when it happens.
Sufficient implementation would effectively provide ways to combat employee stress and prevent such situations from occurring, rather than having to implement a cure!
If you would like to discuss our Executive Stress Programmes or how we can support your senior team get in touch.
Chief De-stressing officer
The Stress Management Society