A new South African study, conducted by corporate culture experts, The Human Edge, has found that one out of three managers can’t handle high-stakes situations and as a result their teams are less successful. Helene Vermaak, Director at The Human Edge says, “A manager’s ability or inability to engage and communicate in these situations directly impacts team performance.”

What Research Says About Management And Pressure

The research has shown that when the pressure is on, a team is only as strong as the manager. The study found the following:

 44% of managers surveyed are seen to be more emotional than calm and in control

  • 44% are seen to be angry and heated versus collected
  • 41% are perceived to be more close-minded than open-minded
  • 38% are more inclined to ignore and reject rather than listen or seek to understand
  • 29% are more inclined to avoid issues rather than be direct and unambiguous
  • 23% are seen to be more devious than candid and honest

The research further found that members of teams led by emotionally charged managers tend to also react poorly to stress themselves. These team members are three times more likely to consider leaving their job, four and a half times less likely to be committed to the issue at hand and three and a half times less willing to go above and beyond.

On the other end of the spectrum, the manager who can control their emotions and stay in dialogue, see better results from their teams. As a result, their teams are not only happier and more engaged, but they are:

  • 6 times more likely to show an improvement in morale
  • Twice as likely to show improvements in workplace safety
  • 8 times more likely to act in ways that benefit customers
  • 75 times more likely to meet quality standards
  • 6 times more likely to achieve budget targets

“When having tough conversations with team members it is imperative to create an environment of psychological safety,” says Vermaak. “A psychologically safe environment is one in which employees’ feel comfortable or safe enough to challenge their manager and express their own views – the degree to which it enables execution and innovation.”

Jim Clifton, GALLUP Chairman and CEO says that globally, only 15% of employees are engaged at work. This means that 85% of employees either aren’t engaged, or worse, they are actively disengaged. “This is a serious problem for the whole world.”

Vermaak says, “There is no doubt that a leader’s communication style impacts the end results of any organisation. The way we communicate impacts everyone around us and in so doing can, and will, affect the results of the team and ultimately the business.”

“When it matters most, we are often at our worst, so being able to communicate during high-stake conversations is a skill that we should all learn,” says Vermaak.  She provides five tips that managers can use to improve their style under stress, helping to ensure that their teams render better results…

5 Tips To Improve Your Management Style Under Stress

1 Speak up early

When we anticipate stress or pressure, most of us debate whether we should or shouldn’t speak up. Those who are best at dialogue don’t think first about the risks of speaking up, they consider the risks of not speaking up.

2 Get unstuck

You need to identify the root of the problem. If during a conversation you are getting increasingly frustrated, you may be holding the wrong conversation.  If you ever have the same conversation twice, you’re having the wrong conversation.

3 Start with heart

Don’t open your mouth until you get your heart right. Determine what you really want for yourself, for others, for the relationship and for the organisation.

4 Challenge your story

When we feel threatened or stressed, we amplify our negative emotions by telling villain, victim and helpless stories. Villain stories exaggerate others’ negative attributes. Victim stories make us out to be innocent sufferers who have no role in the problem. And, helpless stories rationalise our over or under-reactions. Instead, take control of your emotions by challenging your story.

5 Create safety

People don’t get defensive because of the content of your message, but because of the intent they perceive behind it. So, when stressed, first share your positive intent. If others feel safe with you, they are far more open to work with you.