Training Pack

Harness Your Stress-Energy

Sohailuddin ALAVI
International Training Adviser, AIBF (International Expert in Capacity Building and Institutional Development)

Author

Author’s Profile

ALAVI, Sohailuddin
He is a capacity building and institutional development expert. He brings learning through working internationally for more than 28 years. Through the years he has unleashed skills in document writing, proposal development, critical thinking and creativity. His career spans over 28 years of learning In his initial career he has worked in a Pakistani bank as trainer, coordinator and training manager for management development programs for almost 15 years. Later he established his own institutional management and training consultancy. As consultant he has had conducted numerous management training workshops both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Besides, he has had worked on many institutional development projects in the corporate, development sector and the Govt. departments, as consultant. He has taught for more than ten years in the undergraduate and post graduate programs of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Faculty of Management Sciences and Karachi University Business School, Pakistan. He has written extensively in management, leadership, organizationbehavior; business ethics, and entrepreneurial development for professional magazines, authored books and training manuals.

Personal Contact Details: Email: sohailuddinalavi@yahoo.com Public Profile: http://pk.linkedin.com/pub/alavi-sohailuddin/44/ab4/997 Cell No. 00 92 (0) 333 213 87 42 Karachi, Pakistan

Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Table of Contents

Preface Know thy stress Stress-Performance Framework Tips on Harnessing Stress Self-Assessment

01 02 05 09 11

1 Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (Author Sohailuddin ALAVI) March 2012

Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Preface Stress can be your friend or foe! Fortunately, it is up to the individuals how they deal with their stress. The title of this training pack refers to the underlying theme of this booklet: Stress is an energy that needs to be harnessed for maximum advantage. Stress releases energy that we all need to move. For instance, urgency for satisfying a need or accomplishing a goal effectively causes stress which in turn provides us energy to respond. While stress will always cause energy, however, if for one reason or the other we fail to channelize the energy productively it causes more damage than advantage. Similarly, every individual has a threshold to bear stress just like a business has a threshold to bear risks. While the threshold tends to increase over time and by experience, it also limits the level of stress that you can bear at a given point in time. This follows that the keys to dealing with stress are to know your stress-threshold and to keep raising it over time; and to harness your stress-energy into productive behaviors. This training pack will guide you how to deal with your stress. You will be able to:  Take cognizance of your stress rather rationally,  To discover the factors and processes that often lead to a higher stress level,  Improve upon your capacity to harness your stress and be able to raise your stress threshold. I would like to dedicate this booklet to my Parents, Family members, the Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (AIBF) and the Universities and other institutions where I studied and taught. Sohailuddin Alavi
March 2012

2 Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (Author Sohailuddin ALAVI) March 2012

Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Know thy Stress!

Stress is a neutral syndrome Stress is a psychological phenomenon Stress is a by-product of our physiological change Stress is generally ignited by our permeable environment

3 Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (Author Sohailuddin ALAVI) March 2012

Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Know thy Stress!

Situation perceived… Affective energy released… Behavioural Response…

Stress Harnessed Action

Or

Stress Overload Anxiety

4 Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (Author Sohailuddin ALAVI) March 2012

Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Know thy Stress! Stress could be your best ally, if you choose to deal with it rationally! But stress could be your worst foe too, if you choose to respond to it passively!
…Choice is all yours

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Stress-Performance Framework
A simplistic model suggests that stress is
Challenging Env

largely embedded in the personality type of individuals. Some individuals have higher threshold while other have lower threshold for taking stress. While the immediate work environment triggers the stress. This follows that persons with different personality type and varied thresholds for stress, are expected to

It likely that stress leads to anxiety and mal-performance

It is likely that stress leads to constructive actions

Stable Env

Chances to sustain stress without disrupting performance Low Threshold

Chances to dealing with stress much constructively High Threshold

experience different levels of work stress while facing the similar work environment. For instance, the above grid presents four hypothetical combinations of personality type and immediate work environment. Accordingly, in stable environment persons with low threshold demonstrate chances to sustain moderate stress levels without disrupting their performance. Likewise persons with higher threshold demonstrate ability to deal with stress much constructively towards enhancing their performance. On the other side, in a highly challenging environment persons with low threshold are generally constrained to perform and experience anxiety. Persons with higher threshold, however, are generally capable of coping with higher stress usually associated with the challenging environment in a more constructive manner. This analysis is much simplistic hence does not provide insight into the process of stress nor lead to any institutional intervention. It, however, is useful to predict how a person with his or her unique stress threshold is likely to perform in different work environments. Thus provides a basis to manage stress exposure on individual levels for managing their optimum performance. Now let us analyze rather a complex stress / performance framework. The purpose of this analysis is surely to understanding the underlying processes thereby innovating ways to more sustainable interventions that are aimed at redressing the risk in the environment as well as elevating stress threshold of individuals.

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Stress / Performance Framework:

Typical Root Variables…
Personality Type
Assumptions and Beliefs Values and Principles Motivation Habits

Affective Perspective
(Energy) Rationality Discipline Self-control Attention to details Realistic attitude Harnessed motivation 1

High Performance Profile:
Inner satisfaction Enhanced confidence Higher accomplishments Improved stress threshold Sustainable performance

Direct Intervention
Supervisory style Work relationships Employee Counseling

Immediate Environment
Uncertainty Task(s) at hand Business targets Competitive culture

Compromised Performance Profile:
Anxiety Physical / psychological exertion Loss of confidence Lower achievements Reduced stress threshold Uncertain performance

Affective Perspective
(Anxiety) Urgency Lack of discipline Controlled by situation Skid thru Unrealistic attitude Hyper motivation

The above framework analyzes stress at three levels, namely; i) root variables, ii) affective perspective, and iii) performance. Root variables have two clusters, namely personality type and immediate work environment. Personality consists of assumptions and beliefs, values and principles, motivation and habits. Observation suggests that while much of the personality cues are developed through life time experience of individuals hence these are generally frozen. However, through behavior modification and change techniques these can be altered temporarily or permanently, respectively. For instance, individuals can be encouraged to take a rational view on their assumptions thus challenge it. Likewise, through strong organizational culture individual values and

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

principles can be put under subordination, at least. Through effective motivation techniques, one’s motivational orientation can be altered. Thus in short, individuals’ personality can be altered through systematic organizational interventions. Immediate work environment is generally characterized by the work culture, business goals, tasks that individuals need to perform, and last but not the least, level of uncertainty. Interestingly all the variables in the immediate work environment can be altered. For instance, internally competitive culture can be transformed into teamwork culture of cooperation and joint ownership. Extent of multi-tasking can be made realistic and achievable. Business targets can be made even more realistic and harmonized. Uncertainty can be dealt with by putting in standard procedures and policy guidelines. Now we know that alteration in the root variables can affect change in perspective, as portrayed in the framework, for good or for worse. For instance, anxiety dominant perspective can be transformed into energy dominant perspective thus improving the chances of performance. However, this indirect approach entails long sustained influence. To get a quicker result, the alternate is direct intervention. Though such interventions fail to sustain their effect for longer period, however, these are very much efficient in the short run. Of the most important amongst these interventions is immediate supervisor’s style. For instance, a dogmatic and excessively task orientated supervisory styles are prone to causing high stress. More benevolent and facilitative styles are however, effective in harnessing the stress. Another very important element in the direct interventions is the work relationships. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities of individuals and their status are important to reduce dysfunctional stress. Employee counseling is a technical process that helps employees deal with stress when they fail to do so on their own. However, this must be done by counseling professionals. Let us now do a comparative analysis of the two perspectives. A perspective that leads to anxiety is typically characterized by urgency, lack of discipline, actions controlled by situation, skid thru approach, unrealistic attitude and hyper motivation. Understandably such a perspective leads to compromised performance. On the contrary a fully energized perspective typically characterized by rationality, discipline, self-control, attention to

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

details, realistic attitude and harnessed motivation. The likely impact of this type of
perspective on behaviors is highly constructive leading to higher performance. Typical stress management interventions in organizational perspective are summarized below: INDIRECT INTERVENTION Description… Here the focus of different methodologies remains on critically evaluating and modifying the variables, such as Personality makeup, Personal paradigm, Environment, etc. These methodologies deal with the root causes in redressing the stress syndrome. The effectiveness is expected to be more sustainable. Broadly two methodologies can be identified here, which are fine-tuned to suit individual preferences and situational necessities.   Personal Development Organization Development SEMI DIRECT INTERVENTION Description… Direct methodologies are different in a way that these focus on directly changing the behavior instead of modifying the variables. These methodologies in fact attempt to directly redress the stress symptoms. As an obvious outcome, the effectiveness is short lived. Broadly four methodologies can be identified here, which are fine-tuned to suit individual preferences and situational necessities.     Meditation. Medication. Physical activity. Balancing through better planning. DIRECT INTERVENTIONS Description… Direct methodologies are different in a way that these focus on directly changing the behavior instead of modifying the variables. These methodologies in fact attempt to directly redress the stress symptoms. As an obvious outcome, the effectiveness is short lived. Broadly four methodologies can be identified here, which are fine-tuned to suit individual preferences and situational necessities.     Meditation. Medication. Physical activity. Balancing through more planning.

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Tips on Harness Stress
Now that you are more informed about the processes and pre-dispositions leading to STRESS SYNDROME, you stand good chances of managing stress to your optimum advantage. Goal: Managing stress does not mean avoiding stress. But it is about taking more control over your stress and making best use of it towards optimizing upon your productive performance and minimizing upon your unproductive performance. Process: Step 1. Identify each behavior either as a correlate to your productive performance or unproductive performance. Step 2. List together all behaviors having positive correlation with productive performance. Repeat and list all behaviors having positive correlation with unproductive performance. At the end of this, you should end-up with two sets of behaviors; namely, Valuecreating and Value-destroying. Step 4. Determine the relationship of Value-creating behaviors with your personality characteristics. Repeat this for determining the relationship of Value-destroying behaviors. At the end, you should end-up with two groups of personality characteristics; namely, Value-creating characteristics and Value-destroying characteristics. Step 5 Determine the relationship of Value-creating behaviors with the elements in your immediate environment. Repeat this for determining the relationship of Value-destroying behaviors. At the

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

end, you should end-up with two groups of elements in your immediate environment; namely, Value creating elements and Value-destroying elements Step 6 Develop your personalized Stress Management Action Plans: How will you further strengthen your Value-creating characteristics? How will you redress your Value-destroying characteristics into Value-creating characteristics? How will you take optimum advantage of Value-creating variables in the external system? How will you reduce the influence of Value-destroying variables in the external system?

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

Self-Assessment
The advantage of this assessment is that it will help you understand "How STRESS may affect your performance, both positively as well as negatively?" INSTRUCTIONS: You are asked to make a real good portrait of yours then describe yourself by the portrait. Repeat this activity on the next page (please do not move on to the next page until you are through with the first part). Picture yourself when you have anxiety and stressed out: Enlist your activates that you are likely to do in stressed out situation:

Picture yourself when you are energized but calm:

Enlist your activates that you are likely to do when you are energized and calm:

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Harnessing Your Stress-Energy

13 Afghanistan Institute of Banking and Finance (Author Sohailuddin ALAVI) March 2012

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