I work in a high stress environment, and everyone around me is having a breakdown



The Context

How can you keep adding good energy to the system? Attitude might be a soft skill, but it’s a hard task. Building and maintaining the right attitude might be the most challenging aspect of any endeavor, process, occupation or relationship. But that’s precisely why it creates the most leverage. The unique energy you bring into the room, it can become the thing you stand for, the thing nobody else can compete with, and the asset that can’t be taken away from you. Particularly in high stress situations, when everyone around you is on the verge of full scale emotional breakdowns. If you’ve never worked in that kind of environment before, consider yourself lucky. Let’s just say the term soft skill is an understatement.

The Tool

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DOWNSTREAMING — Treating energy as the measurement of how much change might occur in a system

Attitude is a teachable skill. It’s not inherent in some people and absent in others. You just have think about it in terms of physics. Treating your environment as a living system with moving parts, underlying structures and interrelated elements. Remembering that whatever energy is introduced into that system, will always have downstream effects. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? Interestingly, if you read physics textbooks, energy is not a force. It doesn’t always involve motion. It’s simply a measurement of how much change might occur in a system. Let's repeat that last sentence, because it’s critical to understanding how much of a positive impact a single person’s attitude can have. Energy is not a force, it’s simply a measurement of how much change might occur in a system. When you’re aware of that, being intentional about the energy you add to interactions, you can radically change the outcome.

During my new employee orientation at a travel startup, our department head warned us about the impact of attitude on team dynamics. He said our challenge as company leaders was not only bringing positive energy to whatever needed to be done, but also creating positive energy when it otherwise wasn’t there. That’s hard to do. Making something out of nothing is no soft task. But as the science textbook stated, it wasn’t about being forceful, amped up or in motion all day. It was about finding points of leverage to create the greatest change in the system. One idea that paid dividends was sending a newsletter from our newly launched department. Nothing fancy, nothing long, simply an update about ongoing initiatives in the marketing team. We shared pictures, made announcements on our many projects and experiments, maintaining and optimistic attitude every step of the way. It only took ten minutes to write, cost nothing to send, but once six hundred of our coworkers around the world read it, they became excited about our progress. Some replied with congratulations, others offered resources to help us on our way, some even sent us private messages saying they wanted to get involved to push our projects forward. All of which gave us momentum to do great work.

The Rest

That’s what’s possible when you keep adding good energy to the system. If you genuinely try to be positive, you will encounter a very different world from those who choose to be negative. How does your energy create leverage?

The Benefits

Become a source of calm during times of turmoil
Keep an optimistic demeanor even when teammates are stressed
Generate positive energy for your team when it otherwise isn’t there
Give yourself and your team momentum to do their best creative work

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