Posted on February 28, 2013 by Cynthia Gunsinger
In early February, entrepreneur and Ecomom co-founder Jody Sherman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, rocking the tech and startup community.
Following his tragic death, many people in the tech community emphasized the need for more open dialogue about dealing with the extreme pressure of being a startup founder.
Acknowledging the complexity of the issue, we turned to our fellow life and business coaches asking them for their insights and strategies for how to deal with stress and extreme pressure.
Here’s what they have to offer:
1. View Pressure Differently
New perspectives can help ease these pressures. Pressure is a perception, not a fact. What can you do to delegate, systemize, or outsource? How do you know when you’ve done enough for the day? How do you know when you’ve had ‘enough’ success? When you really go into the worst case scenario and ask yourself what you would do if you ‘lost everything’, it’s not that big a deal and you’ve dealt with difficult situations before. When you know you can deal with anything that comes, you have no fear. No fear = no pressure. You keep doing what you’re doing and the outcome doesn’t MEAN anything about you. A project can be a failure. A person cannot, unless they decide to stop trying.
Response submitted by Coach Paul Strobl
2. Don’t Go it Alone
For many there is a sense of ‘having’ to do it alone and there isn’t someone who they can talk to in an objective fashion to help them deal with all the issues of running a business. The founder faces the full weight and responsibility of getting the business to be successful, that means marketing, sales, product development, and producing results and it can be overwhelming.
One of the solutions is to work with a coach or find a mentor…to develop plans to help reduce the stress of managing a business.
The idea is not to go it alone. It means finding someone to provide some positive support and encouragement and a dose of validation to the founder so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
Response submitted by Coach Dan Weigold
3. Take Renewal Breaks
Disengaging from your day to day consistently (throughout the day, week, month, quarter and year). Not falling into some God complex thats its all about you and your business, and trusting in the process that is bigger than you. Patience. A supportive and loving peer group. Not taking failures or losses as losses but being grateful for them for what they teach you. Meditation, spirituality. Family time. A sound business strategy that doesn’t allow for overcommitment. Under promising, over delivering. Balance.
Response submitted by Coach Sean D. Stewart
4. Check Your Self (Esteem)
We all choose the path that suits our purpose. Pressure from outside ourselves is immaterial to our well being. Expectations of greatness is our own internal pressure. Shooting for greatness and accepting setbacks is the mindset which can offset internal conflict. Always do your best while realizing that you may lose all is the only way to be successful. One does not have to put his or her self-esteem on the line when pursuing greatness. If self-esteem equals success, then one will never be happy. When one can look at success and failure equally because self-esteem is not negotiable, then ‘projects’ or ‘founders’ become the toys of life.
Response submitted by Coach Steven Chervony
5. Say Thank You
Shift focus away from what is not working to what [you] am grateful for (what is working).Three simple ways:
1. At night instead of counting sheep, count blessings. It takes attention away from work thoughts and prepares my mind for a peaceful and happy sleep.
2. Write a daily gratitude journal to help me remember all the positive things that happened throughout the day.
3. Use social media to share the things you are most grateful for: it inspires others to do the same!
Response submitted by Coach Patricia Reynolds-Meade
6. Build Wellness In
Simple yet important practices to consider: sleep, healthy food, exercise, deep breathing and seeing your connection to everything. Stay connected to humor and other people and do not judge yourself harshly or strive for perfection.
Response submitted by Coach Risa Kelley
7. Draw Lines: Boundaries and Balance
Consciously reshape the things, people and undesirable situations… it helps to push back on those who are pushing you. Understand that you don’t have to react to everything that is (or isn’t) thrown your way and to follow through on your own goals within a more comfortable time frame. If we take life too seriously, we will implode! We, as coaches, of all people, must follow our own advice and live a balanced life, surrounded by people of like mind.
Set boundaries around friends and family who seem to want to suck the life out of you and to pull you into their lifestyle of negativity. That, good folks, is the most important of all!
Response submitted by Coach Tanya Ragbeer
8. Get Serious About Support
Founders cannot operate as lone wolves. Founders need to build a team that is not only functional for their companies or organizations, but which act as their personal community when the going gets rough.
Founders tend to be good at certain tasks, such as being a visionary and inventor, but following through with those tasks require skills that founders may not have. The skill of being a founder requires a can-do, always resourceful attitude, but that’s a really hard attitude to sustain during times of failure and loss.
Founders can’t do it alone. Founders cannot do what they do unless they have support. That support can’t even come from a paid coach, though that can help. That support must come from a community of support that the founder also creates.
9. Fill Yourself Up
There is no one technique that will fit all of us it is more of a lifestyle that will help us to deal with sustained and extreme pressure. We must remember that we are no good to our organization, our family, our friends or ourselves if we are running on empty.
What is it that fills your tank? For every one this will be different. Some it may be listening to a good book, others time with family, and even some it may just be 15 minutes to day dream, whatever it is for you it must be something that you can do on regular basis daily if possible at the very least weekly. Do not tell yourself you will take care of you one day or later because we all know one day and later never come. Do it now, make it small but often. Make yourself a priority every day and you will do great things.
Response submitted by Coach David Garcia
10. Ask For Help
Throughout our careers, many of us learn to cope with multiple stressors and see it as a badge of honor. Soon, we are dealing with more than any one human being should. But instead of admitting the slight bit of unease or discomfort, we want our superhuman powers to remain intact.
As a leader, I serve better when I am taking an active role in my health and happiness. Also, it served as a wonderful example to my team members that asking for help is a sign of intelligence and strength.
Response submitted by Coach Shenita Sanders
11. Know Thyself
First you must have a clear understanding of yourself. Without fully understanding yourself and how pressure affects you then you can never fully understand what this venture can do to you. Are these pressures life and death decisions? They may seem like it, but truly they are just decisions. The other thing needed is an outlet, a place or activity to relieve the pressure. Many folks utilize a gym for this very reason but it may be a simple as building a model. Something, anything, that will force you to concentrate on something other than the pressures you have placed upon yourself.
Response submitted by Coach Matt Creelman
12. Shake It Off
Balance is the key. The business can consume you and that is what ‘eats you up”. Get away from the business even for an hour here and there to allow your brain to focus on something other than the ever-present start-up. It’s tough; but absolutely necessary.
Response submitted by Coach Paul
13. Think Like a Top Athlete
One needs to delve into further depth and practice healthy habits to achieve sustained release of pressure. Professional sports athletes know how to use behavioral techniques to stay relaxed while under extreme pressure to perform their sport.
We just saw the Super Bowl. Were those athletes stressed?
They have several levels and depths of support: coaches, money, friends and family. They have specific relaxation techniques in conjunction with staying ‘relaxed’ while performing in their sport. Athletes also have a reproducible system to refer back too when stressed and know when it is healthy and responsible to take a break.
Coach Toby Jensen
14. Hire a Coach!
Hire a professional coach. Someone who can listen, help develop and maintain perspective; and someone who will emphasize the importance of ‘life balance’. Find a professional coach, interview them carefully and plan on keeping that coach through the duration or at least until the early maturity cycle of the business.
Meet regularly! I have met with some startup CEOs 2-3 times a week during the initial months then step it out to every two weeks and stick with it. Honor the coaching relationship because he or she is there for you and only you. In thick or thin, you have someone who will not judge you but help you every step of the way.
Response submitted by Coach Stephen Clarke
15. Recharge Your Batteries
We’ve all heard that we need to replenish our energy levels, so whether it is regular exercise, going to the theatre, or fixing cars…whatever recharges us needs should be a non-negotiable part of our week. this is nothing new, yet the harder we ‘drive’ the deeper we need to go… What I mean by this is that we need to listen to what our soul tells us in those quiet moments.
Do the quiet moments find you content or empty? Deep contentment is a clear indicator that your life aligns with your values. Emptiness or a sense of hollowness probably means you have a soul level value that is being ignored or even trampled on and some adjustments are needed.
Foundation of the value of the coaching I do is working with clients to distill and live according to their values. It never ceases to amaze me how easily clients align once they have clarity on their values and how much easier it is for them to accomplish their goals and the joy when that deep contentment finds them again.
Response submitted by Coach Gil Davidson
16. Focus on Why
Identifying the BIG vision; what does it want to birth? Staying focused on the WHY and creating an aligned plan that supports the desired outcome. Define priorities and minimize distractions and sticking to it. Asking for help : identifying resources, and delegate. Create a 30 day plan of what you want to accomplish and chunk it down into weekly and daily action steps.
Response submitted by Coach Elsbeth Tate
17. Mind Like Water
Mind like water. A concept drawn from ancient martial arts practices, and the cerebral cornerstone upon which David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done (among many others’ works), is built. Like water, neither overreacting, nor underreacting to stimuli.
Pressure does not get more extreme than being in a combat situation where one’s next actions
and anticipations determine life or death. Mind like water is not the art of ‘coping or dealing’ with pressure but the art and practice of flourishing through pressure.
Response submitted by Coach Aaryn
18. Cultivate a Happy Ecosystem
Create a sustainable partnership with your body, mind and spirit. What’s the point if you don’t find happiness in what you are doing day in and day out? Listen to what your body is saying, listen to what your spirit is saying, and listen to what your mind is saying. They are intertwined and you can only exist so long on a one-legged stool.
Blend intrinsic and extrinsic values. For yourself and those who work for you. Are you expanding yourself as a visionary leader AND developing the right product and processes to bring profit to the stakeholders?
Response submitted by Coach Pegotty Cooper
19. Trust Your People
Having a good support system is key; for this gives you many advantages…they are good at finding ways to help you destress from bouncing ideas off them for solutions to the issues causing stress to supporting the physical ways of getting rid of stress (exercise, laughter, hugs, support for crying, etc.)
Response submitted by Coach Lynette Vetsch
20. Book You-Time
A founder has passion, drive, creativity and vision. To sustain and truly manage the extreme pressure a founder lives with, find some form of balance. Use that passion, drive, creativity and vision to find an outlet outside of work that suits you. Determining what this is can be a difficult, yet liberating journey. Create time in your calendar to insure that you keep that commitment.
Response submitted by Coach Stephanie Pearce
21. Build a Strong Foundation
Someone intending to found an organization of any kind MUST know themselves deeply and completely.
Because one’s strength and ability is within! Plus, the first technique for dealing with sustained and extreme pressure of any kind is knowing your purpose and have a passion for what you’re doing.
If one gets caught up in founding an organization because it ‘should’ be done; forgets to take care of themselves as a human being; has weak or no boundaries between work and life; believes that their personal identity or value is determined by their foundation; feels all they are is this founder, the pressure will be too great to manage. We are not our work. We work because of who we are.
Response submitted by Coach Stanlee Panelle
22. Entrepreneurship is a Full-Contact Sport
We live in times of extreme stress, whether we are founders, developers, entrepreneurs, or whatever job or profession we choose – pressures are encountered on a daily basis. Sometimes very extreme!
To be at our optimum, we need periods of rest, nutrition, play, reflection, hydration, work, socializing, and laughter.
Response submitted by Coach Pauline Haynes
23. Invest in Stress Reduction Structures
I coach clients that deal with a lot of stress on the job. This is never good for us, but there are ways to make our bodies and minds more resilient in the face of stress.
An entrepreneur that has perfectionistic tendencies and is not able to delegate will be much worse off than one who can. They also need to be able to distinguish what is within their control and what is not, so they can let go of things they can’t control such as the economy. Developing and maintaining a positive attitude is essential as is an attitude of gratitude. Creating an environment where their employees thrive will build good will that will come back to them a thousand fold. Good communication skills are essential to creating that environment; these skills will also be critical to dealing with customers.
Get support from family, friends and spent time with cherished pets. There has to be balance, even for the driven entrepreneur. Allow downtime with people who care about you. Soak in the good feelings and laugh. Again, being around people we like and we can laugh with can lower our blood pressure and help our immune system. Avoid people who suck the life out of you. You can’t afford it.
Response submitted by Coach Lynn Chapman
24. Turn Off the Pressure Cooker
A person has to ‘get out’ of the pressure according to their needs. Others have to be trusted to step in and assume the burden for a period of time. If that can’t happen, then, at some level, the system is sick and people will end up getting hurt – even dying.
Systems that require this kind of behavior, and people who engage in it, simply cannot be tolerated regardless of short term yet unsustainable benefits. Short term gain for long term pain is backwards.
Let’s not suggest that there are ‘best techniques for dealing’ with life perpetually in the pressure cooker. This kind of lifestyle and business practice is fundamentally wrong. Living your life that way simply won’t work. It is not to be admired. Don’t tolerate it in yourself or others.
Response submitted by Coach Ed Britton
25. Know the Signs. Find the Words
How do we help provide information to prevent these tragedies? There is a new campaign out entitled Know the Signs; ‘Know the Signs, Find the Words, Reach out.’ www.suicideispreventable.org. This campaign is broken down into the three parts to help you intervene at any stage to prevent suicide.
Success is often celebrated as defined by the media, but a coach can help you identify your own markers of success which may include intangibles like risk taking, creativity, fearlessness, and balance rather than mass motivated and marketed symbols of power and wealth. If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about work, social life, family; reach out for help. There is safety in numbers. We rarely have simple answers to suicide, but talking about it and seeking formal or informal supports when needed will help reduce the risk, not only for yourself, but others.
Response submitted by Coaches Kim Fuller & Terri Morgan
26. Life Will Go On
Keep chaotic thoughts at bay, and recognize that no matter how much is at jeopardy and no matter how things turn out, life will keep on going and it won’t be full of pain forever. When we allow anything our lives to seem pervasive, it seems like the pain will never go away and that we will never know pleasure or love or joy again. Those thoughts are understandable, especially after a time of great loss or trauma, though the important wisdom to hang on to is that life goes on. We can decide to go with it, against it or to take ourselves out of the picture completely, but life goes on no matter the circumstances or the odds.
It’s very easy to believe that the way we are is just the way we are, but the truth is that at any moment we can just the ‘way we are’, including the thoughts we think, the emotions we feel and the actions we take. When times of depression creep up on us, the fastest and most effective way to relieve that, is to do something that brings you joy and to do it with a smile, even if you don’t feel like it.
Coach Amanda Carter
27. Apply the Formula
1- Seek help (maybe hire a coach),
2- Voice out concerns
3- Address priorities
4- Sketch scenarios of possibilities, the best to the worst scenario
5- Sketch solutions, see where to delegate
6- Check physical and mental health at a specialist
7- Repeat step 1-6 periodically
Response submitted by Coach Rania Hammoud
28. Kick the Perfectionism Habit
1. Plan carefully–set one major goal, then break it into manageable steps that allow for learning along the way.
2. Build and maintain a network of support among family and friends. Growth requires change, and change in one person demands change among family and friends.
3. Substitute perfectionism and control with excellence and willingness to learn and grow through mistakes. Our culture pretends that mistakes are tragic flaws: they aren’t. They are chances to be flexible, learn, grow, abandon dead-end ideas and thrive.
Response submitted by Coach Quinn McDonald
29. Connect with You
Obviously, first and foremost, get a coach. Having a coach will not only help you be effective in building your business, but also be effective in processing the natural stress and pressure of being an entrepreneur. In regards to specific techniques, daily meditation (even 10 minutes a day) is powerful in helping us clear our minds, emotions and tap into greater clarity as a leader.
Not to be outdone by mediation, having scheduled downtime (with ourself) is critical to keeping balance. Literally book a 2-hour or half day (or even full day) ‘me’ meeting into your regular weekday schedule each week. That meeting time is for you to rejuvenate and connect deeper to who you are separate from the business.
Most entrepreneurs think they’re being balanced with their business and self time, but in reality their work demands often override even the best intentions. Place ‘me’ meetings into your calendar, and make sure you hold to those meetings. Doing so will keep you balanced and effective in both your inner and outer worlds.
Response submitted by Coach Mark Darren Gregor
30. Build Your Team
The best way to deal with sustained and extreme pressure is to surround yourself with excellence in advisers, personnel, partners and grant them the power, permission, and protection to carry your organization forward toward the vision you place before them.
Continuously pursue personal development, believe in yourself, and get sufficient sleep, nutrition, exercise, and love to be alert, sharp, and well in body, mind, and spirit. Hasten to address any stress that lasts more than a couple of days or plagues you in hindsight. Seek to identify all requirements, itemize challenges, lay and follow doable plans, and make all tension productive.
Response submitted by Coach Daniel Latch
How about you? How do you deal with stress?
How do you deal with stress and extreme pressure in your life and business? Leave your comments below.