Being a leader at a startup can come with short-staffing, short budgets, even shorter deadlines, and a great deal of uncertainty. Startup leaders typically help balance the emotional and mental well-being of their entire team in order to maintain functional capacity and a positive work environment. However, fearless leaders of fast-growing companies are feeling the blowback and pressure of these weighty responsibilities. In order to handle this pressure, leaders today have become more mindful and transparent when it comes to sharing insights into how they cope with stress and mental health.
According to Headspace Health’s 2022 Workforce Attitudes Toward Mental Health, about 75% of employees report their appreciation for leaders who speak about their mental health.
Although leaders are more open to talking about their mental health, how do they keep their stress manageable to reduce the chances of burnout or other adverse effects on their wellbeing?
We asked a few of Hunt Club’s leaders to share their best tips for how they manage stress for themselves and their teams at a startup.
Startup Leaders’ Top Stressors
Identifying the sources of stress at a startup is the first step in mitigating its effects. Hunt Club’s leaders determined the three most common stressors they’ve experienced:
“In a startup, you constantly balance the desire to deliver for your customers with the need to build a foundation for scale. This causes constant context switching.”
“Things are constantly changing and pivoting. It is important, but stressful, to be able to be fluid and figure things out on the fly. Working at an established company you might see change a handful of times in your career whereas startups see it daily.”
Urgency + Wearing Multiple Hats
“Working on a startup team means that you have to be prepared to wear whatever hat needed to get the job done; and that hat can change by the day. While this can be exhilarating and is often what people enjoy about startups, it also can lead to stress. Especially when you have to take on a challenge that you've never dealt with before and it is urgent to address that challenge. Having a solid group of advisors and mentors to lean on is key to managing through those situations.”
Understanding the causations for stress while working at a startup empowers leaders and employees to better navigate difficult situations and alleviate hardships down the road. Taking the time to identify what is causing friction within a young company can lead to game-changing benefits as you continue to scale your organization.
Top 8 Tips for Managing Stress at a Startup
With experience working in a high-growth startup environment, and leading startup teams, Hunt Club’s leadership has ameliorated stress management both within themselves as well as within their teams. Together they share their top 8 tips for managing stress at a startup.
4 Tips to Help Your Team Manage Stress
1. Focus: “Stay focused on things that actually move the needle for the business. We can take on so many different things, but maintaining focus on the subset of items that will really allow the company to be successful in the long run ends up reducing stress.”
2. Maintain Transparency & Honesty: “I want to have an environment where people are okay to say they are in over their heads. We want people to test and push themselves, but there are times where it is too much.”
3. Communicate: “Let your team know it’s okay to say things like 'I have too much on my plate right now to take this on' or 'I need help'. Having open communication helps leaders be more effective - if they know your stress level when it's through the roof, they can dive in to help unpack everything you are doing, re-prioritize, take things off your plate, etc.”
4. Listen: “The most important thing I try to do is give folks space to manage stress, and acknowledge that it is real. Oftentimes providing a safe space for folks to talk about stress; and if they are interested, try to help them find solutions to reduce stress. At the same time, it's important to recognize when someone needs to vent versus wanting to jump into solutions. It can be easy to want to solve the source of their stress when they really just want to talk.”
4 Tips to Help You Manage Leadership Stress
1. Workout and meditation: “Consistent workouts and meditation help me to be even keel during both the ups and the downs. My advice for other leaders is to try and not let the ups and downs take you on a roller coaster - you need to have a consistent lens.”
2. Take time for yourself and do things you know will uplift your spirit: “Try to unplug and do the things you love to do (walks, bike rides, golfing, painting, etc.). Doing the things you love outside of work (i.e. enjoying life outside of the office) also makes you better professionally. Also go into the office, if you work from home and have the option. I think being around people has HUGE benefits, both professionally and personally. Interactions in real life lift people’s spirits.”
3. Get enough rest: “Exercise and sleep! I've learned that having enough of both, consistently, is what helps me best manage stress. I target a minimum of 6 and 1/2 hours of sleep and at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.”
4. Set proper boundaries: “I set boundaries and communicate those boundaries to my team. Having a clear time when I'm working and when I'm not working allows me to recharge and go into the work day ready to make an impact and do my best work.”
A recent report from Headspace found that 82% of employees would like their organization to check in on their wellbeing. For leaders at growing startups, it's imperative that employees feel supported and heard in order for the company to successfully scale. Ensuring a trusting and communicative environment that advocates for boundaries will help ensure a healthy work ethic both inside and outside of the company.
Thoughtful Leaders Build Thoughtful Teams
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