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Chief executives and directors are under a lot of pressure, but when Mel Usher asked what really worries them, he w...
Chief executives and directors are under a lot of pressure, but when Mel Usher asked what really worries them, he was surprised by their responses

Where?s the grief for senior managers? Two pieces of work for Solace Enterprises have given me an unusual insight. As part of these exercises ? one a three-day course for new chief executives and the other a seminar for directors ? I asked both groups to complete a questionnaire.

First up: ?What causes you the greatest stress?? Well, you might have thought budget constraints, making tough decisions and external inspections would have ranked highly. Wrong. Top of the list came the immediate staff ? people avoiding responsibility, poor performance at senior levels, others not listening to what is being said, dumping, empire-building, time-wasters, and sabotage. One poor soul wrote they are terrorised by a white cat. If it is not already too late, please contact me ? I know a good counsellor.

Either we are populating senior levels of local government with a bunch of whingers who shouldn?t be there at all or we are facing a serious problem around skills and motivation. Are we equipping senior managers to deal with this range

of complexity around relationships?

Next up came the mesmerising influence of politicians. It is impossible to be in a room with senior managers for longer than five minutes without this topic flaring up. It is like teenagers and sex ? they are in equal measures fascinated, frightened and ignorant.

In this category respondents complained of excessive contact, lack of member capacity, disrespect, pettiness, conflict and temper tantrums. Many had not recognised the level of uncertainty surrounding this chameleon-like role.

In descending order the next stresses were personal weaknesses, lack of time, communications, resistance to change, and applying the right make-up.

Stress-busters came in the form of recreation, particularly physical exercise and gardening, ?getting home in the daylight? to spend time with fam ily and friends, and good time management. Alcohol had the odd mention and there was one reference to not working with an elected mayor ?obviously someone who had a close shave.

Most managers recognised the need to hang onto hobbies and outside interests, but this becomes increasingly difficult.

Any stress tips? From my observations it is important to complete transactions and never, ever leave things festering or uncertain. The possibility of misinterpretation is too great. Always stay in the here and now, do not refer constantly to the past and do not dream all the time about the future.

Listen to what is being said and acknowledge comments from people talking to you. Tell others when you like what they are doing and do it now. When you don?t like it say so and tell them how it affects you. Remember the most effective confrontations are respectful and direct.

When you are not sure how you are feeling keep it simple. Are you sad, mad, glad or scared? These four familiesof emotions will help you to be clear about how you feel.

Oh yes, remember to laugh at least once a day at your own drama.

Mel Usher


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