One at a time
Much has been written on the subject of stress, including the concept of ‘good stress’, which is said to motivate us and make us perform better and ‘bad stress’, which hinders, rather than helps performance. The latter type can seriously affect our decision-making capability, sap our energy and, at the extreme, affect our health and well-being.
The stress associated with managing a crisis is usually well above the level of ‘good stress’ and can often creep into ‘bad stress’ territory.
‘Bad stress’ is often caused by feelings of overwhelm; trying to deal with too many things at once – exactly the situation that members of a crisis or incident management team can find themselves in – and failing to do any of them effectively.
There’s plenty of recent research that dispels the myth of multitasking, which is really just doing one thing at a time but switching quickly between two or more activities. Conventional wisdom has it that multitasking is far less efficient than concentrating on one thing at a time, which, conveniently enough, is also one of the key ways to reduce stress.
So, if doing one thing at a time is both more efficient and reduces stress, the answer to our crisis management ‘bad stress’ issue seems clear – to ensure that, wherever possible, each team member has one key thing at a time to focus on, rather than everyone getting involved with every issue, as can often be the case.
For this to happen, the team needs clearly defined and understood roles and responsibilities, discipline and a strong team leader; and practice. So here’s a suggestion – if your team doesn’t operate like this already, why not give it a try during your next crisis management exercise?