Adrenaline fatigue and burn-out are very real biological conditions; especially amongst high flyers, but despite the problem of stress at work being documented for a long time, healthcare professionals are still taking a curative rather than preventative approach.
So how can organisations get the most from their employees in a long term, sustainable way?
The Fox and the Hounds
Imagine a fox speeding across an open field in pursuit of it’s small, edible target.
The fox’s job description, while challenging, seems straightforward but it becomes more complicated when the fox is being pursued by a pack of hounds and driven to the very limits of its physical and mental capacities in order to survive.
Like the best executives and leaders, foxes are sharp, agile and quick thinking but unlike humans under stress, after a hard day, a fox will sleep soundly at night due to their ability to live only in the present.
So what if human beings could do the same and switch off from their day, reverting to deep recovery mode where hormonal, cardiac and nervous systems work in sync to rid them of cortisol and adrenaline and allow their bodies to rebuild depleted glucose and energy stores for the next day?
How to Be A Fox In The Workplace
Like a fox, humans also have automatic nervous system states for instance, fight or flight and rest and digest, as well as hormonal systems that orchestrate responses to threats when needed.
While critical to our ancestors’ survival these systems are less required in the 21st century. We still have them but changes in our environment; we use them to survive in high pressure workplaces rather than in the wild, mean that they often misfire, causing havoc to our ability to function consistently at work.
The problem is, if we spend too much of our time on high alert, we impair the brain’s ability to think clearly or act as a brake on our instincts. The chemicals we produce to combat stress don’t switch off as they were designed to.
Allostatic load, or ‘wear and tear on the body’, accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic mental or physical stress.
If athletes require recuperation after training and an understanding of recovery windows to benefit from certain types of activities, why should executives be different?
Why should organisations assume, because the work is not physical in nature, that their executives can continue to work 14-16 hours every day, placing huge stresses on their biological systems with no recuperation?
If organisations wish to preserve, lengthen and improve years of active service from key people, HR and development teams must push to create strategies to maintain energy, positivity and a sense of wellbeing in the face of difficulty so employees can recover and subsequently show up brilliantly every day.
Here Comes the Science
Work developing executives often starts by evaluating, then improving the performance of the body’s functional systems.
Stress levels, specifically the balance of DHEA (the vitality hormone) and Cortisol (the stress hormone), can be deduced with a simple saliva test but in conjunction a high-grade technology can further test an individual’s heart rate variability, energy supply and cognitive function or, how they “show up”.
This will give an overall picture of how much time someone can spend on high alert and how quickly their body recovers after stress. Used extensively in elite sports coaching this technology has good applications for conditioning for peak performance in business.
The Vagus nerve is a major cranial nerve which links the brain to critical organs. It orchestrates how someone can move from state of threat to balance as quickly as possible.
In his book The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, John Coates offers the idea that we might be able to improve vagal tone in workers by toughening their physiology and learning to regulate the resultant emotions they produce. But how?
World-leading individual and team development strategists are striving to get to the root causes of systemic imbalance but these are as numerous as they are varied.
By measuring functional readiness for tasks using biodata and then working with professionals to develop systems to optimise performance based on human functionality, organisations can ensure they can create a stable platform for individuals to sustainably development while managing their work.
Physiological profiling at the start of a coaching programme helps to identify the most useful and relevant techniques to help that individual obtain the biggest wins in the shortest time possible.
Solutions for all
One to one coaching is expensive but solutions are available which can be cascaded down through organisations.
Where individual executive coaching programmes for large numbers may not be feasible, a series of group coaching sessions and workshops may be effective and more plausible.
By using specific tools and techniques you can help your people become more aware of their physiological and emotional states, warnings that things might be out of balance and places they can go for help.
Bespoke organisation-wide awareness campaigns on body/brain balance, crucial education on stress resilience and easy hacks for lifestyle and wellness improvement are also useful.
The Best Executives and Leaders
At Miramar we provide executive head-hunting services to ensure our clients are provided with the leadership teams the need to continue to grow but we go further.
Our experienced teams work with our clients after the candidate has been placed to ensure the effective development of the individual and the teams around them.