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Learn to say ‘no’ effectively

No-one wanted to give the impression that they were inefficient and incapable of fulfilling their role

Gulf News

Coming into the second week of my current trip to the Gulf region, I was delighted to launch my new book, Show Stress Who's Boss! at Naseba's prestigious 3rd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum Middle East, held at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi and aimed at high-profile, international, female executives.

At 9am the foyer was filled with business leaders, company directors and corporate board members, talking animatedly with each other in a networked environment in which so many valuable contacts were made and renewed. The atmosphere was of anticipation as the opening session of this Leadership Series began, with the theme of ‘Inspire, Influence and Innovate'.

At the launch table where I was signing books, many delegates came over to me to talk about their individual stress-related problems which included work overload, poor management communications, unrealistic deadlines, time management, and bullying. On the second day of the forum, during my workshop session, we looked at some of these stress-related issues in more depth.

Efficiency

One of the questions I asked the audience was, "Who finds it difficult to say No!?" Most of the audience raised their hands, and their reasons were very similar. No-one wanted to give the impression to their boss that they were inefficient and incapable of fulfilling their role.

Furthermore, during times of organisational change with its attendant job insecurities, they did not feel confident enough to say that they could not finish a particular given task in the time demanded. The result was that they would invariably take on additional responsibilities even when they were overloaded with existing work that still had to be completed..

Maryam (all names changed), a Senior HR Director, quietly shared with me that she felt that her job was ‘on the line' if she didn't accept everything that was demanded of her.

Apparently she is expected to be the one person in the office upon whom everyone else can off-load the work that they can't manage themselves. It has taken her a long time to get to her position and she takes great pride in her career but is afraid of being unable to meet the excessive demands put upon her. While we were talking, I tested her stress levels, which were very high and in further conversation, it was obvious that the stress was coming from internal sources as well as external. Maryam admitted to skipping meals, drinking too much coffee and to sleeping badly as a result — all factors that contribute to stress.

Another delegate, Nadia, a senior manager with an international bank confided in me that she finds real problems in having to work remotely with managers at other locations. A particular problem being the lack of time-keeping between team members who are located in different offices.

However, overall, I listened and really admired this group of highly successful, business women, hugely motivated and dedicated to their careers and their families, whose resilience and commitment shone like a beacon of light. We ended the session by discussing proven tips and strategies on how they could beat stress and manage their time, by being more aware of the need to take care of body and mind in order to sustain motivation and long-term performance.

The session came to an end, with one delegate telling me that she had found my book so engrossing and enjoyable she couldn't put it down, and the knowledge that my words were already having an impact made me both delighted and proud that they were really showing stress who's the boss!

The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact them for proven stress strategies - www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Top 10 tips

  1. Avoid excessive work hours, poor nutrition and stimulants
  2. Accept gracefully those thing over which you have no control
  3. Eat less salt and sugar and take 20 minutes daily exercise
  4. Learn how to say ‘No!' to unreasonable demands
  5. Put 20 minutes 'me time' into your own diary every day
  6. Have one ‘arrangement free' weekend every month
  7. Learn to be a good listener and to empathise with others
  8. Feed your emotional life by making time to give and receive love..
  9. Sleep is important. Get as much as you can.
  10. Take time to build long-term health by caring for your body.
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