Business owner being pulled apartIt’s not always bad. There are awesome days when you and your team can do no wrong. And there are days when you are busy with the mundane. And then there are days when leading a small business is distressing. In fact, the origin of the word, distress, means to pull apart. And pulled apart is not so  far off the mark. When people feel this high level of stress, it can be tempting to just do anything that remotely feels like work. Just to feel a sense of control over something. The catch is that if you aren’t leading the way to stablizing the organization, then it becomes a negative loop of flailing and failing.

So let’s start with just you first…

Your body-There has been a tremendous amount of research done on cardiovascular health as well as the immune system. It’s no secret that high levels of anger and anxiety simply wear down our internal organs. For the last 20 years, research is finding a strong relationship between suppressed immune systems and high stress levels. In fact, high levels of anger and other intensely upsetting emotions (i.e. high anxiety, depression) double the chances of  coronary artery disease and cancer.

Your brain-You’ve got this fascinating part of your brain just behind your eyes and forehead-the frontal cortex. This part of your brain does a number of thing like weighing options, making decisions, organizing and avoiding saying really stupid things that you can’t take back. Fatigue, inconsistent eating habits, little to no physical activity (not just exercise) and negative thinking patterns will impair how your brain functions. In turn, this intensifies anything that is already challenging.

If you’re handicapped physically and mentally, what’s likely to happen to your business?

It’s not pretty and muscling through is likely to leave you feeling even more resentful, angry and beholden to your expectations. Consider this-a small business is an intimate setting. Even in small businesses that are larger, people generally recognize others’ faces or simply know one another. If the owner is harried or cranky, there isn’t much of a buffer like in mid-sized to large corporations. This can create an environment that favors cliques, scapegoating, shirking work and many other dysfunctional behaviors. In a nutshell, the employees are watching the owner for clues about job security and acceptable behaviors.

The four Deadly Interruptors are in play.

  • Fatigue-This impairs your memory, your ability to learn, your problem-solving skills and makes everything so hard to complete. Ever found yourself reading the same sentence over and over and you can’t seem to understand the point?
  • Silo Thinking-Even in small businesses, it is easy to get stuck in your own backyard. When business owners are under pressure, it is tempting to isolate oneself. Thoughts like “If I just work more”, “I’m surrounded by idiots” or “I can’t let anyone know that we’re in trouble” are a couple of the most common thoughts. It is easy to become paranoid about what your team is doing or not doing. When you lose perspective, you lose the  capacity to see the whole picture.
  • Resentment- I wish I could remember exactly where I learned the phrase “kick the kitty”. When the boss kicks the kitty, it is simply that he/she is lashing out at someone or something that can’t or won’t fight back. Feeling fearful, obligated and guilty that the adversity is harming the company can lead to resentment. This energy has to go somewhere so we kick the kitty. Getting angry with someone else when you are really angry about something separate may provide temporary relief. However, it is really misdirecting the anger and resentment.
  • Grief/Feelings of Loss-A good friend of mine reminded me of  how often expectations lead to disappointment. When you’ve been running your small business for a while, it becomes part of your identity. You are Joe/Jane X of ABC Company. You’ve got business cards, brochures, websites and so many conversations where you introduced yourself this way. When your market changes, your customer base has a major shift or outside forces hit your company like a meteor, it can feel like a death of sorts. Well, it is…the death of your expectations. This can feel like melancholy or even depression. If left unresolved, it will permeate how you manage your small business.

Getting tapped out leaves you vulnerable for further messy problems.

Excessive politics, hoarding information, increased turnover and analysis paralysis are just a few of the issues a small business owner can face if the deadly interruptors are not managed or eliminated. It’s not just the physical feeling of exhaustion. I’m going to get a little on the woo-hoo side here but the fatigue felt in your heart or even your soul reduces your motivation, morale and leadership skills. Getting tapped out is destructive for you and your business.

When do you notice getting most worn out?

 *This is just one of the topics we’ll be looking at in the complimentary webinar, “Leading Your Teams Beyond Fear and Panic” on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 12pm ET/5pm GMT. You can learn more and register on the Programs page.