In a recent article featured in Insurance Business Australia, Michelle talks about why some stress is good for insurance brokers.
Most brokers are used to juggling a consortium of tasks and challenges but, for those who have found themselves eyeing the easy life with envy, take solace in the thought that a little bit of stress might actually be good for you.
Leadership expert Michelle Gibbings (pictured) is the founder and managing director of Change Meridian – she believes the best careers are a little like diamonds, in that they can only be formed under pressure.
“Research shows that when we have a certain amount of stress or pressure, it’s good for us because it actually helps to motivate us and keep us focussed,” says Gibbings. “It’s about having the right amount of challenge and the right amount of interest in what you’re doing – when we get that, chemicals are released in our brain which make us more alert, more motivated and more ready to learn.”
Pointing to the principle of the ‘Goldilocks Zone’, Gibbings says each person has their perfect balance between stress and inertia which is just right for them.
“The Goldilocks Zone is that zone of optimal performance, where we’re working on a task or learning something new and it’s neither too hard nor too easy,” she says. “If you don’t have any pressure, it’s really easy to become complacent and demotivated so it’s about finding the right amount of pressure so you’ve got something motivating you to act.”
For those who think they could benefit from adding a little extra stress in their lives, Gibbings says they should begin by setting a goal that they’ve thought about for a while but haven’t begun working towards because it’s a little ambitious.
“Find something that you want to do that’s going to help push you further and then ask yourself why it matters to you,” she suggests. “That’s key because, if it’s not important to you, you won’t work towards it – so set the goal, make it matter to you and then build the plan to get there.”
Of course, while Gibbings says pressure is important to push any career forward, she also says it can be dangerous if brokers try and take on too much.
“Pressure becomes unhealthy when we feel like we’ve got no control or autonomy over what’s going on, or when we feel like we’re working really hard but we’re not making any progress,” says Gibbings. “When that happens, things can start to feel overwhelming and we find ourselves ruminating about the same issue over and over again.”
Gibbings says one of the most important things any brokerage can do to ensure their staff are finding a suitable balance is to create a culture where people aren’t afraid to speak up.
“These days, people talk about the concept of psychological safety a lot and you really do want that environment where people feel psychologically safe to say they’re not OK or things are getting too much for them,” says Gibbings.
“If you don’t have that right cultural environment where people can share ideas, communicate openly, have that trusting, caring, connected environment, stress just gets pushed underground because people feel like they’re not in an environment they can safely tell people they’re not OK – and that leads to a very unhealthy working environment.”