Don’t let stress impact your business relationships

Brendan Foley, leadership and team development coach

Brendan Foley is an internationally recognised leadership and team development coach. As Managing Director of Seachange Now, he leads a team of coaches who develop people so businesses can grow.  Below, Brendan has shared his advice to help navigate stress so it doesn’t affect our business relationships.

When we get stressed we are not the best version of ourselves and it’s our relationships and our health that bear the brunt of being overloaded.

Relationships with our team, our customers, and our suppliers, not to mention our loved ones can be heavily impacted. When we’re stressed our brain moves into a ‘fight or flight’ mode, in other words survival becomes the aim of the game. Adrenaline spikes and we suffer big ups and downs in our energy.

You might notice the following:

  • Being cranky
  • Loss of appetite and disrupted sleep
  • Getting overwhelmed by small things that wouldn’t normally bother you
  • Failing to appreciate the people around you and a drop in empathy
  • Tension in the body and mind

Try working with the person exhibiting all those symptoms! Even worse if this is the leader of the business.

So you need to follow a process which I can tell you will help you control your stress and be the best version of yourself.

Think of yourself at your best. Go on visualise that.

I would say you have a picture in your mind of you being calm, confident, happy, in control and having a positive effect on the people around you. This is you at your best and it does not involve stress. Athletes call this the flow state – where everything seems to happen in the right way. The endorphins start to flow and our capacity to achieve increases.

To get your mind-set right and manage stress you can follow this process:

  1. Share
  2. Be Honest
  3. Be Optimistic
  4. Take Action  

1.    Share

Bottling up our feelings is a bad idea. The body keeps the score and the stress will start to manifest in our physical self, our emotional interactions with others and a confused mental approach. Find someone you trust that you can share how you feel. If that person is not in your business try using an executive coach or a counsellor. That really helps. You can also write out what you feel. By writing it down we often become more objective and get a more grounded view of what is really happening. When I’m coaching people they often solve their problems simply by sharing them with me – as often it’s the first time they have verbalised the thoughts and feeling they have. If you can name it you can claim it. Relieving yourself of your negative feelings will help you have a more positive approach to your work and maintaining business relationships.

2.    Be Honest

Try to get some external perspective on your situation or cause of stress. People who are not emotionally involved in the situation will often see it for what it really is.

Great leaders see the world as it really is. Not better than it is and not worse than it is. When we are in fight or flight mode we tend to catastrophise and to have black or white thinking. Nothing is purely binary. In truth the world is shades of grey and every situation has its own context and factors that make it unique. To avoid bringing this way of thinking and workplace stress into your business relationships, try to get some external perspectives on your situation or cause of stress. People who are not emotionally involved in the situation will often see it for what it really is. A powerful technique to get perspective is to project yourself into the future. Now looking back from that time what advice would you give yourself? Generally, when I do this exercise with clients they visibly relax and quite quickly move to a bigger picture view – creating the perspective needed to deal with the current situation and relieving stress.

3.    Be Optimistic

Where the focus goes, the energy flows. Most people I meet for coaching can tell me all their problems and what they don’t want in their lives and businesses. “I don’t want to feel stressed”, “My staff are giving me real trouble”, “My boss is really difficult” and so on. Yet when I ask them what they do want, they struggle to articulate this! The fight or flight brain focuses always on the negative and can cause stress. This is why news headlines are often negative. Media owners know this. Bad news sells – because the brain is wired to seek out what is wrong rather than what is right. We need to rewire our brain to consciously bring into our minds a visualisation of what we want. To feel calm, to have a great relationship with our team, to work really well with our boss. Visualise the best possible outcome and continually work toward this. Then you engage your goal seeking brain and lots of great processes kick in to help you.

4.    Take Action

Taking the right action is transformative for your business relationships. It’s empowering and it’s repeatable. When you have visualised the outcome that you want, you need to back that up with massive positive action. To do this begin with the end in mind. So if my goal is to have a great relationship with my team, I then ask what step would come before achieving that? And before that and so on. By working backwards from my goal, I can map a series of steps or actions that will create a roadmap for success. The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step. What is important is to start. Ask yourself everyday “Are my actions taking me closer or further away from my goal?” The answer to this question will then allow you to take the correct course when needed. Two things massively increase your chance of achieving your goal: 1. Writing it down and 2. Sharing it with someone who will keep you accountable. In the example set out here you could share the goal with your team that you wish to have a better relationship with them. Then ask them if you are winning or not!

Top Tip: Breath. Slow the breath down and breathe deeply into the belly. It induces a relaxed state which can overcome stress state.

So go for it! Deal with your stress and be the best version of yourself and help your business, your relationships, your team and yourself to grow.

Brendan can be contacted at if you would like support for your business.