Performance Pointer

From the Penumbra Group - Your Complete Resource for

Talent Management Solutions
October 2008
In This Issue - Feeling The Heat
Stress Tolerance and Flexibility - More Important Than Ever
What You Can Do
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We know in our last Performance Pointer ("TM: What's the Point") we promised you some Frequently Asked Questions about Talent Management, but in light of the recent events on Wall Street we are suspending that until next month. Enjoy this brief article on ways to help employees manage through the changing corporate environment facing all of us.
Companies this year were already cautious in projecting revenue, profit and headcount forecasts and the events of the last 30 days have left most of us reeling at the unknown consequences of such a calamity in the financial markets and the cascade of subsequent events that will likely occur. 

Fear is a powerful emotion and one that all of us are feeling together as we hold our breaths and wait for the real facts of our situation to reveal themselves.  The likely outcome of the government bailout Officepackage will impact every single US citizen regardless of our age, occupation, income or industry. Those of us who have nothing to do with the failing companies are being unwillingly involved and will pay the consequences of a significant failure in leadership and accountability. On top of that, we face a softening economy, while bringing home less income, with an ever increasing cost of living.
It is enough to tempt those with even the highest levels of stress tolerance to consider walking away from the pandemonium, buy a hut and make a living by fishing in Portugal. Instead, we need to hunker down, focus on the factors within our control and help others ride out this storm. We thought you might appreciate some suggestions on ways to help others manage through difficult times.

There are a few main Emotional Intelligence competencies that move to the forefront when it comes to change management: two of them are Stress Tolerance and Flexibility. You can help coach these skills in others and use them to ease people through an uneasy time.

Stress Tolerance -

  1. Discuss their awareness of their stress triggers. All of us have tell-tale signs that our blood pressure is rising and our anxiety is increasing.  Helping your employees know what their unique physical symptoms are will help them be proactive in removing themselves from difficult situations before they lose control.  
  2. Provide group relaxation activities. There has probably never been a better time to consider sending a reminder out of health benefits they are eligible for under your health plan (gym membership, smoking cessation, etc) and bringing some healthy resources on-site: massage therapists at lunch, Officea walk club after work, a company sports team.  Even having live music brought in can change the mood and lighten up a stressful work environment. Or how about a Guitar Hero or Rock Band competition to blow off some steam? 
  3. Discuss factors in and out of their control.  By helping people separate what they have a direct influence on (their attitude, their job performance, their pursuit of personal goals) and the things they cannot control (a merger or acquisition, cybergossip, a layoff) it minimizing worrying about things that may or may not happen. Help them channel the anxious energy into activities that move them closer to a goal or a healthier mindset.  

Flexibility -

  1. Encourage them to take time to respond to unexpected events and not reject them out-of-hand. It is easy to have an immediate negative response to something we don't understand or want to have happen. A lot can be said for "sleeping on it" and the more time you give people to digest bad news the better. 
  2. Brainstorm, preferably in a group context, to harvest ideas for handling dynamic, changing demands. Some members of your team probably have demonstrated a high level of flexibility (think of those unflappable folks who never seem to let anything get under their skin). OfficeLeverage the strengths of your resources and either try a group consultation or partnering members together for some mentoring. 
  3. Use change as an opportunity to learn and develop; consider how past experiences and current skills are applicable to new challenges. Remind them of a past experience when a change seemed daunting and scary at first but resulted in some unexpected, but positive outcomes. What are the old processes or cultural norms that have been needing a face lift? When things are moving at high velocity speed they are the things we put in the "To Do" pile and hope to get around to them one day. One day is here. Open the file and see what positive learning can happen right now.  
There are some things you can do as the coach, including framing new information to include "How this impacts you is". Also, the sooner you can give people information the better. Sometimes partial information can be more reassuring to others than waiting to have the complete picture and keeping them in dark until you get it.  
It is important to help each other and offer emotional support to those who need it. If you have real concerns about someone's ability to weather the stormy seas, please refer them to professional help. It is true that things are challenging, but these times will pass and make our companies stronger for going through them. Just like the difference between the lowest point in a deep lake to the peak of a neighboring tall mountain, the terrain can change quickly. And the view from the mountain top sure is sweet. 
We'd like to hear from you.  What are the issues you've been struggling to solve? Send them to and they may be featured in a future Performance Pointer.
For more information on coaching and training services from Penumbra Group, please visit our website at  And you're always welcome to contact us directly at or  
All the best,

Jennifer Shirkani and Faith Csikesz
Penumbra Group Inc.