Regularly change up your stress coping strategies, because what might have worked before might not be working now
Make yourself available to your peers and be a support for them, too
Companies should create as many opportunities as possible for employees to be themselves and bond with others
Can you please introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Malika Kennedy, I’m the Director of Customer Success at Metadata.io, which is an AI-powered demand generation platform. We help B2B companies generate quality leads that result in revenue. My role is in charge of everything post-sales. So when it comes to customer onboarding, customer renewals, driving customer expansion, support, and all of the other fun stuff.
That sounds like a lot to deal with. How do you cope with stress at work?
It’s always been a learning process. It’s an art that I try to perfect every single day, every single month. I think I’m getting better at it, but nobody’s perfect. You always need to find new tips and techniques, because what might have worked last month might not be working this month.
But the first important thing is that you need to be in control. Stress usually increases and affects you more when you’re not in control of your own life or circumstances. It amplifies the stress that you feel. Time management is part of that. It’s not letting the calendar run you, but you run your calendar. The second important part is mental management. It’s continuously working on your mental health and making sure you’re able to cope with day-to-day stress.
I try to keep a 30-minute slot on my calendar every day. I make sure that I can meditate for five minutes and walk for 10 to 20 minutes. When it comes to time management, it’s planning my weeks ahead as far as I can. It’s setting boundaries to protect your own needs versus what the business needs.
Another strategy that helps me mentally is having a support system. Having good relationships inside work - with my boss, my peers, and with my team. There’s also relationships outside of work, whether that’s your family, your friends, or even coaches. You may even recruit some external, third-party help like a therapist.
Everybody has their own ways of talking to and finding a support system.
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Having a support group sounds really useful. How has it helped you?
When fires happen - and they do happen a lot - I tend to internalize problems and stress myself out.
By having a support group, I was able to finally talk these issues over with others. I wasn’t asking for a solution from these people - I just needed a venue to get it off my chest. Prior to getting a group, I had some intense physical discomfort and health consequences due to keeping things bottled up. But once I started to share with my group, it acted as an outlet. I was able to get these problems out of my system and that reduced my stress significantly.
Who do you know how to trust with that kind of intimate knowledge? Especially in a work setting?
That’s such a great question! Nothing magically happens in our life. You’re not just going to have amazing people knocking on our door out of the blue and asking, “Hey, can I support you?”
That doesn’t happen.
You have to go out there and meet people. You have to work on making and building relationships in and out of the office. As you meet all of these people, there will be a few with whom you connect really well. Foster strong connections and grow trust between you and them.
You can try using LInkedIn or Slack communities to find people you respect or aspire to be. See if you can connect with them, and see if they can either coach you or point you in the direction of one. There are many different coaches and mentors out there to help you.
What role can you play in helping to support your peers?
One of the biggest things you can do is make yourself available. It’s hard to help others when you’re not available yourself. So just create opportunities for people to come meet and talk to you.
For example, I will join every single company happy hour. I’m the first person in and the last person out. Not everyone joins all the time, and sometimes it’ll be smaller groups just because we have so many, but I try to be there as much as I can to make it easy for people to come talk to me. We can brainstorm together, share things, and be open about our problems.
I also try to help people by sharing knowledge. As I started leading a team of CSMs with diverse backgrounds, mindsets, and cultures, I tried to up my level of knowledge so that I could better guide them. I read a lot of books on personal development, motivation, and other things.
And I tried to spread that knowledge in helpful and tactful ways. For example, there was one person on my team who was amazing, but shared that she had a lot of fear and confidence issues. And so I recommended an amazing book to her. She read the book on her time off, and the next time I saw her she was a totally changed person.
I always tell my new hires to get to know the people they’re working with. Have a 15-minute check-in with someone in product or sales and meet with all the different departments, because that extends their boundaries and builds good relationships.
What role should the company play when creating support networks for their employees?
I’m going to use some examples from our own company. We’ve got some very important initiatives at Metadata.
First, we had our company kickoff a couple of months ago, and they hired a communications coach. This coach helped many of us get over our fears and be more confident. We signed them up so that anyone in the company could book a session whenever they wanted.
The company also ran a mental energy management talk to help manage our burnout. They recommended breathing exercises and other tips and tricks to help improve our employees’ state of mind.
We also have an online water cooler channel where people are free to say silly things or share something horrible that happened to you and we all help you deal with it. It’s creating opportunities that people can be at ease with themselves.
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