Understand your team’s stressors to unlock their potential

How do the daily stressors in your environment impact those around you? Maybe you have recently noticed a work colleague be more irritable than usual due to slow progression on a project? Or perhaps someone within your team seemed oddly fixed in the way they behaved due to a looming deadline? In whichever way you’ve noticed stress within the workplace, understanding the sources of stress for individual’s within your team can help you to unlock their potential by helping them to perform better, improve their relationships, and live happier, healthier lives.

How might you begin to do this for your team? The answer starts with understanding people’s differences…

Understanding your team’s stressors

Everyone is different. We all have different preferences, different strengths, and even different drivers. Importantly, we also all have different things that make us feel stressed – a stressor for one person may actually be a motivator for another! This means people will respond differently to the same event, and so by understanding the different sources of stress to those within your team, you can begin to create an environment more conducive to high performance.

Unlock your team’s potential

Once you have recognised the potential sources of stress to those in your team, there are two ways you can start to manage how they play out in your workplace to help you get the best out of others: (a) make changes to reduce their presence, and (b) help others to adapt when they arise.

Reducing the presence of stressors

The first way of minimising the impact of stressors within your team is to make changes to the way you behave. Often, our natural behaviours may have inadvertent effects on others, and so reflecting on how your current behaviours effect others may help to reduce the stress felt by those within your team.

Reflect on questions, such as: How might your current actions cause stress to members of your team? What are the differences within your team that may affect how different people respond to certain situations? How might you adapt your style to ensure other people benefit from reduced levels of stress? And how might reducing stress for one person effect others that you work with? Doing this can help you to identify changes you may be able to make to decrease the presence of potential stressors within your team, and thus prime possible changes in your behaviour to help you get the best out of others.

Help team members to adapt to stressors

Having reduced the impact of your behaviour on others, the second thing you can do to reduce the impact of stressors on others is to help those within your team understand where their stress comes from. This may then allow them to take action to reduce the impact of these possible sources.

Indeed, it is impossible to fully eliminate all stressors from the world you inhabit. Instead, encouraging people within your team to be aware of and recognise the things that may push their buttons may help them to be more adaptable in the presence of their natural stressors. By having conversations with your team around what their potential sources of stress may be, your colleagues may be better prepared to move into different performance preferences when these situations arise.

Going back to the example above, it may be that a particular project requires fast-paced action in order to meet a tight deadline. This may be unavoidable. and so may cause particular stress for Person B if they remain fixed to their natural preference of ensuring attention to detail. However, if they are able to temporarily move into other behavioural and mindset spaces which are more conducive to this particular context, they may be able to change the way these external events affect them. This can help them to act in a way more in line with the context they find themselves in, reduce the levels of stress felt, and also benefit their performance.

With this in mind, how might you be able to increase your team’s ability to adapt to different contexts? And how might this turn potentially stressful situations into a possibility for growth? By considering these questions, you may be able to help others to tap into the best version of themselves under a number of different contexts…


As we have seen, stressors within the workplace are almost inevitable, and will effect everyone in different ways. However, by taking the time to identify differences within our team we can begin to make changes to tap into the benefits associated with lower levels of stress.

Today, on National Stress Awareness Day, take the time to reflect on how you may reduce the impact of stressors for those you work with. By thinking about how you can reduce your impact on others, whilst also helping others to adapt in the presence of the things that push their buttons, not only will this help you to unlock the potential of those you are working with, but it will also create a better experience of the workplace for everyone involved.

This article was written by Liam Burnell, a researcher for SpotlightPROFILE, and was released to mark National Stress Awareness Day 2019.