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Gini Dietrich

Competing for Who Is Most Stressed

By: Gini Dietrich | May 11, 2011 | 
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I’ve been doing a lot of self-talk lately. You know. The kind where you have to convince yourself to behave differently than you feel because you’re a leader and you set the example.

You see, the launch of Spin Sucks Pro didn’t go exactly as planned and I’m not in control of what needs to be changed and fixed for it to be valuable to you and others. And that drives me batty. No, it drives me insane.

I don’t like not being in control and really wish I knew how to program and design so I could work 36 hours in a row and get it all fixed…at least to a  point that is presentable and we’re comfortable charging for the content we’ve spent the last eight months creating.

But I don’t know how to program and design (and here I thought I could do everything) and it’s out of my control.

And it’s stressing me out. Big time.

I’m also feeling sorry for myself, mostly because I’m exhausted. I can’t remember the last time I had a single day off. I keep waiting for Spin Sucks Pro to generate revenue (which, of course, it can’t right now because of things beyond my control) so we can hire some content creators and I can, I don’t know, do my job of leading a company toward our vision.

And then I read a Harvard Business Review blog post that shook some sense into me.

Stress doesn’t discriminate between good and bad. It comes, unbidden, anytime we are in a situation in which we are worried about an outcome we feel is beyond our control. So we complain. We gossip. We get snarky. Which quickly infects those around us. And then they complain, gossip, and snark. Pretty soon we’re competing for who’s most stressed. Who’s got the most work. Who’s got the most ungrateful, unreasonable boss. Which, of course, just makes us all more stressed.

Sounds pretty familiar in the Arment Dietrich/Spin Sucks Pro offices lately. And I’m the biggest offender. Even though I do my self-talk and try to keep a happy face to influence morale and the culture, I’m much better at it earlier in the week than toward the end. By Thursday every week, I find I AM complaining about the things that are out of my control. I’m pretty snarky about it. And I’m completely aware of it, yet I don’t stop.

While I complain and gossip about all of the things wrong with Spin Sucks Pro, my team begins to do the same. And I love to hear it because, well, misery loves company. But it’s not making me feel better and, I’d guess, they don’t feel better either.

So this is it. I’m stepping out of that role and changing my attitude. This is one thing I won’t compete on. We’re all busy. We’re all tired. We’re all doing the jobs of three or four people and getting paid the salaries of half a person. We all have things that are beyond our control. We’re all in this together.

So this is my pledge to do better: To my team, to our crazy (but very lovable) Spin Sucks community, to our clients, and to my friends and family. That said, if you have an issue or problem and need to complain, I will listen. I will empathize. I will not add fuel to the fire.

If you see me going against this pledge, I expect you to call me out on it. And you don’t even have to be nice about it.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

126 comments
KatherineBull
KatherineBull

Hmmm...you seemed perfectly relaxed to me when we sat down and had coffee together for an hour. Or, was I too busy yakking about MY stress? :-) Stress sucks. As a control freak-in-arms, I know how it feels. Half the time I feel like my head is going to explode. I literally talk myself out of it. Sometimes that works. I recommend a massage or facial or something that is different from the usual. If I can do that, and force myself not to be stressed during that time, it really does help. Spending some time with the dogs makes me feel less stressed. Take JB to the park. If he's at the office, great. But, away from the office for 30 minutes with your doggy is way better.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

We all have our coping mechanisms Gini! And its the things outside our control we dwell on and bitch about. Because the stuff in our control that we fail to take care of.....we would rather not bring up. But the stuff out of our control is so easy to go completely bonkers over. It's human nature.

I have a game to help you. Start with sitting in Traffic. On a scale of 1 to 100 what is the stress for you. Like an 80 right? Now progressively come up with more nutty stuff like getting mugged. etc and see how the scale changes. Eventually traffic is like a 5 and you know your stress is no more than bumper to bumper gridlock right now.

angelica7641
angelica7641

Haha!! @ginidietrich @kevinvandever I will be generous enough to share my crazy stories to destress us all!! We have to have a sense of humor, right? Otherwise we'll all become even more snarky. :-)

autumnmthompson
autumnmthompson

"Those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter" Dr. Seuss. I have a soon to be 6 year old, so I don't remember great quotes if they aren't in a children's book. To limit my stress, I tell myself...self, you can only deal with today's problems. Tomorrow hasn't come, so don't steal the problems from that day. Spin Sucks Pro didn't launch the way expected, SO? When it's running in all its awesomeness, will anyone remember? Very doubtful. We will be too busy devouring it! So, don't stress. Ride your bike and decompress (or whatever you do to decompress). But, enjoy the ride. It will be all worth it! Six months from now you will look back and say"It wasn't that bad!"

Wes Towers
Wes Towers

A lot of people are in with you on this, Gini, myself included. I do web design. But, I do not do programming. So, I have to rely on my team to translate my designs into all those codes that make up a website. And, there are really times when things don't go as we plan. In times like this, I would have loved to get all snarky like you said. But, because people generally know me as the peaceable Aussie, I grin and bear it. They don't know that the stress is building up inside. Good thing I have two boys and a wife who is able to lighten my day's burdens every time I go home.

Your taking a turn for the better is very admirable, Gini. Not a lot of people are able to do that. You are one strong woman to be able to do what you are doing. Chin up, ma'am! Everything will fall into place soon, you'll see. You deserve great things and they will come to you. :)

JudyHelfand
JudyHelfand

Gini,

You know what stress is? Writing a a wonderful comment and then hitting the wrong button and having all my thoughts to you go into neverland. LOL or OMG...whatever.

Do you remember me? We met here about a month ago when you asked the question or posed answers to "What two qualities does every CEO need?" To that I said every CEO must be generous in every sense of the word and you replied: "Generosity is not one that has been mentioned here; what a great addition. I'm going to bookmark this so I never forget that, as Spin Sucks Pro grows, the little incentives throughout the year make a big difference."

The operative phrase in your response to me was "as Spin Sucks Pro grows". You are in a stage right now. This is your company, your vision, your dream...and you need others to believe in and die for your dream. I think you said you have been working on Spin Sucks Pro for 3+ years. You planned a launch date and it seems you are going to be a featured speaker at Blog World New York. This is pressure. I have come to believe that Microsoft and Google relieve pressure by launching BETA versions of their products. Google Talk is still in BETA. They get the whole world to test their ideas and offer feedback. They don't make a lot of promises and they don't win them all. Here is the thing about project management. You can plan, set up your risk analysis, write test plans until the cows come home, but the bottom line is this: you cannot always manage what humanity will throw your way. Babies are born early, people get sick, people die, people fly airplanes into buildings, earthquakes...the C-Suite shuffles. How any project gets launched is a miracle of the same human nature that clogs the bottlenecks.

Did you see The Social Network? The most telling line in the movie (for me) was when Mark Zuckerberg was asked when FACEBOOK would be finished and he replied: "It won't be finished. That's the point. The way fashion's never finished."

Take care of yourself and "dare greatly!"

Judy

markwschaefer
markwschaefer

Here's something funny. Over the weekend I wrote a post entitled "I'm blazing down the social media Highway to Hell."

Sounds like we were having the same kind of day. I decided not to post it, at least yet, because I was reacting to the stress and knew in a day or two it would be better. And it is.

We are living in a particulalrly vulnerable time because an increasing amount our lives, and livelihoods, are dependent on technology. I was just commenting to Mrs. S the other day, that I do not (and cannot) builf in time for IT upsets so when it happens, the stress cycle begins. It is especially acute for me when I disappoint customers.

I don;t know what the answer is because undoubtedly the situation, and our vulnerability grows worse month by month. In the end, we can only rely on each other ... to the extent that technology allows it!! : )

Hang in there dear friend.

ConnieMcKnight
ConnieMcKnight

Gini, I feel your pain. I launched a WordPress blog a few months ago and didn't have a clue what I was doing. I tried to change html code and everytime I did I would cause a bigger problem than I had in the first place. It seemed like I was taking 1 step forward and 2 backwards on a daily basis. I too was used to being in control, and was completely out of control. The thing that got me through was the saying "This too shall pass." and what do you know, it did and now everything is working the way it should. Soon you'll be saying the same thing.

Connie

geoffliving
geoffliving

Me, too. I've been on the road for two months straight it seems like and my gut is ten pounds heavier for it. I miss my ladies, and my book is coming out. I am so with you.

That being said, I am amazed by how much you continue to give. Let me know if I can help.

Dr_Rae
Dr_Rae

Gini, this is for the next time you find yourself "competing for who is most stressed"

We all need stress to be creative and to live. When our stress becomes distress or eustress we must begin to learn how-to manage and overcome the stressors (causes) that the stress indicators (physical cues and signals) present to us.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this with your community.

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

Oh @ginidietrich , IT projects are tough. I've been the dedicated communicator for IT projects and...this is how they go. They ALWAYS go like this. IT never seems to behave. I hope I won't incur the wrath of IT professionals for saying this.

If it helps, I for one am looking forward to the launch of Spin Sucks Pro as soon as it's ready! You're not losing momentum with me - if anything I'm like "ah, it's behaving just like an IT project should!"

Hugs.

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

Ha, that so resonates with me. I suppose that's a big part of why I have dogs. The woofs always listen and always reward me with their affection and getting me out walking every day is a great de-stresser.

C_Pappas
C_Pappas

I feel like this a lot lately but for a little different reason. You see in my career I have always been the entire marketing department. So if an email needed to get created and sent, I did it. And if I needed to change something on the website, I did it. I am now on a team of 7 and my role is small and I rely on 6 other people to do the things I always relied on myself to do. So I cant just create an email and send it the very second I am thinking about it and it stresses me out that I cant do that and I have to wait until someone's 'bandwidth' frees up (man, I hate the word bandwidth!!!). Ok, so I am stressed apparently myself. Spring took way too long to get here and I dont know about your neighborhood but its freaking cold in Boston!! And no relief in sight! So I applaud your effort to stop, but how are you going to exactly? Love to hear your ideas and suggestions. And also how to respond to things like 'Im not sure, I need to flush it out for x amount of time' and 'my bandwidth, my bandwidth'.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I've been thinking about this for a few hours now. I'm going to hve to disagree with you on a few points.
The snark and gossip that I've been observing and participating in with you is not excessive. And it's a healthy outlet for us. We need to maintain a sense of humor through this process if only to maintain our sanity.
Also, it's important for us to be discussing these things an constantly looking for a way to do things better. (could we be communicating better? Etc)
As a team member who has invested a lot personally in making this successful, I don't want you to be putting on a rosy face just to make us feel ok.
Sure, we all have to keep out stress levels in check and do our self talk in the morning so there is a fine line. But dude!!!!I need the snark, the bitch sessions. Then we end it and get this bad boy LAUNCHED!!!

BethHarte
BethHarte

I am full of snark these days. It's not healthy or productive. Thanks for the gentle reminder, Gini. You and your team deserve a pat on the back for Spin Sucks Pro. Nothing ever goes as planned. Nothing. Be proud of what you've accomplished...I am sure your fans are! :)

Nick
Nick

Gini, have you heard of a company called @dashal? They are really good at this stuff! :o)

Marijean
Marijean

Good leadership is not easy -- I admire you for sticking this out there -- and for getting out of the team's way.

RamonMartinezJr
RamonMartinezJr

Hi Gini,

Don't you just hate the moment you realize...you're only human? LOL I'm sending good vibrations your way to help you out of your wonky mood. If that doesn't work...just remember this...stressed is desserts spelled backwards! Mmmm chocolate!

KensViews
KensViews

Hi Gini,

Great post. You're so right about gossip, snarkiness, etc. Those things make us feel better at the time, but they give us permission to not deal with the issue, to not solve the problem, to not do something to reduce our stress, to not make things better. I hope your post will inspire everyone to be more observant about this topic, and when they see it happening, stop themselves in their tracks, and say "I have a choice here. There is a healthier action I can take. And I'm going to take it.

KyleAkerman
KyleAkerman

Hi Gini,

Again your willingness to be so candid during your successes AND your struggles is a big part of what brings folks back to Spin Sucks every day.

It is very difficult to not stress out over things that are out of your control. Trust me, as someone trying to change careers I face this everyday.

Everyone is fun to be around during the best of times, you know when life is all rainbows and ice cream. But I think people are truly defined by how they carry themselves during the bad times.

Your ability to recognize how stress is affecting you and your team and to take ownership of overcoming that stress is just further proof of the successful leader you have become.

So keep believing in yourself. Keep believing in your team. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The technical glitches will eventually get solved and Spin Sucks PRO will kick some major butt!

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

When you really stop to think about it (thank you for writing this and making us stop to think about it), complaining and gossiping are exactly the least effective ways to handle potentially stressful situations; yet we usually go there first. We should all make the same pledge and before we ever think to call you out, we should look in the mirror at ourselves, first. You know, glass houses and all.

You bravely go were most are not willing to go, but you will win in the end...or, at least, feel much better about yourself :)

Verilliance
Verilliance

Yay you!

But this concerns me in a more broad sense, and has been for a while. There's this lure, this promise, this hope that social media is a gold-mine for anyone that does it right, but what I see is a lot of people overworking themselves to the point of overwhelming exhaustion, burn-out, or mini-breakdowns. What is the solution? I don't know.

Back to your pledge to not gossip and complain. Several years back I worked and lived at a Buddhist meditation center. (It had it's own stressors, believe it or not.) Part of the Buddhist teachings is the Eightfold Path. They are similar to commandments, but also very different. There isn't the threat of punishment should you not follow them. They are instead the key to ending the cycle of "suffering" in life. #3 is "Right Speech" and in a nutshell it means to speak the truth, to speak words that will be helpful, and to speak kindly. Wrong speech includes gossip, slander, divisiveness, lies, and idle chatter.

Sounds reasonable, but I really came to understand what this really means through a teaching on the eightfold path where it was explained that when we engage in wrong speech we not only hurt others, we also hurt ourselves in subtle but pervasive ways. To engage in gossip, for example, plants seeds of insecurity. After all, if "I" am a good person but I talk about people this way, what are they saying about me?

On another note, when I worked at the meditation center, every office meditated together for 10 minutes or so, then we "bowed" in to show our mutual respect for one another, and then had a meeting. I recently read a study about the use of meditation before business meetings and the outcomes was that those meetings went better and were more productive. Food for thought. :)

TheJackB
TheJackB

@HowieG I don't know about that bumper to bumper stuff. Just thinking about it makes me want to start honking the horn. If the guy in front of me doesn't close the gap between the car in front of him people are going to cut in and my commute is going to take longer than it should.

Damn that selfish fool. Doesn't he understand that I could save five minutes and those five minutes add up. I hate that. All that time stuck in traffic when I could be commenting, writing or doing other fun stuff.

Damn Howie, you got me all worked up for nothing. ;)

KDillabough
KDillabough

@markwschaefer You make such an excellent point, Mark, when you say we're in a particularly vulnerable time because so much of our lives/livelihoods are dependent upon technology...which is great when it works, agonizing when it doesn't.

When I was experiencing (and am still experiencing) a technology problem, @ginidietrich was there to help in a nanosecond: I can't imagine, Gini, coping with the magnitude of what you're dealing with, when such a small thing as I'm experiencing causes me such frustration. But, as they say, "this too shall pass."

Your comment, Mark, does bring up an interesting point to ponder. If the tools "disappeared", would we still "only rely on each other", if that reliance has been built on accessibility through technology. It makes me take pause to think of all the wonderful people I've met, ideas I've been exposed to, knowledge I've gained that wouldn't be there save for technology. I don't have an answer for that, but it certainly underscores how important technology has become, and how crippling it is when it doesn't work.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Dr_Rae So is this my affirmation to just forget it all tonight and go curl up in bed with a glass of wine and a book?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jennwhinnem It's so nice to know people understand this is how it goes. I was so focused on them having something to show by May 2 that I didn't think to ask them if, I don't know, the ecommerce on an ecommerce site would work.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@C_Pappas LOL! You know what? This is EXACTLY what we're going through with our development firm. I guess I understand that the bigger you get, the more you have to plan for things like sending newsletters and making website changes. But I like being nimble and being able to react to client's needs. I know that if we told our clients to wait until we had bandwidth, we wouldn't have clients. I feel your pain, sister!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Lisa Gerber I don't think we participate in any gossip - that reference was simply from the quote on the HBR blog. If anything, we're overly kind. And I know this likely hit close to home to you, but I wasn't really thinking about our trying to figure out a way to get this thing launched and the communication around it. I was thinking more about the way I feel and how my mood affects our culture and morale. I try really hard to set a positive tone, but it's been hard this past couple of weeks. I just don't want anyone here to feel like we're not all in this together or that I feel like I'm the only one who's overworked. I've been SUPER grouchy since we "launched" and I put this out there only to make it visible that I'm working on not letting it affect everyone's moods.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@BethHarte Except there is nothing to show yet! But thank you. :) P.S. I think a little snark won't hurt anyone. It's one of the best senses of humor.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Nick Funny! I think a company of a similar name designed Spin Sucks.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Marijean Who said I got out of their way?!? LOL! It's been a rough couple of weeks, but I'm working on it!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KensViews Unless, of course, we're gossiping under a sun umbrella at the pool with drinks in Vegas! I mean, what?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Verilliance Wow. What a great experience! For all of the reasons you listed, but also because you learned that, no matter what, we're going to have stress in our lives. You can lead a super simple life and still have stress. What a phenomenal lesson.

I don't know who is saying that social media is a gold mine, but they're clearly not the ones who ARE doing it right. It's exhausting some days. Like @therealkazia said, sometimes you just want to chuck it all and go hide in a cave.

ParkRidgeDDS
ParkRidgeDDS

@Verilliance I love this...I have been trying/using meditation for awhile now and just this past week went to my first group meditation at Blue Lotus Temple and had a wonderful experience. I am ready as much as I can about Buddhist teachings and find their philosophy to be truly one of kindness, compassion, happiness and peace. Your comment was inspirational!!

Dr_Rae
Dr_Rae

@ginidietrich What ever works for you Gini, the choice is yours!

Being aware and accepting your stressors and stress indicators is the key..

Share what you are feeling without blaming/conjoling/manipulating the other person to change. Since feelings are irrational you release them by sharing without acting on them..

What works for me and people I've counseled over the years is to stay in the moment and share "I feel____ when you____" (fill in the blank with your stress indicator, your physical signal/symptom)

What choices you make and where you go from there is up to you!

Let me know how this works for you, Thank you for your question and your continued interest in this important issue that we all deal with on a daily basis...

KDillabough
KDillabough

@ginidietrich @Mark_Harai Consider Mark and I singing, in harmony, over and over: "You were born to build a great company", as you curl up in bed with your book and a glass of wine...or 2..or....:)

jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem

@ginidietrich We should collaborate on a project where we beat IT into submission. What do you say?

Also - oh God. I have to laugh, but oh God.

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