How you deal with stress – Part III – Startups

This is the third (and last) post on my handling stress series. Last week I posted an article that discussed measuring how prospective job candidates handle stress. Earlier this week, I added the second post on how sales people handle stress. The last area I want to focus on is startups. When you take hiring and sales reps stress and add a dose of startup dynamic what you end up with is a really complicated mess! Startups are one of the most exciting yet stressful places to work. Vivek Wadhwa just wrote a great piece on this in the WSJ Accelerators Blog – his two main points were

  • Entrepreneurs are not just born, they are made (I am testatment to this)

  • How stressful a startup can be, even when you love it (I agree to this too, although fortunately have not suffered the physical effects of startups as Vivek has).

Startups are a complicated topic. Mark Suster just wrote a great post on this exact topic. I’d add to Mark’s comments by saying that the key with handling stress at a startup is to be open and transparent. Startups are by nature a train wreck – lots of things coming at you at once, with no reasonable capability to adequately handle each one. So things will get messy.  Things will be sloppy. If you try to present a smooth “front” where everything is great, that will sap all your energy and ultimately your motivation.

I have found honesty is BY FAR the best policy. Not only that, but people need to “say what they’re going to do, and then do what they say”. Brad’s post applies mostly to VC/Entrepreneur relationships, which is one small part of a startup, but I’ll claim his rules apply to any interaction within a startup.  People will respect and trust you for this, and it will allow you to focus your energy on the high need stressors, and save you a ton of effort masking stressors that don’t need to be there in the first place.

I am very interested in your thoughts on how to “learn” what stresses people, how to lower your own stress, and other areas that are particularly high stress that we should focus on.  I’ll end this by stating that the absolute best thing I ever did to manage stress was start exercising. I certainly can’t go so far to say I wouldn’t hire or work with somebody who doesn’t exercise, but I can guarantee that the level of stress for a non-exerciser will be higher than that of a regular exerciser.