How to turn stress into excellence: top HR execs share insights

A recent CHRO dinner saw performance expert Richard Sutton give HR executives a lesson on how two take advantage of stress.

HR executives from FNB Wealth & Investments, JTI, Monash University, Takeda and Viacom enjoyed a superb evening of learning and networking with global sports coach and international speaker Richard Sutton at Marble Restaurant on Tuesday evening. The dinner, which was sponsored by Oracle, involved an in-depth and robust discussion around the topic of stress and how to convert potential to performance.

Richard shared some petrifying statistics, explaining that one in four South Africans have depression, while South Africa is the second most stressed nation in the world behind Nigeria. Furthermore, South Africa has also been nominated as the second most miserable nation behind Venezuela on the Misery Index. 

It all sounds like doom and gloom, but here’s the interesting twist. There is an opportunity that comes with South Africans experiencing significantly more stress than citizens of other countries. Richard’s years of working with elite athletes allowed him to research the ability to reframe stress as a positive thing, and how shifting our mindset can help harness the chemical and biological responses to stress and use it to our advantage.

“Short bursts of stress protects strengthens and enhances our ability, allowing us to function and perform at a much higher level. The duration of the stress which we experience is ultimately the determining factor between stress having a positive or negative effect on us,” said Richard. 

“The big difference between successful sports athletes and average athletes is their ability to harness stress to their advantage and the level of intensity and consistency at which they perform, and the same as true in the corporate world.”

What is of the utmost importance is developing the capacity to shut down and switch off your stress system to avoid premature ageing, cardiovascular disease and higher chances of mortality. This can be achieved through a variety of activities such as meditation, listening to music, visceral manipulation, yoga, immersing your body in cool water or even placing a cold tea towel on your face

“It was an incredibly insightful evening and the importance of mindset was reinforced once again. A key takeaway for me this evening was the amazing opportunity we have to alleviate stress through prosocial behaviour. Because, when our actions governed by concern for the rights, feelings, and welfare of other people, stressful situations can be managed more easily," said CHRO South Africa community manager John Deane.

CHRO Execs left feeling empowered to implement what they had learnt into their Organisations and really enjoyed the networking opportunities amongst their peers.