No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Coaches Diary: Crisis, What Crisis?


Olivia Stefanino coaches a client who is blighted by stress.

Rob looked tired and depressed – and he admitted that running his own catering business had not been as much fun as he had anticipated.

As his story unfolded, Rob told me that he had he hadn’t taken any holiday over the preceding 18 months – and even over the Christmas holiday he had ended up in bed with flu rather than enjoying his time off. Recognising that he couldn’t sustain his workaholic lifestyle had prompted Rob to book a session with me to see how he could alleviate his stress.

I first suggested that we look at how Rob was managing his time. Looking at his feet, he replied that he never had the chance to manage his time because all of his days were spent dealing with problems as they arose.

Already it was clear that this was where the root of Rob’s problems lay. By crisis managing all the time, Rob had no spare capacity for planning – and yet it was this lack of planning that was causing Rob to be in a permanent state of crisis in the first place. It was a double-bind situation that many people running their own businesses find themselves facing sooner or later.

I outlined to Rob that one of the secrets of good time management was to focus and prioritise – with the ultimate aim of spending all work time on matters that were important but not yet urgent. “At the moment, all your time is spent on activities that are both important and urgent,” I said, “and this is what is causing your stress levels to rise. “

Shaking his head in protestation, Rob said, “I understand what you are saying – but to be honest, I think I’m at my best when I’m under stress. If I don’t have deadlines looming or clients demanding attention, I tend to switch off.“ Rob went on to admit that he tended to multi-task, which gave him a buzz – and he acknowledged, being busy and doing lots of different things at the same time made him feel in control and dynamic.

“I can see how it might feel that way,” I told Rob, “but actually, however good you may feel, your body is still reacting to stress signals. Not only does stress have a negative effect on the body – making the immune system less effective, as you found out at Christmas – but it also has a major impact on your creative abilities.”

Rob frowned – and asked me to continue. “Well,” I said, “when your body is under stress, the ‘flight or fight’ response is induced. Our bodies are unable to calibrate the level of threat to our being, it’s as though there is simply an on/off switch. Or in other words, our response to threats will always be identical, whether we are face-to-face with a sabre-toothed tiger or whether we are face-to-face with a towering in-tray.

“When we are responding to a threat our bodies start to function in survival mode - which means that our more sophisticated bodily functions cease to work properly. Digestion, for example, is not necessary to our immediate survival, so when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, blood and oxygen are immediately diverted to our muscles and to the primitive part of our brain only (the amygdala) that deals with “fight or flight”.

“Because the more sophisticated parts of the brain are not receiving optimum amounts of blood and oxygen, our ability to listen to anything rational or ‘see the logic’ in an explanation is dramatically diminished. Similarly, creativity is not necessary for the “fight or flight” response and therefore our abilities to innovate – let alone problem solve – are impaired.”

Having understood the reasons why he needed to change his way of approaching work, Rob and I spent the rest of our time together creating a work schedule that would enable him to catch up with the backlog and plan properly for the future.

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. Download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power” at


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!