Managing workplace stress: interview with Charlie McIver
Stress Awareness Month is recognised every April and aims to increase public awareness of the global stress epidemic we face today. According to the Mental Health Foundation, over 74 per cent of adults in the UK state that at some point over the last year they have felt overwhelmed by stress or unable to cope.
Many of us have our own ways of dealing with stress and this month, I’d like to share the experiences and stress-beating tips of 3 successful people, whose approaches I admire.
My third profile is of Charlie McIver, Vice President Customer Success EMEA at nCino inc – a cloud-based software company modernising the way banks work.
Charlie currently runs all customer facing operations in EMEA and has been supporting the growth of nCino’s footprint in Europe since 2017. He leads a team of 60 people based in the UK and on the continent.
Four questions to Charlie
What makes your job important to you?
nCino started out as a high-growth tech start-up what feels like just a short time ago, and we’re now already 9-years old. The last few years have been an intense growth period as we expand in Europe. We’ve had to build a high-performance delivery machine, while growing fast to match customer demand AND get extremely happy customers who will be references! It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to deliver our product, fulfil customers’ needs, and at the same time be part of such a fast-moving environment. We’re building for tomorrow as quickly as we’re delivering today.
Why do you believe it’s so important to manage stress at work?
I believe there is a real difference between healthy pressure and unhealthy stress. When stress comes out it’s not pretty. It can be anger, irrationality, indecisiveness – all those things that undermine health, affect relationships, set poor leadership examples or confuse people who take their direction from you. People under stressful pressure can feel forced to do things that create compromise somewhere. Nobody benefits!
How do you manage stress at work?
A major part of my role as a leader is managing the needs of different groups of stakeholders – customers, sales-people, and my delivery team – so, proactively recognising what situations might create problems, is key. I spend a lot of team talking to people, aligning expectations and ensuring that everyone understands ideal outcomes and probable challenges.
At nCino, we have a very strong company culture underpinned by core values that we really believe in – it's a critical part of building a healthy work environment. When everyone is working hard, pulling towards the right outcomes, doing it the right way, we accomplish amazing things! It’s a very positive environment – we win together and I love it!
As a team we try to share worries openly. Talking about a problem and unpacking it allows people to take a step back, put things into perspective and see the big picture. We figure out how to solve things together, and it helps people feel less overwhelmed. This last year in the pandemic has been particularly tough with many people having to juggle working from home and managing kids off school. It’s really easy to get frustrated with someone being late for a meeting or not getting something done as expected. Being open minded and kind to others, not sweating the small stuff, as clichéd as it may sound, is a fundamental aspect of creating a positive work environment.
On top of that, our customers needed to dramatically change how they do business in the pandemic – everything became digital – and they asked us to help them with that. We made super-human efforts to deliver on critical projects that allow UK banks to supply new lending schemes. If they, and we, hadn’t been able to do this, the impact would have been felt across the UK, far beyond the boundaries of the banking sector itself. It’s been humbling to work with my team to accomplish these things.
What coping mechanisms do you use to manage your own stress?
Surround yourself with people who are respectful, positive, problem-solving, open minded, driven. Hiring people with the right mindset to fit culturally within your organisation is as important as their skills and experience. The same is true in our personal lives – I try to surround myself with people who will err towards positivity and progress. Everyone has their ups and downs, and positive-minded people will help get you through tough times, and it’s great to return the favour!
Analyse stressful situations, understand motivations, rationalise, communicate. I usually find if I take step back, think about things rationally and talk to people, I find perspective and a way to change the situation, or frame it as a challenge to solve.
Don’t take things personally. Translate stress into a driving force and move on. My early career was filled with passion. It was a good driver, but occasionally I’d spin my wheels on something. This wasn’t going to help my career, so I worked on translating that into getting things done.
Use hobbies and passions as escapism. Step away from issues and come back with a fresh mind. I’ve always worked crazy-hard, so hobbies that provide a complete break to allow the mind to subconsciously unwind are tremendously helpful.
Identify role models, understand and emulate how they handle stress. Over the years I’ve benefitted from some great leaders and at nCino I have some great executives who are extremely approachable. Having those types of role models is helpful to learn and emulate.