Winning Under Fire

Winning Under Fire

by Dale Collie

For the United States Army, grace under fire isn't an ideal--it's standard operating procedure. In Winning Under Fire, you'll discover Army techniques for managing stress in the heat of battle, and you'll learn how to put them to work in your own organization.

Winning Under Fire was written by a combat-experienced Army major who served in Europe and


For the United States Army, grace under fire isn't an ideal--it's standard operating procedure. In Winning Under Fire, you'll discover Army techniques for managing stress in the heat of battle, and you'll learn how to put them to work in your own organization.

Winning Under Fire was written by a combat-experienced Army major who served in Europe and Vietnam, held leadership positions at two Fortune 500 companies, and ran successful businesses of his own. Drawing upon his own experiences and those of top military leaders--as well as the latest stress management research--Major Collie combines military know-how and business savvy to show you how to:

  • Channel stress into positive energy for achieving goals
  • Know the sources of organizational stress
  • Detect and eliminate stress fractures
  • Stay resilient under all conditions
  • Build teams that work under any extremes
  • Prepare a game plan to get you and your team through every battle
  • Be a great leader in times of great duress

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Companies, The
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Under Fire

{TF}The Vietnamese summer sun was blazing in the afternoon sky when the battalion commander said, "Grab your gear and report to the helipad. You're taking over Delta Company in forty-five minutes. The outgoing commander will brief you on-site." I'd been in the country for only two weeks when I climbed aboard that helicopter loaded with food, ammunition, and mail for this band of 140 young soldiers who had been deployed against the enemy for several months. By the time I stepped from the helicopter onto the dry rice paddy, only an hour of sunlight remained before sundown. As soon as we unloaded the supplies, my predecessor ran past us and jumped into the helicopter as it lifted off the ground. So much for the transition briefing I'd been promised. He was gone, and I was in charge.

{T}The company consisted of three infantry platoons, a mortar platoon, and the command group--three radio operators and me. Since the departing commander had left in such a hurry, one of the radio operators explained the plans to me: the infantry platoons were scheduled to set up ambushes in the surrounding valley, and the command group had plans to spend the night with the mortar platoon in an old French fort nearby. The plans appeared reasonable with some minor adjustments, and staying at the old fort seemed rather clever. It wasn't really a fort but just a waist-high berm of dirt set up as a triangle. Nevertheless, it was a better alternative to digging foxholes on my first day in combat. Darkness was upon us as we finalized plans, issued orders, and distributed the beans and bullets that came in on the helicopter. As the platoons slipped off into the night, the radio operator notified the battalion of our unit locations. Finally, I could relax with the C-ration can of ham and lima beans that would serve as dinner. Just as I opened the can, gunfire broke out a few hundred yards to our west, and the radio came alive with a frantic call from the first platoon. "Ambush! Ambush!" they cried. Before I could drop the C-ration can, more gunfire sounded in the opposite direction with a report from the second platoon of enemy contact. Almost immediately the third platoon radioed about an attack on their unit, and even more gunfire erupted. Would we be next? Even though this was my first real test in battle, I recognized by the timing of the attacks that my location would be the target of the main assault. These other firefights were intended to tie up the line platoons as the Vietcong prepared to attack our command group and the mortar platoon's heavy weapons. Overrunning our command group and capturing the mortars would be a major victory for our opponent.

"Check the machine guns on each corner," I shouted to the mortar platoon leader as we made hasty preparations for the imminent attack on the old fort. We would be very vulnerable if we were not prepared, and firing a machine gun from each corner of the triangular fort was our best chance for survival. The thought crossed my mind that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to stay in this old French fort. But no response came from the mortar platoon leader, so I sent a GI to find him in the darkness. Again and again, I called out to the mortar platoon leader, "Sarge, where are you?" Even though the sergeant didn't answer, the runner found him sitting with his backside against the wall of dirt. He had both hands on his helmet and his elbows on the ground between his feet when I scrambled over to him. The gunfire had gotten louder at all three locations around us. "Are you wounded, Sarge?" I asked.

"No," came the feeble reply. "Did you get the machine guns set up, Sarge?" He mumbled a response. "Did you get the guns set up?" I repeated. Again, his response was unintelligible. Grabbing him by the shoulder, I said, "Listen up, Sarge. We're going to be attacked. Help me!" "I can't, I can't!" cried the sergeant with garbled words and heavy frightened sobs. "Don't give up on me. You need to get the men ready. You can do it, Sarge," I said urgently. "Just check that machine gun to your right and make sure your guys are spread out along this berm. I'll check over here to the left." As I started away, the frightened sergeant held onto my web gear. I turned to find him standing there in the dark. He stammered, "I don't know what to tell them, sir." Pulling him to the ground, I said, "Get down, Sarge, you'll get shot! Go over there by the radios. Stay low." He cowered below the berm of dirt as gunfire from the other platoons echoed through the night.

{A}Mistakes Caused by Stress Can Be Fatal

{TF}This was my first gunfight and the Army had trained me well. I knew how to manage the platoons, as I calmly radioed for air support, artillery, and medical evacuations. The collapse of the mortar platoon leader was also something I'd been trained for, but I never expected one of my subordinate leaders to surrender to combat fatigue on my first day in command. The experience, however, prepared me for the future and taught me to anticipate such things, regardless of how established subordinate leaders seem to be. {T}A hasty analysis revealed that the ambushed platoon was pretty far off of its assigned route. The gunfire was intense, but only the platoon leader was wounded when he threw a baseball-like grenade and then raised his head to see whether it reached the target. This was a dumb mistake for an experienced infantryman who should know that exploding grenades shoot shrapnel just a little farther than most people can throw a grenade. The ambushed platoon and the others held their own while I continued to prepare for an attack on our position. The radio operator monitoring all of the calls believed that the ambush was real, but he also suspected the other two platoons were shooting at each other. He was right. The platoon leader who had strayed from his assigned route had moved into the path of the third platoon. When the radio operator anxiously told me of his conclusion, I radioed, "Cease fire! Cease fire!" Strict discipline was required to convince them to quit shooting at each other. As the gunfire between the two friendly platoons died off, the enemy also broke contact with the ambushed platoon. Our command position was not attacked, and miraculously, the only person wounded in the whole company was the lieutenant who fragged himself.

A medical evacuation helicopter soon arrived, and the radio operator coordinated the evacuation while I directed our somewhat excited units. "Second and third platoon," I radioed, "Take a head count to make sure you have everyone and then figure out the route to your objective. Continue with your mission." "Roger, roger," came their subdued, embarrassed replies. The response from a squad leader in the ambushed platoon was much more enthusiastic when I announced, "You're the acting platoon leader now. Assemble the platoon, take a head count, and watch your rear as you bring them to my position. Your platoon will spend the rest of the night with me."

"Thank you, sir," he responded. His tone of voice made it clear how thankful he was that he would not have complete responsibility for the platoon if they joined the command group. {A}Why Didn't We Hold Up Under Stress? {TF}The training for all of these soldiers was adequate. The ambushed platoon leader in fact had not strayed off course. He had intentionally chosen the route near the village, a careless error in judgment. Likewise, he had been trained in using grenades and knew that watching the explosion was against all rules of safety. He suffered serious wounds as a result of his inattentiveness. {T}Years after this combat incident, I encountered similar meltdowns within the first week of my arrival as the new leader of a large organization. The level of stress in the organization before my arrival was so great that thestressfulness of a change in leadership overwhelmed an administrative assistant and a department manager. One hastily resigned, and the other's disruptive attitude created in-house turmoil. The crisis level wasn't very great in either the combat situation or the civilian change of leadership, but the cumulative effect of crisis and change overwhelmed those who were already stretched near their capacity. It is easy to compare the preceding combat incident to corporate accidents since all of the combat errors were actually safety violations. During employment in the chemical industry, I knew of one man who burned to death because he shortcut safety rules regarding the use of a fuel-oil heater to unfreeze a railcar of coal. Another man was almost killed when caught between a truck and the loading dock while acting as a ground guide. A third accident involved a young, conscientious employee who was trying to make up for lost time while operating a forklift truck. The forklift turned over on him, and the recovery period for his crushed pelvis and spinal injuries was similar to that for the inattentive lieutenant who wounded himself with the grenade. Stress was certainly a factor when the lieutenant and the other unfortunate employees suffered from errors in judgment and violations of common safety precautions. Their errors were costly.

All leaders have seen the results of stress overload in highly qualified people, and understanding the dynamics of stress can help leaders deal with those who otherwise perform well. When leaders understand stress, they know why their employees sometimes make careless errors, hold onto illogical arguments, complain endlessly, or suffer from other negative stress reactions. The good news is that when leaders understand the dynamics of stress, they can take action to preclude the consequences of negative stress. During the previously described night in battle, the ambushed platoon leader caused his own wounds, and the two infantry platoons that engaged each other were fortunate that no one was wounded. A review of the action revealed that the two platoons fired on each other because one of them was way off course. The other platoon thought they had encountered a sizeable enemy force and started shooting. The navigation failure could have been the result of ignorance, but more likely, it resulted from a reaction to stress--a mental disconnect of some kind that the lieutenant experienced after months of uninterrupted, repetitive stress in pursuit of the enemy. The lieutenant was well trained and very conscientious, but everyone was sleep deprived from running daylight patrols and nighttime ambushes. During these months in the rice paddies and jungles, the poor hygiene was unacceptable for civilized people, and every soldier was emotionally on edge. The threat of enemy contact was always present and casualties were frequent. In short, everyone's stress level ran high.

Another significant contributing factor to the friendly fire engagement was the silence of the platoon members who recognized that they were way off course. It was later determined that some of the squad leaders and soldiers themselves noted the change of direction but failed to raise the alarm. Some simply thought there had been a change of orders, but others consciously decided to remain silent because they held a grudge against the platoon leader. In retrospect, their silence was illogical, but they too had endured the physical and emotional hardships for months on end, and their poor judgment was a reflection of their own stress levels. Similar situations can be seen in the corporate world. For example, a manufacturing supervisor I knew in the textile industry once explained that he was so angry about corporate changes that he decided to keep quiet about an impending disaster and let the manager take the blame. When the disaster occurred, the manager was found negligible, but the supervisor's duplicity was discovered, and he was terminated for his failure to take action. With proper stress management, these two good corporate managers could have avoided their difficulties, and the company could have saved the expense of the incident and the personnel replacement costs. A thorough review revealed that the production failure, the poor judgment, and the replacement expenses were actually the result of acute stress caused by management at an even higher level.

The sergeant who froze under the threat of battle is a more poignant example of an acute stress reaction. When he was needed most, his body shut down on him. He had been in combat for a while; this was not his first battle. He was a sergeant, instead of a lieutenant as the command structure prescribed, but he must have demonstrated his ability to handle this very responsible position or he would not have had the assignment. This occurs in business, too: some managers confidently rise up the corporate ladder biting off more than they can chew. These are the ones who freeze in that all-important client meeting or whose ambitions get in the way of managing their own people, even though these managers excelled in every other aspect of their jobs. In the combat situation, the problems were created by improper leadership. If the people were not properly trained, something should have been done about it prior to the night they fell apart. If these junior leaders were overstressed, action should have been taken to provide relief, individually or as a unit. In corporate work examples, too, leaders are ultimately responsible for the actions of their people, and if the environment is too stressful, the leaders must take action. {A}The Leader's Responsibility {TF}The near disaster of the friendly firefight, the physically wounded lieutenant, and the emotionally damaged sergeant were the price for a lapse in leadership of the outgoing commander, who should have been attentive to the impending stress problems. It would be easy to blame the errors on each of the subordinate leaders, but commanders are ultimately responsible for the success and failure of individuals in their command.

{T}Although I recognize the shortcoming of the previous commander, these failures occurred on my watch; I was the one in charge. Since I did not personally know the ability of these platoon leaders, I should have given them assignments to reveal their skill level instead of assuming they were capable just because they were in the leadership positions. As a leader, it's important to understand that stress can influence anyone's performance, regardless of skill level or experience. Decades of combat have taught the Army to educate all ranks about stress management. If you don't control stress, stress will control you. And this book shows you how to control stress the way the U.S. Army does it. The first step in controlling stress is to evaluate the stress level in your company. If you are newly appointed to a position of responsibility or if you've just assumed leadership of a company, you'll want to test individuals to make sure they are up to the jobs you expect of them. If you've been around awhile, you'll want to review how subordinates are doing with their responsibilities. Those experienced people you've trusted might find themselves in over their heads during a time of crisis and on the verge of making costly errors. Routine precautions are inexpensive compared to the mistakes that can result from too much stress. Specific stress management strategies will be discussed in the following chapters. {Q}"Controlling combat stress is a command responsibility. In terms of service members lost from action and reduced performance, combat stress seriously affects mission accomplishment. It is a leader's responsibility to take action to strengthen service members' tolerance to combat stress and manage it in his or her unit."1

{QS}--U.S. Army field manual FM 6-22.5, Combat Stress

{A}What Is Stress?

{TF}Before examining the effects of stress--both good and bad, consider what is meant by stress. The U.S. Army field manual FM 6-22.5, Combat Stress, defines combat stress as "the mental, emotional, or physical tension, strain, or distress resulting from exposure to combat and combat-related conditions." {T}This definition does not preclude other types of stressful situations in the Army, but it takes into account all of the events of warfare as well as those leading up to and supporting the battle--training, readiness, administration, logistics, support, and reserve. Preparation for war can be even more stressful than the actual combat itself. I've heard many U.S. Army Rangers quip that they would rather be in combat than in ranger training. "The only bad thing about combat is the live ammunition," they say. In other words, the stress of training is so great that these soldiers would rather be shot at than return to the school where they learned the art of war. Compare the Army's definition of stress to the one given by Drs. Lyle Miller and Alma Dell Smith in their bestselling book The Stress Solution. Drs. Miller and Smith, leaders in the field of stress research and founding members of the Biobehavioral Institute of Boston and the Biobehavioral Treatment Center, explain that there are three distinct categories of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic.

{NPF} 1. Acute Stress. This category of stress is significant but temporary, resulting from recent events. Acute stress in small doses can result in positive reactions: the adrenalin rush and feelings of elation can motivate achievement. However, an accumulation of these stressors can have negative effects such as headaches, backaches, upset stomach, and other tension-related responses.

{NP} 2. Episodic Acute Stress. The second category of stress is related to frequently encountered stressors. People experiencing this type of stress are generally overcommitted, lack the time and ability to accomplish everything, and find themselves at odds with coworkers. The consequences of episodic acute stress are much more serious than those in the first category. Irritability turns to anger, occasional tension headaches become frequent migraines, heart palpitations lead to chest pain, and high anxiety becomes a way of life.

{NPL} 3. Chronic Stress. The third category is related but carries none of the thrill found with acute stress. The long-term nature of chronic stress is such that people actually become accustomed to the stressors and accept them as a way of life; they see no escape from poverty, job mismatches, abusive situations, or physical hardships.

{T}While stress is much more than a primordial fight-or-flight reaction to threatening situations, the human body does react in complex ways to danger, frustration, anger, and various mental situations. Some of these reactions are favorable in the initial response, as they increase energy, alertness, and stamina so people can respond appropriately to situations. The initial reaction to acute stress, for example, enables people to move faster and think quicker than they normally do. On some occasions of extreme acute stress, such as an impending head-on vehicle accident or other physical danger, a person can think so fast that time seems to stand still while he or she considers the alternatives. The body's response is then amazingly rapid, helping the person avoid the danger.

The well-known hardships of the Army's basic training are certainly stressful, but the favorable response to this stress enables soldiers to accomplish far more than they ever dreamed possible. Corporate managers react in the same positive way as they tackle crisis after crisis to meet manufacturing deadlines, overcome equipment problems, control sales difficulties, and achieve success in spite of seemingly overwhelming odds. Some positive results from acute stress are discussed in the following section. {A}Stress Causes People to React {TF}According to the Army's Leaders' Manual for Combat Stress Control, "stress is the body's and mind's process for dealing with uncertain change and danger. Elimination of stress is both impossible and undesirable in either the Army's combat or peacetime missions."2 This publication explains the following objectives of stress control: {BLF}To contain stress {BL}To maximize peak performance and accomplish unit missions {BL}To return stress levels to normal when they are out of control {BLL}To increase stress tolerance so soldiers can perform under the severe stress situations that are unavoidable in combat {T}On the other hand, Miller and Smith explain that frequent, ongoing episodes of stress can cause serious health problems and that chronic stress can actually lead to death through suicide or illnesses that result from long-term stress. Everyone is interested in avoiding health problems. People certainly want to help eliminate debilitating chronic stress, but this doesn't mean getting rid of stress altogether.

Corporate employees react the same as soldiers do to sleep deprivation, physical discomfort, irresponsible leadership, and trauma. Some people are more stress tolerant than others, but everyone has the same type of reactions to these stressful situations. Tables 1-1 and 1-2 contain the Army's field manual FM 22-51's lists of both mild and severe stress reactions. In the mild category are physical symptoms such as trembling, cold sweats, dizziness, nausea, and the "thousand-yard stare"--which are pretty severe reactions that one hopes aren't seen often in a corporate environment. But a closer look at the tables reveals many symptoms that people do exhibit on the job: irritability, forgetfulness, and inability to concentrate. Examine the list and see if any of the symptoms have been displayed in your office.

{CHH}Table 1-1 Mild Stress Reactions (Physical and Emotional)

{CHNLF} 1. Anxiety

{CHNL} 2. Indecisiveness

{CHNL} 3. Irritability

{CHNL} 4. Complaining

{CHNL} 5. Forgetfulness

{CHNL} 6. Inability to concentrate

{CHNL} 7. Difficulty thinking, speaking, and communicating

{CHNL} 8. Loss of confidence in self and unit

{CHNL} 9. Anger

{CHNL} 10. Fatigue

{CHNL} 11. Dry mouth

{CHNL} 12. Pounding heart

{CHNL} 13. Insomnia

{CHNL} 14. Trembling

{CHNL} 15. Jumpiness

{SBNL} 16. Cold sweats

{CHNL} 17. Nightmares

{CHNL} 18. Easily startled by noise, movement and light

{CHNL} 19. Dizziness

{CHNL} 20. Tears

{CHNL} 21. Crying

{CHNL} 22. Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

{CHNLL} 23. "Thousand-yard" stare

{CHT}The first thirteen mild stress reactions listed in Table 1-1 are typical of highly stressed people throughout a wide range of American industries.

{T}Impulsive reactions such as road rage are a reflection of stress-filled lives. Sometimes, people manifesting many of these symptoms are considered to be simply difficult personalities, but the difficult part of their personality might actually be prompted by high stress on the job or away from the workplace.

Table 1-2 provides symptoms of severe stress that are frequently displayed by such people. Is anyone in your office displaying these issues? If so, they--and you--may have a serious problem.

{CHH}Table 1-2 Severe Stress Reactions (Physical and Emotional)

{CHNLF} 1. Argumentative nature

{CHNL} 2. Reckless action

{CHNL} 3. Indifference to danger

{CHNL} 4. Memory loss

{CHNL} 5. Physical exhaustion

{CHNL} 6. Insomnia

{CHNL} 7. Rapid emotional shifts

{CHNL} 8. Apathy

{CHNL} 9. Constant moving around

{CHNL} 10. Rapid or inappropriate talk

{CHNL} 11. Flinching or ducking at sudden sound and movement

{CHNL} 12. Shaking and trembling

{CHNL} 13. Inability to use part of body (hand, arm, leg) for no apparent physical reason

{CHNL} 14. Inability to see, hear, or feel

{CHNL} 15. Severe stutter

{CHNL} 16. Mumbling or inability to speak at all

{CHNL} 17. Crying

{CHNL} 18. Severe nightmares

{CHNL} 19. Freezing under fire or total immobility

{CHNL} 20. Seeing or hearing things that do not exist

{CHNL} 21. Vacant stares

{CHNL} 22. Staggering or swaying when standing

{CHNL} 23. Panicking and running under fire

{CHNL} 24. Social withdrawal

{CHNL} 25. Hysterical outbursts

{CHNLL} 26. Frantic or strange behavior

{CHT}The first ten severe stress symptoms can also be used to describe overly stressed people in the corporate setting. {T}Employees who experience these severe stress reactions need some immediate relief. Some people won't realize that their stress level is out of control, and they might even deny the need to take action. Tolerating employees who exhibit severe stress reactions isn't doing them a favor. Nor does allowing stress-filled situations to continue help the company. Leaders are responsible for both the detection of these severe stress reactions and for bringing the stress levels back to normal. Later chapters discuss specific practical suggestions for stress management.

{A}The Effects of Stress in the Corporate Setting

{TF}Popular opinion says that today's changes in workplace technology, culture, and business management create far more stress for workers than in times past. Just as stress control is a military leadership responsibility, the same applies in corporate leadership. The better that leaders control stress among their people, the better the people will accomplish their missions. {T}Stress isn't just a day-to-day annoyance. It causes serious problems in the workplace--affecting both employees and the bottom line. The U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that stress and related problems are among the most frequent reasons for employee disability. Beyond the positive effects stress can have on productivity, continuous or frequent exposure to stressors creates some seriously negative consequences. The frequent or continuous flow of adrenaline, combined with other physiological reactions to stressors, can become incapacitating. Northwestern Life Insurance Survey advises that 46 percent of workers reported that their job was very stressful, and even the United Nations reported that job stress has become "the 20th Century Epidemic." In the early nineties, a study by Princeton, New Jersey, insurance company Foster Higgins Co. showed that 60{-}90 percent of medical problems were associated with stress and that average companies spend about 45 percent of their after-tax profits on health benefits. With the significant increases in health care insurance costs, the price tag for stress-related health claims is much greater today. In his Harvard Business Review article "Saving Money by Reducing Stress," A. Perkins3 presents research showing that 60{-}90 percent of medical visits are related to stress, but this is just a portion of what stress really costs. The annual cost of corporate stress as it relates to health and productivity costs in America is $50{-}$150 billion.4 If all costs associated with stress-related incidents are considered, the cost per employee is several thousand dollars per year on average. A company can calculate its own costs by determining the cost of absenteeism, accidents, insurance price increases, workers' compensation, reduced productivity, performance errors, customer complaints, and personnel turnover. When management realizes the annual cost of stress, they will see the need to implement stress-reduction programs.

{A}The Army's Balance Between Positive and Negative Stress

{TF}In the midst of routine daily duties, good military leaders work hard to strike a balance between the positive stress that encourages high performance and the negative stress that degrades individual or unit capability. The best leaders know how to use positive stress to get the most out of their personnel. {T}The Army is fanatic about training officers and sergeants to take care of their troops. And these well-trained leaders are fanatic about carrying out their responsibilities. The soldiers in their command don't always realize why these leaders are so focused on having all personnel, equipment, and training 100 percent ready. Even the most personable among these leaders are sometimes accused of managing "by the book" or of being too concerned with their own personal recognition and promotion. Those who make these allegations, however, miss the point. Just the opposite is true. These "fanatic" leaders are primarily interested in the welfare of their troops and in carrying out their unit mission. Strict discipline, intensive and complete training, and numerous inspections are essential for combat readiness. Failing to enforce regulations, conduct detailed inspections, or practice combat readiness is tantamount to dereliction of duty. The extra effort that goes into intensive training programs creates additional stress in the unit, but less persistent commanders actually endanger their troops and their mission when they fail to schedule training that teaches troops how to deal with stress.

{A}Detecting Stress

{TF}Some corporate jobs are just as stressful as military assignments, and some ongoing business situations are as stressful as armed combat. You can find the stressed employees by monitoring the frequency of the conditions shown in Tables 1-1 and 1-2. {T}Privacy laws preclude corporate managers from knowing all about their employees' reasons for medical assistance, but the following are practical ways to determine what is going on in your organization: {BLF}Require strict reporting of absences. Watch for changes or trends; the more absenteeism, the greater the chance that stress is a factor.

{BL}Develop a report on tardiness. Are some departments worse than others? Are people arriving late because they dread the upcoming stress? {BL}Seek generic information from your health insurance company on the number and expense of medical claims. Categorize information by type of ailment and observe how the frequency of visits compares to major corporate activities or stressful times of year. You might find that stressful periods coincide with or precede an increase in medical claims. {BL}Get professional assistance in analyzing how stress might be at the root of physical ailments. The experts might recognize cause-and-effect relationships that escape the attention of those who aren't as well trained in stress control. {BL}Keep a record of complaints or grievances filed by department. Those departments that have greater numbers of complaints are likely ready for some stress-control strategies. {BL}Analyze accident reports from the perspective of stress involvement. Research how stress might have been the root cause of accidents.

{BL}Develop a way to log errors in judgment or misstatements. This will help you evaluate the cost of stress for your company. {BL}Note changes in the way people relate to each other and the types of action that cause some people to become more argumentative at times. You can use this information to control stress for the entire organization or for specific individuals who are more sensitive to stressful situations.

{BLL}Review customer service problems from a stress perspective. Determine whether some kind of stress reduction could improve relations with customers or reduce the number of errors involved with order taking, preparation, shipping, or invoicing. {T}An understanding of positive stress is needed to maximize accuracy and productivity, but not all leaders are taught to manage stress or to observe for negative stress reactions. If qualified staff is available, it would be profitable to train all leaders and managers in the basics of stress management from a corporate perspective. Outside consultants and trainers are also available to assist with this important aspect of leadership.

{CHT}Corporate leaders and managers sometimes try to manage the stressed people by using increased demands and closer supervision. Instead, you should use stress-reducing techniques to manage the stressors. {T}It is important to manage employees and to help them understand how to manage their individual stress, but if you're interested in maximizing your company's productivity, you'll also want to learn how leaders and managers can take part in the improvement. What changes can be made in companies to alleviate unnecessary stressors? While the demanding remedies of dictatorial managers might get short-term improvement from stressed employees, such relief is usually only temporary. The increased urgency and focus on details typically generates even more stress, and the problems shift from slight distractions, such as back pain, headaches, and inattention, to more drastic reactions such as absenteeism and medical problems, both good indicators that stress levels need attention.

{B}How About Your Organization?

{TF}The importance of mission readiness is just as great across corporate America as it is in the military. The bottom-line costs in terms of net profits, missed opportunities, and personnel turmoil are good enough reasons to emphasize stress control, and proper stress control can contribute to business growth and job security for everyone involved.

{T}If you want to fulfill your own responsibilities as a leader, you'll want to ask some tough questions about your own organization: {BLF}Are there stressful situations in your organization that need attention? {BL}Are some people pushed too hard by corporate demands, family situations, or medical problems? {BL}Are some people unaware of the seriousness of their situation, and do they need professional attention? {BLL}Will your company pay a price for not attending to these individual stress cases, or will it improve by giving attention to the stressors that affect each employee?

{T}The chapters in this book contain information on how to prevent, manage, and control the stress that can drastically affect your entire organization. You'll learn how to create environments conducive to error-free performance. You'll also learn that if employees get in trouble because of bad attitudes, you need to take into account reasons for that action before handing out punishment.

Whether the stressors are within your company or outside the company's control, everyone is better served if an effort is made to compensate for the stress. You'll learn how to control your own stress as well as that of employees, and you'll find out how the Army controls stress during combat. Adapting these strategies to the corporate way of life can benefit personal lives and the bottom line.

{A}What About the Stressed-Out Leaders from the Old French Fort? {TF}For years I thought that the soldiers at the old French fort had intentionally disobeyed orders or were simply unprepared for combat. Later, I realized that their training had indeed carried them through several months of combat, but they were eventually overwhelmed by the sustained stress of continuous combat operations. Both their thought process and performance were affected by long periods of strenuous physical conditions in leech-infested rice paddies and jungles, frequent contact with the enemy, poor nutrition, sleep deprivation, and loss of friends through combat wounds and normal reassignment to the United States. {T}My first day in combat coincided with their crises, and we were fortunate not to have confronted a well-organized enemy force. The platoon leaders made some errors, but they were doing their best with what they knew and the tools they had available to them. The same goes for my own leadership, but through all of these events, I learned valuable lessons to apply in my military career and in business.

You might be experiencing a similar crisis in your company. The remaining chapters illustrate how you can apply some tried-and-true techniques.

{EOCH}Notes {NOTE} 1. U.S. Army field manual FM 6-22.5, Combat Stress, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., June 23, 2000. {NOTE} 2. U.S. Army field manual FM 22-51, Leaders' Manual for Combat Stress Control, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., September 29, 1994, paragraph 1-2d. {NOTE} 3. A. Perkins, "Saving Money by Reducing Stress," Harvard Business Review, 1994, 72(6):12. {NOTE} 4. S. L. Sauter, et al., "Prevention of Work-Related Psychological Disorders," American Psychologist, 45(10): 1146{-}1153.

Meet the Author

Major Dale Collie (ret.) served as a United States Army Ranger and troop commander in Europe and Vietnam and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was sales manager of two Fortune 500 companies and, most recently, president of an international charity that he turned around from bankruptcy into a $37 million operation. Named as one of America’s Fast 50 Innovative Leaders by Fast Company, he currently runs a consulting practice, Courage Builders, which teaches the Army's techniques to businesses and individuals.

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