Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Do you have patience, or are you stressing out your staff?

This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at

As a leader, how often do you feel like you are on the clock and that time is your enemy?

In today's highly competitive and demanding work world, time is often a factor that defines success or failure. Time can be a source of stress, especially when a deadline looms and results have yet to be achieved.

Story continues below advertisement

This constant race against time can be a source of stress and pressure for some leaders. When not managed, tension and fear of failure can result in haste, rushing and pushing employees, and stressing them out. When leaders are focused on outcomes more than people and process, this can result in increased stress and tension on the work force and culture that often has a negative impact on employees' health, morale and thinking.

One challenge most leaders have when managing time and expectations is to keep three groups of stakeholders happy: senior leadership, customers and employees. Each of these has different needs and expectations.

Leaders who have gaps in their patience and are not able to stay calm under pressure are likely to end up pushing too hard, which increases the risk of mistakes and creates an environment where employees feel stress and fear of failure.

This microskill is focused on increasing leaders' patience. Leaders who project patience demonstrate tolerance for delays without getting upset. They understand the importance of time and meeting deadlines and how creating stress and pressure seldom helps achieve long-term goals.

Like any skill, patience can be developed with practice. It can increase a leader's frustration tolerance; it projects empathy to employees, which is important for gaining confidence and trust; and it creates the ability to remain calm under pressure.

Patience is an excellent leadership virtue to demonstrate at any time, but especially when under pressure. It helps employees and peers stay calm, thus reducing the risk of making mistakes that waste valuable time.


Story continues below advertisement

Most of us have a natural style when it comes to deadlines. What's your typical style under pressure as time runs out? Do you speed up or are you able to remain calm? Patience starts with being aware of how your behaviour can impact yourself and others. If this is a microskill you and your staff would benefit from having you focus on, then continue to the next step.


Patience is something we practice consciously. Like any other microskill, it requires self-discipline and practice to develop. The degree you can demonstrate patience will be influenced by your emotional intelligence. This quick survey can help you get benchmark of your current level of emotional intelligence. Patience starts with accepting that you own your behaviour and that you have a choice of how you act under pressure. If you accept this and want to develop more patience, then act on and practice it.


Patience begins with a commitment to be less judgemental, more tolerant and empathic. Here are some micro actions you can take to project patience and to monitor your mindset:

· Monitor your speed – Pay attention to how fast you move and talk. When you're moving at hyper-speed it's harder to slow down, think and be patient. Slow your speed and think about what you want to achieve as you walk, versus rushing mindlessly to get from point A to point B. Slow down when talking, so people can follow you; make fewer statements and ask more questions. This can help get the facts and reduce the risk of acting on misinformation. These two steps can help bring down your intensity and create a state of calm that's critical for projecting patience.

Story continues below advertisement

· Anticipate delays – Acknowledge that there will be unplanned delays. Anticipate where delays can happen and plan for how to counteract them. Like a game of chess, there are several moves that can be made to recover when trapped. Patience is an asset in planning as well as execution.

· Maintain firm expectations – Patience doesn't mean being a pushover. A patient leader doesn't need to be viewed as weak, nor to ignore missed deadlines. Patient leaders find ways to inspire their staff and create the right scenario for them to succeed amid tight deadlines. Patient leaders create workplaces where employees feel safe and comfortable and can fail with dignity. Leaders know they can't make employees do their jobs, nor will they judge themselves for employees' choices.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

Report an error
About the Author
Nine To Five contributor

Bill More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨