The Stress-Performance Curve

Achieving maximum performance from yourself and your team requires understanding the stress-performance curve as it relates both to individuals and types of work.

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Leadership Tools: The Stress-Performance Curve. Yerkes-Dodson Law. Graph comparing stress with performance and simple and complex tasks.

Stress for most people reading this will involve some combination of the following factors:

  • Time to complete the task - for instance a complex project proposal due in 3 days.  
  • Money or other things at risk - for instance; an interview for a complex project is coming up in 3 days and if you don’t win the project then you will have to lay off a project team as well as likely face a bad quarter.  
  • Overall workload - for instance; having the proposal and interview for the project in 3 days while still having the responsibilities for managing other projects and a team of people.

For a more complex task such as putting together the schedule for a two-year project too much stress will impact productivity and quality leading to fatigue then burnout.  Too little stress won’t create the stimulation required for optimum productivity.  

For a simpler task such as the assembly of the final proposal documents into books is not nearly as impacted by stress with the performance curve going up and generally staying up even with high levels of stress.  


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Know yourself; know your team and work to keep everyone at optimum stress levels for growth.




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