Rhonda Scharlat Hughes

Two years ago an American Psychological Association study found that one-third of Americans reported living with extreme stress, and nearly half of Americans reported that their stress had increased over the previous five years. Add the current economic downturn and no doubt you’re noticing clients and employees facing special pressures. Many programs, local and national, exist to help businesses overcome stress and work on customer-employee relations.

Austin Foster, owner of Construction Ahead, in Doraville, Ga., has found Fred Pryor business skills training seminars to be particularly helpful, and plans on attending again this year. “We had two [employees] who were reacting to situations rather than responding to them,” Foster says. He took his field and administrative staff to two Pryor seminars, one on managing emotions under pressure and the other on recognizing and handling anger.

“We came away with an understanding that every situation has the potential to go north or south. When a homeowner comes in upset about something, we may focus on our own frame of mind,” Foster says. “The seminars helped us learn to slow things down, think things through, and ask ourselves questions like, ‘Do I need to respond angrily?’ ‘Will it help this situation?’ We learned how to get into clients’ heads, understand why they might be upset, and how to give a noncombative response.”

Though Foster says he can’t point to one particular result, he got good feedback from employees immediately after the seminar and has noticed a difference in their interactions. He keeps the lessons fresh by revisiting them in meetings. Probably the most important aspect of any team-building seminar like this is that the group is able to have a “common language” in which to speak about problems. That may help as the first quarter comes to a close and new stresses arise.