Reducing Stress and Increasing Motivation with Dr. Nicole Tschierske

Reducing Stress and Increasing Motivation with Dr. Nicole Tschierske

We know that stress has negative physical effects on the body and eventually leads to burnout, so typically we try to find ways to help our teams manage their stress. But these stress management techniques are only part of the solution.

In order to effectively reduce stress, prevent burnout, and actually increase motivation in the workplace, we need to get to the root cause of the energy drain.

Dr. Nicole Tschierske joins me today to talk about how we can find the root cause of stress for our people, and minor changes that leaders can make in the workplace in order to better support our teams. She gives actionable advice on how to get started, and how to start conversations in order to get senior leadership support and alignment on these changes.

By reducing stress and increasing motivation in our organizations, we can better protect both ourselves and our employees physically, mentally, and emotionally. Tune in to get started.

Listen on your favourite podcast player

About Dr. Nicole Tschierske:

Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a scientist and positive psychology coach who helps individuals and teams in STEM do their best work. She works with her clients to build remarkable partnerships in their organization so their work gets the momentum and recognition it deserves. Nicole also helps construct ways of working that reduce stress and increase motivation and engagement.

Nicole lives in Hamburg, Germany, holds a PhD in chemistry and is trained in coaching, positive psychology, change management, and advanced problem-solving. When she’s not buried in research papers and books you can find her taking long hikes in the German countryside or mesmerized by Mary Poppins on the screen.

To learn more, you can visit her website and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Mentioned In This Episode:


Lindsay Recknell 0:07
Welcome to Mental Health In Minutes where we open the door to conversations about workplace mental health, and help leaders and HR professionals create safe and innovative organizations where our employees and our companies thrive. I’m your host, Lindsay Recknell, the psychological health and safety advisor, a workplace mental health consultant, a speaker, facilitator and an expert in hope.

Lindsay Recknell 0:27
Each episode of this show has three objectives to discuss the future of mental health in the workplace. To identify the best, most successful strategies for opening the door to mental health conversations at work, and to share the top ways we can engage our leadership in the workplace mental health conversation, and have them endorse and pay for a positive culture shift within our organization.

Lindsay Recknell 0:49
If you’re listening to this podcast, you know that our people need us more than ever, but most of our organizations have a long way to go until supporting employee wellness is embedded in the culture of our workplaces. This episode is a resource you can use to start and continue workplace mental health conversations and my guests will share their experiences and what’s worked for them.

Lindsay Recknell 1:08
Today’s guest is Dr. Nicole Pearson. She is a scientist and a positive psychology coach who helps individuals and teams in STEM, science, technology, engineering and math to do their best work. She works with her clients to build remarkable partnerships in their organization so their work gets the momentum and recognition it deserves. Nicole also helps construct ways of working that reduce stress and increase motivation and engagement. Nicole lives in Hamburg, Germany.

Lindsay Recknell 1:35
She holds a PhD in chemistry, and is trained in poaching, positive psychology change management and advanced problem solving. When she’s not buried in research papers and books, you can find her taking long hikes in the German countryside, or mesmerized by Mary Poppins on the screen. I can’t wait for you to meet her. So let’s dig in.

Lindsay Recknell 1:55
Hello, Nicole, it is so wonderful to have you on the show. Thanks for joining me this morning.

Nicole Tschierske 1:59
Hi, Lindsay. Thank you for having me. Glad to be here.

Lindsay Recknell 2:02
Well, I guess this afternoon for you. I always think when I record these things that we’re in the same time zone. But you are not. So let’s share with the audience who you are, what you do, and maybe where you’re joining us from.

Nicole Tschierske 2:16
Yeah, so I’m dialing in from Hamburg in Germany. And I am a food chemist by training. But over the course of my career, the universe nudged me a different direction. And since the past four or five years now I focus more on paperwork. So just like you, I’m a huge fan of positive psychology. And I’m a trained coach. And I’m a facilitator, and I’m a change manager. And so yeah, that’s really what I’m doing now. And it’s shortest introduction.

Lindsay Recknell 2:57
I love it. I love I mean, I know we connected over positive psychology because we have such a passion for it. And I know that you have specifically been working with women and kids in STEM environment. So science, technology, engineering, and math, which comes from your scientific background, of course, can you tell us a little bit more about the work you’re doing in STEM?

Nicole Tschierske 3:20
Yeah, so coming from that background of really the natural sciences, but I take that with me into also positive psychology. And one thing that I really like about it is that it’s evidence based. So there’s a ton of research behind it. And what I have in common with my clients might not be individual clients, or might it be teams or leaders is that we’re, we’re not in the most loving sense of the word, we just, we just love to geek out about our topics.

Nicole Tschierske 3:51
And what I notice is that when we work in corporates in the industry, whilst we would have a ton of resource at our fingertips, very different compared to academia, where a lot of scientists just spent the whole day, you know, writing grant applications. So that could be a paradise. And yet it isn’t. And I always like to say, you know, when those brilliant geeks on your team don’t want to nerd out about their favorite topics anymore, then it’s likely because of how work is done in your company.

Nicole Tschierske 4:29
And I really love working with leaders and a team so individuals on just basically navigating those challenges that we face in corporate work life and to get back a bit more time, headspace and just really do what we do best. Again, yeah.

Lindsay Recknell 4:50
I love that perspective. Because, you know, I love how you’ve niched down into that technology and engineering space because as a fellow nerd, as someone who’s My sister says, the longer my mouth is open the geekier I get. That’s awesome. I want to you know, when I’m when I’m speaking about things that I’m passionate about, it shows up in every other aspect of my life, I show up better in my job I do my, my activity is better, my, my fitness is better, my life is better when I am fulfilled and working and living in places that I’m passionate about.

Lindsay Recknell 5:30
So I think it’s, I think it’s awesome that you’re focusing on those of us who may not typically express our emotion and joy on data and geeky stuff, for fear of embarrassment or reprisal or, you know, being picked on for that kind of brilliance. So can you share a little bit about how you work with find folks like that on helping to reduce stress and prevent burnout?

Nicole Tschierske 6:04
Yeah, so that is one of my favorite topics. And I love that we explore that a bit deeper. There’s two other things I do with companies, just to mention that for completeness, the other thing is having numbered remarkable partnerships within the organization, so that people really work better together, collaborate better. And the third thing is helping the women that they have on their teams, and then they will, they would love to see them. I know, so many companies would love to see more, more women progressing through the ranks.

Nicole Tschierske 6:36
And oftentimes, it seems to not happen, even though the leaders really want to promote them. And so that’s another thing where I had those women step up and claim their spot. And but yeah, like I said, we’re going to talk about, yeah, how we, you know, what’s beyond resilience training.

Nicole Tschierske 6:57
So because we’re all stressed out, oftentimes at work, and it’s no surprise, because, well, not even just the last two years where we had the extra extra demands put on ourselves in our private life, the new responsibilities that we had to take on, you know, working from home, caring for others, financial worries, many people have been furloughed, and so on, so that that act that adds extra stress.

Nicole Tschierske 7:28
But even if we just look at the workplace, and how work is organized and done, we can easily spot so many things that we could do differently, and where even just minor tweaks would help people cope better with the workload, because sometimes projects just are busy. Or you have to seasonal fluctuations in your business, you know, depending on let’s say, if you’re in a consumer goods company, and you make chocolate, then you know, Easter and Christmas time will be very busy.

Nicole Tschierske 8:08
Just as an example, you know, so So there are those elements, but there are other things that, you know, drain our energy and, or could give us the energy and motivation back and this is often overlooked.

Lindsay Recknell 8:23
Do you have some examples of places that organizations can look for those energy sucks? And also energy improvers?

Nicole Tschierske 8:32
Hmm, yes. Okay, let’s look at what drains our energy. So again, this is research based. The theory behind that is based on something that is called the job demands resources model. And it does research from around the globe that backs this up and refines this since over 20 years now. So this is not a fad. This is real science. And it’s so fascinating. And what this model describes, is basically that in any job, we have aspects of our work life that take our sustained efforts to cope with that. And those are job demands.

Nicole Tschierske 9:14
So the things that really drain our energy. And these are things like, of course, workload, but then also how work is organized is there are a lot of bureaucratic hurdles. What does the work environment look like? So just you know, the physical environments, do we have proper light, proper air? Do we have a proper chair and big enough screen? Or do we have to squint our eyes to see those little lines of code or numbers on a spreadsheet? So things like that, even though we don’t notice them? Maybe right away?

Nicole Tschierske 9:49
They do. They do cause us that extra efforts, things like emotional demands, so those people who are more customer facing or who have to Do a lot of stakeholder management, it costs us a lot to maintain that professional demeanor when everybody is just behaving nuts. Okay, so those are those things that really take our energy out. And yeah, and this is one aspect that we can look at, you know, how can we organize work differently? How can we reduce those demands? How can we mitigate those.

Nicole Tschierske 10:28
And then, on the other hand side, you have those energy, give us those job resources, who really pay into one thing help us cope with the demands better? But secondly, they’re also very motivating and energizing in their own right. So they’re good to have whether demands are high or not. And these are things like, basically everything that helps us do our job better accomplish our goals, and complete our tasks.

Nicole Tschierske 11:00
Things like can I use my strengths more often? At work? Things? Like do I have autonomy? In how I go about my work? Or is every minute dictated? You know, and you start to feel like Charlie Chaplin in modern times? Or things like, Do I have social support? Do I have the feeling I belong here, and I’m part of the team and I have those connections with others that, you know, even if we just talk silly things, in some breaks, it just helps us to feel better.

Nicole Tschierske 11:32
But also do I receive valuable feedback and opportunities to continue to develop further and build new skills and capabilities, which in turn, then, you know, fuels my need for fields, my need for competence? And that is just motivating in itself, and so on. So I could go on and on. But you get the gist of you know, so it was like, How can we mitigate or manage those demands? Plus, how can we pay attention to increase those resources,

Lindsay Recknell 12:05
amazing that there was so much goodness there that leaders can take away, especially the research around that Job, Job resource load model, did they get that right?

Nicole Tschierske 12:16
job demands, resource model

Lindsay Recknell 12:18
Job demands resource model. So we will link to that, we will find that and link to it in the show notes for anybody who’s extra interested to learn a little bit more about that. I love, I love the models, I you know, like you mentioned, it’s resource. It’s research based and proven through evidence that these kinds of things were very tactical, very tactical places for leaders and organizations to look for opportunities within their workplace.

Lindsay Recknell 12:46
So thank you very much for that. And I’m a big believer that the wellness of our organizations is a partnership between us as the humans that work there, and also the organization and the leaders that are supporting us. And I think you reinforced that there, you know, we can’t, it shouldn’t be all one or the other, it really is a partnership between all parties in the within the organization. So I really appreciated those comments. Thank you very much.

Lindsay Recknell 13:18
Some of the things that I think are often overlooked are, you know, symptoms of stress and burnout? Are the results, right? Our behavior under those conditions are the symptoms, but we missed the root cause of these kinds of issues. Can we talk a little bit about the common mistakes and myths that keep leaders and teams from actually solving this root cause?

Nicole Tschierske 13:41
Yeah, and the root cause are exactly those job demands. So because it takes our sustained energy, and we often don’t even have enough time to recreate and replenish that outside of work, because you know, there are other tasks waiting for us and other worries that we have. And so doing work in this way where we have, where we have to use our extra energy and efforts might be emotional, cognitive, physical, to meet those job demands and to cope with those situations, just because work is set up in this way.

Nicole Tschierske 14:24
This leads over time to exhaustion and to sleeping problems and empowered house and that is really yeah, really that stress that we’re experiencing them like where we where we have those physical, bodily effects in the end, and when you pair this exhaustion with a lack of the job resources on the other side, so you don’t even have anything that’s motivating to you or giving you a little bit of energy back then you have exhaustion paired with cynicism, and that gives you the burnout.

Nicole Tschierske 14:58
And so Yeah, like you said, it’s like what we’re what we’re observing and people and people react very differently. To those things I just spoke a leader with on. It was this week I spoke with her and just interviewed her. Hey, these are the things that I’m seeing is that, can you see that for your own team too? And she said, yeah, absolutely.

Nicole Tschierske 15:21
So when there’s a lot of high workload and a lot of stress, plus the additional demands that the pandemic has put on all of us, she says, People react very differently to that and some of her team, they retract, they become silent, they are not as active anymore, they don’t really reach out for help or ask, you know, to cut them some slack. And in the end there, all of a sudden, they’re on sick leave. And this is really disheartening.

Nicole Tschierske 15:49
Also for her as a people manager, because she cares about her people. And she wishes she would have known sooner and needs to now knows she needs to pay extra attention to also those people that stay quiet. And then there are the other ones that try to overcompensate almost, and try to bite nugget through the workload and they just lean in more and more and more.

Nicole Tschierske 16:11
But the work doesn’t get less in the end, people who do more get to do more, kind of, and yeah, and so it never feels like you accomplish anything, or you really cross something off your list or that that mountain of work gets smaller. And so it’s a real thing it’s happening.

Lindsay Recknell 16:31
Yeah, it absolutely is a real thing happening. And you touched on something I think that I’d like to explore a little further is the leadership’s accountability combined with leadership’s capacity to support people and and also themselves, especially kind of functional line leaders, you know, sort of second up the command, I think they have extra pressure on themselves, because they’re not those senior leaders that have less hands on keyboard or, you know, frontline kind of work to do, they are more able to do that brain work and that supporting work.

Lindsay Recknell 17:13
But they, so these middle managers are really having to still do those tasks and activities, while also the extra burden of managing and leading and supporting people. We talk a little bit about that, and how you’re supporting leaders to manage their own burnout and overwhelm.

Nicole Tschierske 17:32
Yeah, um, I mean, everybody heard that saying, put your own oxygen mask first. So definitely look after yourself. Um, I guess it’s always good to start looking at so what kind of work are we doing? I mean, so that’s one aspect about, you know, training, training yourself in good coping mechanisms, and mindfulness practices, all those things that you learn in resilience training. But on top of that, let’s look at how work is done.

Nicole Tschierske 18:05
And simply putting all of the cards on the table you can discuss with your team together, say, okay, like, the way we distributed the tasks at the moment? Do they fix our strengths? Or do people have to do things they may be good at, but they don’t really like doing? But could we swap tasks within one another? And how are we planning the workload? Are we always planning to 100% of capacity, because nobody should be doing that you should only plan to 80% capacity.

Nicole Tschierske 18:40
So because people get sick, unforeseen things happen, and then you have to cope with it. Um, how well are we planning ahead? In terms of, you know, the Duryea business demands, you know, projects we have to fulfill or operational fluctuations and workload account, can we react to this? And are we always surprised like, Oh, my God is Christmas again? How did that happen? You know, and so there are things that we can do there at the same time. I have another company, they’re doing app development for their clients.

Nicole Tschierske 19:23
And that’s, for example, the company says, Okay, if we have clients who are just, yeah, too demanding, who are impossible to manage, who are impossible to get along with, we are willing to cancel projects. So that is another thing that you may want to review within your team within your department or within your company is like, can you let go of those types of clients to protect the people that work for you? And another thing that you can do obviously is help people have a proper work station setup.

Nicole Tschierske 19:59
So For those people who work better when it’s silent, don’t put them in a big office where everybody’s talking loudly on the phone all day. Or yeah, what can you do to make sure that even when they’re working from home, they have a proper desk and a proper chair, and, you know, can sit comfortably. So those are just a few things to manage the demands better.

Lindsay Recknell 20:23
Amazing, amazing, so much practical advice there. If there was, if someone who was listening, thinking, man, there’s so much good stuff here, where the heck do I start? What would you be your thoughts on where they could put their energy to make the most impact? And kind of start this process? Do you have any thoughts about that?

Nicole Tschierske 20:49
Yeah, I always like with, I always like to start with switching on the light. That’s what I call it, which means just making visible what is happening, and a very easy thing. For example, when I’m hired to do workshop with a team, that’s just a bit, you know, first analytical to understand what is this situation?

Nicole Tschierske 21:11
Actually, the simplest thing that we can do is we have a question we ask ourselves, for example, how stressed Are we at the moment? Or how much is work stressing us out at the moment, and everybody gets the vote on a one to 10 scale? And then you have the first picture, you know, say, Okay, where are we? Are we, you know, spread out across the whole stair? All we do we see some people who are the two and other people are at the, at an age. So what’s going on?

Nicole Tschierske 21:43
It’s just the conversation started to get curious. And then we ask ourselves, okay, let’s say the average we had six. And you can ask yourself, Okay, if we’re at six, now, what, what makes it a six, and not a five, or four or two? And you can find all of the things that are already working, what’s working? Well, what’s helping us cope with the demands, what’s giving us energy, find all of those things. And then the second page you can ask is, okay, so we’re at six.

Nicole Tschierske 22:13
Now, if we wanted to move one step closer to seven, what are some demands that we could manage better? And how? And what are some resources that we want to have more often? How could we implement them in daily practices and routines that we anyways have in our team?

Lindsay Recknell 22:34
I also hear that you’re asking your people, I feel like these are conversations that you’re having with your team. Is that right? Is that a good does that?

Nicole Tschierske 22:45
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as a leader, I mean, how can you possibly know what’s going on in people’s heads in everybody’s heads? Plus, why would you put all the burden just on yourself, and then come up with something that you think is the right solution, but you know, people, it’s not really what people needed.

Nicole Tschierske 23:05
So talking to people really gives you the best clues. And, okay, occasionally, it’s okay to have unproductive venting sessions. But you know, it’s okay, it’s actually important for people to get things off their chest, but at the same time, let’s all be part of the solution.

Nicole Tschierske 23:23
So the main task of the leaders really to look after themselves, be open and listen to people. And then once the team has agreed on how we want to do things differently, then go get that support that you need, sometimes, sometimes it’s budget, sometimes it’s just aligning with more senior managers, can we realign things? Can we shift objectives, these kind of things.

Nicole Tschierske 23:48
So really just being more of an enabler and an end facilitator because people are incredible, and they have a lot of ideas and a lot of strengths and capability? And why would you not tap into this?

Lindsay Recknell 24:00
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more people are incredible. You know, we, I am so blessed to work with organizations and the humans within organizations to to increase maturity in all these things that you’re talking about. Because we know right, we know what’s affecting us. We know what could be better if only people would listen to us. And one of the things that you mentioned there is to get senior leadership engaged in the conversation to get them aligned to get the things that you need, the actual resources you need, whether it’s more people, more money, more, you know, better desks.

Lindsay Recknell 24:35
One of the things that we talk about on this show, especially one of the three big objectives of this overall podcast is tips and tricks on engaging senior leadership in this conversation who may not be as personally impacted by the same things that are going on at the bottom line there for sure they are overwhelmed and burnt out and stressed out themselves, but it With a different cause, I would suggest, how do you start those conversations? And how do you get senior leadership alignment?

Nicole Tschierske 25:09
Oh, Lindsay, I could, I could venture into a, I don’t know free day training on change management and communication. This point, but maybe, maybe a couple of things to, to just frame that.

Nicole Tschierske 25:30
First of all, you’re so let’s start with attitude. So don’t consider them your enemy, or to pick the person you need to get something from and who always says no, but consider them your partner. So approach them in that way, you know, that you’re on, on parity I level, so to speak, and it’s really not me fighting against that senior manager was like, How can we find a solution to this together?

Nicole Tschierske 26:01
So that’s attitude to start with first, then the second bit, I would say, think of your goal. And, you know, what do you want to achieve? What do you really want from them? And also find yourself a minimum maximum goal setting kind of because your company is likely not a candy shop, in a way you can just like get anything at all times. So think about like, what is the absolute minimum that you really need? And you have proper, proper reasons? And then you know, what, data cherries on top that you would happily take, if possible?

Nicole Tschierske 26:39
And then the third thing I would say is, don’t put all of the pressure on one conversation. But map it out as a strategy. Is there a way you can invite that senior person to speak your voice your team directly? Is there a I don’t know global and get a company wide engagement survey going on? Or anything like that, that you can take on to and use as a conversation starter? Or gather the data for it? Is? Are there any other ideas that you want one on one meetings? Can you partner up with peers of yours and other parts of your business where you’re seeing the same thing, and you could capitalize on the same solution, basically.

Nicole Tschierske 27:27
So it shows that you know the solution, that solution has a lot of leverage and brings return on investment beyond just your small team. And then yeah, just make sure you have a series of conversation and engagement opportunities with that senior leader. And know that things might not happen overnight. But if you’re pleasantly persistent, you will get places.

Lindsay Recknell 27:54
Brilliant, I knew you were the right person to ask that question of, I especially love the approach that senior leader from a place of parody, right. At the end of the day, they are also human and have been affected and will continue to be affected, whether it’s, you know, they can look back on their long career and recognize how this kind of job design would have supported them in better ways. Or if they’re looking, you know, kind of down over their organization.

Lindsay Recknell 28:25
And if you’re relating some of the scenarios that are going on within their organization, and they can really see it through your words, all of a sudden, it becomes personal to them. And you know it you can tap into the hearts and minds of that person as opposed to looking at them as your enemy or somebody you have to, you know, get something from that’s brilliant perspective. Super, super helpful perspective.

Lindsay Recknell 28:53
Nicole, this has just been amazing. Like you have just you have spewed all the wisdom, all of the ideas so much that people can take away even just a few of the things that you’ve talked about, I think will make a huge impact in our organizations, and they don’t feel hard. They don’t feel overwhelming. You know, they feel like they are good places to start that would have really important impact. So thank you for sharing your brilliance with us today and your insight.

Lindsay Recknell 29:23
Can you share with people where they can find you when they want the how to do it? Now that you’ve told them the what to do?

Nicole Tschierske 29:30
Yeah, um, you can find me at My name is impossible to spell. Sure you put all of the links in the show notes. So find me there. Find me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to chat. Like I said one of my favorite topics to geek out about and blue and more from you know what’s going on on the front lines and the company’s

Lindsay Recknell 29:53
amazing we absolutely will link to all of your places in the show notes and in our social media posts. So thank you again for joining us. I cannot wait to continue the conversation, it has been a real pleasure to spend time with you.

Nicole Tschierske 30:05
Thanks for having me Lindsay

Lindsay Recknell 30:06
Take care.

Lindsay Recknell 30:08
Thank you for listening to another episode of mental health in minutes. I resonated so much with what Nicole had to say, especially about how doing mental health at work well, is more than just going through resilience training. She shared many of the common mistakes and myths that keep leaders and teams from solving the root cause of their stresses, and also really practical ways to support your employees and increase wellness at work.

Lindsay Recknell 30:31
Nicole and I both believe in the power of our leaders to create psychologically safe workplaces. And we know that you do too, or you wouldn’t be listening to this.

Lindsay Recknell 30:38
If you’d love this episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review on your favorite podcast player. You can find this everywhere at mental health in minutes, as well as on the web at The thing we do best at mental health in minutes is open the door to conversations about mental health at work. And episodes like this give us real things we can try to truly make a difference.

Lindsay Recknell 30:59
I know you’re making a difference at your workplace or you’d really like to be or you wouldn’t be listening to podcast episodes like these ones. I’d love to help you accelerate your impact at work, help you really move the needle on mental health maturity in your workplace, and get people to a place where they’re feeling less stressed, more fulfilled and able to integrate work in life in a way that works for them and your organization. Being a people leader is especially hard right now, you might feel like you’re managing both up the corporate ladder and down.

Lindsay Recknell 31:27
And it’s the thought of figuring out how to best support your people and yourself feels overwhelming and impossibly hard. Let’s talk. Let me help you by doing the heavy lifting with resources and materials along with training and facilitation. And you can get back to doing what you do best, engaging with and supporting your people. I’ve many ways to support you from full service hands on to guidance and support from afar. So let’s chat about what works best for you and your people.

Lindsay Recknell 31:53
As always, I’m here if you need me

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