Mitigating stress: Mike Leman Email
Written by Lyn Dean   
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 02:00 AM

Mike Leman, owner at Singing Hills Landscape Inc., says he doesn’t experience a lot of work-related stress. “I factor in a baseline outlook of life that recognizes life is too short to worry,” he says. “When I think about what causes stress, it’s generally concern or fear of an unwanted outcome, often beyond our control.”

He draws this perspective from the teachings of Jesus. “The simple phrase, ‘Take no thought about tomorrow’ means don’t fret about the future.” Leman enjoys silence. And he shares “in little bursts.”

Stress and emotions
He tries to stay connected in the moment and not “fret about outcomes.” Once Leman does what he can, he lets it go. “Life is not about business success or accumulation of things,” he says. In business, he says that stress is often related to overemphasizing financial success and observes that the resulting stress impacts emotions and relationships. “Financial success is not the primary reason we do what we do.”

“Some think I’m not emotional enough,” confesses Leman. “But if the outcome is out of my control, I let it go.” He uses the analogy of voting. Each person who votes, does what they can by casting a vote. But the outcome is not theirs to determine so he says to let it go and move on.

Conflicts at work are stressful
Leman admits that conflict with employees at work can be stressful. “When other employees’ stress levels are high, there can be conflict,” he says. “Once or twice, I’ve been yelled at and I have to take a moment to remind myself it’s probably not personal. I work to defuse a situation, not escalate, and I allow it to slide. In such emotional moments, winning an argument is not the goal.”

This can be challenging for Leman. “I’m working against my own nature because I always believe I will win the argument.” Laughing he says, “I love to win, especially at games! These situations have been a learning curve for me in my business.”

Employee relationships are very important to Leman. They have shaped Singing Hills into a family. He typically gives employees second and third chances saying, “This is who we are.” Yet Leman has had to let people go when they were unwilling to accept opportunity provided by Singing Hills.

“I let people go when the stress of keeping them is higher than letting them go,” he says. “I have to balance the greater good for all employees. When it is necessary to let someone go, I release control [over what happens], trusting it to work out.”

Service was a childhood model
Growing up, Leman watched his parents model serving others. They did so both in and outside of the workplace. As a teen, he was “independent and did not follow what he knew to be true,” but when he started working in the landscape industry for Greg Anderson, he began applying the principles of serving modeled by his parents by “cutting his teeth on little situations” with fellow employees. “If people weren’t getting it right, I’d give them another chance.” Ultimately, he knew it had to be right for the customer and it wasn’t all about money. He learned firsthand about competing stress factors in a business: “helping the employee, making it right for the customer, and keeping the business going.”

Advice learned from experience
Asked what he would he say as a mentor, he advises the following:

  • Make sure you’re not taking on stress that doesn’t exist. Imagined inputs—thoughts—come from a past that doesn’t exist and are projected to a future that doesn’t exist. The brain will fill in gaps with stuff we make up. We need to base information on truth and fact, not what we ‘made up’ to suit our own narrative.
  • Recognize what you can and can’t control.
  • Do what you can and then let it go, like voting. Whatever the outcome, whether you wanted it or not, it’s reality. Start with reality.
  • Know your priorities and their role in creating stress. If it’s more important to us, it affects us more, such as family, workers, someone close with a medical issue, and relationship issues between friends. These priorities are more important than the business, but business is part of life too.
  • Stress complicates decision-making. Don’t set artificial goalposts like a strategic plan with 20% growth by such and such a date. Be flexible. Tomorrow is another day with new opportunities. Goals are fine, but should be more like milestones. It’s the journey that matters, not the final goal or destination.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
Mitigating stress: Mike Moore
COVID vaccine eligibility increases in Colorado
Despite big snowstorms, drought drags on