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Rule 1: Control Your Emotions

Change will come. Sometimes it will be unwelcome, even threatening. There's only one way to get through it.
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“The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.” -- Navy SEAL Creed 

I learned years ago that the key to surviving change--serious change, the kind that truly threatens you and your plans--is maintaining control of your emotions.

Here’s a story about that from my training to become a Navy SEAL.

It was Thursday morning of the notorious Hell Week. We were doing a training evolution at the pool when we were suddenly ordered to sit down and face the fence. Our instructors and medics were swarming around behind us, but we were so disoriented from days without sleep that we didn’t even register what was going on.

We returned to the classroom, where our Master Chief unemotionally told us that our friend and class leader had just died right next to us. He didn’t give us any details. He simply said, “Get used to it. This is what life in the SEAL teams will be like.” And we got back to our training. It seemed brutal at the time, but we learned a valuable lesson that day. Change happens. Suck it up. Control your emotions. Keep moving if you want to survive.

As business leaders, the decisions we make aren’t matters of life and death. However, our decisions are vitally important to the success of our businesses and the livelihoods of our team members. When you are confronted with a potentially damaging change, take a few minutes alone, get the problem in perspective, and then lead your team successfully through the change by employing these tactics I learned during SEAL training:

Don’t panic. If you panic publicly, your team’s morale will plummet. That will throw your company deeper into chaos. Stay positive, calm, and reassuring. If you have to vent, do it away from the office.

Display unity. If you disagree with other company leaders about how to proceed, fight it out behind closed doors. If your team senses confusion at the top, it will weaken the base structure of your company. Always present a unified face to your team.

Stay focused. Remember what your mission is and keep your team moving toward that goal even in a chaotic environment.

Prepare now. Sound preparation is vital to surviving change. Give your team members the autonomy and encouragement now that will allow them to step up and assume responsibility when change occurs.

One of my favorite quotes is, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” For a SEAL team, this has literal meaning, but it also applies to business. Change happens. When it does, if you stay focused and unemotional, your team and your business will have the best chance to survive. 

 

IMAGE: ussocom_ru/Flickr
Last updated: Nov 29, 2012

BRENT GLEESON | Columnist

Navy SEAL combat veteran Brent Gleeson is the co-founder and CMO at Internet Marketing Inc., a leading digital marketing agency and an Inc. 500|5000 company for the past three years in a row.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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