We've all had those highly emotional moments where a poorly executed project, unexpected budget overage, or other piece of bad news has gotten our heart rates skyrocketing and sent our objectivity out the door. Then, we did something we regretted.
These moments of frantic and emotional reaction do not usually lead to the best results or to the best development of your team. Over the years, I have cultivated a much different path on how to utilize my own feelings and responses to external events - perhaps these tips might help you too:
The 3 Steps
Your natural fight or flight response is what has kept our species alive. When a lion is running straight for you on the tundra, your brain switches gears to a more primitive mode where analysis can kill you. Just run.
In the wild, this is a good thing. But in the office, it renders your brain incapable of objectively processing the situation around you - which makes it very difficult for you to grasp the entirety of a complex business or personnel challenge. Here's a better plan:
Step 1: Take a very long and deep breath. Literally. That one thing tricks your brain into thinking you're no longer in jeopardy. You're already half-way there.
Step 2: Tell yourself: "Hey, I've been emotionally triggered." Note to yourself how you're feeling. The point is not to make the feeling go away, but simply to observe yourself. (You meditators know exactly what I mean by noting.). By asking yourself this rational question, which can only be done after you've taken that deep breath, it takes your brain from the auto-reaction mode to a more emotional state and is now almost receptive to objective, rational suggestions.
Step 3: Ask yourself what you really want and what must happen to get there.
This 3-step process can at first take you days or even weeks to go through all the stages. Sometimes you never get through all three. Over time, though, with repeated practice you can do them within seconds, or just a few minutes. Try it.
Breaking free from these ingrained responses takes practice and patience. It's not about avoiding or downplaying these emotions. Rather you want to simply disconnect your emotions from your behaviors. Emotions are not "good" or "bad" - they just are, unless you try to act when you're feeling those bad emotions.
Easier said than done, right? Here is a helpful visualization that one of my Global Custom Commerce associates shared with me:
Imagine standing behind a strong, thick and crystal clear glass window. Your challenges, your fears, your emotions, your co-workers, your friends and family all stand on the other side. It's quiet and calm where you are - but you can see every detail, read every word, hear every sentence being spoken on the other side. You are aware of everything, yet completely untouched. This is where you make the tough decisions and evaluate your emotions, in a safe peaceful space that allows you an objective and clear view of the outside world.
Don't judge, just note
The practice of 'noting' (that separation of emotion from your reality that allows you to react with a more fully-functioning brain) is important to become a more observant and compassionate leader.
As you begin working on noting your own emotions, practice a similar detachment with your colleagues' emotions as well. No one can ever truly understand how another is feeling, but making the effort to pay attention to what you believe is happening with someone else can go a long way.
Now excuse me, there's a pride of lions steaming my way and there's no time for even a breath! How do you keep your cool and perspective in tough times?