If nothing else, leadership is about influence. Influence is the "currency" of leadership that is fortified by consistent, constructive action and emotional stability. It's vital for all of us -- especially those in senior leadership roles -- to develop strong emotional regulation skills.
Of course, your employees are responsible for their own emotional reactions, but as a business leader you must accept the fact that you have impact on the people you lead. If you allow your emotions to get in the way, your demeanor may be counterproductive to their performance and morale. However, very few people are trained to focus on emotional management skills throughout their careers. We've been rewarded for results, not emotional intelligence.
A lack of emotional self-management can seriously jeopardize both your business and personal relationships. The association between emotional regulation and effective leadership behavior has been well established in scientific literature. When you are emotionally "hijacked", or in a particularly emotional state, there are serious disturbances in the way you process information and the way you retain it. During a high stakes conversation, you are often operating out of the part of your brain called the amygdala -- the fight or flight center -- which is not conducive to a calm exchange or constructive outcome.
We are rarely cognizant about what we are feeling and why. The challenge is to be the bulwark of your emotions by maintaining a composed state of awareness, and being mindful and conscience of your reactions. With practice, you can transform high-stakes, stressful conversations into more collaborative exchanges with promising outcomes.
Here are four ways to gather your emotional composure in the heat of the moment:
1. Pause -- and take a breath.
While the other person is speaking, take the time to focus on your breath. Simply focusing on long deep breaths takes you out of your head and into the body. If you stay in the head, you are likely to let your emotions get the best of you, as you will be operating out of the amygdala. When you find ways to calm your emotions, the pre-frontal cortex, the critical thinking portion of our brain is engaged. You can then start to think -- and not just react -- and the exchange becomes more logical and less emotional.
2. Seek to understand without judgment.
Try to understand the other person's point-of-view, concerns and feelings by asking more questions. When you ask questions -- the attention is off you and on the other person, buying you some critical time to take deep breaths, calm down and allowing you more time to gather your thoughts. Asking more questions in your attempt to understand their point of view will also help diffuse the situation as you are showing a genuine desire to hear what the other person has to say.
3. Ask for clarification.
This is an important step -- particularly when emotions are out of control. Be a patient, active listener and try not to focus on what you want to say in response. Ask for more specifics throughout the conversation if you think what is being said is vague or could potentially get misconstrued.
4. Delay the conversation.
Recognize that you may not always be able to manage your feelings when the stakes are high. If this happens, always consider delaying the conversation rather than allowing impulsive reactions to cloud your judgment or have a negative impact on your words and behavior. Rescheduling the conversation allows all parties involved some time to reset and potentially refresh their perspective.