No Crying in Baseball (But what about the office?) – Part II
As leaders, being confronted by emotion is part of the job. Often, the actions we take as leaders can contribute to or generate that emotion. Emotional displays can be genuine or they can be manufactured as a defense against whatever it is you are bringing. Performance management is a particular venue in which a blowup or overreaction can be common, and in some circumstances, is used by the receiver to deflect what is coming down. As Part I noted, bosses understand that emotions are part of the deal, and give consideration to how to handle them as a regular part of the their leadership training and experience.
The flip side of this discussion is one that every (repeat…every) leader is going to have to deal with in their career. How, and under what circumstances you show your own emotions at work will often be the single most frequent yardstick by which you are measured. That time, when you lost it in front of the team, will define for a substantially long period of time how your team, and the office in general, views you. Whatever skill or brownie points you earned before that moment are spent. So, what is a leader to do?
First, consider the range of emotions that you may be experiencing that give rise to something public and visible. Anger, frustration, worry, nervousness, or even dislike, are all states of mind of which you need to be self-aware that you are entering. Suffice to say, each emotion brings with it a strategy for resolution that you need to begin implementing sooner, rather than later. This is where your knowledge of yourself comes in to play. Disliking someone, especially if you are the boss, is not something that you can will away, but can be contradictory to the requirements of your position. Being respectful (but assertive) is the expectation of a person who is the responsible party. Being frustrated occurs often, but as a singular emotion, it is not very productive. Consider the last time you were frustrated – did the world stop? Likely, it did not, and things moved on. Finding something positive about the situation – if people are late to a meeting, more to prepare, right?
Next, consider whether you should control your particular emotion at this particular time. Not all emotion is bad. Happiness, excitement, pride, and gratitude, are all emotions that rarely carry a suggestion that you should be reining it in. Again, context is important. If you make a big deal about a particular accomplishment every time, then it may seem out of character to suddenly low ball it. It might even cause those with time on their hands to start dissecting this particular event….(“Why doesn’t Bob make a big deal out of that announcement? He always did before.”). If anything, this approach debunks the statement that “emotions have no place at work” because that’s ridiculous. Of course they do because human beings are emotive as a general rule. Even if the emotion is annoyance, when consistently applied it sets the tone for your expectations. In that sense, tactically showing your cards is a strategy to influence behavior the next go around.
Lastly, leaders take the long view. Sure, at the moment, dropping a complete matched set of F-bombs on someone in full view and earshot of the team may “feel” like the best thing to do. Your core belief system may be telling you that they are a bad person, that they wish you ill, that they purposely created this situation to undermine or annoy you, or that this was absolutely something that should have been completely within your control had they not screwed it up. These are all examples of irrational core beliefs that support the classic office rant you end up paying for over the next several years. Even in the midst of the smoke and chaos of battle (metaphorically speaking), effective and confident leaders know how to manage themselves as part of their managing a solution. Having Plan A, B, and C from the beginning allows a transition when A doesn’t work. Maneuvering in such a way as to allow for multiple options lessens the “eggs in one basket” approach that is certainly a predicate to the explosion when the plan goes awry.
A final takeaway. Leaders with a reputation for short fuses have a profound effect on the organization. People will stop being the messenger that takes fire whenever the boss gets bad news. Worse, they may tell you what you want to hear, which can lead to mission failure. Ignoring your own verbal and non-verbal cues when working with the team means you are now captive to them. For better or worse, they are you. Pause, and allow the body to process the chemicals just released from what you heard or saw. It won’t take long, and is a double-win because listening is an important skill. “Tell me more” is the next route and allow your mind to start processing the options…and solve the problem.