By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
TLG is a leadership development company, so why would I/we be focusing the content of this month’s newsletter on pressure? I contend that there is an inextricable link between pressure and leadership. When the fuse isn’t lit, and the time bomb isn’t ready to blow, rational decisions are more likely to occur. Those with a mastery of their emotions, particularly in times of stress, have a better chance of being successful in business and in life. More on that later.
None of you reading this article have likely been on this earth for more than 100 years. However, you are all aware of times over the last 100 years when the pressure was collectively the highest for people living in the USA. Wars, depressions, plagues, scarcities, and so on. You probably concur that pressure, no matter what the global/national circumstances are, is the most heightened for leaders when it impacts us directly. Watching an event on CNN or Fox is not the same as a catastrophe happening to us.
In 2021, a case can be made that many of us have had one or more time bomb moments. Allow me to, at this point, focus on the office environment. What has hit leadership hard? Covid; the effectiveness of remote work; the “great resignation” and the stress around retaining quality people and/or filling key positions; supply- chain; climate change, the impact of disasters like major hurricanes and forest fires; and the changes in buyer personas that have led to the closing (and opening) of many businesses. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 200,000 extra closures occurred in the U.S. within the first year of Covid.
The examples of “pressure” in the paragraph above are often external. By that I mean, if you are not losing staff, in the midst of a hurricane that’s impacting your home or business, and if you, your family and your employees are steering clear of Covid, you may be feeling no more pressure than usual. Yet, it’s not as much about the external environment when it comes to business, but it’s the day to day inside the business.
From what I have seen and experienced over the years, moments of truth related to pressure at work come from situations and circumstances where the leader perceives a negative impact on their well-being. Poor financial performance, for example, can stir up many emotions including but not limited to fear of losing a job, concern regarding how others perceive you, and personal feelings of failure. Pointing the finger might begin too. Often, I have seen ineffective behavior from a leader who can’t secure the desired performance from a subordinate. It’s not a pretty picture and something that doesn’t produce desired results.
Back to the time bomb. Noted author, Simon Sinek describes it like this – “emotions are like vomit, you can only hold it in for so long”. I have often seen people’s attitude change when there is something brewing, and they are holding it in and holding it in and then all of a sudden BOOM. Sometimes there is a silencer on the explosion. They may quit. They may get sick, mentally and/or physically. Or they might shut down. None of those actions are likely best for the company or for the individual, although, ultimately leaving the job/situation might be the best result for all involved.
Try Emotional Mastery
One of the critical tenets in the Turknett’s Leadership Character Model is emotional mastery. The Model stresses the balance of respect and responsibility, and emotional mastery is an essential ingredient on the respect side of the ledger. Emotional mastery is a process of awareness of self, where you have a better understanding of your emotions and are able, therefore, to control them that leads to making a conscious effort to not letting your emotions control you. Of course, this is easier said than done.
Ultimately, you may not be able to fully control a situation. Yet, you can control how you react to the situation. And, if you react poorly, it’s very difficult to take it back. I suppose, I have seen it all at this point in my career. People that have worked for me have lost friends and lost jobs because of the inability to control their emotions. There are few if any perfectionists when it comes to mastery. However, we can all improve.
I am not a trained consultant on emotional mastery, but many TLG coaches are. I have gone through the school of hard knocks though. Here are a few things that I personally know are essential to emotional mastery:
- Hold off on sending that email – give it a day
- Collect your thoughts before responding
- Don’t let things fester. If something is bothering you related to your boss, peer, or subordinate, think about what you are going to say and share it. If you are the supervisor don’t close off responses. Even if it’s painful to hear remember that it’s better to hear it than to have a person hold it in or gossip about it and, perhaps, eventually explode
- Write that letter saying everything you want to say. Be as mean as you want. Then never send it
- Consider the other person’s point of view
- Be a great listener. Try not to prepare your response while the other person is talking
- Create an environment that is built around respect and the Golden Rule
- Talk to people you respect for advice
- Don’t think something is over because it’s been said out loud. Check back in with the person. Check their pulse
- Know that you have more to learn than to teach
It’s time to put out that fuse before the bomb goes off. If you have to say “you are mad as hell and can’t take it anymore” shout it out the window and then close the window and get back to your emotional mastery work.