When it comes to exercising restraint as a leader, think of your self-control like a car’s gas tank: you’ve got to look at the gas gauge once in a while to see if you’re running on “empty”. That’s the analogy I use on my monthly Smartblog on Leadership post about ways to avoid losing your cool.
The ultimate breach of self-control is a tirade, outburst or some other form of completely “losing it.” However, most leaders (that’s probably you, right?) have learned to manage their emotions and rarely unleash that type of behavior on their colleagues. That doesn’t mean you are off the hook, though. Long before you blow up, there are signs that your emotional self-control is slipping, which can still be damaging to your team dynamics.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- A team member taking forever to make a point at a department meeting. Your patience is waning, so in an attempt to get the meeting back on track, you talk “over her” and complete her sentence.
- One of your direct reports is still struggling to learn a new software system that the rest of the team has already mastered. Rather than once again tutoring the employee, you’ve found it’s just easier to log in and check the report status yourself.
- At lunch, a peer that you typically find interesting and funny to talk with suddenly annoys you for reasons you can’t explain. You cut your lunch short, citing a crammed afternoon schedule.
- You know your team is watching you, but you can’t resist rolling your eyes when the CEO takes the stage at an all-company meeting to give an “inspirational” speech.
All of these scenarios are signs that the reserves in your self-control “gas tank” are nearing “E”. While you’re too professional to have a complete meltdown, you still need to pay attention to these signs, because they telegraph to others an edginess that’s damaging to team cohesiveness. Leadership self-control is about cultivating patience in order to focus on the task at hand. Mr. People Equation put it this way:
“As a leader, you know what you want to have happen, but your people need a minute to catch up to you. Self-control is the ability to defer moving ahead in order to help your people come along with what you are trying to accomplish.”
The next time you feel your patience slipping, try the old standard of taking a deep breath and silently counting to ten before you reply. Or, you could adopt a silent mantra. I personally like “Who’s evolved?” from the movie Night at the Museum.
Photo credit: istock photo © kilukilu