One of my favorite memories of this Christmas was hanging out with some of my family in Starbucks talking about leadership. My brother, a high-level executive, shared a principle that’s vitally important for successful leadership in business, sports or anywhere else.
When he leads meetings, co-workers sometimes make comments that anger him. Though he’s fuming on the inside, his outside demeanor doesn’t change and he’ll respond with something like “that’s an interesting idea. What do the rest of you think?” He mastered his emotions in that moment, not allowing the irritation to cloud his ability to lead well.
The opposite reaction—flying off the handle and reaming his co-worker—would have created distrust. That employee may never speak up in a meeting again for fear of ridicule, and others would likely follow suit. By controlling his emotions, Stephen gave himself time to calm down and kept the lines of communication with his team open.
Some coaches think raging at their team motivates and results in better performance. I don’t agree with that philosophy, and coaches like Tony Dungy, John Wooden and Kay Yow prove my point. You don’t have to scream, rage or demean to inspire athletes to perform at the highest level.
Studies show that emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a more accurate indicator of success in life than IQ. And the even better news? While your IQ is determined at a young age and fluctuates little, you can learn emotional intelligence and get better at these skills. Learning to manage your emotions is crucial for your success as a person and leader.
Self-management is just one of four areas of EQ, but is for many people the most important place to start in developing stronger EQ. Little changes will make a big difference in the end, so while these suggestions may not seem like rocket science, they can help significantly:
Make Your Goals Public
Letting your co-workers or athletes know that you’re seeking to improve in a particular skill gives you automatic accountability. Maybe your goal is to receive criticism without retorting in self-defense or to stop rolling your eyes in frustration. Ask people who you know will pay attention to your progress.
When you share your goals with someone, give them permission to monitor your progress and hold you accountable. You may even allow them to dispense reward or punishment. If you’re working on not cursing on the sidelines, for example, you could agree to pay your colleagues every time a word slips out.
Sleep On It
My friend Sue Ramsey coaches basketball at Ashland University. If something happens during the day that bothers her (a comment by an assistant coach or player, issue with administration, etc) she takes the evening to think about it and sleep on it. If in the morning, she is still bothered by the incident, she discusses it with the person involved that day.
Time helps you self-manage because it brings clarity and perspective. Creating this space allows you to respond rather than react. When your emotions settle, you can take a step back and see the bigger picture, which will most often lead to better decision-making.
The key here is your commitment to following through if the issue still bothers you the next morning. Stuffing emotions isn’t managing them. Talk yourself out of addressing it and you’ll harbor bitterness that will eventually seep out into your leadership anyway. Challenge yourself to honestly and respectfully address the issue and you’ll walk with a lighter step.
What methods do you use to manage your emotions in moments of frustration or anger? Please share your best practices below. We want to learn from you!