Frustrated And Fuming: 5 Ways To Still Lead Well

“I’m just so frustrated,” his eyes had changed from fuming to weary. He shared, “I know anger isn’t working, but as my wife would say, “I didn’t yell the first 5 times.”

The situation was complex. We were both frustrated with the stagnant results, and had been collaborating on several strategies. He’s a strong leader, but I’d received feedback about his approach. His intensity was impacting his effectiveness. Even the perception of yelling is bad. But his words made me pause.

I had just yelled them in my kitchen.

Meat Drawer Meets Frustration

“I didn’t yell the first 5 times.”

  1. Honey, please don’t put the lunchmeat in the drawer with the raw meat
  2. Sweetheart I’ve labelled the drawers so you know where everything goes
  3. This is the 3rd time, please don’t put the lunch meat with the raw meat
  4. (Now slamming the meat into the right drawers) and an evil glare
  5. Why won’t you listen to me?
  6. You’re doing this on purpose to spite me. Why don’t you value our relationship enough to listen (you get the picture).

5 Ways to Lead Past Frustrated and Fuming

  1. Pause – When you’re that mad, don’t react. Walk away and consider the approach.
  2. Explain Why – Now one could argue that a grown man should understand “why” you don’t want leaky chicken on your bologna. That’s futile thinking. Instead share your vision and reasons for your point of view. Maybe the team doesn’t really understand the “salmonella” you’re working to convey. Step back, and calmly explain your vision.
  3. Ask Questions – People behave in patterns for a reason. There’s always a counter argument. Ask sincere (not sarcastic) questions and truly listen for the response. It turns out, my labels were still confusing. Lunch meat is meat after all.
  4. Model It – Roll up your sleeves and calmly model the behavior. Ask them to join you and explain what you’re doing and why. Again, gently. It’s easy to act like a jerk when you’re frustrated and fuming.
  5. Tell Stories – Tell your friend’s story of the provolone kept in the meat drawer that made her whole family sick. Stories are always more memorable than yelling.
Posted in Communication and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I’m brand new to a higher-stakes leadership role and this is great wisdom to keep in mind. I find myself frustrated when I think “this should be common sense”. Raw meat and lunch meat don’t go together. I totally get that. I’m the same with my team. “Why can’t you guys see that?” So I realized it’s my job to provide that vision, because they truly can’t see why lunch meat and raw meat shouldn’t be in the same drawer. Thanks, Karin!

    • Lily, Thanks so much. Exciting to hear about your new challenge. The higher we go the more it’s about vision… and then constantly checking to ensure the way we are communicating that vision makes sense.

  2. I think #2 explaining why is a big one. We have worked with leaders here to not fall into the reasonable person trap. As in: “Did you explain why it had to be done that way?” “No, any reasonable person would know that.” That fact that every single person did it wrong did not change their opinion that it was obvious and “reasonable.”

  3. It seems we always end up with there being a problem to solve and communication as part of the solution. Thanks for some strategies to remind us how we should lead. We can’t discipline in anger, nor can we lead.

  4. Great example and advice. I am reminded that communication isn’t successful when we think we have been clear enough – it’s successful when the other person thinks we have and demonstrates understanding in their actions. As leaders we own the outcome. Some of the best advice I have gotten is this: if you are not being listened to chances are you are not listening. It’s my mantra when the steam starts coming out of my ears…

  5. Karin,

    I enjoyed #4 the most…what most leaders forget though…is that this step can and should be done before you get frustrated, more often than not…leading from the front will help minimize the confusion from members of your team.


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