You’re working hard to manage your stress and create a sense of calm for your team.
But now your team is looking at you and wondering if you get it.
They think, “If she really understood what was happening here, she wouldn’t be so calm!”
So, how do you manage your own stress AND encourage that sense of calm urgency on your team?
Manage Your Stress By Showing Up Excited, Not Excitable
The proverbial stuff had just hit the fan. I was stressed for “Mark” a Senior VP at a Fortune 10 company.
“Mark, are you okay? Are you stressed? What needs to happen next?”
He smiled, “Karin, I don’t get stressed. There’s no use in that. But as it turns out I’m a stress carrier.”
In humor lies the truth.
Mark had mastered the art of managing his own stress. He had what I call “excited without being excitable” nailed. Deeply passionate about the work, nothing appeared to rattle him.
He approached this new challenge as if he’d seen it a thousand times before. His actions were values-based, consistent, deliberate, and timely.
And yet he knew that his calm words didn’t always have a calming effect on his team.
In fact, sometimes, the calmer he got, the wilder his VPs became—as if to make up for his lack of stress and outward frustration.
Stress was still rolling downhill, even though Mark had tried to stop it.
Excited Energizes, Excitable Freaks People Out
In almost every company I work with, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern—things are remarkably calmer on the executive “floor.” (Even if it’s not a real floor these days.)
The stakes are higher, the decisions more vital. These folks have farther to fall, and yet when the going gets tough (for the execs who’ve mastered executive presence) the volume doesn’t amplify.
In full disclosure, I didn’t learn this early in my career. For a long time, I believed my excitable nature proved I cared. I confused stress with passion. Fired up is different than freaked out. Know the difference in yourself, and in those you lead.
Your team longs for calm in you—and in them.
How to Encourage Excited vs. Excitable
So how do you grow leaders who emulate calm, in a frenetic context?
1. Acknowledge reality.
More than anything, your team needs to know you get it. Otherwise, they think your head is in the sand. When you calmly state the issue and the implications, your team gets to exhale. They’ll move from trying to prove that the fire is real, to trying to figure out how to extinguish it.
2. Stay consistently true to your values.
Great leaders stay true to their values when the going gets tough. If “customer service is our most important thing” has been your rallying cry and you start short-cutting when budget (or boss) pressures loom, your team will be confused at best. Don’t change course. Instead ask, how do maintain our commitment to a great customer experience with these new parameters?
3. Encourage innovation and creative problem-solving.
Chances are that someone is sitting on an idea that is so crazy it might just work. Give them an opportunity to share. Then help them calm down, ask great questions, and consider how they could best execute.
4. Use failure as learning.
When the going gets tough, our tolerance for failing decreases. And, even in many well-intentioned leaders, it fully disappears. Ironically, it’s when times are tough that we need to fail gracefully, learn, and move on. Compounding setbacks take their toll on an already stressed team and it can easy to stop trying anything new.
5. Stay real.
When the going gets really tough, your team wants the truth. Share what you can and help them to make informed decisions.
Stay excited. Resist excitable—for you and your team.