Manage your emotions when you make leadership decisions

How to Manage Your Emotions When You Make Leadership Decisions

Do you struggle to manage your emotions? You’re not alone.

We were speaking to an international gathering of leaders from across Europe when a young man approached the microphone and asked: “How, as a leader, do you keep your personal feelings from clouding your decision making?”

It’s a brave question because it’s vulnerable. He recognized the power of his emotions and their power to limit his leadership.

Can you relate? Have you ever made a poor leadership decision because you were scared? Worried what people would think? Didn’t want to be embarrassed?

I know I have.

Manage Your Emotions – Don’t Eliminate Them

Let’s be real: you can’t separate your personal feelings from your decision-making – nor should you.

For example, compassion is a personal feeling and I hope that you always lead and make decisions with compassion for your team and your customers.

We need leaders to do the work machines can’t do. That includes human decisions that account for more than what’s on the spreadsheet. Please, don’t lose your humanity.

That said, your feelings can also prevent you from making healthy leadership decisions.

When that happens, it’s often because:

A) You’re hurt (eg: an employee disrespected you and your first impulse is to act from anger)

or

B) You’re trying to avoid pain (eg: the pain of embarrassment or rejection).

How to Manage Your Emotions With Perspective

In the first scenario, when you’re hurt by a disrespectful employee, the key to manage your emotions is to understand that it’s not about you. They likely did not wake up that morning wondering “How can I really hurt my boss today?”

It’s more likely that they are insecure, in a poor fit, or there is some other reason that caused the behavior. You may not know why they did what they did, but when you take a moment to de-personalize their behavior and remember that it’s not about you, that they’re dealing with their own reality, it will help calm your flight or fight emotions.

Then you can focus on your job: to help get them back on track – or into a better fit.

Frame Your Problems

In the second scenario, where you’re facing pain like the risk of embarrassment or rejection, there are two techniques that can help you get perspective.

First, ask yourself which set of problems you want to have. There’s no problem-free scenario. Leadership is a conscious choice to embrace problems and to solve them.

Leadership: It’s not IF problems, but WHICH problems.

When you remind yourself that you have a choice, you prevent victim thinking from setting in. eg: “Do I want the problem of being disliked (that comes with removing a poor performer) or do I want the problem of a team performing poorly (that comes with allowing a poor performer to stay)?

You’re not a victim. You have a choice to make. Framing your choices gives you power and you’re less likely to want to hide from the pain.

Connect to What Matters Most

The second way to face emotional pain is to reconnect with your leadership values.

Eg: “I want the team to grow and succeed” or “I value results and relationships.”

Then ask a “How can I…” question to get you aligned with what you value.

Eg: “How can I do what is in the best interest of the team?” or “How can I focus on results and relationships in this situation?”

Asking a good “How can I…” question re-engages the thinking part of your brain and relaxes the powerful emotions that can push you in a different direction.

Your Turn

Effective leaders channel their emotions into healthy relationships with their team while putting aside their limited self-interests in favor of what will be best for the team in the long run.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts or best technique to prevent emotions from limiting your leadership.

5 Steps To Managing Emotions At Work

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
~ Daniel Goleman

A subscriber writes:

 I have found that because I’m passionate, I tend to get emotional. I look at things objectively, however at times when I am having a much-needed conversation my emotions get to me.”

Emotions get funky and screw everything up. It’s not just the “distressing” emotions. Joy, excitement, and passion easily overwhelm your cause too. Emotional extremes of either breed raise eyebrows and damage credibility. Listen well to your emotions and hear what they have to say. Channel that energy to serve your cause.

5 Steps to Channeling Emotions

Don’t lose that leading feeling. Use it to inspire your leadership:

  1. Time Out – Back away from the scene. Let it steep. Your heart is screaming, “say something now.” “This is urgent.” “I must speak my truth.” Most moments of truth last more than a moment. You will be more effective with a deliberate plan.
  2. Name That Emotion – Naming your feeling helps you understand it. Jealous, scared, pissed off, hurt, or some combination. Sit with this a minute. Write it down.
  3. Ask Why – The old 5 Why trick is very useful here: (1) Why am I so excited? “It will help the customer”, (2) Why is that important: “their lives will be improved”, “We will win JD Powers”, “My boss will be happy.” Even the second “why” begins to uncover root cause. Go for 5 whys. Be honest. Ask a mentor or coach for help.
  4. Seek To Understand – Really listen to alternative point of views. Ask open-ended “what” and “why questions.” The picture is always bigger than it appears.
  5. Now Speak Your Truth – Write down your top 3 points. Read them aloud. Envision conversation. Breathe, don’t blurt. Use a calm tone of voice. Don’t feel compelled to handle it in one shot (see #1 back away as needed). You’ll gain respect with each well- handled encounter. The next one will be easier.

Join our growing leadership community. Enter your email address to subscribe. Have a leadership challenge you want to discuss? Send me an email at letsgrowleaders@gmail.com.

On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.