Have you ever had a leadership moment where you felt like everything was falling apart? Like the pace of the demands from your customers and direct reports were piling up so fast that you just knew you were going to let someone down? These moments require leaders to exhibit great composure so that their teams can stay calm and remain confident in the leader’s ability to get them through the situation. In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the skills you can use to maintain your composure as a leader and manage your team through adversity.
Employees are always watching their leader’s actions, behavior, relationships, and overall demeanor. During the most difficult of times, leaders must maintain a positive mental attitude and manage a narrative that keeps their employees inspired and hopeful. This is where your leadership experience and resolve can shine – by staying strong, smiling often, and authentically exhibiting compassion. Leaders set the tone for the organization they serve. A positive attitude can neutralize chaos and allow a leader to course-correct through any negativity.
Fundamental Skills for Reminding Composed as a Leader
1. Watch Your Words
Don’t allow your emotions to cause you to say something you will regret. Something you say in a moment can cause damage you will have to spend days, or even weeks or months repairing. Your leadership brand is too important! If you’re not sure what to say, focus on asking questions instead of using statements. When you do speak, avoid sarcasm and being passive-aggressive, and speak slowly and confidently. Learning to do this automatically will take time and some trial and error, but it is worth it!
Q: Describe a time when someone spoke to you without thinking. Do you remember what they said? How did it affect you? What helps you control your words when you are upset?
2. Don’t take things Personally
Your team should share mutual respect with you, but that does not mean they will agree with every decision you make. When your team, or an individual on your team, challenges you or disagrees with your decision, don’t take their opinion personally! Remembering that it’s not personal will take the emotion out of the situation and help you keep your computer as you respond and seek to restore unity and peace on your team.
3. Expect Success
It takes just as much energy to think about failing as it does to think about winning. I see many leaders struggle with their mindset in this area. Instead of seeing setbacks and an opportunity for growth or success, they anticipate failure. Change your mindset! Even if you must overcome an obstacle, you can succeed.
Q: Do you feel uncomfortable to expect success? Why or why not?
4. Focus on Facts
Facts should dictate your decisions, not feelings. Your feelings about your team, business, procedures, product, and customers could change at any time. The data, however, will show you what you need to do. If you don’t have data to support your actions, observe, listen, and collect data. When you act based on your feelings, your team will notice, and their anxiety will increase.
5. Focus On What Did Go Well
Even when you fail, you can find things to celebrate. You can celebrate the things that went well and the growth you experienced through failure. Move forward by focusing on these things. When you carry this mindset, you are building your future composure muscles.
6. Be Willing to Listen and Remain Vulnerable
Leaders who effectively lead their teams through problem-solving sessions are patient, active listeners, and genuinely compassionate. They realize that navigating a challenge or setback can be frustrating and disappointing and are vulnerable about how the problem is affecting them. They give their team hope that the problems will soon be solved.
Q: Have you ever worked for a vulnerable leader? Not vulnerable? How did their level of vulnerability affect how much you trusted them? What was it like working with them during a conflict or obstacle? Which did you prefer? Why?
When was the last time you were vulnerable with your team? Commit to being vulnerable with your team, or someone from your team, by this time next week. Remember that vulnerability doesn’t mean you have to share everything you are going through. Vulnerability is achieved by being honest about how you are feeling about a specific topic. For example, if your team is short an employee and everyone has been trying to fill the gaps until a replacement can be hired, you can share how you felt about losing that employee. Then, ask questions and allow your team members to share how they are feeling. Once you know how everyone is processing the situation, you can gain valuable insights into how to lead them through it.
One great mindset shift you can make is to realize that everything you are going through can be a blessing. Instead of seeing your challenge as a negative that is happening “to” you, decide to see it as something that is happening “for” you. Write down the things you feel are happening “to” you on one half of a sheet of paper. On the other side, write down how they can work “for” you. What benefits of this challenge will you see in a week, month, or year?
Which of these skills do you think you need to improve on? Choose one and spend 5 minutes at the end of every workday reflecting on how you did. Did you speak when you were angry? Did you pretend like everything was okay when it wasn’t? Journal why you responded the way you did and what you can do differently next time. The more self-aware you are, the better you will become at keeping your leadership composure.