In a 360-feedback interview a team member described his leader as being inconsiderate and unreasonable. He went on to say that when his leader was overwhelmed and overstressed, the leader had a “very short fuse”.
Further investigations with other team members told a similar story: They felt devalued and disrespected because their leader was sometimes impatient and emotional.
And this behaviour showed up when the leader was feeling overwhelmed and overstressed because of his workload.
This Emotional Reaction Is Costly
For your team members to have their heart in what they’re doing, for them to give discretionary effort, you need to drop your meltdowns.
As well, you don’t want the “Joined because of the organisation, left because of my leader” syndrome to kick in.
Let’s take a look at what can happen when you feel overwhelmed and overstressed…
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and overstressed, it’s this trigger-happy amygdala that has you being impatient and emotional with team members.
Provided a sabre-toothed tiger isn’t chasing you, as a leader it’s essential that you control this impulsive, unconscious, emotional reaction!
How Your Brain Works: Amygdala 101
You jump when there’s a loud noise. You duck if, out of the corner of your eye, you see something coming towards you. What’s happening to spark these swift reactions?
It’s your trusty amygdala, the primitive, impulsive part of your brain instantly kicking in with a flight-or-fight reaction.
This is useful if you’re a caveman startled by a sabre-tooth tiger. You’d need this immediate flight-or-fight mechanism to survive.
But because, these days, you rarely experience the physical threats that confronted cave men, you’re saddled with a couple of amygdala related challenges:
- It not only kicks-in when it perceives a physiological emergency—but also with a perceived psychological threat.
- So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed and overstressed, your amygdala is on high alert. It notices your fear and wants to protect you. But without something physical to confront, what the amygdala generates instead is a “vigorous” emotional reaction.
Can You Stop Your Amygdala From Taking Over?
Let’s dig in here. It’s crucial that we get this handled…Imagine you’re feeling:
- Incapable of developing an expected whiz-bang new strategy.
- Incompetent about persuading your peer about a mission-critical situation.
- Threatened that you’ll be called to account about your budgets.
When you’re feeling this sort of pressure, it’s crucial that you quickly arrest the trigger—a (conscious or unconscious) belief that “I can’t handle this. I’m not good enough.”
How can you arrest it?
It does take some work—and it’s essential that you manage this if you’re to be a highly valued and respected leader.
Here’s what I think is your best shot…
“I’m OK, You’re OK”
It’s essential that, when you feel impatient and emotional, you give yourself time for your neo-cortex, the rational thinking part of your brain, to step in.
While your other-than-conscious belief may be that “I’m not good enough to handle this”, your rational-thinking neo-cortex is capable of knowing that “you’re OK and they’re OK” too.
So your mantra, which you’ll practise until it becomes your unconscious reaction to any fearful, psychological moment, is: “I’m OK and you’re OK”.
Emotionally intelligent leaders have created a habit of pausing to arrest their emotional reaction—even when they’re feeling overwhelmed and overstressed.
They stop. They know that “I’m OK, and you’re OK”.
Your Call to Action
When you’re feeling overwhelmed and overstressed, don’t allow your amygdala to take over.
Habituate putting a break on any emotional reaction: Stop—and mentally declare, “I’m OK and you’re OK”. Allow your rational neo-cortex to take charge.
For support with this and other leadership behaviours, email me to arrange a complimentary chat about your needs and what options are available.
“Carolyn’s coaching has given me the tools and self-confidence to tackle opportunities that
I would have run away from before. I’m a lot more assertive. I’m a lot calmer with others.
I’m a lot more aware of people’s feelings. (She has) a well-structured program with
definite outcomes for the business and for the individual too.”
— Production Manager, global manufacturing company
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Carolyn Stevens has worked with leaders for more than 25-years—hundreds of them.
She’s supported leader after leader (including those who previously struggled to confront the difficult, let alone persuasively deal with the it) flourish—and become confident, courageous and impressively influential.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She draws on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit the situation.