Let me start with a real-life example I came across a few weeks ago. The CEO of a major business received an unwelcome update from the Head of one of his business-services teams. His reaction was not pretty. Picture wild gesticulating, raised voice, spittle flying. Turning his anger into a consequence for said team, punitive measures were threatened if his wish wasn’t followed by a certain deadline.
Anyone who has worked in a business leadership position in the last 20 years can predict the reaction in said team. Job satisfaction, motivation and productivity instantly dropped low, staff retention suffered, consequently the impact on the wider business was decidedly negative. In short, the CEO’s reaction harmed his own business.
If this situation sounds similar to you, it may be high-time to change the way you process and act on unwelcome events before you do serious damage to your reputation within the business. How can said example be avoided?
First of all, try to increase your awareness of your emotions and your reaction when the red mist descends. Do not physically give in to the anger, keep your voice calm and, if necessary, conclude the meeting swiftly. By doing this, you effectively regulate the impact of your emotion on the other person. It is often impossible to gauge how much your behaviour impacts your reputation with others, so be careful how much you deviate from “business as usual”. After that, allow yourself enough time to calmly assess the situation and to form a plan that is driven by solving the problem, rather than by confronting its cause.
Of course, your emotions shouldn’t be bottled up either. So, secondly, “blow off steam” to someone you trust outside of the business. Rant to your spouse or best friend about the issue itself - anonymised, in a safe and confidential space and, ideally, in an appropriate volume.
Thirdly, seek out the cause of your anger. If this cause is a person, I don’t mean after hours on a deserted car park with your fists raised. Instead, sit them down for a cup of coffee and calmly explain how their actions cause you inconvenience or problems. Focus on their behaviour, rather than on them personally. If the cause is the behaviour or underperformance of a team, this can be done in a group session or conference call. It should happen fairly promptly after the event but do allow enough time for yourself to calm down, analyse and think rationally.
Ideally, anger can be a useful tool when it is recognised and channelled correctly. It is a great impetus to draw learnings from, which in turn improve your decision-making and communication processes. In essence, anger is the pain experienced when touching a hot iron, teaching us not to touch it again. Proceed, then, by not touching the hot iron again – rather than by throwing the whole thing away.
Such self-awareness and emotions-management is one of several leadership traits assessed and analysed in 6 Group’s Leadership Assessment & Coaching capacity. It can prove particularly useful in supporting major global businesses in their reorganisation and/or succession strategy – most recently for the US branch of a major investment bank.
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