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When to Lose Your Cool and When to Keep It

The ins and outs of when to get mad – and when to breathe deeply, calm down, and be a leader.

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Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hang on

Stopstopstopstopstopstop. Before you freak out, before you lose your mind, before you go over there and yell at Mindy or Steve or Mindy and Steve… calm down and ask yourself a few questions.

Is it worth the risk to your reputation, to company morale? Is it worth having to follow through on your threats? Is it worth raising the volume? Because the next time you’re going to have to be even louder to make your point. Is it worth being so loud? Is it worth freaking people out?

Also: Is it worth the energy required to yell, to slam your fist? Is it worth the high blood pressure? The twitch in your eyelid? The twitch in both eyelids? The general bluster?

If you’ve decided that it’s worth the risk and it’s worth the energy, then let’s figure out how to do it. Let’s figure out how to be restrained and thoughtful about something that is mostly unrestrained and thoughtless.

Although anger is the most powerful impulse we have, it’s the one we think about the least – if we think about it too much, it ceases to be anger – but nothing should be more considered. With anger we can change the way people work. We can motivate them.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: Your Office Guide to Swearing At Work

We can make them realise they’ve caused offence. Also, we can scare them. We can make them curse us to their spouses. We can make them burn us in effigy. We can make them cry. Anger is a tricky, effective, terrifying thing – which is why it requires etiquette.

How to Be Angry

First, a conversation all of us should have with a psychologist before we act on
our rage.

All Of Us: We’re Pissed

Michael McCloskey, associate professor of psychology at Temple University, who studies aggressive and self-aggressive behaviour: In the heat of the moment, driven, competitive people can be quick to assume someone else’s action is negative or that they’re trying to get one over on them.

AOU: Oh, are we pissed

Michael McCloskey: Before you act on that, give yourself time to ask yourself: Is that the real reason, or are there any other reasons?

AOU: We’re listening.

MM: In the heat of the moment, especially when you’re angry, you’re going to think the fact that you’re angry is evidence that you’re right. So if an employee didn’t get something done, and you think it’s because they’re lazy and don’t care about their job or the business, you take your anger as evidence of being right. But if you stop, give yourself a moment and think about the hundred other possible reasons for it before you go in there screaming and yelling, you might find out the person’s kid was sick.

AOU: Kids, doc? We wanted to be myopic and now you’re making us look at things with a wider frame. You’re making us be thoughtful.

MM: … or something else happened, and this was someone who usually does a good job. You want to work with the person, versus coming down on them like a ton of bricks and losing the loyalty you’ve built up.

AOU: Ton of bricks. Damn.

MM: Humans have a wonderful ability to habituate to whatever we have to deal with. So what happens is that after a while, you have to scream more and louder and go to more extremes to get the same results. And then when you have to go to more extremes, you’re talking about physical stuff, and that’s how you get yourself fired or sued.

AOU: Yeah, we need to relax.

MM: Anger is a defence mechanism, a cue to let us know that our boundaries have been violated – a wake-up call. How we respond to that wake-up call can be either constructive or destructive.

How to be Constructive

Don’t act immediately. (Obviously.) Count to ten. Count to 20. Or don’t count – you’re not an eight-year-old. Maybe just sit there awkwardly staring at whoever is pissing you off.

If you want to blow up, you can always do it later, but you can’t undo it once you’ve done it. Displaying anger is like being given a bunch of data, picking out a random statistic and acting on whatever it suggests.

“If you stop and think about it, you might find there were other things that actually had you upset beforehand, and this is just the lowest-hanging fruit in terms of what to get upset about,” McCloskey says. The etiquette of anger is in the restraint. The etiquette is in being quiet. The etiquette is in not doing anything.

The etiquette is in the gathering of information, in listening, in not acting.

There are two currencies of business: Money and information. By not acting you maintain your dignity and continue gathering key information that can help you make an informed decision – including the decision to get angry or not.

Your anger will be implied anyway. And implied anger is the most effective anger – it forces the other party to temporarily guess at your feelings. They might end up apologising and making corrections before you’ve allowed yourself to be vulnerable. (That’s the thing about anger – it makes you powerful and vulnerable at the same time.)

As long as you’re not reacting, you’re controlling information. You are maintaining a dignified position. When it comes to anger, the etiquette is saving your ass – and possibly a relationship. Maybe even your business.

We-recommend-tickRecommended: How to Deal With Difficult People

Key Technical Matters

  • Silence! … Not them. You.
  • The only thing more terrifying than getting yelled at by a superior is being calmly asked to change your behaviour. Now that’s scary.
  • Being out of control is scary at first but comical later on.
  • Remember: If you lose control, you will be mocked at a gathering of those you’ve yelled at. You will be ridiculed. Your mental state will be pondered.
  • A flash of anger is like a comet: Long, long tail.
  • Think of yourself as a football team. Things aren’t going well? Timeout.
  • Counting to ten works. It’s a little infantilising, but it works.
  • Counting to 20 works, too. Takes longer, but it works.
  • Counting to 30 is a little too much.
  • Think of anger as a cue – not that someone has done something wrong, but that you have been hurt, that your boundaries have been violated, that this is the last in a long series of events that have upset you.
  • Thinking about what those things might be is a good way to spend those ten, 20 or 30 seconds.

 

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Leading

How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee

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“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

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What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous

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When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

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Leading

All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton

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There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

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