Have you ever been in a situation where a client started shouting at the staff? It could have been at a restaurant, at a car dealership or even at a doctor’s office. When people ‘lose’ it in the real world, we label them as unprofessional. We are less willing to do business with them, work for them, or invest in their business.
When your buttons get pushed for too long, it might trigger you to start fighting. The moment we feel ‘attacked’ most people tend to go into ‘Fight or Flight mode’. The Amygdala (Reptilian) brain has been accessed, and the resulting behaviour is actually beyond their control. What’s scary about this place is that you feel in the same amount of danger as someone who is about to be attacked by a predator.
This is incredibly dangerous territory for your business to be in. This is the place where staff resign, contracts get cancelled, and money gets lost.
Maya Angelou explained it well: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How you make them feel will impact your staff’s customer service, their productivity and ultimately your bottom line.
As a business owner and leader ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you congruent? Is what you say, do and feel aligned? Can your staff trust you and do your actions speak for themselves?
- Do you understand your own trigger points, and can you calm yourself down?
- Do you pick up on the moods in the office?
- How clearly do you communicate your ideas?
- How do you handle conflict?
- Does your staff feel safe in your company? Or do they know you will throw them under the bus when something goes wrong?
Simon Sinek says that a successful leader’s number one goal must be to make their staff feel safe.
It’s time to increase your EQ
EQ, or emotional intelligence, is a key factor in an effective leadership style. To increase your emotional intelligence, start with these steps:
- Get enough sleep, exercise and notice your blood sugar levels.
- Many people will snap if they are dehydrated, tired
- or hungry.
- Set meetings around lunch times, allow yourself to have time to eat and pack healthy meals and snacks for yourself. Your body needs the right fuel to keep going.
- Exercise releases dopamine that will naturally make you feel happier and more energised.
- Make sure that your staff take lunch breaks and have time to eat.
Practice mindfulness and journal
Find time in the morning to do your ‘morning pages’. In Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way she explains how writing morning pages helped lawyers, doctors and screenplay writers to focus and find their creativity and drive again. I have noticed my own emotional states, patterns and triggers come out of my morning pages and this has helped me with my self-awareness tremendously. By cleaning out your thoughts on a page, you feel much calmer because you have decluttered your own thoughts. You’re now in charge and ready for the day.
Find a quiet spot to visualise what you want to get out of the day. Use all of your senses to create the perfect movie of your day, with all the colours, textures, sounds, smells and tastes that can make it real. Imagine yourself being calm, listening well, and being a great leader. Notice your body language in your visualisation, how you are sitting or standing, and even the way your neck curves. I often use this technique for public speaking.
Swimmers in the Olympics use visualisation to train themselves for their big race and find that they swim the race with 90% accuracy in the time they swam it in their minds.
Notice if people are walking on eggshells around you. You may have many unresolved issues or triggers that some neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) or personal development coaching can help dissolve.
How can you help others when they have entered fight or flight mode?
Pay attention to your body language, tone and choice of words. When we communicate, 55% is conveyed through our body language, 38% through our voice and tone and only 7% through what we say.
When someone is in ‘fight or flight mode’ make sure all the elements communicate: ‘I am your friend’, ‘you are safe here’ to the other party.
- Body language: Show open palms — this means ‘I come in peace’.
- Smile, lean forward, show your ear.
- Tone: Have a calm friendly tone in your voice. Stay away from sounding snappy, angry or sarcastic. This will make a person even angrier.
- Word choices: Our minds cannot hear the word ‘Not’. Use words that focus on the outcome that you want, rather than what you don’t want.
- Say something like: It looks like you are not so happy right now. If you said to them: ‘I can see you are frustrated and upset’ you are entrenching their unhappiness. Can you hear the difference between ‘unhappy, not calm’ versus ‘frustrated’ or ‘upset’.
- Be solution orientated: ‘How can we resolve this situation? How can I support you, and how can we fix this?’
Stop assuming and ask questions
Don’t assume what a person is feeling. Ask them using open-ended questions. Make it clear that you are open to feedback and want to learn.
‘Please would you mind telling me what was said, or done that you didn’t like?’
Focus entirely on the person, their body language, their facial expressions, their tone of voice and what they are really saying. Clear your mind from your own thoughts or agenda and focus just on them. Allow a breather or a space after they’ve spoken so you can make sure they have finished speaking. Most people respond to only the first thought of a sentence, never fully listening to what the real message is behind the words.
Cut out distractions: Hide your phone — from yourself and from others.
Communication experts Celeste Headlee and Simon Sinek both say that you should hide your cell phone in a meeting. The research shows that a person will trust you less if they see your cell phone on the table, even if you’re not looking at it.
Empathise, don’t sympathise
Put yourself in the shoes of your client or staff. Try to understand what they are going through. When relating to your staff or a client, it’s crucial to anchor yourself in a positive place, in order not to be pulled down by them.
Offer an outside perspective, but hand them a rope or a ladder to get out themselves; offer them the support and encouragement to get to safety.
Show them the bigger picture
Explain to your team how their puzzle piece fits into the bigger picture. Once we know that the work we do has a greater purpose, and we buy into that purpose, we will do almost anything to support our company to get that outcome. Let them buy into your vision and let them surprise you.
What A Grade 1 Sticker Business Taught Me About Business
It’s the very fundamentals that are frequently overlooked amid ambition and “blue sky thinking” – yet, these remain the most crucial element of any business.
When I was a kid, my father believed that instead of getting pocket money, my brothers and I should learn how to make money. Stickers were the school craze when I was in Grade 1, and we wanted a collection for ourselves, so Dad said if we wanted to buy the stickers, we needed to make the money. So, logically, we started a sticker trading business. Dad gave us the start-up money and took us through the basics of business.
We had a cash float for purchases, and learnt about cost price, mark-up and selling price – very basic accounting. We kept recycling that money, making extra and using it to buy more stickers. Then we worked out that if we increased the mark-up, we’d make a bigger profit – so why not make the mark-up as big as possible? The obvious happened. Our prices were too high, and we lost customers.
Valuable business lesson learnt, we came back down to a mark-up that other kids were willing to pay for.
More lessons to learn
Then people came to us and asked if they could take a sticker today and pay us tomorrow. We saw no reason not to trust them. Guess what? They didn’t pay us back. We had bad debt on our hands. When we sold out of stickers, we had cash-flow issues and couldn’t buy more stock. Dad was there to help us out, though, so we received another capital injection to get back off the ground. And this time, if we did extend credit, we loaded it for the privilege of “buy now, pay later” – another lesson learnt.
We ran a proper ledger for the business, tracking our inventory, sales and profit. Even if our “bank” account was a piggy bank, we had a clear record of what was going on. When I look back on it, none of what I learnt was irrelevant.
Today, I run a leading financial services company with billions of rand running through our bank accounts. Even though the finances of the business are run on a much larger scale, the principles of business – those basic principles that we learnt trading stickers – still power our company. And when I see entrepreneurial ventures failing, or when friends come to me for advice because their business is struggling, it’s almost always because they haven’t got these basics right.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learnt is that if you don’t fully understand how the money is being made, walk away. Whether you are dealing with stickers or financial services, the business principles should be straightforward: money coming in, money going out, and profitability.
Every day, I look at an Excel statement of my company’s forty bank accounts. Every day, I look at the cashflow, and unusual big-ticket items get a note so I know what’s going on. It’s just like that Grade 1 business, only on a bigger scale.
Once the other kids saw the success of our sticker business, they started to want to get in on the action, so they came to market with their own competing products. At first, we were able to innovate as the competition squeezed our margins and started to impact on our profits. Eventually, the whole situation got completely out of hand and the school banned sticker trading for profit.
While I didn’t become a sticker magnate, the lessons I learnt in Grade 1 remain central to every business I am involved with – get the basics right.
How To Handle A Director Who Always Says No
Diverse opinions on a board is a good thing — but is it boosting your business, or hindering growth and decisions?
Do you have that director on your board who always says ‘no’? Regardless of what the issue is, regardless of the context, who raises it or whether or not it is indeed a good idea, their response is either a simple ‘no’ or an elongated perspective on why they disagree? It can even feel at times that they are actively working against the company and against the board. Although they obviously do not see it that way.
Experienced directors will have multiple war stories related to this subject. Aspiring directors should be aware of how to approach these situations when they arise and how to avoid becoming the subject of such stories.
Develop a culture of trust, candour and professionalism
A board’s conduct must be characterised by trust, respect, candour, professionalism, accountability, diligence and commitment. It is the board’s collective responsibility to build this culture and to engage with one another in a productive and effective way.
Dissent should be welcomed when it is constructive and engaging. The idea of being the ‘devil’s advocate’ for the sake of it however, is not the best way to approach this. Dissent should be based on a real belief that the issue has not been fully debated or creates a real challenge for the company going forward.
If you have a director who genuinely believes a different path is right for the company, hear them out and engage in the discussion. In my experience, this often opens up an issue or changes a detail that when taken as part of the whole, improves the decision-making outcome for the board and the company.
Related: Contributing In The Boardroom
Remove the politics from the boardroom
At the heart of this issue is often politics. Politics between directors, who are also shareholders or executives. Politics between the ‘new guard’ and the ‘old.’ Regardless of the genesis, politics really do not have a place in the boardroom and directors who engage in it should be called out by the chairman or another senior director.
In local government I have heard stories of councillors who always vote ‘no,’ so that whenever something goes wrong, they can say “I told you so,” and show the public why they should be re-elected. But that is indeed politics. The boardroom is a very different space. It is private and discussions should be confidential.
Board rotation, a simple solution
While the removal of an errant director should never just be left to resolve itself, there is a simple solution that can support the easy removal of the most difficult directors. The challenge is that it requires forward planning prior to the appointment of any new director.
Directors should only ever be appointed for a predefined term, with automatic rotation at the end of that term. This does not stop you from reappointing a director for a further period. It is, however, always easier to ask someone to consider a further term than it is to tell them that their time has come and they should resign from the board.
Having a predefined term for a director essentially ensures an automatic resignation period. A simple rotation policy for directors is not just good governance, it is a practical step you can take to provide a way out of a sticky relationship.
Ultimately the board as a whole must address issues that detract from the board fulfilling its function as and when they arise. A rotation policy might provide an effective backstop. A high-performance board is one that will tackle the issue head-on.
Read next: How Diversity Drives Board Performance
The Power Pose: Using Body Language To Lead
Use the way you move and stand and interact with others to become a better entrepreneur and leader.
In 2012, the power pose became a global sensation. A Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy hit a staggering 46 million views and became the second most popular Ted Talk in history. The premise was simple – hold a powerful pose and it will not only affect the way you behave but it will even change your body chemistry. Since the talk, the power pose has met with heavy criticism and been labelled as nothing more than pseudoscience. Fortunately for believers, they were proven right. Amy Cuddy released further research this year and it fundamentally proves that this bold stance works exactly how she said it did back in 2012.
The power pose isn’t something that you’d adopt in a meeting or around the office but the science behind it shows how important it is to pay attention to your body language as it can fundamentally change how you are perceived.
Notice how you are noticed
People spend a lot of time reading one another’s body language and the way a person stands or holds their hands or moves can influence how others see them. It’s very natural to judge someone else’s posture, but what about the way they are judging yours? Few people look at how their body language is affecting the way people engage with them.
So, what are you supposed to do?
Fake it until you make it
Want to know how can you adapt to become a better leader? You can fake it.
The power pose isn’t the only way to change your mood. Research has shown that whether you laugh naturally or put on a smile and make yourself laugh, your body still releases the same levels of serotonin.
Whether you are really laughing or just pretending to laugh doesn’t matter – they both have the same impact on your demeanour.
Change how others see you
Think about the pose that every athlete adopts when they win a race or achieve something that’s been physically taxing. They hold their hands outstretched in the air. Even blind athletes hold the same pose. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s a physical manifestation of success.
Now consider the defensive pose. The tight hunched shoulders or inward curve of the spine. These poses immediately make a person look nervous, afraid and lacking in confidence. Like the porcupine curling in on itself for protection.
The same ideas apply to daily business life. While the power pose and the athlete pose are not necessarily a team activity, ensuring that you hold your body upright and with confidence means that you’re conveying an attitude of strength. You come across as confident and capable and positive. You are ready to take on anything and overcome the odds.
By contrast, if you are hunched and withdrawn, you come across as nervous and lacking in confidence and these are not the qualities you want associated with you as an entrepreneur and a leader.
Body language for entrepreneurs
- Shake hands like a hero. The way you shake hands with someone is very significant in terms of establishing equality. Be even, be firm but don’t pull people towards you or turn their hands under your own. This makes them feel like you are trying to establish dominance.
- Create an atmosphere of openness. Maintain eye contact, say hello to people with warmth while holding a strong posture. A warm and open greeting is essential to establishing trust.
- Do the power pose for two minutes before any meeting or interview. This will get those chemicals stirring and make you feel confident and in charge.
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