As a leader, much of what you do is relativelyforgettable. I don’t mean to insult, but your routine actions on routine daysare experienced by your team as, well, routine.
But for non-routine days — the days when you areunder the gun, feeling the heat, or pushed to your limits — how you respondunder the pressure makes an indelible impression on the people around you. Researchshows that your temperament in these crucial moments has a tremendous impact onyour team’s performance.
When the hammer comes down, are you calm,collected, candid, curious, direct, and willing to listen? That would be ideal,wouldn’t it? Or would your team describe you as upset, angry, closed-minded,rejecting, or even devious?
· 53% of leaders are more closed-mindedand controlling than open and curious.
· 45% are more upset and emotional thancalm and in control.
· 45% ignore or reject rather thanlisten or seek to understand.
· 43% are angrier and more heated thancool and collected.
· 37% avoid or sidestep rather than bedirect and unambiguous.
· 30% are more devious and deceitfulthan candid and honest.
And while you can be great 95 percent of time, thenon-routine behaviour leaves a lasting impression. The five percent of momentswhen stakes are high, and the heat is on —reveals the truth about who you reallyare.
The research found that when leaders buckle underpressure, it doesn’t just hurt their influence, it also hurts their teams.Respondents said that when their leader clams up or blows up under pressure,their team members have lower morale; are more likely to miss deadlines,budgets, and quality standards; and act in ways that drive customers away.
When leaders fail to practice effective dialogue understress, their team members are more likely to consider leaving their job thanteams managed by someone who can stay in dialogue when stressed. Team membersare also more likely to shut down and stop participating, less likely to goabove and beyond in their responsibilities, more likely to be frustrated andangry, and more likely to complain.
Let’s walk through an example to see how a fewsimple skills can help a leader be at their best even when the pressure is on.
· Determine what you really want.
Focus on a positive destination like “Showing mybest self” or “Making sure the team understands my appreciation for thesacrifice I’m going to ask them to make,” for example.
· Challenge yourstory.
The best leaders challenge their stories. So youcould ask, “Why might a rational, reasonable, and decent person make themistake that she made?” and “What role did I have in allowing her mistake to gounnoticed and uncorrected?” These questions move us from angry judge to curiousproblem solver, and make us far more effective as leaders.
· Start withfacts.
When we’re angry, we lead with our emotions,instead of with the facts. Skilled leaders tamp down the temptation to levelaccusations, and gather the facts. Specifically, focus on what you expected:the commitments, standards, policies, or targets that were missed. Then, addwhat you observed: the specific actions with dates, times, places, andcircumstances as necessary. Don’t add your conclusions, opinions, or judgments.Because facts are neutral and verifiable, they become the common ground forproblem solving.
When you’re under pressure with your job orreputation on the line, how do you light a fire under your team without showingthem your anger? Can you get your team to put in the overtime you’ll need fromthem without threatening them? The short answer is yes. The study showed thatteams work harder and more effectively if a boss doesn’t lose their temper withthem. So you don’t have to threaten. Share your positive intent by sayingsomething like, “This is not about blaming, it’s about fixing. I want us to focuson how we can solve our immediate problem. Then we can circle back to find waysto prevent it from happening again.” By framing your intent, you get your teamfocused on what they need to do, and not on how they are being mistreated.
When the heat turns up at work, most of us aren’tat our best. If you’ve lost your temper in the past, be easy on yourself. Youmay do it again. But don’t be discouraged – or complacent. Ask yourself, “Whenit matters most, who am I?” While it isn’t easy to step up to your best selfunder pressure, it is incredibly important. These are defining moments for youand for your team.
AdaptedHBR Dec 2018 Maxfield & Hale