Jane Walters was legendary. A 70-year-old woman with a modest physical presence, she demonstrated leadership skills that would put most of us to shame. Jane was the principal
of Grizzlies Academy, a Memphis school focused on inner city high school students who were two years behind grade level. Each year new students gathered for orientation on the first day of school and chaos erupted – they were teenagers! Without blinking an eye, Jane composed herself and walked confidently to the front. Then she calmly turned to face the group, looked at them with steely eyes, and raised her hand until everyone in the room grew quiet. It was mesmerizing to watch.
Jane demonstrated as well as anyone “grace under pressure” and its power to uplift and inspire. At Team Trek we call this emotional self-control, one of the 12 Behaviors of an Actively Engaged Person.
Now is the perfect time to develop this quality ourselves. During the current pandemic, we have all been pushed out of our comfort zone, and this discomfort tends to produce strong emotions like fear and anger. As you navigate today’s challenges, here are a few principles to consider.
Principle #1 – I can't always control my emotions, but I can choose whether my emotions control me.
Emotions are a normal part of life. The goal of emotional self-control is not to eliminate emotions. When something unexpected or stressful happens, there is always a burst of emotion. What happens next is what matters most.
Outbursts of anger are a common reason for derailed careers. They also damage personal relationships. The core problem is always the same – we blame our lack of emotional control on everyone else. The starting point for developing emotional self-control is 100% Responsibility. I am 100% Responsible for how I choose to respond to everything that happens to me. Everyone else is 0% responsible for how I choose to respond. Only when we take full responsibility for our own emotions and subsequent actions can we begin to make positive changes in our habits and how we interact with others.
Principle #2 – Right thinking produces right behaviors.
The best way to manage emotions is to control your thinking. Fear, anger and other strong emotions tend to produce negative thoughts that lead to negative words and actions. When your emotions are running hot, take a time-out before responding. This is especially true when you are about to send an email or text message!
Take deep breaths. Share your thoughts and emotions confidentially with a trusted confidant. Say a prayer. Write down what you are thinking. You may be surprised by how negative your thoughts are! Exchange the negative and destructive thoughts with thinking that gets you focused on what you can control instead of stressing about what you can’t control.
Principle #3 – Apologize and take 100% Responsibility to restore relationships.
Recognize that as an imperfect human being, you have made mistakes and you will make mistakes again. If you lose your emotional self-control, take responsibility for your actions, apologize, forgive yourself, learn from your mistake, apply what you have learned and move on. This practice will sustain your relationships with others and enable you to make steady progress in managing your emotions.
Principle #4 – Attitude reflects leadership.
Some of you may remember this line from the movie Remember the Titans. It is one of the most powerful leadership principles we teach at Team Trek. When you allow yourself to be controlled by strong emotions and negativity, others will tend to be negative as well. Attitude is contagious. During our current crisis, you will likely need to regularly monitor your emotions and attitude. Stay humble and ask others to give you feedback. Start your day with quiet time to gain discipline over your thoughts. Like Jane Walters with her students, you have the opportunity every minute of every day, both at work and at home, to inspire those around you to have an attitude that leads your team to thrive in these difficult times.
Team Trek is a world-class provider of leadership training, team building, coaching and culture programs. Go to www.teamtrek.com/subscribe to receive the next Journal in your inbox.