“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in life. Most of them never happened.” – Mark Twain
A few weeks ago in this space (here, actually) we talked about the idea of resilience. In our current world of craziness, the word resilience is used almost interchangeably with mental health. Having had the opportunity to visit with dozens of leaders since that time, I think it’s a topic worth revisiting.
As leaders, we have to bounce back when the world knocks us down. For one thing, everybody in the organization is watching us. If we can’t deal with adversity, no one else will either. That adversity can and will take a lot of different forms – it won’t always be a global pandemic. Regardless of the version of adversity we’re currently dealing with, our resilience as leaders is a huge factor in our success and that of our organizations.
There are any number of things that we can do to improve our resilience, but a couple of conversations in the past few days bring up one in particular. It’s the idea of managing our emotions. That maybe sounds kind of touchy-feely, and it is. Too bad – you’re a human, and you’re leading humans, so you better be able to deal with that kind of stuff.
When I talk about managing emotions, I’m talking about how we handle that initial knockdown we get from the world. Something – anything – happens, and we have an initial, emotional reaction. This happens every day, whether you’re aware of it or not. When something happens that bothers you, and your initial reaction is to get upset, or angry, or stressed, what do you do next?
Sometimes that initial reaction can linger. I can speak from personal experience that sometimes something will happen that gets under my skin and I’m not right for days afterwards. At some point, I recognize what’s happening and pull myself out of it. But in the meantime I’ve wasted days’ worth of energy and been temporarily absent as a leader. It’s an all too common experience for most people.
The key point here is this: How long does that initial adversity keep you down? Are you self-aware enough to recognize your emotional reaction and adjust, and pull yourself out of it? Or does it knock you down for days? As a leader, you have to be able to manage those emotions. You can’t necessarily control the initial reaction, but you absolutely can control what comes next and how fast it gets there.
Make a note this week that says “Manage my emotions” and put it on your desk where you can see it easily. Be aware of the times that your initial reaction to something seems to be getting the better of you, and fight through it. Your team needs you now, not three days from now. Work through how you feel and be present.