How well do you manage your emotions in stressful situations?
“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” Daniel Goleman
We have recently has seen interesting examples of managers/coaches losing control at the side of the pitch and being sent to the stands. In England we were treated to Alan Pardew pushing a Hull City player “away with his head”, attempting to head butt him to you and me, and in Spain at the Madrid derby German Burgos, the Atletico Madrid assistant coach, had to be physically restrained by other members of the coaching staff from further intimidation of the referee, who had upset him with the decision to book one of the Atletico players for diving.
These are only examples from this season; last season in Germany we had Jurgen Klopp squaring up to the assistant referee when he disagreed with the decision to allow a goal by the opposition and there are many more incidents that no doubt spring to mind. Football is clearly an emotional sport with heavy pressure placed on the manager and players to achieve success, but the only incident in the last few seasons that has led to a manager being sacked for their behaviour was when Fiorentina coach Delio Rossi attacked his own player in the dugout during a game.
The behaviour of the Leaders in an organisation sets the tone for the culture and values for others to follow. Research has shown that the biggest single influence on employee engagement is an individual’s direct line manager, so an awareness of the impact you can have with your actions is crucial. Successful Leaders know how to keep their emotions in check, they tend to be consistent in their behaviour, calm under pressure with those around them confident in the reaction they will receive when they speak to them.
So what steps can we take to help us manage our emotions?
1) Self-reflection. Self-reflection is the first stage: what is it that you are modelling with your current behaviour? What impact are you having? Is it the impact you want to have?
2) Learn to respond instead of react. Count to ten and consider what just happened instead of producing an instant emotional reaction to the new situation. By taking a few seconds to pause and consider, you give yourself time to calm down and as a result you are more likely to produce a better and more objective response.
3) Focus on what you can control. The first thing you can control is the way you think about a situation. If you can learn to control your thoughts you can then control your emotional reaction to a stressful situation. Some things will have already happened or will be beyond your control. You can only control what you do now, so you need to let go of the other stuff and focus your mind on what you can influence. This will empower you as you will feel in control and as a result your level of stress and frustration will dissipate.
4) Identify what is important now. When you are faced with a challenging situation, you need to prioritise what your first steps are. For example, when Alan Pardew was pushed by the Hull City player who was chasing the ball to take a throw in, if he’d taken a few seconds to consider his team were winning 3-1 he might have taken the view that the push by the Hull player wasn’t that big a deal and leave it for the referee to deal with. Laughing at the player and the incident would have avoided huge embarrassment and allegedly a £100,000 fine from his club. Instead people too often freak out over issues that aren’t that important in the overall scheme of things.
5) Be conscious that you can handle anything. Whatever challenges you are facing that may generate stress can be dealt with if you take the time to objectively consider your options. You might need help and support to manage some situations but focussing on what you can control will help identify potential courses of action. Friedrich Nietzsche famously said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, and if we take this view with the challenges we face we will find the best way to respond.
6) Change the meaning you give to “negative” events. The way we perceive situations is critical to how we choose to respond to them. If we take the Alan Pardew incident again he reacted to the Hull player pushing him as an act of aggression towards him and responded accordingly. If he had taken the view that the player was simply trying to get on with the game as his team was losing it might well have provoked different reaction. As Wayne Dwyer said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Practising points 1-6 above can help change your perspective and lead to you seeking out the opportunities in difficult situations in terms of the lessons you can learn, skills you can develop, and new motivation you can gain. The more you practise the easier it becomes to manage your emotional reactions to situations. It is a skill that successful Leaders have mastered and one you can master too.
Questions for you to consider:
What kind of situations tend to produce an emotional/irrational reaction from you?
What kind of situations do you respond to in a considered and objective fashion?
What techniques do you use in the latter that you could adapt to use in the former situations?