Four Tips To Keep Your Head on Straight

When was the last time this thought went through your brain, “If he is late one more time, that’s it, I’ll blow my top!”? It’s the classic scenario of how difficult it can sometimes be to remain the leader you want and need to be in the workplace.

However, we can’t escape the brutal facts: 1) we are human; 2) we work with humans; and 3) at some point, emotions fuel our actions. Scientists who study the structure and functions of the mind suggest that two different sides of the brain control different “modes” of thinking – a logical versus emotional approach.

Both functions are essential to keep us balanced, engaged and well…human. And while the emotional aspects of leadership are often the very characteristics that encourage and support relationships in the workplace, they can also create traps when emotions are not kept in check.

Let’s revisit the scenario described in the opening paragraph. As leaders, we can expect to face situations that tend to “push our buttons” in the workplace. The habitual tardy employee, the person who continually sees the glass half empty regardless of the situation and even the subtle trouble maker can get the best of us if we are not proactive when faced with these episodes in the workplace.

Remember, the moment you respond to an employee from an “emotional” perspective is the very moment you are no longer in control of the conversation. We cease to speak or even think logically, if the emotional hemisphere of our brain is directing our actions.

And the moment we are no longer in control means the employee now is – which a very dangerous place to be as a leader. So, what can you do? The key is remaining proactive and keeping your thinking (and actions) logical.

Here are some practical suggestions:

  1. Set expectations early. If you have a certain “hot button” –and we all do-, be fair to your staff and let them know.
  2. Don’t allow infractions to build to the point they annoy you. If an employee is late enough that it hits your radar, address it immediately. Don’t wait for the one day their tardiness sets you off.
  3. Be aware of your “warning signs”. Our bodies will manifest an emotional elevation in some way – tenseness, a rise in blood pressure, lack of patience, etc. Know yourself so that when you sense your body responding you can act on it before it gets out of control.
  4. When you sense your emotions rise, complete a mental activity that forces your brain to switch hemispheres – name the planets, count to 20 backwards, etc. – any thinking activity that forces you to slow down and use a different part of your brain. The major key in being successful in this area of leadership is being aware that at any time, each of us is capable of falling into emotional traps.

Take advantage of these practical tips and don’t become the next victim of leadership.

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