14 Sep Feeling the heat? Keep the big picture in mind
Leading a business takes passion and commitment. But what happens when that passion spills over the edge of your communication and damages relationships?
If you find that your emotions sometimes dominate the way you communicate with your people, you’re not alone.
I worked with an MD who recently had an unpleasant experience. An ex-employee was spreading malicious rumors about the company (and its leaders) to customers. The MD was furious. Worried about his reputation and that of the organisation, he went into defensive mode. His instinct was to demonstrate how unfair and untrue these stories were. To discredit the ex-employee and ensure that everyone knew it was the employee’s behaviour that had caused any issues, not the business.
It’s a natural instinct. But in this particular situation, a vehement response would only have added fuel to the fire and potentially damaged their reputation further, not to mention breaking psychological safety with the rest of the team.
If you find yourself in a heated moment, I suggest using an adaption of the powerful method created by Dr.Steve Peters in The Chimp Paradox.
- Recognise it’s happening – you need to recognise that you’re having a strong emotional reaction to a situation and you’re about communicate that emotion (eg. shouting at an employee, making a sarcastic comment, blaming the other person). It’s ok to feel that emotion. Acknowledge it (hello anger!) and then decide you want to ‘change’ that state.
- Hit the Pause Button slow down your thinking. Hit a metaphorical ‘Pause Button’ – take a deep breath, sip of water, slow down, escape if you can…take time to respond.
- Helicopter – imagine you’re hovering about the situation in a helicopter. Look down and get some perspective. Ask yourself ‘how important is this situation to the rest of my week/month/life’. Ask yourself, what is my big picture here? What do I want to achieve overall? What are the potential consequences of my initial reaction?
In my previous example, the MD’s ‘bigger picture’ was to maintain his relationships with his clients, to demonstrate that we wasn’t going to discuss personal matters publicly, and to cool down the situation as much as possible. A simple communication acknowledging that the individual had left the business, thanking them for their contribution, and giving customers a method to ask any questions did the trick. Far better than an impassioned response about the defects of the employee.
So…helicopter! Take a breath, get perspective. Your responses have long shadows. Don’t be haunted by a heated response you later regret.
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