One of the more (if not the most!) challenging aspects of leadership, especially for any new folks on the job, is the roller coaster of emotions you can collect in a single day, from heights of significant achievements to the abyss of personal improvement plans. From rightfully grumpy stakeholders due to the late project to finally opened up (yay!) team member, who is finally telling their life story, but the story turns out to be horror-movie-worthy. You get the idea. How to survive this?
In her famous book “Radical Candor,” Kim Scott says that the most important thing for the leader to do is to stay centered. In other words, find such a balance in your life that keeps you operational and sane. It’s very different for everybody, and it’s not about work, it’s about the rest of our time. So I find this invitation very meaningful and practical. Getting a good night’s sleep, having enough time with your family, exercise, a long walk, a swim, a cup of coffee alone, you name it - all those routines that help you - could and should be considered part of the preparation for the work. Part of the preparation is crucial to make you successful not tomorrow but in the long run.
One of the techniques during too-heated conversations is to force a break for the situation to cool down and breathe in some fresh air. However, too rarely this advice flows towards the manager or leader of that conversation. So yes, it’s OK to call for a break if you feel you can’t handle it with a cool head. You don’t have to overexplain. It can be just a good excuse under the bathroom break or getting a cup of water. Bottom line: care about yourself as you care about others, and take breaks if you need them.
Another tip about breaks: no potentially emotionally charged back-to-back conversations! Instead, take at least 30 minutes to wind down.
Things often get out of hand because at least one party is taking whatever is discussed too personally. Could it be that you are this person? If possible, take a step back and look at the situation from the 10,000 feet view: move from tactical to strategic thinking. Then, invite other participants to do the same.
If you have to, and it could keep your head cooler, remind yourself a little bit cynical truth: your job is not your entire life. It is vital, but it’s not everything. If you’d have to resolve this problem for a person you don’t know, what would you do in the company you don’t work for?
Way too often, we’re all eager just to move on and try to forget unpleasant events. Our psychology is extremely good at this. But as unpleasant as it is, don’t pass on a chance to retrospect on it, and work with your manager/mentor on learning from it as much as possible. It is the fastest way to get more resilient to such turbulences at work and in your life in general. Consult a professional mental health specialist immediately if stress at work affects your well-being outside of work.
One of the Many
It’s normal sometimes to feel overwhelmed by emotions in the management role, especially if you’re new to this job. But, you’re not a loser, nor alone. With time and experience, this happens less and less often, and everyone finds their way to deal with those rare instances. You will do, too.