Friday, April 8, 2011

Don’t Let Them See You Sweat


Executive Summary:
We are naturally drawn to leaders who display an ability to address matters of great concern with little emotion or stress.  Harness the ability to act calmly and confidently in a crisis and your teams, your peers, and your leaders will all come to recognize your cool under fire and rely upon you as a crucial leader.

The Rest of the Story:
A leadership quality that I observed in one of my mentors a long time ago, and have endeavored to replicate since, is an unflappable calm when the pressure gets turned up.  It struck me in particular because not only were those whom he led receptive and ready to follow his lead, but his peers also responded quickly to his suggestions and lead.

By contrast, I once worked with a leader who prided himself on his nickname, “Griz.”  When things went wrong around this guy, people wanted to be everywhere else.  I never understood why that was something to take pride in.

When I look at a list of those leaders from whom I most study and learn (I don’t mean study in books, I mean co-workers and mentors), they too demonstrate a “cool under fire” that is a significant success factor.  Take a moment and reflect on your own experiences and those whom you believe display strong leadership.  Do most of your leadership examples also demonstrate the same trait?

In most social or group situations, people naturally accept and even look for an individual that fills a leadership role.  The next time you go to lunch or dinner with a group of 8 or more people, see if you don’t observe the phenomenon.  Eventually, someone will step up and help the server get appetizers, wine, and other group decisions made.

Many times the lead role is self-evident.  In the lunch example it might be the one who invited everyone to the gathering who now is socially responsible for everyone’s good time.  Sometimes, it happens when a personality asserts itself and assumes the role, either intentionally or by relative natural ability.

Take a look at a true crisis situation.  The individual who displays the greatest confidence in a group of strangers will be one whose lead the others will follow.  Notice, I say “confidence,” not “credential.”

Here is an example.  A friend of mine once came upon an ugly automobile accident, which had just occurred on the road ahead.  People rushed over to help and some were already on their cell phones with emergency services.

One person in particular was busy shouting orders and running around a bit frantic exclaiming that she was trained in emergency first aid.  No one seemed to be doing as she asked, or at least they were only doing a few obvious things that they too knew needed to be done.  My friend, who is a nurse and has spent some considerable time in the ER, stepped in calmly and spoke with the other woman who was shouting orders.

“Now, Honey, you must stop shouting,” she said calmly.  “Let’s not make things any worse.”  She then pointed to one of the injured victims and suggested, in the same calm manner, that the emergency-first-aid-trained woman take care of that person’s needs.  She then directed her husband to another injured person and told him what to do, while she went over to take care of a third.

She told one of the bystanders with an open phone link to the emergency line what information to relay and calmly directed others in how to help.  A few had already figured out to move up the road in both directions and signal oncoming traffic of the hazard.

Now, what is important to understand is that my friend never declared that she was a nurse.  Her husband is a law-enforcement professional, and could have just as easily taken charge of the situation, but because she did so effectively, he decided to follow her lead. 

In short, the first person that recognized that someone needed to take control and tried to do so was usurped by my friend and her calm, confident demeanor.  Leadership was not given because of a declaration, it was accepted because of behavior.

In a crisis, it is natural for us to be drawn toward a leader who is calm, rational, and pointed toward showing us a solution.  In the story, my friend’s experience and knowledge provided her with the confidence to assume leadership, but her display of calm allowed others to accept her leadership and follow orders without apprehension or doubt.

Now, in the workplace, we don’t deal with medical emergencies very often, we hope.  The phenomenon is the same, though, for sudden, “I need your team to do this right now,” problems or, “the production line is down,” challenges.  If you can respond to these issues with calm, but directed confidence, those with whom you are working will readily follow your lead.

What’s more, if you demonstrate a pattern of cool under fire, your teams, your peers, and your leaders will recognize it and their confidence in you will increase.  You will find that you will become a natural first choice person to seek when challenges arise.

Staying cool under fire does not mean that you need to be a cold, calculating robot.  You are still allowed and encouraged to show passion for your initiatives, beliefs, and values.  It’s OK to be angry or disappointed, but you can’t use those emotions to solve the problem.  You can, and should display a sense of urgency, but do so with action and quick direction, not frantic or overly emotional behavior.

I’ve worked for years to try and harness this behavior myself.  I’ve had some success in the workplace, less at home.  (I’m afraid my emotional investment in my family still challenges my skill at keeping cool in every situation.)  In any case, here are some thoughts, which I’ve collected to help you try to remain cool.
  • Breath – creating a habit of responding to pressure by deliberately breathing makes a huge difference for me.  It draws the mind’s focus away from the emotions created and onto a simple task.  I’ve been told the extra oxygen in the system has a calming affect as well.  You don’t need to make it an obvious yoga-ish thing, just breath.
  • Immediately focus on solving the problem, not on the problem.  If you can create the habit of accepting the situation and moving forward, you will suddenly find it much easier to be rational instead of emotional.  If you find yourself dwelling on the how, why, or who of the problem, stop.  These have already occurred, they can’t be changed.  Save it for after the problem is solved, and solve the problem.
  • Separate yourself from the problem.  Think of the situation as a problem, not your problem.
  • Actively control your voice and manner.  This is easier to do if you already have the breathing part figured out.
  • If you don’t immediately know what to do, break down the problem into pieces and begin assigning people with appropriate skills or behaviors to those parts.  Think simple: containment, safety, short-term remedies, and long-term resolution.  Take suggestions.  Sometimes, others know what to do; they just need you to help them focus on the solution instead of the problem
  • Don’t fight with another over who is leading.  If it is your responsibility, and you are calm, then calmly say so and ask for the other’s help.  If it’s not clearly anyone’s responsibility and another has stepped up, calmly assert your suggestions and be helpful.  

It takes practice to exercise the above ideas, and very few people can do it perfectly all the time.  I confess that I don’t. 

I’ve collected the above practices over a number of years, and they have helped me.  If you would look for other sources, I collected some of the practices above from basic anger management and stress management advice.  You might research those topics.  I understand that regular, daily meditation – just simple mind focus practices, not metaphysical transcendence – can have significant long-term benefits on keeping calm under pressure.

People are naturally drawn toward leaders who display calm confidence under pressure.  We also naturally avoid those who are emotional or irrational under pressure.  Enhance your leadership skills by developing a cool-under-fire persona.  Your teams, your peers, and your leaders will notice and you will gain their confidence.  Leadership prevails in those who don’t seem to sweat even matters of great concern.

Stay wise, friends.

29 comments:

  1. Indeed, composure is a good indicator of one's strength and the perceived pragmatism inherent in leaders. When we are leaders of a certain group, there is the accumulated pressure and maintaining one's composure and rational thinking in pragmatic nature will help us navigate against adversity.

    ReplyDelete

  2. Hi! Nice blog.
    If you are facing any issue in QuickBooks, dial QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in Washington +1-844-442-1522 and get your problem fixed instantly.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey! Outstanding work.
    For quick resolution of QuickBooks problems,
    Dial QuickBooks Customer Service in Hawaii +1-844-442-1522 and get instant assistance from our end.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey! I hope you are doing well.
    In case you are looking for the best technical service in New York, then look no further than QuickBooks Support Number in New Jersey +1-844-442-1522.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey! Amazing write-up.
    If you are using QuickBooks software, then you must be aware of the fact it is not resilient to errors.
    To fix QuickBooks issues, dial QuickBooks Phone Number
    +1-844-442-1522
    and get help from experts. Our service at QuickBooks Number in New Jersey +1-844-442-1522 is open 24/7.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey! I hope your working with QuickBooks is going great.
    If not, then dial QuickBooks Support Phone Number in Oregon +1-844-442-1522 and get the best technical assistance from accredited professionals.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey! Wonderful post. In case you are having any difficulty in managing business accounts, then try using QuickBooks software. For any other help regarding QuickBooks,
    dial Quickbooks Customer Service Phone Number in Atlanta +1-844-442-1522 and get the best methods for QuickBooks issues.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey! Great work. If you are looking for reliable customer support, dial QuickBooks Support Number in Pennsylvania +1-844-442-1522 for immediate help.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey! Need immediate help for QuickBooks issues?
    Dial QuickBooks Customer Service Number in Wyoming +1-844-442-1522 and get sure-shot solutions for QuickBooks problems.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey! Nice post.
    It is one of the best things that I have read on the internet today. To fix QuickBooks issues,
    dial, QuickBooks Customer Service in Arizona +1-844-442-1522 and get instant technical assistance from experts.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi! Nice post.
    QuickBooks is a popular accounting software, yet at times, you may face some issues in this software.
    To get instant support for QuickBooks issues, dial QuickBooks Support Phone Number in Connecticut +1-844-442-1522

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi! Lovely post.
    For any other help regarding QuickBooks software,
    feel free to reach our experts via QuickBooks Customer Service Number in Texas +1-844-442-1522.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey! I hope you are doing well. If you are an avid QuickBooks user, then you must be aware of the fact that QuickBooks is not devoid of errors.
    To fix QuickBooks Error 6177,
    dial QuickBooks Payroll Support Phone Number +1-833-933-3468 and get feasible solutions for QuickBooks queries.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hey! Nice Blog. In case you are facing any installation error in QuickBooks, try using QuickBooks Component Repair Tool.
    To know how to download this tool, reach our experts via QuickBooks Support Phone Number +1-833-933-3468.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Support Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Support Phone Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Support Phone Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Georgia , then look no further than QuickBooks Phone Number in Georgia +1-855-509-0902.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hey! Excellent work. I feel good to be here reading your splendid blog. Keep writing such blogs. If you are an avid QuickBooks user and facing any error in QuickBooks software, dial QuickBooks Support Phone Number +1-877-751-0742 and get instant support from the experts.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi! I just bumped into your blog and found it very interesting. Keep writing such blogs. I hope your experience with the QuickBooks Enterprise is fine. In case you find any trouble in your software, dial QuickBooks Enterprise Support Phone Number +1-877-751-0742 and get your errors resolved instantly.

    ReplyDelete

  18. Hi! I just bumped into your blog and found it very interesting. Keep writing such blogs. I hope your experience with the QuickBooks Payroll is fine. In case you find any trouble in your software, dial QuickBooks Payroll Support Phone Number +1-877-751-0742 and get your errors resolved instantly.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hey! Great work. If you are looking for reliable customer support, dial QuickBooks Support Phone Number in Arizona +1-855-550-7546 for immediate help.



    Hi! Lovely post.
    For any other help regarding QuickBooks software,
    feel free to reach our experts via QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in Pennsylvania +1-855-550-7546.



    Hey! Nice Blog. In case you are facing any installation error in QuickBooks, try using QuickBooks Component Repair Tool.
    To know how to download this tool, reach our experts via QuickBooks Customer Service Nevada +1-855-550-7546




    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Tenssee , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in Tenesee +1-855-756-1077.




    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in Washington , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in Washington +1-855-756-1077.


    Hey! I hope you are doing well. In case you are looking for the best technical service in illinois , then look no further than QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number in illinois +1-855-756-1077.

    ReplyDelete
  20. hey... Great work . I feel nice while i reading blog .You are doing well. Keep it up..We will also provide dial QuickBooks Customer Service to reach us call to +1 877-751-0742 for instant help.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hey! Amazing work. With full of knowledge.Our Team resolve any glitches occurring while utilizing the software. Looking for QuickBooks Customer Service Contact us +1 877-751-0742 .Our experts will assist you to fulfill your accounting needs. The solutions are accurate and time-saving.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks For Sharing valuable information.....
    If you are searching for reliable QuickBooks Customer Service Contact us +1 877-751-0742 for immediate help .Our Quickbooks Support Phone Number is available 24*7.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi! Nice blog. We also offering you QuickBooks Customer Service . If you need any help regarding QuickBooks issues, dial +1 877-751-0742 for instant help.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hey! Amazing work. With full of knowledge.Our Team resolve any glitches occurring while utilizing the software. Looking for QuickBooks Customer Service Contact us +1 877-751-0742 .Our experts will assist you to fulfill your accounting needs. The solutions are accurate and time-saving.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks For Sharing!
    We will also provide QuickBooks Customer Service to reach us call to +1 877-751-0742 for immediate help.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hey! Good work. I loved your blog. In case you are facing any difficulty in managing accounts, use QuickBooks software. To know more about the software, dial QuickBooks Customer Service Phone Number Oregon +1-877-751-0742. The team at QuickBooks Phone Number +1-877-751-0742 is available 24/7 for you.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hey! Fabulous post. It is the best thing that I have read on the internet today. Moreover, if you need instant support for QuickBooks, dial QuickBooks Support Phone Number Washington DC +1-877-751-0742. Our team at QuickBooks Phone Number +1-877-751-0742 is always ready to help and support their clients.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hey! Lovely blog. You have done a great job. In case you are having any difficulty while managing your accounting activities, use QuickBooks software. To know how to get started with this software, reach experts via QuickBooks Customer Service Maryland +1-877-751-0742.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hi! Nice blog. We also offering you QuickBooks Customer Service . If you need any help regarding QuickBooks issues, dial +1 877-751-0742 for instant help.

    ReplyDelete