A Sophisticated Leadership Technique: Place Hand Firmly Over Mouth!
Intrinsically, we know life is messy. Reality bombards you from the evening news, late night TV, the Bachelorette and your father’s lab results from a recent blood test. One day you are at your desk, joking and easily handling issues for your customers and the next you are staring out your office window numb, and ignoring your calls.
Can you recall a time when you became aware of odd behaviors from a good employee? Then when you approached this employee and recognized the pain on his face, did you slow down and realize something was very wrong? The ability to see this in the face of another and adjust your behavior is the essence of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Maybe this awareness does not happen to you very often. Maybe you find yourself confused by the emotional and sometimes irrational behaviors of others, causing confusion as to what you should do next. The beauty of EI is it doesn’t matter how emotionally intelligent you are right now, what IS important is that you know what your Emotion Quotient (EQ) is so you can choose to get better. Unlike IQ (cognitive intelligence) you can enhance your emotional knowledge and increase your EQ. This might be especially helpful for those of you with teenagers!
For some, it might be self-evident that having a high EQ helps be a better leader. If leadership is defined as “the ability to build relationships so we can achieve our goals together,” then it is obvious. Not to mention EQ is a MEASUREABLE, SCIENTIFIC FACT! That’s right, EI is the ONLY scientifically correlated characteristic of leadership effectiveness (Dr. Daniel Goleman). You want to be a more effective, successful leader and HUMAN BEING? Develop your EQ!!!
In a recent EI training session, a General Manager reluctantly shared very low scores in self-awareness and relationship management, two parts of Dr. Goleman’s EI model. As his coach, this was not a huge surprise to me. Anger and emotional outbursts ruled his life especially when processes were interrupted or mistakes were made. His description of his intense emotions brought to mind a cartoon character with smoke blasting from his ears. It was time to teach this character one of my highly sophisticated EI management techniques (not!) to help him manage the fallout of his overwhelming emotions. In a quiet, staccato voice I urged, “Just state the facts then – clamp your hand over your mouth.” I demonstrated the technique. He laughed and said he would try it next time.
Two weeks later this GM called me. He started with the overused, “You are NOT going to believe what happened today!” He described the situation about an irate customer that couldn’t stop complaining about the recent work of one of the company’s best Project Managers. We’ve all been there. Passionate emotions rub off on us, we get agitated and are shaking with anger. A text to the Project Manager had him in the GMs office within the hour. The PM sat down with a blank stare, slumped shoulders and a look of defeat on his face. That didn’t deter the GM and he had prepared himself as he had promised me. With a significant amount of self-control and a shaky voice, he stated the facts and promptly clamped his hand over his mouth.
He explained what happened next. The PM revealed “I know I’ve been dropping the ball lately and I should have told you this sooner, but my brother died two weeks ago.” The project manager just looked down and avoided his boss’s gaze. The GM was dumbfounded. He didn’t know what to say at first and he realized his whole emotional state changed instantaneously. His anger evaporated. His immediate response was to go into support mode and encourage his employee to go home to take care of his family. He reassured the PM that everything with the customer would be handled and not to worry, the team had his back!!!
Remember, as a leader, you don’t know what’s going on with people unless you stop long enough to listen. What if your employees don’t tell you? That is their choice and if they are unable to tell you what is going on in their personal lives then that is NOT an employee problem. It is a leadership problem based on the fear that it is unsafe to let the team know what is happening.
It is imperative leaders learn to control behaviors that can accompany intense emotions. The consequences of these outbursts can destroy relationships, cause us to make poor decisions, say stupid things and in the end, harm everyone involved. The good news: you can develop your Emotional Intelligence and increase your EQ and the positive impacts on your personal and professional relationships will be WONDERFUL.
Whether you actually use the “Hand Over Mouth” method or not, incorporate a technique that works for you.
As a leader, how do you make that connection to control your emotions and not scare your employees? Do you know someone whose consistent lack of emotional restraint has directly impacted you, your team or the company? How do you control your emotions in difficult situations?
“The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. “