The ease and transparency of communication these days have empowered people to say and do whatever they want, whenever they want, to whomever they want. This communication style can be difficult to deal with if you are the leader of a group or organization.
Years ago, I had a person on my team who had no problem blasting opinions and sometimes accusations against teammates and me. Every time this happened, I noticed a wave of anger coming over me and the desire to strike back. And why not? I was the boss, right? Wrong! I mean, yes, I was the boss, but being the leader means holding yourself to a higher standard of communication, especially if you hope to fully engage everyone on your team.
Power, Anger & Disengagement
I have worked for the person who flies off the handle and exhibits angry outbursts. I remember how it made me feel, how I frequently wanted to shut down and back away, or even worse, strike back. I don’t want to be that person. It seems like the more powerful you become in the organization, the more tempting it is to exhibit that power in inappropriate ways. So, how can you protect yourself from being drawn into an anger-infused interaction with someone in the organization?
- You don’t have to say everything you think. It took me longer than I should have to learn this in my marriage, but it also applies nicely at work. Not every comment or action made by someone on your team (home or work) requires a response from you.
- Give others the same grace you give yourself. We often judge others by their actions, but we judge ourselves by our intentions. This causes us to provide ourselves with a break that we don’t offer to others. Instead, give others the room to make and recover from mistakes.
- Stop assuming someone’s intent and instead focus on the impact of what they said or did. You can’t know what someone intended, but you can see the outcome or effect of someone’s actions or words. Gauge your response (not reaction) to them based on the outcome, not the intent.
- Assume positive intent. Since you can’t truly know what someone intended when they spoke or took action that raised your anger level, assume the person intended something positive. Doing this provides a gap between the stimulus and your response (not reaction) to investigate further what the person meant.
- Focus on what you CAN control, you! You cannot control someone else. You cannot control the circumstances. All you can control are your actions, reactions, and responses to others and the circumstances.
Roman emperor and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius reminds us that anger is a choice by saying, “You don’t have to turn this into something. It doesn’t have to upset you.” Drive higher levels of employee engagement by being consistent in how you handle your emotions. Don’t let anger or other emotions define your leadership.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.