I have been coaching a new CEO of a startup that asked for guidance on how he could better manage his reactive energy that tends to drain him and bring him down when he is met with adversity or disagreements in the workplace. We conducted a leadership assessment that I leverage to get the feedback from others and had him do a self-evaluation to gather some evidence on how he is perceived by others and how he is showing up. I use The Leadership Circle 360, as a tool to gather the information because it gives us both a clear visual of what may be happening when adversity hits and a clearer discussion path with my client on what they would like to see shift over time.
This tool gives an amazing breakdown of how a person shows up in their Creative and Reactive space. What I appreciate most about this tool is that it shows the effectiveness of the person's leadership style. Time and time again, people take on roles they desire to play, but don't necessarily look at the skillset or qualifications required to be effective in that role.
When working with leadership teams and C-Suite level executives, I help them identify their style and own how they show up. But, most of all, I help them get clear on what is effective for them as a leader and for their team to create the corporate culture they desire.
There is a lot of responsibility when leading others and servicing your clients. One skill I have shared with my clients is how to compartmentalize their reactions based on the audience and what's at stake. When you are the founder and CEO of a company, the connection to your work can be more emotional, than when you are an employee of someone else's firm in a senior role.
Passion is needed to run your own company. However, emotional outbursts that put other people down or make them feel small, is uncalled for. It creates a dynamic of distrust and fear-ridden communication amongst a team, that you will start to build a company on false ground because people will be afraid to tell you the truth. Another emotional extreme is avoidance. This lack of communication around hard topics can stem from disappointing emotions that may want to make you cry when you talk about it, but afraid to share your truths because of how you may be perceived as "weak". This also creates an air of distrust from your team because everyone sees the avoidance and just wants something done to avoid digging a deeper hole in an unfulfilling direction.
The best way for me to describe the method I share with my clients who want to up-level how their authentic leadership style to build a thriving business or lead a high performing team, is to compartmentalize what is actually happening, then decide how best to react and take action.
Step 1: Pause, and take inventory of what is really happening that is creating the desire to retreat into your reactive space.
There are three main categories that the assessment tool summarizes as the main reactive spaces: Complying, Protecting, Controlling. As an effective leader, understanding your reactive space helps you better understand your triggers that put you there. That self-awareness helps you take inventory of why you want to jump into reactive so quickly. The Creative space you thrive in pulls you out. When you pause and take inventory of what is really happening you can start to compartmentalize what is true to the task at hand or issue being brought up to you, and what is a trigger of a story you have lived time and again that is making you react a certain way.
Step 2: Separate the issue/problem from the emotion. What is really being said, done, asked for?
Write out the issue/request and ask yourself where you are reacting from as you hear it. Is it a loss of business, is it a personality conflict, is it idiotic, is it a repeat of something you thought had passed. Once you have it written out, ask the following questions:
What outcome really matters to me if this were solved?
Is my emotional reaction about the issue or the person delivering the message?
What are the top three questions I need answered to solve this with ease?
Step 3: Share your truth with your team.
Take what you put down on paper from Step 2 and share it.
This is what matters to me regarding the issue
This is how I feel about it
This is what I need answered to help us all move forward.
Here's the deal, when you work with people, you have to realize we are all human with different levels of emotional intelligence. We all have a pain story we lived through. We all have reactive spaces we live in when the shit hits the fan. If you are able to articulate what is going on with you and approach the reaction you have with authentic forward motion, helping others understand what is going and how best to communicate with you will build a trusted relationship, and also behavioral action the next time shit hits the fan that you can all manage with ease together.