Leadership Pressure Points

Airport Delays

Have you ever gotten to the point of frustration that you just wanted to explode?

If you lead people, then I think that you can probably relate. This is where you find yourself in a situation of mounting anger and annoyance that it makes you just want to throw in the towel? This is where your buttons have been pushed and you are ready to either burst or to be taken away to a place with rubber walls.

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Painting a Picture

Let me set the scene:

A few months ago I was at the airport, waiting for a flight that had been delayed.  If you travel often, you already know how it is in a US airport on a Sunday at 4p.

If you don’t, it is crowded with people going on vacations and business people flying in or out for the week ahead.

Delayed FlightSo there I was, standing in line based on my seating number, waiting to board the plane.  Then came the news the flight would be delayed. Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re flying from one coast to the other, and you hope to get home sometime before midnight.

As I was waiting to board, a phone call came in that I had to take.

As I finished my call, an older couple in their early 60’s took their place in line beside me – the wife managing to knock over my laptop bag and a folder of papers that was on top of it.

The folder had just been laid then for a minute when the oblivious woman knocked it over. There were many business cards and loose papers in it which were now all over the floor.

I was left to scramble madly to pick up the items by myself in order to board the plane on time.

Then the wife, using a sarcastic tone said to her husband, “Well excuse me!”

She didn’t bother to apologize or acknowledge her mistake.  I was so ticked off that I made sure the couple saw my displeasure – but kept my mouth shut.

While I was fuming at the rudeness of it all, I noticed something I had missed initially – the wife was in obvious physical pain.

Because I was so tired after a 3-day conference, I had no patience at that point. However, seeing the wife in pain made me realize that her pain was talking; not her voice or perceived attitude.  I am guessing, but she probably would have acted differently if she were feeling better.  To be honest, (and this is hard for me to admit,) at that point I was more concerned about me than anyone else around me.   Not one of my proudest moments…

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Recalibrating Your Leadership

Letting Off SteamIt was then that I realized that I had performed poorly under pressure. I blew it because I didn’t manage the unexpected well. I allowed mounting pressure to sidetrack my game plan and let circumstances control me rather that continuing to recalibrate my thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors.

When it comes to leading oneself, handing pressure can be difficult to manage. When it comes to leading others, the equation gets multiplied.

This means that people who lead others need to get a firm grip on how they handle themselves under any type of circumstance. Leaders need to mentally prepare for situations that will inevitably arise, including unexpected airport situations. This will help them envision trouble when it comes from a team member.

As a conscious business leader, how do you behave under pressure?

A leader’s actions are closely observed, especially during times of stress or major change.

Good Behavior

Good BehaviorEmotions tend to run high at organizations when pressure comes. And when it comes, you’re probably working hard to manage it in a manner that  insures a good outcome.

And while you are doing this, all eyes are usually on you because your team is looking to you for a model of acceptable behavior.

How you respond has a profound impact on the culture in the organization and the employees’ behavior. You are setting the tone.

Employees will replicate your behavior like a ripple in a pond, following what you do, not what you say. Successful leaders are aware of their stress triggers and consciously adjust their actions to ensure they are acting in ways consistent with their beliefs and core values, and the core values of the organization.

There’s a lot of change going on in most organizations today.  The next time you’re in a stressful situation consider whether the behavior you’re modeling is one you want replicated by others.

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The Ending…

Ironically, after I changed planes on my transcontinental flight, my new seat mate gave me back a bit of the attitude I dished out to the couple.  Karma, baby.

So how are you doing at understanding your pressure points? How much do you role play in your head different scenarios and learn to predetermine outcomes? How well do you set up “pressure-relief” valves so that you can release steam rather than blow your top off? I would love to hear your stories!

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Anastasia Montejano, ACC, PMP, Founder of Management Leadership Coaching
She uses her unique branded system to transform potential into effective leadership
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Image Sources: info.livelogic.net, fileserver.tinker.com, img4.cookinglight.com, co-teaching.net

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