Tip #3 for Working Smarter
Solving problems is an everyday reality for leaders. However, problem-solving skills are not enough to ensure good decision-making: Leaders also need to be attuned to and in control of their emotions in the workplace.
Impulse Control is an emotional intelligence competency that greatly influences how successful we are at solving problems. It reflects an ability to think before acting, show restraint in the face of temptation, and control aggression, hostility, and irresponsible behavior. Leaders who display a healthy level of impulse control model stability, composure and a methodical approach to making decisions and resolving conflicts.
By contrast, lack of impulse control is manifested in low frustration tolerance, anger control problems, loss of self-control, and explosive and unpredictable behavior. Leaders who lack sufficient impulse control tend to:
- jump to conclusions
- send emotionally charged emails
- fail to leverage others’ expertise
- be impatient for action, antsy to move into the execution stages of projects
- have teams who fear them and hide mistakes
- be regarded with less trust, respect and credibility
How can you improve your impulse control to solve problems more effectively?
Take Five Deep Breaths
Your best weapon against impulsive behavior is to force yourself to pause before you act. Take five deep breaths the next time you feel yourself being impulsive, impatient, or interrupting someone. When you’re calmer, ask for more information and really listen. If you still feel like you’re going to lose control, disengage: get some fresh air, go for a walk, or do some other form of physical exercise or work to clear your head.
Sufficient Down Time
Make a daily effort to relax more. It helps to disconnect from work completely at the end of the day and on weekends, avoiding email, texts and phone calls. Monitor whether you are getting enough sleep, exercise, recreation, and time with your family; if not, make more time for these activities. Keeping in balance plays an enormous role in keeping your emotions steady.
Learn Your Triggers
This is an exercise I give my clients. It builds emotional self-awareness, which is the key to all Emotional Intelligence growth. For 30 days, keep a log of your strongest emotion of each day, what happened, and how you responded. Click here to receive EQ Log. Review your log for themes at the end of those 30 days. Look for patterns of what triggered strong emotions. For example, is there a person in your life from whom you have been tolerating poor behaviors or low performance? Is there an unresolved issue in your processes or systems? Are you understaffed or not delegating enough? Once you recognize these triggers, you can take action to resolve them. Even more importantly, it will give you an opportunity to evaluate how well you express yourself on a daily basis.
Clean up the Blood!
At times, frustration and impatience can get the best of even the most levelheaded leaders. How you handle these moments, however, sets the tone for future interactions. Admitting your mistakes shows integrity and transparency—and models it for others. Don’t fall into the common trap of hiding behind your title or pretending it never happened. Instead, make apologies for any poor behavior without blaming others or the circumstances, and talk about what you will do differently next time. For example, one leader I know encouraged her direct reports to give her specific feedback—“You are talking over me right now” or “You are being kind of snappy”—when her overly driving behavior offends.
Better problem solving occurs when you step back and let your initial reactions subside before taking action. Learn what important emotions you are experiencing and don’t disregard them. Emotions are an information system that alerts us to issues we should face. When needed, get support from trusted colleagues to help you come up with the best solution.