Building emotional resilience

Emotions at work just happen. Frustration, anger, disappointment and many more can be triggered almost by everything: a deadline missed, colleague getting a promotion or the organizational structure changing. Emotions are normal – also at work therefore we should not hide them, just express them well. You don’t want to be perceived as emotionless robot, do you? Emotions are important to express what you like, don’t like, what hits your values. However they cannot be aimed at hurting or putting others down, released in unprofessional way or be a way of releasing stress. Let’s look at working on the best way to pass emotional statements.

How to prepare yourself for communicating emotions?

  • Analyze facts. Make sure that you understand what your interlocutor has in mind. What are the arguments he/she is bringing to the table and why.
  • Understand the impact you are making. Ask yourself whether this is the right way of communicating emotions to this person. How will the person react, what consequences can it have to your future relationship and cooperation? Could there be any additional elements that push a person to act in specific way that triggers you?
  • Ask yourself some key questions. What is the right level of emotional reaction to this situation? Do you have influence on this situation? What might be the consequences of my emotional reaction? What would your mentor do in this case?  Etc.
  • Look for solutions. Sharing emotions should not be the aim in itself. It needs to go with some proposal of solutions, actions and next steps. Only this will allow to make it justified and a rounded statement rather than just a rant.
  • Choose the right way of communication. Email may not always be the best choice. It gives too much space for interpretation. Talking with people directly or via phone, video might be more accurate.
  • Take help from others. There are some difficult situations in which involving others ie. HR into very emotional conversations might bring better results. It allows to depersonalize the issue and put them into more formalized processes which in some cases might be required.

Building and communicating emotional statements

  • Name your emotions. Don’t just show them and assume people will understand. Often disappointment can be taken for frustration, anger for dislike etc. Make sure the other side knows what you are feeling.
  • Rely on facts. If you are planning to show your frustration, disappointment or any other negative emotion make sure that it’s supported by facts. Showing real data can easily justify a frustration of a problem not solved for months or disappointment in an under performing person. It will also show that the criticism is not personal.
  • Communicate the impact it’s having. Make sure that the interlocutor understands the consequences of his/her actions and reactions and impact it can have on work, people and relationships.
  • Suggest a solution. Don’t focus only on putting your emotions out there. Communicating emotion needs to have a constructive goal. Suggest a way of resolving a problem or moving forward with the conversation. Don’t leave the conversation hanging on emotions only.
  • Be respectful. Never do anything that can give an impression of having no respect to others. You don’t want to be perceived as not professional and bullying.

Emotional Don’ts

  • Never make decisions when angry or frustrated. Emotions blur your judgement. You may say thing or say them in a way you will later regret. Also don’t reply to any emails unless it’s absolutely necessary. Actually wait even a day or so before responding. Sometimes it may force the sender to re-think what he/she has written.
  • Don’t bring negative emotions home. Home should be your safety avenue. Even if your partner works in the same company or market, don’t use them to vent. Focus on anything that can take your mind away from work: sport, kids, walk, tv.
  • Don’t allow for emotional outburst. It’s unprofessional and can only be seen negatively. If you really  have to calm down, step out of the meeting, ask for break, put yourself on mute. Never show people you have no control over your emotions.

Building emotional resilience

For a leader communicating and managing your emotions is not enough. If you want to be a strong leader – high emotional resilience will definitely put you on that path, as it shows your able to manage setbacks and still create a strategy to move forward. Emotional resilience is an inner strength and motivation that allows us to go through and overcome negative experiences. Developing emotional resilience is hard as it requires constant work on emotions and its triggers. Here are few things that can help to improve on your resilience:

  • Work on your self- awareness. This topic comes back as boomerang as a key characteristic of a strong leader. I wrote about it also in: Shaping your leadership lifestyle post. In this case it’s about understanding what triggers you. What makes you frustrated and angry and what situations lead to disappointment. If you will learn to recognize those triggers coming at early stages – it will allow for a more controlled reaction.
  • Learn to accept things. Accept that there are things you have no influence on and there’s no point to agonize over them. Accept that sometimes things will go not the way you wanted. Acceptance doesn’t mean you are giving up. It means you need to look for another way of achieving it.
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your physical and psychological health. Eat proper meals, get enough sleep, exercise, spend time offline – you will have more energy to overcome emotional challenges.
  • Stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people and thoughts. Negative energy can be very draining and impact your own perception of things. Stay away from that.
  • Have a way to release pressure. It might be venting to a friend over a bottle of beer, long jog or lonely hiking. Whatever works for you and helps to get rid of bad emotions.
  • Find supporters. You don’t need to deal with everything on your own. Don’t be afraid of asking for help or advise. Different perspective may shed new light on how you approach things.
  • Step out of comfort zone. Develop yourself, step into new paths that allow for different emotions and situations. It will prepare you for a broader range of emotions and challenges.
  • Learn from mistakes. Making mistakes is normal. What should not be normal is repeating them.

And remember – if you won’t manage emotions, they will manage you.

Leadership challenges in pandemic times

Today we are experiencing times when all qualities, values and rules you have lived against might be challenged. Times that may force on you a total change of your priorities and ways you operate. Pandemic is obviously something that impacts also your personal life, therefore it’s even more difficult than usually to stay calm, stable and focused on leading others. However it’s actually you who people will look at to bring stability, reduce chaos and guide them. Here are some key challenges that you may face:

Staying stable and grounded

The current world requires working via unpredictable and uncontrollable situations therefore you should not allow emotions to take priority. There will be plenty of information around you from press, internet, government that may be influencing your perception of things. Keeping a level of stability in how you operate and grounding yourself on facts will allow you to be perceived as balanced and reliable. Therefore in your actions and communication:

  •  Be honest and transparent – share what you know, set some rules of operations. You may not have the answers for all the questions or people may not like what they hear but they will respect you for honesty and transparency. 
  • Rely on data. Don’t share opinions, predictions or press articles. Refer to facts, be analytical where possible. Don’t leave space for interpretation. 
  • Be proactive. Try to anticipate issues and problems and address them before they come or grow. 
  • Communicate regularly. Be the source of information and provide updates on regular basis. Soon people will turn to you for information and will perceive you as a stable source of reliable information.
  • Stay positive. It can be difficult at times but it will help to keep morale.

Keeping balance between pushing for performance and appreciating challenging times

In order to keep people’s jobs the company needs to operate. If we all go underground and stop working the consequences will be catastrophic to all of us. Obviously new circumstances require new ways of working and looking at operations but let’s not forget that we all need to keep the ship afloat.

  • Be flexible. Shift work and priorities if/where you can. Let people know that they are the priority.
  • Be precise. Make sure that your requirements and asks are well understood. Don’t waste people’s time on figuring things out – they have plenty of other challenges to deal with.
  • Understand your team. Each one of them. Know their anxieties, challenges and understand how you can best work with them in the crisis.
  • Build trust and confidence. Help your team to regain comfort of working before you start demanding.
  • Stay connected. Make sure you check up on each one of your team mates from time to time. Be there for them when they need it.

Adaptivity – working through chaos, non-defined timeline and circumstances

Contradicting information, a flood of press articles, crisis predictions, terrifying death statistics and much more create a complete chaos in people’s minds. Additionally an inability to predict the future, impact of what’s happening and how long will it last makes people feel like being trapped. Adaptivity of all of us will be challenged to the bone. Therefore:

  •  Stick to facts – more than ever be fact and data driven. Any gossips, fake news can result in unnecessary misunderstandings, additional level of anxiety, conflicts or even panic. You don’t know what you don’t know – don’t try to be analytical if you’re not; don’t predict things if you don’t have enough facts to do so.
  • Be adaptive. Don’t get used to processes, solutions invented one day as the next day you may need to throw them away and start again. Try to anticipate situations, be proactive.
  • Prepare yourself for the worst case scenarios. First, understand what the worst case scenario means for you and your team in this circumstances – surely nothing what you have been preparing for so far.
  • Make long and short term plans. Think strategically on solving problems and try to anticipate situations but at the same time give the team a tangible and achievable goals for next 1-2 weeks. This will allow them to take one step at a time and give sense of achievement (small successes).
  • Support your company in all actions undertaken. None has ready answers and scenarios for the crisis we are observing but we are in it together and need to support each other’s back.

Building your personal brand while limited opportunities

The fact that your company may need to limit some capabilities, change the plans and priorities doesn’t mean there are no opportunities for you to grow. Don’t be frustrated that pandemic has ruined your goals and plans for 2020, take the challenge and find your way through it. If you manage this properly the current situation may bring you up as a stable and reliable Leader that is balanced and knows how to lead the Team in challenging times.

  • Out of box thinking and different ways of doing work are in demand more than ever. That’s more of an opportunity than limitation for people who are passionate about their work and who want to elevate their careers. Stay informed, observe the situation, propose solutions where possible.
  • Go above and beyond in being a Leader and Team player. A well operating and delivering team in difficult times will be a testimony of your leadership skills.
  • Stay connected. Make sure you touch base with your colleagues all over the world. Check whether they are safe, maybe there are things you can do for them.
  • Take part in voluntary initiatives if you can. Maybe even establishing and leading one is something you’re up for?

Engagement while working remote and under high stress

That’s a tricky one as in this case it might be significantly influenced via circumstances completely outside of your control. Additionally many items usually influencing engagement are highly limited or not possible in current circumstances. Therefore we are back to basics:

  •  Secure your team’s basic needs. For one that might be a monitor to better facilitate their work, for others – few days off to arrange their life for next weeks. 
  • Help to release the stress. Be in a good mood to start with, so you are not perceived as stressed and overwhelmed with situation. Be innovative: have online coffee breaks, contest for the fanciest pajamas outfit or a forum for parents to share interesting ideas on keeping their children busy. 
  • Communicate, guide, support. This time overcommunication is not a problem. Make sure people are aware about company’s actions, be clear on undertaken decisions and their background. Give guidance and support where and when required.
  • Be open. Make sure people know they can always come to you for advice, to moan or just vent.

I am sure that not all of our leaders will pass this leadership test, however I am also confident that some will discover skills and capabilities that they never thought they have, some will mature quicker than in normal circumstances. Being a leader is difficult, but being a good leader in a crisis requires a unique combination of skills, innovation and empathy. This is the best time to step up and go above and beyond in bringing your leadership style to a next level.

Stay safe…..

Community Leadership

For some being a leader at work is not enough – they needed another area where they can fulfil their leadership potential, at the same time making other’s life a bit easier and maybe also happier. That’s what community leadership is to me – a unique type of leadership that’s aimed at group of interests, often based on place/location.

Why would you want to be a community leader?

  • You can make a difference – have some key contribution that can change the community, improve your surrounding or make someone’s life better
  • It develops you as a person and a leader. In community you will come across challenges you normally won’t experience at work
  • You can share your knowledge and shape other leaders

Understanding the community

  • Understand what integrates the community – what do people have in common? Maybe a purpose – special care after nature, a situation they are in – members of the new estate.
  • Understand what divides the community. This will be the items you need to treat with special care – try to address but don’t force them. Tackle step by step.
  • Understand internal and external relationships. Who influences who, what subgroups have been created, who dislikes who, who’s an outsider, what sources of external influence you have to deal with. Identify the influencers and the “grumpy cats”. Create tactics to tackle them all.

How to become a community leader?

  • Listen to people. Hear what people have to say, understand their problems
  • Get the buy in for what you do. Allow people to participate in shaping the change, influence the influencers; create a strategy for “grumpy cats”
  • Be ‘the news person’. Build relationships with key people and organizations. Have the news before others do, become the source of key information
  • Mobilize others. Put them forward, encourage to pick up and own actions. Don’t force your ideas, embrace others, promote teamwork
  • Lead by example. In community we all should be equal. You won’t have your own office nor a personal assistant here. So put your shoulders to the wheel and get going.
  • Learn people respect for their space, common purpose and each other. That includes following common rules and doing no harm to others.
  • Bring balance. In a big community you will come across contradicting views and interests. Be the one to balance them all, bring order and stability.
  • Be the connector. Introduce people to each other so that they can benefit from their relationship.
  • Bring fresh blood to the community. This might happen with or without your control – embrace it at any case and turn into your/community benefit.
  • Shape new leaders – people who can support the community, lead the change, work together for greater good.

Use case – integrate community of newly built housing estate.

A challenge will be to understand the community – it can take long time as it formulates itself on your eyes. That’s also an opportunity because you can influence and shape it from the very beginning.

  • A good start is to set a common collaboration platform – it can be a simple Facebook group or something more complex like a dedicated platform owned by a landlord.
  • Next – integration. People need to get to know each other. Arrange a joined barbecue where people can talk, get to know each other, understand where they live, what common problems they have. Other ideas: arrange a secret Santa day for kids, Easter egg hunting, joined decoration of a local Christmas tree
  • Spend time on getting to know everyone. Stop at the parking to have a chat, lend a ladder or barrow a screwdriver. Soon you will receive a list of community pain points. At the beginning target more common, unifying problems like getting more trash bins. This will give you a smooth transition into a leader role. It will help you understand each person’s role they will play in the community
  • Be the “news person” Establish a relationship with the landlord or estate developer – have the news before others do and share at the collaboration platform. Soon you will become a go to person.
  • Be innovative, surprise people – if you need to gather money for something that you arrange for the community don’t ask for money transfer. Put a piggybank in front of your house. This allows people to put any amount of money, it’s anonymized, kills the discussion on who gave and how much. The purpose is being put as the priority here. Make sure you publish receipts afterword’s – that builds trust for future events like this.
  • Propose a strategy and a plan for your community. This might include some events, way of collaborating but also some rules to follow and respect

Soon you will get:

  • A list of common issues to deal with
  • An integrated group that fill fight against any common problems they have
  • A strong position of a Leader that has been driving stuff from very beginning – your capital for future

Being a community Leader is a leadership from choice. It not always comes easy, can be draining and frustrating especially that usually it goes with voluntary work, but the satisfaction of changing/shaping the surrounding is bigger than that. That’s a responsibility but a privilege at the same time that as a Community Leader you will get. Dream big, set goals, achieve.

Shaping your leadership lifestyle

I am not going to go via standard leadership definitions nor differences against management, there’s already too much of  it all over the place. However what I am going to share are key challenges and at the same time leadership awareness milestones that every staring leader stumbles upon.

I am not one of those people that will state that you are other born as a leader or not. You surely can be born with a set of traits that make leadership easier, doesn’t mean you will use it well. In my view you are becoming a leader which means it’s not given but it’s a process – something you need to learn and grow into.

Self-awareness. This is first and fundamental thing you need to learn, discover, work out. Understanding yourself is truly the basic and I would say the hardest thing, especially that it comes at the beginning of your leadership road. But what does sit really mean? For me self-awareness is understanding of:

  • What are you good at? – what are your key traits, what value do you bring to the table. This is the thing that should  be your primary focus, items that you should invest in.
  • What are your limitations? – realize what limits you. It might be lack of certain knowledge, specific way of looking at things, skillset. This will be a thing that you need to address, if possible. If not – don’t kill yourself over it – learn how to work around it – otherwise it will drag you down.
  • What values do you have? – what drives you? What are your priorities?
  • What borders will you not cross – are there any things you wouldn’t do, rules you wouldn’t break, approaches you wouldn’t take?

I have this luck of being a highly self-aware person. I very well understand where I can add value and that the thing that limits me is lack of technical knowledge and background. For many many years I was agonizing myself over not being technical however working on IT projects. I won’t hide – it was hard. To someone who never had anything to do with servers, switches and databases – IT is like another language to learn but with absorbing additional layer of logic at the same time.

I was working 16 hrs per day, 7 days a week and still wasn’t thinking I am good enough. At that moment I was asking myself whether it’s worth it. I wasn’t able to become technical at the level I would wish, hence I was standing in front of a choice – resign from chasing my dreams or learn how to work around my limits. Thankfully I have chosen the latter and learned to surround myself with technical people who can bridge the gap.

Acceptance. This goes with everything what comes out of self-awareness. Accept that the thing you are good at is the primary (and maybe only) thing you can bring to the table. Accept your limitations, fight with them but if you can’t – find a way to  work around them. Accepted what drives you, although it may not be popular. Accept the rules and borders you won’t breach even if it can mean an end to your career.

Acceptance means you are not only a self-aware leader but also a one that acknowledges the benefits and consequences of being who you are.

Staying true to yourself. This is an alignment with who you are and how you operate. This is avoiding pretending someone who you are not, having knowledge you don’t have, possessing things you can’t afford. It helps to avoid manipulation, make the right decisions and drive others in a consistent way. 

Important tip here – don’t underestimate the power and the trap of feedback.

At the beginning of my leadership road I have met a lot of people that were supportive of my development. Because I am highly open to feedback I have fallen into a trap of naive thinking that if I will implement it all I will become a better leader and a person. How wrong I was…. And it’s not because the feedback wasn’t valuable – it was because everyone have a different perspective. By one my directness is perceived as being rude, for others it’s a blessing that helps to work through complex situations. I didn’t look at the feedback via a perspective of a person that was sharing it. I was bluntly believing it’s the right way forward…. Until the feedback started to exclude each other, until there was so much feedback that I couldn’t absorb it, until there were so many expectations of me that I wasn’t even able to distinguish whether they are talking about the same person that I was before. Again here I was standing in front of a choice – stay who you are or make significant changes. So I came back to my self-awareness questions and decided to be selective on the feedback I am going to implement and learned to acknowledge existence of the feedback that’s not in line with who I am and want to be.

There will be times in your leadership career when you will be standing in front of decisions that are against the way you operate. This is the time when you need more than ever to be self-aware. Staying true to yourself in that situations will be difficult as it may have different consequences to you and your career.  Whatever decision you will make, with high self-awareness and acceptance, it at least will be very conscious.

In my experience, how you deal with the above components, strongly shapes your leadership style. Soon after you step on the leadership road you will understand that the path you have chosen doesn’t touch only on your work. It gets into your blood system and is visible in the way you act on daily basis –  when you give a seat to an older person, when you join the school community to support kids in training football or you are expressing your views at ecological manifest. The leader you will become will affect all your actions and thoughts going forward. Shape your leadership style wisely then, with time it will become your lifestyle – leadership lifestyle.

“The things that make me different are the things that make me’.

– Piglet