Flexibility in feeling comes from different sources. Be aware of your range of feelings. Know you can feel in control without overcontrolling anything or anyone. Learn how to cope with negative emotions in order not to let them interfere or hijack you. Have compassion for yourself and for others, which can be very challenging in the hyperachieving culture of an organisation.
When crisis and adversity hit, you are less driven by your rational brain as the emotional part of you is being hijacked by the turmoil of the crisis. A lot is happening at the emotional level. The amygdala, the emotional brain, shuts down your rational thinking under stress. Therefore, you have to bring your FOCUS down to the smallest elements and keep it there at a transactional level. But emotions shouldn’t be left there unattended; they should be picked up later on either with support or as part of your leadership reflection routine. But parking your emotions even for a short period can help you be resilient as a leader in a difficult situation.
We have a natural tendency to fight to maintain control, no matter whether it is real control or perceived control. According to studies, stress is not caused by the higher degree of responsibility and pressure usually associated with rank. It is not the demands of the job that cause the most stress, but the degree of control people feel they have throughout their day. Simply said: less control, more stress. If you are trying furiously to control situations to feel less stressed, you are actually not in control at all. Having a strong internal sense of power and control is essential to managing your thoughts, and more importantly your feelings and emotions, and keeping your stress and anxiety levels well under control.
Short-term pay-offs can bring you relief. Beware of wanting to feel control in the moment in the form of micro management as you might pay a price in the long term, such as lower trust, disengagement, and a lack of innovation and collaboration. Aim for or be willing to pay the shorter-term price for a longer-term payoff. Coaching is a classic example. Coaching someone takes longer than giving precise instructions. But they will not learn how to think for themselves if they’re simply told what to do as it creates a lack of ownership and proactiveness.
To cope with negative emotions and become more resilient, be clear about two things. The first is that your thoughts are your reality. The second is that feelings follow thoughts and behaviours follow feelings. This is what is called a vicious or virtuous cycle. Learn to reign your thoughts and develop a more realistic, positive mindset, which is also explored in Chapter IV: A is for AGILITY. Let’s look at how you can control your negative emotions with your thinking. First of all, challenge the unhelpful ‘What if?’ thinking by asking yourself the following questions:
■ Is there any evidence to support my views?
■ Is there any evidence against my views?
■ Are my thoughts rational?
■ Am I catastrophizing?
■ What would I advise someone in a similar situation?
■ What is the worst-case scenario?
Although this is a thinking process, it helps quickly turn negative emotions into positive ones. Learning how to do this can help you embrace and unblock your inner resilience.
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