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Monica Wofford is a leadership development specialist with nearly two decades of experience in developing managers who've been promoted, but not prepared. To reach Monica directly, email Monica@ContagiousCompanies.com or call 1-866-382-0121.

When times are stressful, chances of conflict are high, and tensions are even higher, professional behavior requires you keep those emotions in check. But, how do you do that?

Do you work with someone who loses it? Is that how they describe you? Bad boss behavior is different than letting off steam and when you’re a leader, the greatest respect is earned when you are more often cool as a cucumber instead of a Screaming Mimi. So how do you do it? How do you keep your cool? Or perhaps more importantly, who do you know that you need to forward these answers to? No matter the level of stress or type of behavior faced, these approaches and three methods will help any leader keep their composure, maintain their productive momentum, and avoid yelling at or berating employees who let them.

Conserve Energy

A coaching client asked me Friday, “How do you keep your cool when team members are frustrating you?” There were a number of answers, but the underlying theme was about conserving energy. Is allowing your frustration to fester over the employee who is not going to finish their project early, but right in the nick of time, again, really where you want to spend your energy?  Is harboring anger over the admin who did it her way instead of the way you’ve asked three times, where you want to spend your energy? Maybe that energy is better spent on finding a new assistant. Were those sharp words and stressed neck muscles what you really wanted to do to your reputation and health over that issue that happened last week that you can’t remember anyway? Questions like these are not always easy to answer. The first time you ask them, in fact, you’ll do so after you’ve lost it, but they are worth answering. No matter the frustration or the issue with team, boss, or colleague, you, the leader always get to choose where you spend your energy. Choose wisely and then choose precisely.

Pick a Hill

You’ve heard the question is this a hill worth dying on?  It originates from military leadership and the battle of Hamburger Hill, Bunker Hill and others. The concept speaks to the analysis of whether or not the disparity between the projected cost in lives that could be lost in battle and the strategic value of the terrain conquered is too large to commence fighting. Those battles in which the loss of life was thought to be higher than the value of the land are emblazoned in history and analyzed as errors. Think about that. In your own day to day territory conquering, client acquisition, competitive business, or even administrative projects, do you analyze whether or not that issue over which you’re about to lose your mind, is really a hill on which you’re willing to die? It’s hard to analyze in the moment, but when you experience enough regret over having let your emotions get the better of you time and time again, you’re likely to reassess that same hill when it comes up next.  Keep your cool by stepping back, surveying the larger area or bigger picture of your day, and deciding if this proverbial hill and how you handle conquering it is that for which you want this day to be named.

Break the Cycle

Often what frustrates you or your boss the most are the same things happening over and over and over. You can’t fix your boss’s issues or responses to repetitive scenarios (and pick again if you think that’s the hill you chose), but you can most certainly look at the trends in your own behavior. In keeping your cool, one immediate To-Do is document your own behavior. First, record the times when you spend tremendous energy in expressing frustration, irritation, anger or stress and later wonder why you were that upset in that moment. Second, ask yourself if that is where you wanted to spend your energy. If not, break the cycle and make different choices. Third, think back to the times you’ve nearly lost it the worst and your cool hat, so to speak, completely came off. Write those down. Are there any that repeat themselves? If so, it’s time to do something different and to take different action.

Bonus: Take Drastic Measures

If you find that you (or your boss) are consistently losing your cool over the same issues, then perhaps a more radical approach is required. Is it time to make some major changes? If it’s the same employee who drives you crazy and consistently under performs but does just barely enough to stay employed, maybe you document their discipline with a more detailed, tedious approach. If it’s your boss who is constantly berating you, talking down to you, yelling or screaming, but simultaneously is masterful in his ability to manage up, maybe it’s time for you to decide if the behavior is something you wish to continue to put up with. Is it worth leaving your job and comfort zone? Is there someone to whom you can vent or report the behavior? What do you need to do to actively participate in making the environment better, safer, or more productive?

No matter the reason for losing one’s cool, neither you nor your boss should find reasons for this to be something you frequently do. It’s not considered professional and it ruins trust and wrecks productivity, yet all of us working together, are still human. Losing it, having a bad day, venting stress, or being a momentary mess is likely to be the case ON OCCASION and that’s okay. However, if you or others celebrate on the rare days that could be described as good days, it’s time to make some changes.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!

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