June, 2014


Managing Your Anger: Take Personal Responsibility for Your Anger

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

“He (or she) made me angry.” Some variation of this statement in which someone else is to blame for the way the leader has chosen to feel or react is probably used as an excuse in every workplace in the world every day. Those leaders who fall into this trap not only do not see their mistaken conclusion, they also give the problem and its solution to someone else. They make this mistake because they have watched other leaders do it and they have imitated those leadership failures so frequently that they never considered the flawed logic involved.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

If your anger is not your problem, you can’t fix it. You have made yourself a pawn instead of player. If someone in your work environment can “make” you angry at their whim, they are leading and you are following. Most angry leaders have never considered this. When they do, it is usually an “ah ha” leadership moment.

How can you do it?

  1. Take public responsibility for your anger. Tell everyone you know that you have recently acquired a stunning leadership insight from reading the SOMC Leadership Blog.
  2. Explain why this is true. Most people don’t get this. Even when you explain it, most of your colleagues will continue to blame others for the way they feel. But the point is to convince you, not them.
  3. Write it down. “My anger is my problem.” Post this simple truth in a conspicuous spot where you and others will see it every day. Insight is not the same as behavioral change, but it is an important first step.

How have you taken personal responsibility for your anger?

Managing Your Anger: Recognize Your Anger

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

When leaders are confronted about their anger, their most common response is, “I’m not angry.” This dismissive conviction is usually pronounced in an angry tone. Listeners are both amused and dumbfounded. How could a smart person be so clueless? Any instinctual response when indulged in regularly becomes normal. Emotional habits are habits just the same. And leaders who feel they have every right to become angry when they are thwarted or annoyed don’t view their anger as anything abnormal. Not seeing the problem is their problem.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You cannot manage what you do not recognize. As a leader, you have hopefully matured to the point that you realize you still have some shortcomings you have not yet recognized. Reflect on whether you have redefined anger as so extreme an emotional state that you seldom if ever reach that level of arousal. This realization will help you see that becoming annoyed, irritated or aggravated are just anger in its milder forms.

How can you do it?

  1. Assume you have a problem with anger. Anger is one of the universal human emotions. You may become angry less often or less intensely angry when you do, but the odds that you never become angry are pretty slim. It is more likely that you just don’t realize you are angry when you are.
  2. Ask your colleagues to inform you when you appear to be angry. While it’s true that their perceptions may be inaccurate, their perceptions are their reality. Your colleagues are almost always better judges of how you are coming across to others than you are.
  3. Pay attention to your physiological arousal. Watch for your breathing to increase and your heart to start racing.
  4. Note your mental arousal. You may feel the need to interrupt, raise your voice or talk over others. You may find your thoughts racing or realize you are repeating your point needlessly.

How have you learned to recognize your own anger?

Managing Your Anger: Introduction

Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.

Leaders recognize that anger is a problem in the workplace. They recognize that it makes others uncomfortable, distorts perceptions, and triggers impulsive behavior. Anger decreases innovation and risk taking. When anger fuels tantrums, those bullied by their immature coworkers and superiors never quite recover. They walk on eggshells from then on always fearful of another outburst. And if no consequence is attached to those angry outbursts, these hissy fits will continue and increase.

But most leaders view their own anger as a different matter. Others become angry for no reason. Their anger is justified. Others’ outbursts are signs of emotional immaturity; their anger is a reflection of their commitment to organizational excellence, an understandable reaction to others’ shortcomings. Their anger and subsequent outbursts motivate others to pay closer attention, to strive harder to do their best. Leaders are expected to get angry when things don’t go their way. And their subordinates are supposed to take it. After all, this is the way great leaders behave. This attitude, while widespread, is nonsense.

In this blog series, I will take a position that may make you uncomfortable. I will make the case that a leader’s anger is never justified and always represents a leadership flaw. Anger is a sign of emotional immaturity. And it is always the leader’s fault. Leaders are human and anger is a common emotion, but learning to manage it is a critical leadership responsibility and skill.

Your anger is under your control. You can learn to become less angry less often. You can learn to remain calm, detached and curious instead. When you fail and become angry, you can learn to recognize your impairment and keep quiet and restrained until your self-generated outrage subsides. The blog posts that follow will explain exactly what to do. It is not easy to manage your anger, but easy is not what leadership is about. You will learn faster if you participate in the conversation and if you practice the following recommended strategies every time you choose to become outraged.

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Only Fixing What Is Broken

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

Don’t we all have enough things that we are trying to manage? Certainly we all have Enough problems and opportunities without trying to fix processes that aren’t even really “broken” yet? There just simply doesn’t seem to be enough time most days to do what we’d like to do because we are busy doing the things that we have to do. Furthermore, many of us, don’t even have a mechanism for identifying minor tweaks that could improve our existing processes. This mentality is more of an optimization mindset that isn’t natural for many of us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

In a competitive landscape that is constantly changing, being dynamic and willing to constantly evaluate our processes before they’re “broken” is vital to being successful. It is roughly analogous to a software update for your mobile device or tablet. Usually, each version of the software for your device will receive numerous updates before a full overhaul is required. These updates keep the device moving forward for a period of time so that its functionality isn’t passed up by other competitors while waiting for a full overhaul. As leaders, I would argue that we need to constantly be thinking about how we can improve our processes to make sure that we are keeping up with the changes in our competitive environments. Many times those improvements are tweaks or updates, not full overhauls of the process.

How can you do it?

1.  Think in terms of processes and outcomes.

2. Don’t fall in love with your process – the best idea should always win.

3. Be intentional about evaluating your processes.

4. Identify potential improvements and execute updates to your processes.

5. Monitor and evaluate your new outcomes.

What tools do you use to evaluate existing processes for improvement?

Mistakes New Leaders Make: Explaining Things Away

 

Justin Clark, MBA

This twelve week series is a collection of my personal experiences as a new leader over the past three years. These are not only mistakes that I have made, but that I continue to make at times. I hope that by sharing my experiences, readers will be able to navigate their role as a leader more skillfully. 

What are the barriers to doing this?

We have all been there — at the end of the day trying to figure out how such a great plan didn’t produce the right result. The easy thing to do is to begin to explain how things went awry. If only this had happened! If someone else had just done their part! The list of reasons is as long as our sensibilities will allow. After all, we had a good plan. A plan that should have worked. It is easy to defend our plans when we achieve an undesirable result. We want to be judged by our intentions, not our actions.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

However, the results we achieve are how we will be judged. If we continue to defend our well-intended plans in the face of bad results, people will perceive us to be blame shifters. Leaders who want to hide behind our intentions and not our outcomes. As a leader, we are owners of our outcomes. Publicly embracing that ownership in the face of failure, as well as success, will show our colleagues that we desire to be held accountable. It will establish a level of trust and dependability that is unattainable if we continually try to explain things away.

How can you do it?

1.  Acknowledge when your process is not successful.

2. Take ownership of that result.

3. Develop a plan to remedy the undesirable outcome.

4. Communicate the new plan with the affected parties. 

5. Execute the new plan.

Why do you think it is important for a leader to own their failures?