Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
For the recovering angry leader, feedback stings. First, no one enjoys hearing that their shortcomings were so obvious to everyone else. Second, most feedback is perception based and perceived reality is in the mind of the perceiver. This means that some of the feedback you will receive does not reflect the overall perception others have. It’s just that person’s perception. Third, some of the people you damaged with your previous outbursts will never forgive you or cut you any slack. And when you give them the opportunity to stick it to you, they will.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
No matter how painful and unfair it is, you have no hope of making significant headway in managing your temper more effectively unless you invite honest feedback from those who know you best. When asking your colleagues to help you begin your recovery, remind them you are human, that you will slip, that this process is a marathon not a sprint and ask for their patience. But don’t ask for or expect much.
How can you do it?
- Admit you are impaired. This is a lot like admitting you are alcoholic. Stand up at the next department meeting. Admit that you have an anger management problem and that you are taking full responsibility for it. Do not say you are powerless over it. You are not.
- Apologize and mean it. You have hurt people with your tantrums. And you have misled leaders who see you as a role model about how leaders should behave. Make it clear that you are sorry for both of these leadership sins.
- Ask for help. Ask them to tell you when they see any progress. Ask them to confront you when you fail. Ask them to persist in doing this even if you don’t receive their feedback gladly. And make sure to thank them for their feedback particularly when you don’t feel like it.
How have you successfully solicited feedback from your colleagues about your anger management efforts?