|It’s easier to lead when life is going well. When you are enjoying times of productivity, prosperity and harmony, influencing outcomes, inspiring others and keeping a positive attitude seems to come naturally. It’s when our safety, security or peace of mind is challenged that being able to respond, not react, and choose the behaviors that will add value becomes most difficult. That’s why leaders consistently work to ensure their style under stress reflects their heart, values and best intentions.
When you find yourself facing confrontation, challenge or less than best situations, here are key practices to keep top of mind:
- Create space as soon as you can. If someone is sharing negative, challenging or frustrating news with you, work to listen with focus, yet not with an eye for responding or escalating the tension. Stay in the moment to hear and understand. Then, share that you’d like to reflect on what’s been said and connect again in a reasonable amount of time. That might be in an hour, the next day, or even the next week. Space allows you to reflect on circumstances and respond in a way that is more likely to be professional and valuable to resolving, repairing or moving past the difficulty.
- Take note of how you are feeling, then explore why. When you deeply understand why an exchange with someone caused stress, hurt or anger, you’ll be in a better position to influence outcomes beyond the flashpoint. Our emotions aren’t bad or wrong, they are often powerful clues to what a better way forward could be. The key is to protect them. Some of our most sensitive emotions might not be as valued, appreciated or accepted at work.
- Choose your response. Lasting damage can be done to any relationship when you react out of instinct when stressed. Leaders know that distance, reflection and reconnection with their values after a difficult experience are the best ways to lead as they are, bringing thoughtful conversations, actions and a sense of service to the most difficult exchanges.
While not all friction and challenge can be prevented, leaders are always looking for the pink flags that can turn into red flags quickly in their relationships with others. Ways to do this include:
- Taking the time to discuss minor issues before they become major sources of frustration or resentment.
- Checking in with co-workers, bosses, friends and family often. By proactively reaching out to others, we can gain awareness of the day-to-day issues people are experiencing and can lend a hand, or a listening ear in the moment.
- Consistently working to see the value, strengths and best of others, instead of magnifying the faults we notice. We can be the leader who builds others up through encouragement and acceptance.
How leaders respond when stressed can make a significant difference to others. Dignity and grace become easier to express the more we practice creating space, understanding our emotions and choosing our responses with thought during times of conflict and challenge.