A few posts ago I wrote about Erica Andersen and her cool book, Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers. Here’s part two of a Q&A with Erica. She’s the founder of Proteus International, a consulting firm that works with CEOs and top executives of many major corporations like Molson Coors Brewing, MTV Networks, and ESPN. Here’s the final part of a Q&A with Erica. Enjoy!
Q: How can managers temper their frustrations, ones that may lead to anger that, if openly (or not) displayed, can erode their credibility?
A: This is tougher for some managers than others. Some people are just more emotional and reactive, and have a harder time controlling those impulses. As I said earlier, awareness and motivation are key. The manager who doesn’t want to be sabotaged by his or her own anger has to first become aware that there are alternative ways to behave, and feel that he or she will benefit from behaving differently.
Having done that, the most foundational way I know to manage frustrations is to manage one’s self-talk. How you talk to yourself about a situation generally determines how you feel about it and how you act. If, for instance, someone who works for you hasn’t done something he agreed to do, and you’re saying to yourself, inside your head, “He’s such an idiot! What a slacker! Is he incapable of doing the simplest thing? Why should I have to put up with this kind of #@&@(#*@&?” The odds are that – even if you’re not yelling and screaming – it will be very clear to that person and everyone around you that you’re angry!
So, how do you change that internal monologue? First, you recognize what you’re saying to yourself (like we just did in the paragraph above – you bring it to your conscious awareness). Then you have to find an alternative way to talk to yourself that still feels true, but that creates a different reaction in you. For instance, it wouldn’t work to say something to yourself like, “I’m not bothered by this at all,” or “He’s actually not a slacker, he’s a great employee,” because those would just feel like BS to you, so they wouldn’t have any impact: they’d just roll right off you.
However, maybe you could say something like, “He’s pretty inconsistent about doing stuff he says he’s going to do. I need to figure out what the problem is – a lack of capability, a lack of motivation, or a lack of accountability – and see if I can resolve it.” I suspect that would feel true, and it would send you, both emotionally and in terms of how you then behave, in a very different direction.
It’s a revelation to most people that we can actually choose to speak differently to ourselves – but we can. I’ve found it’s very powerful.