Keeping Your Cool

“Everyone says self-awareness is essential to effective leadership. It is, but there is another aspect to awareness that may be equally compelling and sadly overlooked. It’s self-management.”

 – John Baldoni, author and internationally recognized executive coach

Everyone looses his or her cool from time to time – after all, we’re only human, right? But what happens when we do it repeatedly?

Our reputation, our influence, our ability to both lead and succeed is diminished.

You can manage a budget, manage a supply chain, manage innovation, even manage aScreen Shot 2015-10-12 at 1.22.11 PM team well but if you cannot manage your own reactions to people, obstacles or temper-triggers, it can derail your company or your career.

Failure to manage oneself well is essentially a failure to maintain self-control and a focus on the ultimate end-goal of healthy, ethical success as a team.

What does failure to manage oneself look like? You’ve seen it. It can manifest as temper outbursts, impatience, ingratitude, detachment, sarcasm or hubris. You’ve seen it displayed in some form, and you’ve displayed it yourself in one of these forms – we all have at some point.

None of this is fatal if it happens infrequently – acknowledgement and apologies smooth over the occasional slip up. What can be fatal is a failure to commit to managing yourself and your reactions.

We each need to be self-aware of what our typical “triggers” are. For instance:

  • If you are high on the impatience spectrum – either naturally or adapting – your trigger might be when you perceive that others are “dragging their feet” or when deadlines are missed.
  • If you are high on the dominance spectrum – either naturally or adapting – your trigger could be when you perceive others aren’t making or sticking to clear decisions.
  • If you are high on the conformity spectrum – either naturally or adapting – you might start to loose it when the numbers don’t add up, or you perceive a lack of clear instructions or respect of protocol.

Self-awareness of your triggers is key – but it must be followed by a controlled response. It is not enough to know what sets you off, if you don’t find strategies for avoiding exploding.

Sometimes that can be a simple as taking a ten-minute break from the situation in order to calm down and switch trains of thought.

Pages 8 and 9 of your Forte Communication Profile can help you see your current potential triggers and help you respond to them in a healthy, effective manner.

Do you know which interactions, behaviors, or situations tend to set you off? Think back over the last year. Chances are, you can identify patterns. If not, ask a trusted close co-worker – chances are they can identify your patterns.

We each need to release the expectation that the rest of the world needs to change and stop setting us off. Instead, we must own our own triggers and manage how we react to them.

It’s not uncommon for “strong personalities” to rise to leadership positions. However, your very strengths can become liabilities when not managed well.

The good news is, you are totally in control of you.


The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Rachel is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Call at The Forté Institute at 910-452-5152.