In November 2016 I had the chance to attend a workshop hosted by the Institute for Management Studies. The focus was on resilient leadership, and we learned about seven skills to boost your leadership abilities and strengths. Of the seven skills discussed (including emotional regulation, impulse control, and causal analysis) I was struck by the idea of emotional regulation and the connection it has with the popular topic of emotional intelligence. At its core, emotional intelligence is about developing personal and social competencies in relation to understanding emotions, and knowing the best way to respond.
People with strong emotional regulation can keep their feelings in check and stay focused on the goal at hand. Andrew Shatté, workshop facilitator, has worked to identify the seven emotions a person may feel when something isn’t going as expected: anger, anxiety, frustration, sadness, guilt, embarrassment, and shame. After he identified the emotions, he described what was triggering each feeling, and he provided a skill anyone can use to overcome that emotion, or help an employee overcome it. The three most common emotions experienced in the workplace are anger, anxiety, and frustration.
People experiencing anger believe their personal rights have been violated. Something has happened beyond their control and they feel personally harmed. They may be inclined to react without thinking.
Skill: Before reacting, capture what you are thinking, and write it down. Ask yourself, “Am I entitled to this feeling? How can the problem be handled differently?” Put some space between yourself and the situation before reacting. When dealing with an employee experiencing anger, encourage him to step away from the problem before making a rash decision. Ask him to fully articulate what’s upset him and what he believes will be the most productive way to move forward. When we force ourselves to vocalize or write down our feelings, they often are not as powerful as we had originally thought.
Anxious people are worried about future threats. They may want to run away from the issue; they may feel their heart racing or have other negative physical symptoms.
Skill: Write down what you think will happen in the future. Assess the probability of your prediction occurring and identify the worst and best case scenarios. Taking time to think through the likelihood of your worries occurring will calm you and allow you to focus on what you can do to move forward instead of feeling paralyzed.
Frustration is an anger-anxiety hybrid. People who are frustrated often believe they lack resources, which is stopping them from moving forward.
Skill: Once again, write down the problem and think of at least one resource available that you can take advantage of. This allows you to move forward.
By gaining the ability to recognize emotions, you can better understand how to regulate them to act in a productive way. Take the time to understand not only your feelings, but also the feelings of your employees, and you will be able to work more effectively as a team.