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Leading From the Hot Seat


Tue Nov 01 2016

Leading From the Hot Seat

You know what no one ever tells you about leading a team? They don’t tell you that sometimes it’s really embarrassing. As a leader, you spend a lot of time encouraging people to do their best, to push themselves, to learn and grow. But sooner or later, everyone has a bad day. 

If you’re leading a team, odds are that bad day is going to be very visible. You can (and should) stick with the “praise in public, correct in private” concept from The One Minute Manager with your own team. But what happens when you’re the one in the hot seat? When a client blows up at you? Or when you don’t hit your targets? 


Here are some strategies for managing bad days: 

Be Human 

We all have tough days. Don’t hide that you’re disappointed. Don’t try to pretend nothing is happening or that it doesn’t bother you at all. It’s ok to have feelings and to show that you care, but you also need to keep your emotions under control and stay professional. 

Keep Your Cool 

Don’t blow your stack. If you need to, step out of the office until you settle yourself down. Your team will look to you to see how you respond to a tough situation, and they are going to expect you to walk the talk. If you want to build credibility, you’re going to need to keep a lid on your emotions. 

Be Professional 

You know you want to draft a flaming email back to that client or swagger in to your boss’s office with your resignation letter in hand, but that’s probably not going to help you. Stay professional. You’ll be glad you did tomorrow. 

Regroup and Make a Plan 

Okay, you’ve had your pity party and now it’s time to get back on track. Sit down and take a hard look at what happened, and what you could have done differently. Be prepared to do a debrief, for your own sake even if no one else is asking for it, and then find a way to learn and move forward. 


If you have one, this is a great time to reach out to a mentor or coach and ask for feedback or advice on how to handle the situation. Sure you can call your friends and they will tell you how unfair it was and how it’s not your fault. But if you really want to grow beyond this situation, it helps to have an objective perspective on how you could have done something differently so that next time you’ll get it right. 

Three Keys to Success 

Being under the gun is no fun. It happens to us all at some point. Stay cool and professional, and you’ll be back on track in no time, with a team that values your leadership more because they’ve seen you push through a rough patch. Remember, here are your three keys to success: 

  1. Stay Cool: When things go wrong, it doesn’t help anyone if you panic, and it’s a bad example for your team. Keep your cool. 

  2. Make a Plan: Bad days come and go, but if you want to learn from the one you’re having, make a plan to understand what went wrong so you can avoid it next time. 

  3. Move On: While it might feel good to hold a grudge or tell war stories about your bad days, it’s best to learn from them and then let them go.

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