Not all that long ago, I was at the deli counter of my local supermarket (yes, business coaches get hungry too!) waiting for my sandwich when I heard a booming voice from a nearby aisle: “Did YOU HEAR what I SAID?”
Naturally, I turned around at the commotion. I saw a tall young woman looming and fuming over a wide-eyed toddler who was all of two or three. Mom was fit to be tied! The child appeared to be holding a candy bar. As the mother ripped the candy from the child’s grasp, he started to cry. The kid was terrified.
As an executive coach at VIM Executive Coaching, I have learned that life’s lessons are all around us. When I heard that mother screaming at her frightened child, I was immediately reminded of conversations I’ve heard in many different entrepreneurial and corporate workplaces.
Before I incur the wrath of working moms, I do understand stress, and I do understand life’s frustrations. I also understand the uneven application of authority and responses that are out of line with reality and expectations.
Adding a Few Decades
If we add a few decades to the mom’s “statement,” and place it in the workplace, it readily changes to: “Are you unable to understand the project?” or “Seriously, are you that clueless as to what we’re trying to accomplish?” There are many variations, but the meanness and the over-the-top embarrassment and discomfort such responses create are every bit as painful as the mom to the toddler.
The toddler doesn’t have a choice. The toddler is dependent. Obviously, yelling at a child long enough, frequently enough and angrily enough will result in the child “going away.” But before, I sound “too psychological” in this post, my point is that treating employees with disdain and angry outbursts is a sure-fire way to lose those employees. It is also a good way to lose a grasp on leadership – and possibly your position itself.
Leadership is not like it once was; teams and offices can no longer function as though being run by a dictator. Of course, there is also the fear of a sort of pendulum-like phenomenon. Some executive leaders will squelch any need to critique or even to suggest that something is amiss, as they don’t want to appear dictatorial! It’s a bit of a conundrum to be sure.
Being More Mindful
There is a solution to being too angry or too weak, and that is to be yourself. Unless an executive leader is always prone to angry outbursts, or is so tepid so as to be nearly invisible there is a middle ground and a solution.
We call the solution mindfulness meditation. Being mindful, and its logical extension, being authentic can be cultivated even if you have never practiced mindfulness at all. Mindfulness meditation requires no special tools or textbooks. You bring the techniques to yourself, where you are, and no matter what sets of challenges you may be facing.
In practicing mindfulness, we draw upon what we already have. We have the opportunity to still our minds, to confront life as it is and to do what is best for our particular situation. I should add that one of the fears some have about learning to meditate, is that it is somehow “religious” based or (Heaven-forbid!) hypnotic.
In a larger sense, I suppose that every religion has had some element of meditation but being mindful and meditative applies to anyone. As to “hypnotic,” it is the exact opposite. It is feeling, in the moment, and responding in the moment, and being truly and deeply alive. Meditation will not make you cluck like a chicken!
Therefore, when there is a workplace conflict, the executive leader in being mindful and authentic, responds with intention and with truth. Are there cases that might require a more forceful hand or a calm and gentle withdrawal from a situation? The answer to both is, yes. However, those responses would be based in mindfulness and not anger or fear.
Most of us know, upon reflection, that our reaction (rather than response) to a situation may have been in error. Of course, it’s too late by then. Whether we are a mom or dad screaming at a toddler or an executive loudly embarrassing a manager, the result is remarkably the same.
VIM Executive Coaching teaches techniques that help to moderate knee-jerk reaction and to steer the leader toward authenticity.
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