Controlling Your Emotions Enables Success
Not surprisingly, a good share of C-Suite occupants are classic Type-A personalities. Driven to achieve, highly competitive, impatient and laser-focused on meeting or exceeding their goals, these executives have worked hard to attain leadership positions in their organizations. The challenge for such leaders is that the traits that propelled them to succeed are the very same ones that can derail their promising careers.
Left unchecked, for example, being laser-focused may be perceived as unwilling to listen or unable to compromise; impatience may come across insensitive or temperamental when plans are disrupted. These types of reactive behaviors can turn off peers, employees and other key stakeholders.
In reality, the liabilities of being a Type-A leader can readily become assets. Exceptional leaders keep their high drive and laser focus while at the same time listening to others and altering their approach based on collaboration, suggestions or feedback. They exhibit well-developed self-awareness and the ability to respond rather than react to people and situations. In essence, exceptional leaders know how to use the gap or space between stimulus and response, as identified in the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey.
“There is a gap or a space between stimulus and response. The key to both our growth and happiness is how we use that space” – Stephen R. Covey
Coaches often are asked to work with clients who exhibit derailing behaviors. The coaching goal is to help them become more self-aware and to modify their negative behaviors while amplifying their positive attributes. Using toolkits that include assessments, stakeholder interviews and 360’s, coaches can pinpoint both positive and developmental areas. Armed with this info, coaches are equipped to provide greater context for clients and to help them identify what types of stimulus trigger their negative reactions. With that understanding, coaches help clients develop methods to use the “gap” to form a response instead of an immediate reaction.
Think of the coaching process as product development where the client is the product being developed for an upgraded version. As an executive coach, I have witnessed many clients become more self-aware, which allowed them to use that knowledge to make more informed choices to improve their developmental areas and amplify their strengths. I learned this first-hand many years ago.
In 2003, I was offered the opportunity to work with an executive coach. Although I was considered a high-potential employee, I had tendencies at times to exhibit behaviors that worked against me. If these behaviors weren’t understood and modified, I was told, they could derail my career. My coach used a battery of assessments, including 360 feedback, as part of the coaching process for me to better understand myself and how I was viewed by others. I was shocked and looked to my wife for support. She did not share my surprise and, instead, noted that she saw many of these tendencies play out at home. Ouch!
Suddenly, it was clear that I needed to decide how to respond to the feedback I had received. My choice: take the feedback to heart, work on self-awareness and behavioral change. Best decision I could have possibly made—I kept or strengthened the good, and moderated or improved in areas that needed development during a 6-month coaching engagement. A year later, I was promoted to a Vice President level within my company. Seventeen years later, my wife and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. I guess you could say, coaching benefited me professionally and personally. We are, indeed, the same person at work as we are at home.
The good news here is that positive behavior change achieved through coaching gets noticed both at work and home. Understanding the stimuli that causes negative reactions and learning to pause and respond in a more measured way leads to better outcomes and relationships.
How can executive coaching help you or the people in your organization achieve more by developing greater self-awareness and learning to mind the gap to control emotions and achieve better outcomes?
This post includes material from the book, Accelerating Leadership, co-authored by Lance Hazzard and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., published in June 2019 and available as an e-book.
Lance Hazzard, PCC, CPCC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations achieve success. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. More information can be found on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at the links below: