Refined by the Fire

Picture a drill sergeant. Can you see that mean look and hear the yelling – are you cowering with fear? Cross that with a chicken with it’s head caught off, and you know exactly what I looked like on the day of my sister’s wedding. We were falling behind schedule, and a few things weren’t turning out as planned. As the ceremony time approached, my ability to see the bigger picture and what next steps or corrective actions were needed helped us get everything completed. However, my directive and impatient nature rose to the surface as I barked orders in abrupt (but efficient) ways.

Our true character is revealed during times of stress and pressure. When the walls are closing in, it becomes tougher to filter our behaviors and responses, and people see the raw us. Both our strengths and our flaws become magnified and seemingly impossible to hide.

During intense and pressured moments, our character becomes critical, especially when the resulting actions can impact the well-being of our company, customers, and employees. It’s in these times that people look to the strong leaders for direction and guidance. Make sure your leadership is up to the test!

Know what to work on when you aren’t under pressure. Understand what your weak points are during stressful times. For me, I become hyper-efficient and forget to tailor my communications. If you are aware of your stress habits, you can work on them during less stressful times and create a new, trained response. Identify the behavior and the new, desired habit, and then deliberately practice it.  Glass fire

Remember, you are still talking to humans. Well, unless you’re not, but then who cares? While there may be times where we can set aside people’s feelings, like combat or emergency surgery, usually we have time to be polite and conscious of how we are treating people. I’m not suggesting to have a sit down conversation during intense times and explain the importance of getting team buy-in, but if you remember it’s people you are talking to, you can be sure to take the edge off your communications. If you can’t, because you are fighting a fire (literally) and need to save someone’s life, be sure to circle back with your team afterwards and let them know how much you appreciate them. This will help them take strong messages less personally.

Pause and put it into perspective. Oftentimes we get caught up in the moment and lose perspective. Take a moment, and pause to ask yourself if this will matter in 5 years, 10 years, or in eternity. You may find that you can actually dial it down. In the grand scheme of things, it may not be as important as you are making it seem with your behavior.

Leading through intense, stressful times can be difficult. It’s these times that will really shine the light on how much we are in control. Use past experiences to think about what areas you can work, and then take the calm in between storms to develop habitual responses. When the next storm comes, you will more easily rely on your new response and provide your team the leadership it needs!

Jana Axline is president and leadership coach at Axline Solutions. Through her leadership musings she hopes to inspire audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Axline Solutions.

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