When we don't have the intentionality and skills to manage our emotions, they can become a runaway train in life and in business. Mishandling situations because we don’t understand our emotions or we don’t know what to do with them can get us in a lot of trouble. As leaders, we need to be aware of how we show up and how we put ourselves out there. With the right soft skills, we can be the leader our company or team needs. 

What is Self-Management?

Self-management is the second domain of emotional intelligence, a topic we covered in April’s blog (Improve Your Emotional Intelligence To Boost Your Bottom Line). The first domain, emotional self-awareness, is about recognizing and naming your emotions. Self-management is being intentional about how you show up with those emotions. It consists of four main components:  

  • Emotional Self-Control.  You do not react in the moment. You stop, pause, breathe, and gather your thoughts about how to move forward. 
  • Adaptability. You are able to choose your response to your emotions because you see options.
  • Achievement Orientation. You stay focused on the goal and how to achieve it, even as circumstances change. 
  • Positive Outlook. You respond to challenging situations with openness and curiosity, seeking the best solutions to problems. 

Lead from possibility rather than fear. What is there to lose by trying something new? What is the worst that could happen? Or, as my assistant Ashley likes to put it, what is the best that could happen? 

When you create that safe space for your team, it allows them to take risks because they know they’ll be seen as innovative and creative. They’ll be willing to put ideas on the table because you possess the ability to step outside yourself and see what they’re offering. Latent possibilities can bloom, grow, and produce fruit in that environment. 

Choose to Respond Instead of React

My career has provided me with plenty of occasions to practice self-management skills. One that comes to mind is from my time with a company that was the local presenting sponsor of the Komen Race for the Cure. I led a cross-functional team responsible for all aspects of the sponsorship. It was a marketing and promotional opportunity, and we were also building community by encouraging all employees to participate. One team member expressed frustration during a meeting, however, about the artwork for our company’s team t-shirt. It referenced mothers, daughters, and sisters. Her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and she felt that relationship should be reflected too. 

I was surprised, to say the least. She brought this up during a meeting and was essentially asking for the artwork to be redesigned to fit her situation and perspective. I might have felt a lot of other emotions at that moment—frustration, anger, judgment, insecurity, confusion, guilt, dismissiveness, embarrassment, compassion, empathy, or sympathy to name a few. I did not react by saying something that would've been unproductive. I adapted by listening and looking at it from additional perspectives. 

We sought a solution by committing to talk to the promotion agency that designed the artwork. We kept a positive outlook and stayed focused on the goal of promoting our product while raising money for an important cause and building community among our employees. Ultimately, we agreed with the promotion agency that the employee’s aunt was also a sister and daughter and therefore represented by the artwork. When I came back with this response, the individual who raised the issue was fine with it. 

I can't say that will always be the case. There may be times when a solution is not comfortable for everyone and we just have to agree to disagree. What made the difference, however, is that I took the time to self-regulate in that situation so I could respond instead of react to it. That also gave the team member an opportunity to self-regulate and understand the artwork from a different perspective. 

We, as leaders, set the tone and create a culture that says emotions are legitimate. The key is managing those emotions effectively. This employee brought something new to the table for us to consider. That was valuable. Although things did not go her way, she was not worried about being dismissed or laughed out of the room. 

Improve Your Self-Management Skills

Self-management helps you navigate and respond to the challenging situations you will inevitably face as a leader. Below are my tips for developing and improving your self-management skills. 

  1. Create a practice of finding space. It is so easy to be flooded by your emotions in a moment. If you have margin, you can stay grounded and emotions aren't going to overwhelm you as easily. 
  2. Remember that emotions are just indicators. You are in charge and driving the bus, not your emotions. They are clues you need to notice, not a cause for immediate action. 
  3. Practice seeing situations from more than one perspective. This strengthens your adaptability muscle and will help you discover new and better ways of doing things. 

If you know your energizers, you already have some level of emotional self-awareness because you can identify the things that light you up and motivate you. That’s an emotional response. Developing emotional self-awareness and creating the margin to practice self-management helps you lead your team because you're clear on the outcome and the vision that you're working toward. You have the freedom and the space to manage your emotions and see how you can achieve your goals in your current circumstances. 

Leaders don’t do it all. They bring it all together. I help the leaders identify that space where they are energized and making the biggest impact, so they can allow those around them to also find that space where they are doing their best work. When you have confidence in your own leadership identity and have your whole team making the biggest impact around the vision you are all working toward together, the difference you can make is exponential. If you’re ready to understand and leverage your energizers to make a bigger impact and lead more effectively, start with the free ROE Energizers Checklist today! 

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