The Ability to Monitor Yourself
Do you know what triggers you? What are those peculiar circumstances that “all of a sudden” you are not behaving according to your own set of standards? I am sorry, but even the best of us have people or circumstances that are “red hot buttons” that for some reason stimulate our negative emotions.
Is it the person who cuts in front of you in traffic as you try to maintain an appropriate following distance between you and the car in front?
Is it the person in a long line to order food/coffee that waits to look at the menu when it is finally their turn instead of being ready when it is their turn?
Or is it the person who is the perennial victim…nothing is their responsibility…they blame their larger waistline on all the processed food in the grocery store?
In case you didn’t know, the above situations are a few of my triggers. In everyday life, being triggered is not a big deal. We may mutter a few choice words under our breath or laugh at ourselves for wanting everyone to behave according to our rules. However, if we are in a very stressful situation and we are unaware of our triggers, we could say something that we would regret. We might really hurt someone that we care about.
As a leader, having good Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a game changer. “EI is the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, an to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Daniel Goleman helped popularize the concept of EI in his 1995 bestselling book: Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ.”
Goleman’s model outlines the 5 main EI constructs in his article “What makes a leader” in the best of Harvard Business Review 1998. Here are the first 2:
- Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
I try to reread this article every few years just to remind myself of the impact and importance of self-awareness and self-regulation.
Developing our self-awareness and self-regulation requires deliberate effort. Try asking people in your life to provide 360-degree feedback or doing a simple exercise called “Start, Stop, Keep” with your team. Set up the situation with your group that you really want authentic feedback, and they can be anonymous if they prefer. Ask a third-party person to facilitate the exercise by sending out the questionnaire and collating the feedback. The questionnaire asks, “What are the 3 to 5 things that I need to Start doing, Stop doing and need to Keep doing.” Give your team at least a few days to thoughtfully reply. Then arrange a time to meet with the facilitator to listen to the feedback. Sometimes I have done this part of the exercise with the team and the facilitator presents the feedback. If I need more clarification about a point, sometimes a team member will speak up with more details. It can evolve into a very powerful and open session if there is trust. It is imperative to maintain a listening mode, a curious mode no time to be defensive or offer excuses. It can be very difficult to sit and just listen.
I try to do this exercise at least every two years with my team. It has been invaluable in providing me with insights into my blind spots and a chance for me to be a better leader. Learning and growing is a lifelong goal for me; the beauty is in the journey.