Becoming a more robust leader

As the year draws to a close, many of us find ourselves reflecting on the year that has been.  In particular, our satisfaction with how we, and our working teams did over the past twelve months.   No doubt during this reflection there will be countless things that went really well, successes that should be celebrated in our own minds if nothing else.

However there may also have been occasions where things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped, the dice didn’t role in your favor or you responded in a way that tightens your stomach or makes you cringe when your memory even skims the edges of these situations.

The good news is, these occasions are a gift.  An opportunity.  For they offer us  the chance to be prepared for the future., to not only ensure that it never happens again but to have more responses, behavioral and verbal, available to in the moment.  You never have to react in a way that makes the situation worse, you never have to lose your temper with someone, you never have to blurt out an unthoughtful response again.. .. as long as you take the time and make the effort to mentally debrief the unfavorable or unsuccessful situation.

In a concept that Michael Grinder refers to as ‘Closing the Gap’, we each have the ability to train ourselves to be better able to ‘think on our feet’, should a similar situation occur.  It works best if you can wait until you are able to recall the event without feeling physically sick (for disastrous situations), and are able to breathe calmly while recalling what happened.  There are numerous disassociation techniques available from various bodies of knowledge such as Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) that can help you do this.  For example, you could recall the situation while looking up at the ceiling, keeping your eyes high in your eye sockets – this helps you disconnect from your feelings around the event.

Once you are able to recall the situation with little negative emotion, come up with as many alternate ways that you could have handled the situation as possible.  By doing this, you are creating alternative routes for your brain to go to should a similar situation occur.  The lag time between when you are stuck for a response to when you have a wide range of responses available to you gets shorter and shorter, until you are able to think clearly and have lots of options for how to respond, in the moment.   Many leaders debrief a situation but stop at one alternative way to respond.  Try to come up with three.  By doing so, you are becoming a stronger, more robust leader.

Experience by itself doesn’t make us a better leader unless we consider and do something with it.  Taking the time to reflect in a constructive way on what didn’t go so well allows us develop and skill ourselves as leaders, especially if we are able to disconnect ourselves emotionally from the event as we review it.

Cathy Taylor

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