“Who moved my stapler this time?”
Our minds are so powerful they dictate how we feel, behave and what we do every day. Our feelings and actions are linked.
As humans, I believe our biggest weakness is the fact that we have emotions. Our feelings make and break us.
They bring us up and bring us down. From ecstatic happiness to anger to depression. The element of managing and controlling human emotion adds an enormous challenge and dimension to entrepreneurship.
In fact, the best leaders are proven to have demonstrated the greatest ability to control their feelings, emotions and hence behaviours. Does it come natural to them or is it a trained skill?
For those beginning their entrepreneurial journey, you are about to travel in uncharted waters.
I recently read a book on emotional intelligence called Go Suck a Lemon: Strategies for improving your emotional intelligence, by Michael Cornwall.
Get SmartCompany FREE to your inbox every weekday
One of the key lessons was the ability to practically manage one’s emotions; for example, turning anger into mild frustration. Sounds easy, but it is very tricky.
Imagine this: It’s a boiling day and you are in an elevator which is jam-packed and you are squashed and can barely breathe. There’s clearly no room to let anyone else in. The lift stops at another floor, and a person has the nerve to walk straight in, bump a few bodies without any regard to the fact the lift is full.
How do you feel now? Angrier? Possibly fuming now? You might be thinking, ‘How rude, how selfish, can you believe that guy?’
Now imagine you find out that the person who joined the lift is blind. They can’t see a thing. They couldn’t tell the lift was full.
How do you feel now? Silly, embarrassed and sympathetic? Your feelings about that person change in an instant.
Your anger turns to sympathy in a flash. Your actions once leaving the lift are likely to be different if you feel sympathy rather than anger.
Having the ability to flick a switch and change how you feel is like having a super power. By changing your feelings, you change your actions and this can dictate many outcomes.
“By the power of Grayskull!” Remember He-Man, the cartoon and comic book hero?
Adam raised his power sword and in a flash, he had the power to conquer. Even Superman had an achilles’ heel – Kryptonite – yet there was a cure which brought back his super powers.
Many managers and leaders fall down as they lack the ‘super power’.
Ever seen someone quit their job because their boss bullied them, heavily criticised, or even ‘let loose’ on them in public?
These leaders continue to fail and won’t grow until they improve their ability to control their emotions.
Now I don’t claim to be an expert nor a psychologist, although as an entrepreneur I’ve had to find ways to manage and overcome feelings throughout my journey, otherwise I’d be finished. I have gained valuable experience and become self-taught at the subject.
If only they taught you this at uni! In fact, I firmly believe that every business degree should add a subject on ‘emotional intelligence’ to the curriculum.
When I walk into the office each and every morning, I think it’s imperative to bring a positive and happy mind every day without fail – non-negotiable. The same applies when greeting people for the first time.
Positive energy and a smile go a long way. Poor leaders show they didn’t have enough sleep and have lots of excuses why not to be happy today.
Here’s my secret. As I get out of my car and walk to the lift in the morning, I imagine myself hitting a big slog sweep for six to bring up my hundred (true story), not knowing I was on 94 at the time, and I can’t help but smile. I made 127 that day.
Before I get carried away, my point is that I’ve touched a nerve with myself and I’m immediately in a good mood!
Unfortunately I don’t have too many hundreds to my name so I have to hold my memories tight! Find something positive and put it to work each morning. I’d be keen to hear what ‘happy moment’ you use.
Now that we’ve arrived at work, a series of emotions can flood over us during the day which we need to control, otherwise we would be an emotional wreck!
Here is a list of some negative emotions which can infiltrate us daily which require urgent attention:
- Fear – of failure, of loss, of missing out, of competitors, of colleagues, ‘I can’t do this anymore’.
- Jealousy – of others, the boss, friends, colleagues, competitors, bitterness.
- Irritation – from simple things such as ‘who took my stapler’ to getting constantly interrupted, to the annoying smile on that guy.
- Negative thoughts – I ‘can’t’ rather than ‘I can’.
- Blame – it’s not my fault.
- Frustration – ‘my emails never bloody work’, ‘how can you not know that?’, ‘why can’t others ever do as good a job as me!’
- Anger – at customers, suppliers, staff, external factors, how long does it take to make a coffee?
- Anxiety – feeling stressed, paranoid, where’s my next sale coming from?
- Fatigue – worn down, worn out, can’t keep your eyes open, can’t concentrate.
The good news is that these feelings are normal and happen to all of us at some point.
The difference though is that some of us are better than others at controlling these emotions and tapping into our super powers, which ultimately dictates our impact on the people around us.
Here are some options. Breaking down, crying and hiding in the corner. Yelling, screaming and swearing are an alternative. Putting a hole through the cork board or plasterboard could be a goer.
What about getting drunk and taking lots of drugs to numb the pain?
Or, how about a positive thought, a deep breath, a moment of silence, a walk and some fresh air, or even a smile in the face of adversity? Why not even think about the blind guy getting in the lift?
Some negative responses are actually dirty negotiating tricks which I’ve seen, so be careful. For example, excessive anger and voice raising can be used as a negotiation tactic, like a child having a hissy fit to get their way.
But in general, no one’s perfect and it is unnatural to retain control 100% of the time. ‘Losing it’ in private in a controlled safe environment with a close friend, partner or therapist is better than ‘losing it’ in public, which may otherwise cause long-term damage to your business.
Could you imagine the Incredible Hulk sulking in the corner?
Did Batman ever give up fighting the war on crime and let the Joker get his way? No way!
They never gave up and won the battle. As an entrepreneur, you need to be committed to winning the battle over your emotions.
So what’s the secret apart from yelling ‘By the power of grayskull!’ at the top of your voice eight times a day, while possibly getting taken away in a straitjacket?
I believe the key is finding a balance of being human and authentic, showing emotion, while maintaining the ability to consciously control one’s emotions instantly and gain control when required.
This is one of life’s true challenges and what differentiates an average leader from a powerful and strong leader in business.
In fact, a great interview question for a potential leader in a business would be to see if the candidate has any specific strategies they use to manage their emotions on a day-to-day basis when they encounter the negative feelings listed above.
Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I realised that the negative feelings are ‘damaging noise’ and destructive feelings that get in the way of success, a clear mind and positivity. Only once the noise was removed and handled quickly on a day-to-day basis was I able to create a ‘clear runway’ for success.
If you ask two different people how they feel about their colleague not returning their stapler, the feelings can be remarkably different, so this tells me that it’s YOU to blame if YOU get angry.
This is what I did. I started writing down a list of the feelings I felt that were damaging to me and my business and identified that it was up to ME to do something about it.
I decided to recognise and ‘catch the feeling’ first, and then have a ‘plan of action’ to take. I developed a list of events, experiences and thoughts which change how I feel in an instant.
Over time, these negative feelings dissipated and became less and less impactful as I got on top of them.
The process still continues today and while it does get easier over time, this does not mean that I don’t slip from time to time, particularly as I embark on new adventures and create new challenges and places of uncertainty.
Unfortunately, many leaders, entrepreneurs and employees seem to have a runway full of obstacles and I believe that this holds them back in their professional and personal lives.
So much more can be achieved with a clear and positive state of mind without all the noise. It takes skill, training and practice to become an expert at ‘noise cancelling’. There’s no quick fix.
What’s on your runway right now? Does it need a spring clean? Do you need to gain control of certain feelings?
I like working with people with clear runways and helping my staff and partners clean up their runways so they can truly succeed.
And if you’re the culprit stealing the stapler, Batman will get you!