I have a policy which I attempt to live by in my everyday life and in my leadership. Most days I nail it, many days I don’t, but I still feel strongly about the policy. Every time I share this policy with others, there are any number of different responses; gasps for air, snickers, arm-folding skepticism or a blow-milk-out-of-your nose belly laughter.
The policy is simple: Don’t freak out. At first glance, this might seem like a no brainer. But what I’ve noticed in life and leadership is attitudes and behaviors are contagious. You’ve heard it said, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, or “everything rolls downhill”, or “walking on egg shells”. It’s true, the way we choose to react or respond will have a direct influence on the people we’re interacting with. This has been true in my personal life, as well as in leadership of several teams over the years.
I believe in leadership, a No Freak Out policy is an absolute requirement. Leaders who freak-out (or don’t coach team members who freak-out) set themselves up for unwarranted drama, which creates sideways energy, miscommunication and a lack of unity. Here are three ways I’ve discovered to eliminate drama and create a culture that keeps a team from wasting energy on freaking-out.
- Calm Presence: As a leader, it’s up to you to set the pace and the example for the rest of the team. This means that you need to do the personal work to examine yourself and take a good look at your own freak-out gauge. Are you quick to freak-out or are you so mellow (I live in Colorado) that people are unsure if you even notice the building is on fire? Some simple steps to leading as the calm presence, is to listen, stop and breathe, ask clarifying questions, or give yourself time to process before responding. I’ve listed a couple of great resources that I’ve found very helpful for me below.
- Organizational Values: Values are how we expect people to behave. Have you taken time with your team to sit down and talk about how you want people to behave in your culture? An easy way to start this process is to list the characteristics of the people who everyone loves on your team… you literally would fill your bench with these type of folks. Then make the opposite list, who are the people that have been released or you wouldn’t rehire, what are the characteristics that disqualified them? These lists begin to reveal what you value in people. Keep your list simple and sticky. This list of organizational values will front-load many conversations and allow you to have honest and kind conversations when a tough conversation arises. Warning; don’t fall into the trap of making your values too generic, they need to be clear and without room for interpretation (ie; integrity and honesty are characteristics that we all admire and desire, but what do those two things actually look like for your culture or team).
- Don’t Make It Personal: The best leaders are able to differentiate and separate themselves between what the situation is and who they are. I remember when my kids were teenagers, someone told me that I needed to separate myself emotionally from them when situations arose that required discipline or candid conversations. That was probably the beginning of this No Freak Out policy. You’d be amazed how much more clarity you have when your head isn’t telling you that you’re a failure or your screwed up somehow. Dial out and rise above the situation enough to listen and see the full perspective.
The reality is, you might be responsible for someone else’s Freak Out moment, I’ll write next time about how to navigate that and how to recover from a Freak Out moment of your own (oh yes, I’ve had them). I’d love to hear how you navigate a No Freak Out policy in your business, church or culture!
- “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown
- “Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Patterson – Grenny – McMillan – Switzler