Remain Calm through the storm

“I don’t know how you do it – you never looked stressed!”

I hear this statement fairly often from colleagues and I would like to point out that I do get stressed on occasion – I’m not a statue – however the difference is that my stress is not often visible. I utilise a few little tricks to insure I remain professional and present in the face of a crisis.

From the outside, a calm colleague negotiating the point of battle during a monumental unexpected crisis is far more valuable than someone walking in circles pulling their hair out screaming “we are finished!”

The latter does nothing for the team morale nor is it a productive use of your time.

Whether beneath the calm exterior you are panicking can be your secret. It is the exterior that is important during crisis management and the words that come from you as the teams fearless leader. Your team/collages need a clear plan of action with defined steps all articulated in a calm voice.

Try not to buy into the drama – this is a most critical time and drama will not serve you.

If you need to rant and rave, that is fine, step outside, go to the bathroom, or wait until after work hours. Do your venting privately.

A panicky leader is not someone I would put my faith in – would you?

Here are three quick tricks to keep up your sleeve when disaster comes a-knocking.

1. Breathe. 

Simple yet effective.

While your colleague outlines the magnitude of the problem, the unfolding disaster or explains that the world as we know will end in 15 seconds unless we pull the rabbit out of the hat, just breathe.

Breathing is an amazing tool for keeping calm under pressure.

Deep breaths keep your pulse low and slow the nervous system which is probably feeling like an Olympic swimmer on the starting block wanting to explode with adrenaline right now.

Remember to breathe.

And then… breathe again.

2. Take a moment.

Whether you are new to your management role, or an old hand at the trade, you may not have the solution immediately in mind.

Sometimes there are different elements and risks to consider.

I suggest you take a moment. And take that moment while incorporating trick number one, breathing.

Once the problem has been outlined to you and you have all the information you require, breathe in, then out, and claim your moment.

If you need longer than a few seconds, great,  ask to have 5 minutes (or 10, 15, however many you need). Go away and return with your ideas.

I have never experienced someone not happy to wait a few minutes.

Your colleague may feel calmer just voicing the problem and will go away to think it through themselves for a short while. When you return with your ideas, you have a calmer team member /colleague to deal with plus you will have a clear head.

3. Detachment

Stress is very emotional and therefore someone who is feeling high levels of stress is feeling a high level of emotion.

Emotion during a business crisis is often a tricky one to manage and probably the least helpful.

Insecurities come out, personal viewpoints and opinions, blame, accusations – all manner of emotionally triggered responses.

My suggestion is to keep detached. Listen to the concerns but listen like you are Switzerland – you are neutral territory. Don’t succumb to the emotions and the drama.

The people involved have a right to feel their emotions, but they are not your emotions.

Keep some detachment from the situation so you can look at it objectively. If you are too heavily involved and cannot step back and view the situation without emotion, ask someone who can – ideally someone not involved directly who can provide an outsiders opinion.

Outline the problem and your thoughts on a solution and ask for their objective viewpoint.

Being able to detach from the problem and view the situation objectively, while breathing and perhaps taking a moment will help create a bubble of calmness around you. You are engaged, you are present, you are poised and solution focused.

You remain calm through the storm.


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