by Jeff Saari

I am supporting a manager in a company currently who was on the rocks with his team.  He was even on the track to be fired until I was called in to facilitate a transformation in his leadership.  Now before I make it all about me, I tell you it takes two to make a transformation happen:  my support and his willingness.  Both were clearly there 100% out of the gate.  The shock of the initial feedback about his performance and attitude quickly gave way to an appetite for growth.  Over a couple months things began to turn around.

When meeting with him last week he said something truly profound, that he takes a ‘calculated pause’ now.  I was blown away.  This pause is so subtle yet so powerful.  Before I came into the picture he would react to his frustrations and anxieties by being negative.  He was part of the problem, which he didn’t see.  As we went through some of the feedback he received from a 360 degree report, as well as the feedback I was able to ascertain working with his team without him, he began to take a critical look at how his strong negative emotions were wreaking havoc in his team.  It goes without saying that this manager has done some pretty intense and amazing work in a short time to effect an almost complete turnaround.  Mastery takes time and I told him last week that I believe he is at the point where he won’t regress back to old behaviors because he is onto himself and he values being a supportive and engaged leader.

But back to the calculated pause.  If you don’t know you are in emotional hot water, then actions will flow to try to deal with those, most often being reactive, blaming in nature.  This doesn’t solve the original problem you were frustrated about and causes another problem: negativity in those around you.  To be an effective leader you need to be able to understand your feeling tones and when they change and then to take pause, to calm down enough to think about the action you want to purvey in your relationships.  Not all negative behaviors are aggressive though, some are passive aggressive like sarcasm and some are passive like avoiding others.  In the case of working with his anxiety he said he tends to over-explain things to others so they ‘get it’.  But what tends to happen is the verbosity tunes other people out, is a trigger for them.  So, he gets the very thing he doesn’t want:  disengagement.

If you are a manager you can try this on for yourself, as well as help others take pause under duress.  This is an important management function that goes under the radar oftentimes.  By knowing your trigger points and helping others understand theirs, awareness flows and people can take a calculated pause in order to be as mindful and constructive with their actions.

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