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When Cool Heads Prevail

Are people talking about you behind your back and saying you’re a hothead? Or, do you notice your team is on edge all the time? What does this say about your ability to handle crisis?

Charlie was in his 30s and had a lot of potential–if only he could figure out how to modulate his reactions.

Charlie‘s manager reached out to me, because Charlie had such extreme emotional reactions to high-pressure situations. His employees would pick up on that energy and they freaked out over minor events at work. The employees were mirroring Charlie’s behavior, so they would overreact, too. When a real operational crisis happened, people didn’t know who or what to follow because Charlie often operated at a high-stress level.

After I was brought in as his coach, I gave him a personality assessment called the Workplace Big Five. The assessment results showed he was excitable (on the right side of the spectrum). Resilience is on the left side. Ideally, someone would have balance between the two. You don’t want to be so cool that people don’t think you have a pulse, and you don’t want to be so excitable that it wears others out. As they say, cool heads prevail and make better decisions.

When I shared the data with Charlie, he agreed. He had a large personality and tended to show a lot of emotion with friends and family. However, it wasn’t helping him in his job.

Charlie’s anxiety was spilling out into body language. Even if he stated a situation with calm words, his body language–clenched fists, aggressive posture–told another story.

Everything is a choice

Through our work together, he learned modulation. Over six months, Charlie became more self-aware of the specific behaviors to change, and we came up with strategies to address this.

By the way, strategies are a choice. Through self-awareness, my clients realize everything is a choice. When they realize they don’t have to shout or overreact, it’s a huge weight off their shoulders.

Sometimes, clients know they need to change yet aren’t sure how to go about it. Through coaching work and dialogue, I help them find the answers on their own. In Charlie’s case, we met and role played situations to give him practice and skills in the new behaviors. He worked through tailored assignments I gave him to help him understand what was going on physically when he overreacted. This let him see how his body language could be perceived as aggressive. Once he had a more controlled response, his employees could follow him better and feel more comfortable with his leadership, because he wasn’t always crying wolf.

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