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By Darryl Stewart

Leading by example means keeping your cool

Have you ever lost it in a meeting you were leading? You were pushed too far and said things impulsively that you ended up regretting?

This happened to me recently in a team meeting I was leading. I was ashamed for the rest of the session and even more so as I thought about it after. I went to talk to a colleague who had been in the room and they confirmed my suspicion – I had acted like an ass.

As I was explaining myself to my colleague I laid out all the reasons I was justified in feeling I was right about the point at hand. They were all rational, defensible reasons that made my point in a far more compelling way than I had in the meeting. So why had I not just explained myself instead of losing my cool?

I think it all boiled down to patience. I was in a rush to move a decision along and was not willing to take the time to properly explain myself or listen fully to other options. I was in a rush and I overruled someone’s concerns without explaining my reasons. This is the short road to having a disengaged workplace where people that stay just do what they are told and the really good ones leave.

If you are leading and things are not going the way you think they should:

1.Take a breath, calm down, and let the feelings of anger and/or frustration pass over you.
2.Remind yourself that:
a) How you handle this is a huge reflection on you personally and the future engagement of the people involved.
b) You might be wrong, and this is your chance to double check your direction.
c) How you handle this is going to set an example for all the other leaders and future leaders in the room.
d)The reasons people might not be agreeing are almost certainly not aimed at you personally (so don’t attack them personally).
3. Decide what to do. If you are still convinced of your direction, explain why and carry on with it.

Some leaders I work with have trouble with this. They feel it looks weak to be explaining your decisions to the team; I disagree. Just because you explain your reasoning does not mean you need to do it apologetically. “Okay, thank you all for the input. We are going to continue on our current path for the following reasons…”  is a decisive way to end the discussion without blowing up and embarrassing yourself or others.

Of course, there is a right time and place for different styles of leadership. Sometimes you need to be the authoritarian, and it is especially hard in the times when not everyone is going to agree with you, and you must forge ahead anyway. But there’s certainly a way to do it without looking like an ass.   I hope this blog will help spare you from my fate when you have to push something through with your team.

IBEX Payroll extends our profound respect and immeasurable gratitude to all the ancestors and keepers of the land on whose traditional territories our work takes place. We acknowledge that we are on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional gathering place of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene people and the traditional homeland of the Métis people. This land is sacred, historical, and significant. 

Every time we acknowledge this truth, we have an invitation and an opportunity to reflect on the wrongs of the past, what we do in the present, and what we can do to continually honour the people whose lands and water we benefit from today. 

This statement only acts as a first step in honouring the land we reside on and its peoples, and must be paired with education, understanding and informed action.