Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for April, 2011

Composure—Maintaining your leadership cool.

I’ve been enjoying past episodes of Battlestar Gallactica, a television series that invites us into the politics and emotions of a working team aboard a futuristic battleship lost in space. The team on Gallactica is searching for the planet Earth—where the ship’s passengers (the last of the human population) believe they can settle and survive as a species.

One of the main characters, Admiral Adama, serves as the Ship’s leader, and has an amazing ability to demonstrate composure in the worst of situations. Watching his character in action has been a treat and reminds me of the importance of maintaining composure when leading others.

When I refer to composure as an attribute, I refer to our ability to:
maintain levelheadedness in volatile situations and times.
maintain enough distance in difficult situations or conflicts—without losing sight of the impact or importance of swift decisions.
be self-aware, so that when we feel our emotions rising to form or emote a reaction, we’re able to shift our vantage point to allow us to consider all available data and parties, and ultimately focus on the business outcomes.
demonstrate a cool and confident demeanor that helps to minimize anxiety in others.

The minute we lose our composure—when our emotions or reactive self takes over—we run the risk of demonstrating judgment, generating misinterpretations, or creating biases in ourselves and/or others, all of which will hinder our ability to most effectively orchestrate success.

Although maintaining composure is not always an easy task, the ability to do so in any situation, generates invaluable opportunities to have a significant and positive impact as a leader, coach, role model, and facilitator.

Observing multiple challenges? Spend your energy where you’re sure to have an impact.

This entry reflects on a common challenge that interestingly tends to be experienced more by strong leaders and managers, than by their struggling counterparts.

In the midst of significant organizational need, flux, or change, you may be well-aware of a multitude of leadership or operational issues needing attention. You may genuinely care about the company’s success and the people who work there which is generating your personal desire to respond or recommend where you see a need. Yet it’s crucial to understand that as a manager, and a human being, there is only so much energy you have to spend on your work and the issues facing you and your team(s). Stressing over how another manager is leading or misleading his team, or enabling a colleague who clearly may not have the skills to sustain success, or trying to respond to all or many of the needs you identify within your larger organization, will leave you exhausted and ineffective.

If you find yourself in this position, your personal challenge is to first understand where you have control and potential impact, and where you do not.

Once you’ve identified and compared what Stephen Covey refers to as your “Circle of Concern” against your “Circle of Influence”, your professional challenge will be to focus your efforts on those areas of need where you have control or the most potential for impact, and let go of the areas of need where you do not.

Your ability to focus and strategically lead where you have control and can make a difference, will allow you to maximize your contributions to the success of the whole.