Let’s use my colleague’s problem (call him Jim) from ‘Learned helplessnesss’ as a real-life situation to be solved, and at the same time demonstrate powerful techniques that will develop him as a leader. It’s interesting to note that Jim first ‘felt’ something, i.e. he experienced an emotion when he heard that he was now Clinical Lead for 18-weeks. It was negative; he felt burdened, silently would have said something like, “oh, no! What have I got myself into?”, “what can I possibly do?”, “I can’t be responsible for all that!” Listen to his language: all reactive and demoralising. In fact, Jim is only responsible for one thing! There is one thing he can control: the way he responds. He can choose to pause, be aware of his feelings, and decide how to respond. Pausing before responding is incredibly powerful. First of all, it’s easy to do – nothing! It gives his body a few seconds to ‘get over’ the physiological response. Let me explain. When he finds himself in a challenging situation there is inevitably an automatic, physiological response. Jim’s sympathetic nervous system is designed to react immediately with a co-ordinated neural response, e.g. heart rate increases, pupils dilate, palms sweat, hair on the back of his neck stands up. There is also a slightly delayed, hormonal response, which usually takes a second or two to develop. Adrenaline is ‘squirted’ into the blood stream augmenting the neural response so that he may notice the feeling of emotional arousal, (anger, panic, distress) and even start to tremble or hear his voice shake as muscles become taut. Pausing, therefore, allows this ‘adrenaline rush’ to dissipate. 10 seconds is usually long enough. Jim can use this time to acknowledge to himself that he is getting ‘emotional’, and reflect on how he wants to respond.
In my future posts, I’ll show what Jim should do next. Coming up, how to gain more control….