Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay got to keep her job, despite the unfavorable media coverage and a six-figure settlement. After allegedly yelling at an employee and shoving the individual, many may not have been so fortunate. Thanks to her position and title, she got away with just a scandal.
Has this happened to you? At least one moment at work that you wish you could take back, smooth over and forget?
The skill that will help you to avoid ever being in this type of situation is called self-management. Instead of losing control and letting emotions hijack the situation at hand, we can take command of our emotions. People exhibiting self-management strength effectively manage time, priorities, emotions, and decisions.
For this, focus on developing 5 key components in your professional behavior:
One of the most critical components is self-control. This means that a person manages their emotions in stressful situations to achieve favorable short-term and long-term solutions. It requires going beyond just “being yourself” to knowing how to conduct yourself for positive outcomes. For example, perhaps you tend to react negatively when receiving a frustrating email. Instead of typing and sending a quick reactionary response, maybe taking a few minutes to calm down (go for a walk, listen to some calming music, etc.) before responding will allow you to answer in a more meaningful manner. Leaders with strong self-control own their emotions and behaviors, along with the outcomes associated with those choices. They take responsibility for themselves.
Another dimension of self-management is productivity. Being productive includes managing tasks and effectively prioritizing one’s workload. It is important to maintain focus and complete initiatives while staying open to the possibility of shifting priorities as needed. Scheduling specific times for checking emails or categorizing your to-dos based on their deadlines or level of effort may help to keep you focused and on the task at hand. You can also enlist the help of one of the many apps available for time management, these can be life savers for effective multi-tasking. By productively managing yourself, you will master “owning your zone” of influence and responsibility within your organization and successfully accomplish what needs to be completed.
Authenticity requires us to be transparent and honestly share our thoughts, actions, feelings and values with others. Fundamentally, an authentic individual is one who walks with integrity, meaning their actions and words are consistent. This entails being honest, doing what we say, living personal and organizational values and admitting when we make mistakes. This also means that you must know your own strengths and weaknesses. Taking inventory of these traits will help in your pursuit of authenticity. Just remember, there is a difference between being mean and being honest – make sure you know where to draw that line.
For many people, change surfaces negative emotions such as resistance, fear and insecurity. People with the muscle of self-management skills are able to remain calm and rational instead of getting bogged down by negative emotions. Part of being successful at adapting to change is welcoming new ideas that may differ from your own. Instead of shutting down differing perspectives, ask questions to try to understand and learn from those notions. Additionally, thinking creatively and pushing yourself to think outside of the box and not rely solely on traditional methods will help prepare you for uncertainty or even ambiguity. Leaders need to master the rollercoaster of emotions that go along with change.
A strong initiator effectively binds and loosens the rules or structures within an organization for the sake of the organization’s mission and customers. Initiators navigate natural tensions between stability and innovation by locking down values and fundamentals that define the heart of their organization, while simultaneously unlocking doors to new opportunities. People with strong self-management skills demonstrate the courage to take initiative and lead forward to new heights without disrupting the core values and foundation of their organization.
As you can see, self-management is extremely important in every aspect of leadership, whether that be at work or home. Managing yourself mandates taking full responsibility for your actions. Whitman’s behavior, when confronted by her co-worker, was not only ineffective, it had unfortunate consequences. When we undergo stress or change, we can get overwhelmed with emotion that tempts us to lose our cool. These are the times it is especially important to exercise the muscles of self-control, authenticity, productivity, and initiative. If Whitman had managed herself effectively, she would not have compromised her otherwise mostly stellar reputation as a leader.
By modeling self-management skills, you will serve as a role model and positive influence to others. Be the person who effectively demonstrates self-management. Manage yourself, so you can lead others.