Stay Calm and Carry On

Photo by Shayne Kaye. Used under the Creative Common Attribution license.

Sometimes things happen you can’t plan for. Like riding your bike up the back of a bear. My trainer says she didn’t see the bear until she was on top of it. Literally, with her mountain bike.

She came around the corner, peddling furiously, looking over her shoulder and trying to stay ahead of the Scout troop following her. Scouting in Calgary has many advantages. Access to the mountains and wildlife are some of them.

The bear was sitting in the middle of the single track, facing uphill. The way she told us the story at the training workshop, she didn’t understand what had happened until the bear turned to look over its shoulder at her. It’s one of those “no sh*t, there I was” stories that’s funny only later when you’re telling it around the campfire.

She backed down slowly, keeping herself between the mother bear and cubs and the Scouts. By hand signals and whispering they got back to the last branch in the trail and took a different route.

That’s the kind of leadership I prefer. Calm, competent, cool. There are many things that could have gone wrong with this scenario, and any drama on the leader’s part wouldn’t have helped.

What do I mean by drama? In an already emotionally laden and potentially dangerous scenario adding more emotion is drama. If she’d screamed, or panicked, or froze, or attacked, things could have gone very horribly wrong.

Worst places to work? One sign is when your day depends on the boss’s mood. “Better keep your head down. Ian is in a foul mood because the budget is due.” Managers and executives need to control and manage their emotions instead of letting their emotions manage them.

Be enthusiastic, be positive, have fun. All good. But if you’re angry, or yelling, or throwing things, or even quietly calling people names now you’re either out of control or you’re a bully. Now you’re a “boss-hole”. Not inspirational nor effective in the long run.

It’s a simple thing outstanding managers do well – keep calm, be consistent.

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