Grace Under Pressure

“Courage is grace under pressure.”
–Ernest Hemmingway





I blew up today.

I surprised even myself when I glared across the table at one of my team members, rose, and stomped to the computer to pull up information that I had expected she would have.  I grumbled out loud as I left the table and plopped myself in front of the computer.  One of my other team members came over to me and whispered in my ear, “It’s OK.  Relax, we’ll get there.”

What happened?

I was feeling stress over an important milestone for my team’s work.  That stress turned into frustration, which manifested itself with the glare and outburst on my part.  The reassurance from my team member instantly brought awareness of what I was choosing to do and to make a better leadership choice.  I stopped, assessed the situation, and recovered by assigning actionable steps.  When the team member who was the target of my wrath earlier had delivered on all the actionable steps later in the day, I thanked  her deeply and apologized for my earlier outburst.

Afterwards, I reflected on the events that happened and compared that to another heated event that happened with my team recently.  If you recall in my last post (The Best, Feasible Course of Action) I mentioned that one of the members of my larger team was having an emotional reaction to one of the scenarios we are considering for our strategy.  In one sense, his reaction had similarities to mine today.  The mental association I was making bothered me, and I reflected on that for a while.  On the Myers-Briggs scale, he and I are both “F” types as opposed to the “T” types that dominate NASA, yet I feel that I have the awareness, training, and disposition to make the best possible use of that as a strength.  Yet I reacted strongly, almost emotionally, to the situation this morning – the same way he reacted to one of our scenarios.

This afternoon while browsing Twitter during a quiet moment, I encountered a tweet from @SusanZelanski regarding her latest post (5 Foundations of a CLEAR Leadership Style: How to be Transparent).  Well, THAT sure caught my eye because I’ve been working on transparency as a leader, so I followed the link and read the post.  Foundation #3 instantly jumped out at me: Emotional Intelligence.  I read that item and quickly associated it to my outburst.  I concluded I slipped to a lower state of emotional intelligence where I let my feelings of frustration manage me and how I reacted to the earlier situation.  A higher level of emotional intelligence would be to recognize the situation and hold the frustration for another time, such as with a sounding board or during exercise, and to channel the energy of the moment into actionable steps.  In retrospect, and without knowing it explicitly, we did exactly that once I gained awareness.

Today is a lesson learned for me, and the value will be to recognize a future occurrence of frustration before it becomes outwardly manifested.  In the future, I will choose to act with a higher emotional intelligence and channel the energy into positive, actionable steps.  If I need to vent, I’ll save it for another time.

Grace Under Pressure