Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: Maintain Your Composure

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Maintain Your Composure

Few articles start without an internet search, and this one was no different.I found that among the definitions of composure a band named Composure and a number of drugs, including one for pets. Merriam-Webster Online defines composure as a "calmness or repose especially of mind, bearing, or appearance: self-possession." I couldn't resist following the link to self-possession and finding this further definition, "control of one's emotions or reactions especially when under stress: presence of mind." And on to presence of mind to find "self-control so maintained in an emergency or in an embarrassing situation that one can say or do the right thing.

As I followed this trail, the challenges with our language became clear. Dictionary.com defines composure as "serene, self-controlled state of mind; calmness; tranquility", yet I suspect few of the leaders giving people development feedback are asking them to become tranquil. Rather, pulling together the Merriam Webster trail, composure as we use it in the workplace is about controlling one's reactions, especially under stress, in order to say or do the right thing. It's not about being perpetually calm. It's not even about controlling your emotion: passion is fine, anger is not. It's about what you CHOOSE to do, say, or display and therefore about gaining control.

How do you gain control? Become aware of your hot buttons. When do you become especially upset? Are you bothered by people who are unreliable? What about people who are untrustworthy? Does close monitoring of work, perhaps micro-managing make you crazy? Perfectionisms? Too much detail? Sarcasm? Insults? Roadblocks? Yelling? Once you have identified your hot button(s), reflect on what in these situations causes you the biggest concern. Consider what steps you can take to minimize or avoid situations where your hot buttons are triggered. Evaluate how you would prefer to respond in future situations. Develop a set of strategies for cooling down, for riding it out, or for changing the dynamic. Consider ways in which you might be able to have a positive impact on the situation or person, before, during or after the event. Enlist a partner in providing feedback, intervening, or making suggestions.

Change requires a number of steps: identifying your goals, defining actions, experimenting, getting feedback, staying the course and celebrating the win. If lack of composure is something that might be holding back someone in your organization, consider using feedback, assessments, coaches, observation, and experimentation to assist them in their development.

Remember, when you hear a message about composure, it is is not about stress reduction, achieving tranquility or creating a calm environment. It is about saying, doing and modeling the right things under stress.

Always keep your composure.
You can't score from the penalty box; and to win, you have to score.

Bobby Hull, Canadian Hockey Player

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