A blog about getting and keeping your next great job by Candace Moody. Candace has appeared in the media to address employment issues and has written for the Florida Times Union for several years. She is an expert in career recruitment, training, assessment, and in the human resources field. She is the vice president of CareerSource Northeast Florida.
What do you admire most about action heroes? Chances are it’s the same thing I love – their ability to stay calm under fire. The website TV Tropes describes nerves of steel this way: “Someone who has Nerves of Steel thinks when times are tough. They make decisions efficiently; they push their emotions aside, and so their decisions are not overly affected by them.” James Bond never panics.
Some professions attract and train workers to develop nerves of steel: firefighters, police, lifeguards, military members, and emergency room doctors are all taught (and maybe have a natural propensity) to put aside emotions and rely on their training in the midst of chaos. Even if your job doesn’t require you to kill bad guys or rescue people from burning buildings, you will be more successful if you can learn to remain calm in times of crisis.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, emotional intelligence expert and author, has conducted research on more than a million people and found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. This quality helps them lead teams in chaotic situations, handle crises more effectively, and win high stakes negotiations. Here are some tips for developing your ability to stay calm under fire.
Train and prepare, then trust your training. Invest lots of time getting ready for the meeting, the press conference, or the negotiation. Imagine every possible scenario, including worst case. Spend time thinking about how you’ll react, what you’ll say and how you’ll manage your physical reactions to the anger or stress you might experience. Practice what you must do so many times that it’s second nature (whether it’s a life-saving maneuver, tennis backhand, or a speech) so you can perform equally well in perfect conditions or under the messiest – without having to think through each step. When the time comes, trust your training and preparation. Your mantra should be “I am prepared. I know what I’m doing. I’ve got this under control.”
Stay present. Most of our stress comes from thinking about what might happen – we imagine all kinds of dire consequences, most of which never happen. Seneca said: “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Fear of what might happen distracts us from what’s happening right now in this moment. When you focus only on what you’re seeing and hearing in this moment, you are more likely to make decisions based on evidence and your training, rather than on your worst fears. Being alert means you’re aware there might be danger; panic floods your brain with internal signals so you can’t see external signals clearly.
Take care of your body. Stress is a physical reaction, and you’re more prone to it when you’re sleep deprived, hungry, or worn down. Train yourself to breathe deeply – oxygen will calm you and give your voice strength. Make sure rest, hydration and nutrition are part of your preparation. If you can, develop the habit of meditation or visualization before a stressful event.
Practice your game face. See if you can adopt what TV Tropes calls “dissonant serenity.” Practice until you can master intensely focused eyes, a calm forehead (no worried wrinkles) and a near-smile on your lips. If you can maintain that expression as your opponent becomes more and more emotional, you will have a distinct advantage in every encounter. Here’s what that face looks like on James Bond. (Image via Pinterest.)
(A version of this post appeared previously in my Times-Union column.)
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and not just because of the food. I love the fact that we dedicate a national day to being grateful for our blessings. If you’re working, here is a list of things you can be grateful for.
First, be grateful that you have a job. Even if you’re feeling overworked, underappreciated, or just plain bored, be grateful that you are working and earning. This last recession taught us how quickly the economy and your employment status could change. Even in this strong economy, there are people who have lost their jobs or who are struggling to find work they love. Many of them would gladly trade places with you. It’s just not cool to whine about your job; find a better one if you’re really miserable, but in the meantime, be grateful for the opportunity you have.
Be grateful when things change. Change, for the most part, means that your company is working on improving operations and responding to market conditions. Yes, learning new software, procedures or products is time-consuming and slows you down temporarily. But the trade off is in your favor. You learn more than new skills; you learn how to adapt and how to be more resilient. Having to master a new way of doing something takes you off automatic pilot and puts you into a beginner’s mindset. That will improve your performance in more ways than one.
Be grateful for your customers, even when they’re cranky, unhappy, or make your job more difficult. They are the reason you have a job, and their feedback, both positive and negative, is the way you learn to deliver better results.
Be grateful for the people who drive you crazy. You learn a lot from people when they are at their worst. You learn how not to handle situations, and you learn how to master your emotions and temper your reactions, and (I hope) how to put disagreements behind you once they’re over. The key to gratitude for difficult people is trying to understand; asking yourself why she is acting this way, instead of simply condemning the behavior. Consultant Celeste Blackman calls this technique “becoming curious, instead of furious.” Put yourself in your opponent’s place; what would you be feeling? How can you help him get to a better place?
Be grateful when your plan doesn’t go smoothly. Problems show us the flaws in our thinking or execution, and they offer us the opportunity to improve both. It’s true that you learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. Instead of asking “why me?” ask “what is the lesson in this?” Focusing on what you can learn will take some of the focus off your frustration and disappointment. Failure also builds character and humility, both of which are essential for your success as a worker – and as a human being.
Thursday, as I share a meal with my family, I’ll be giving special thanks for my job, which allows me to share my thoughts here with you every week. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
OK, so maybe not BFFs. But are you simply polite strangers? How close are you with your manager?
A new study by Olivet Nazarene University set out to identify trends in boss-employee relationships to see what the new “normal” is. The university surveyed 3,000 Americans about different barometers of closeness.
The majority of respondents (68%) say they have their boss’s personal phone number. The numbers start dropping as the measures of closeness increase: 34-percent of people say they’ve asked their boss for advice on personal issues, and 32-percent say they are Facebook friends with their employer.
Outside the office, 24-percent of respondents say they’ve visited their employer’s home and hung out with them socially, while only 15-percent say they’ve invited their employer to their home. Only five-percent say they’ve gone so far as to exercise with their boss.
Olivet Nazarene University also identified industry trends: Those working in the real estate field responded with the highest level of familiarity with their boss, while those working in science-related fields say they are “least” familiar.