There’s been many times early in my career when I let my emotions take over my actions and upon reflection, these actions were not those of the future leader I wanted to become.
You know the emotions when something goes wrong and you get that feeling of rage in the pit of your stomach. The emotion that kick starts the reptile part of the brain, the fight or flight animal.
Going Full Reptile
I remember one incident when I was in my 20s working on the trading floor with the FX Options trading desk. I used to get in early to ensure the systems were up and running before the traders arrived. Most of the time, the servers were down which involved me calling an external vendor to get them up and running again. It was stressful as it was always a race for time for me to get the servers up and running or get it in the neck from the traders. It was difficult to get hold of the vendor so early in the morning and it used to take what seemed forever to get the servers back up and running. I am not sure what was different on this particular morning, but I went full reptile and sent a scathing email to the vendor which I am ashamed to say included some profanity.
After this outburst, the service from the vendor dramatically improved, which was what I wanted. But there must have been some escalation emails post my actions as the head of IT spoke to me the next day and explained to me why my actions were inappropriate and how I should handle it in future. He was right, and I felt bad for what I had done.
Control Those Emotions
This was a great lesson and although it taught me how to manage a situation like this going forward, it did not teach me how to control the emotions and stop the reptile in me taking over in the first place.
During the following years, I observed how calm senior leaders were in all types of situations and I wanted to learn how to be this calm myself. So, I started to experiment.
Today if I start to feel rage, I stop myself, take a deep breath in through the mouth and out through the nose as well as imagine a picture of my smiling children. This seems to work for 99% of the cases, but in the 1% of the time when I am starting to go full reptile, I go for a walk around the building until the reptile is back asleep.
Outcomes of Going Full Reptile
Although going reptile can get results for you in the short-term, I have found the following disadvantages –
- People who you have upset, will not help you again if you need it.
- People around you will look at your position and feel this it is the right way to act if they want to progress
- You will eventually be replaced by a more senior leader who feels your actions are inappropriate.
The reptile is a tricky beast to control, but you can do it. You just need to find you own way.
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