Do You Stay Calm Under Fire?

confused leaderLast month we wrote about 50 ways you can betray your message. This week, we’ll take a deep dive into what happens then everything goes wrong. No matter how hard we prepare for an event, no matter how many contingency plans we put in place, and no matter how many times you’ve been through the same routine, eventually things will go awry.

Wifi goes down. Computers crash. Videos don’t load. Speakers’ flights are cancelled. The event organizer quits. The customer is a no-show. Shipments don’t arrive on time. Hotels and flights are overbooked. Print collateral has an error. You might trip and fall onstage. There are natural disasters, unexpected illnesses, and technology glitches every single day.

You can’t prepare for every possible complication.  But you can control how you react to them.

On the inside you might be a mangled mess of anger, frustration, and stress, but on the outside it is crucial that you remain physically and emotionally in control. As a leader, your emotions, stress level, and degree of focus set the tone for the team. When you fall apart, you give everyone else in the room license to do the same.

Remaining physically, mentally, and emotionally under control conveys confidence to your team and/or audience. When the glitch is small and inconsequential, using humor to address the issue and relieve stress can actually help build relationships with the audience. Who hasn’t been on a video call that dropped, a webcast that stalled, or video conference with interference? We’ve all been there.

Remaining calm also helps build confidence among those around you. Toxic leaders who lose control during times of stress tend to go on the offense. They work hard to point the finger at someone else before anyone can point the finger in the leader’s direction.

Leaders who remain calm and start working through a plan B are seen as more competent than leaders who get frazzled, angry and attempt to assign blame.  The trickle-down effect of a leader who stays in control and solves the complication is that team members don’t fear going to that leader with their own mistakesThey know the leader will take charge and help brainstorm and implement a solution, not berate or belittle the team member for making a mistake.

Finally, the way you act in a stressful situation sets a pattern. For the most part, everyone gets a free pass for not handling the situation in the best possible way.  By applying the lessons you learn the first time around, you should be more resilient to stress and unexpected complications the second time around. But, no one wants to work with the person who is always a mix of chaos, stress, and ill preparation.  Those leaders who do quickly become demoted or moved to a role with little autonomy and responsibility.

The next time plans fall through or go awry, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and divert all energy to finding a solution in the calmest way possible.  The impressions you make during times of stress will impact your team’s confidence level for years to come.