“Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but paddling like the dickens underneath.”
~Michael Caine

When things get frantic, do you get frantic? Can those who work with you and live with you notice your frenetic energy? And do they then get frantic themselves? An essential leadership skill – whether you’re leading an organization, a team, a project, or a family – is to learn to flow with the chaos and show a calm demeanor to the people around you.

I had a client who could not control her emotions when things got tough or stressful. She would react strongly and publicly, at times complaining. Her outbursts only made things more stressful for her team. They would sense her reaction and build off of it, or begin to complain and bad-mouth others themselves. Until she finally began to change her behavior.

She learned to find more effective ways and places to vent her emotions. We talked through immediate actions she could take at a stressful moment to diffuse the situation (and herself) such as stepping away, taking a breath, or finding a bit of humor to lighten the mood, and we developed reminders and structures to help her curb her need to jump in and react (like posting the acronym, WAIT – Why Am I Talking?). She found multiple ways to be calmer on the surface, even though she was “paddling like the dickens underneath,” in order to handle any issues and manage her people through the stress.

The next time you feel the stress getting to you and your frenetic energy and anxiety are showing, WAIT, find a way to calm yourself, and notice the benefit for you and for those around you.

Where do you need to be calmer? How can you be more like a duck?
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