Entrepreneurs

How to Avoid Emotional Outbursts and Losing Control Under Stress


One of the most valuable attributes of a good business professional and leader is to be able to control emotional outbursts, to maximize your credibility and respect, and to maintain your own health.

The best of you train yourselves to show emotions sparingly and strategically, while the rest are convinced that emotions cannot be controlled, and are a function of culture and genetics.

Based on my own many years as a business executive and advisor, I have seen many professionals “mature” from hotheads to people who are cool and calm under pressure, becoming better leaders and decision makers in the process. 

With some coaching and mentoring from other leaders, I was able to do it myself. So I know you can do it too, by committing to the following strategies:

1. Train yourself to always look for positives, not negatives.

Optimistic business leaders see value in every new business challenge, rather than stress and risk. You must recognize that change is the norm in business, so problems represent opportunities to learn something new, and improve your productivity and the competitiveness of the business.

2. Write down your top 5 core values and review them often.

Pressure and emotion in business is often an indication of core value conflicts. Once you see and understand the conflict, it’s easier to make a decision, respond rationally, or simply remove yourself from the role. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t, or be everything to everyone.

3. Create a short to-do list at the beginning of each day.

A mind overloaded with a large and growing list of critical items is not efficient, and will always be prone to burnout and emotional outbursts. I recommend a three-item high-priority list for focus. Then limit the external interruptions, so you can comfortably and effectively address each one, and more.

4. Practice delegation and decline unreasonable requests.

Learn how to courteously turn back requests outside your realm of responsibility, and recommend others who may be more qualified. The most respected business leaders know their limitations, and are not afraid to admit them. Do the same for any commitments to the community and family.

5. Never schedule more than 80 percent of your time.

Pressure and emotion become dominant when your schedule is overloaded, or too many predictable interruptions occur. Of course, most professionals are optimistic, so they tend to over-commit and underestimate work requirements. We all need a buffer to handle those special cases.

6. Put more focus on building the right relationships.

Since business is generally not rocket science, relationships with peers, partners, and customers are often more important than skills. Find time in your work schedule for networking, working lunches, and business conferences, where you can test your ideas, learn, and generate support.

7. Define a clear break between work and private activities.

Practice a ritual, such as a cup of coffee with a peer, to define your workday beginning, and maybe tea with your spouse to reset to family time. Then diligently don’t let these worlds intrude on each other, except in emergencies. Use the transition to reset stress pressures and emotions.

8. Never use emotion as a substitute for preparation.

Effective business professionals always prepare for tough issues and key meetings by doing their own research and getting early counsel from experts and coaches. Not only do they do the homework, but they prepare mentally and physically to be at their best, rather than on the edge.

9. Take satisfaction from wins to balance against setbacks.

No one in business wins every battle, so frustration on any issue needs to be offset by other wins and achieving incremental thresholds along the way. For most of us, this requires setting aside some contemplative time on a daily basis to measure key item progress and enjoy small wins.

10. Maintain at least one non-work passion for energy balance.

Everyone needs a focus outside of work, such as a hobby, exercise regimen, or sports, to grant relief from work pressures and reset emotions. Emotional outbursts and losing one’s cool are often indicative of burnouts and pending meltdowns. Spread your energy to family as well as work.

Don’t let anyone tell you that what you can accomplish is limited by your culture or old habits. Everyone has the ability to control their own actions and emotions, which I find to be the keys to success in most business roles.

I encourage you to learn and practice the strategies outlined here, to minimize stress, and enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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