Blog: Avoiding Derailment in Times of Extreme Stress

Written by: Robert Drovdlic, Managing Director, Robert Gregory Partners

Stress and pressure can often bring out the worst in us. In times of extreme stress, it is important that we each understand our own unique derailing tendencies so that we can intentionally choose more productive behaviors that impact the people around us in a motivating way.

There are three ways that leaders most often derail under stress. Identify which tendency feels most like you, and learn how you can get back on track:

1. Moving away from others. Do you “write people off”, become overly skeptical, indecisive, inattentive to others’ feelings, resentful and generally get “in your head” to churn and ruminate?

  • Engage! If this is your derailing tendency, you have to fight the urge to churn and instead make efforts to connect with people, validate your assumptions, ask questions, ask for help, talk through your thinking and understand theirs. And BTW, email doesn’t count.

2. Moving against others. Do you become arrogant and bossy, impulsive and sarcastic, overly dramatic or eccentric and generally become a leader that others don’t want to be around?

  • Be intentional! If you derail in this way, you have to pause and consider what you are about to say/do and predict the reaction of the audience. By simply pausing and intentionally deciding what to say and how to say it, you will make better leadership choices that inspire your people. Ultimately, this will enhance, not break down, relationships.

3. Moving with others. Do you stop thinking independently and instead fall back on boss’s orders, or rigidly adhere to rules and regulations or allow others to take the fall?

  • Bring your best thinking to the table! If you derail in this way, understand that there isn’t safety in always doing what the boss says or blindly following rules. In this VUCA environment, you have to bring your best, independent thinking to every situation in order to create followership and credibility, which ultimately provides the sense of safety you may be looking for.

A deep understanding of our own unique derailing tendencies brought out by stress and pressure is the key to being the consistent, inspirational, and engaging leader we all strive to be.

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