Is your temper on a somewhat shorter fuse than usual? Is the list of things that get under your skin growing longer by the day? Is your tolerance for the human foibles of those around you noticeably diminishing? Do you find yourself picking on your friends, significant other or children for the most minor of irritants? Or perhaps you just can’t seem to get enough sleep or stop thinking about work when awake?
To manage other human beings for any length of time guarantees that at some point you will experience some if not all of the above. And when you do, it is a sure sign that something or someone is getting the best of you. And when that happens, it is time to take stock and reintroduce yourself to the importance of SELF MANAGEMENT.
Start by reminding yourself why you are actually being paid as a manager. It is not for working hard; that is a given. Rather, it is for your ability to make sound, clear-headed decisions, a requirement that is easily compromised when we are in a state of emotional disequilibrium or distress.
In an earlier article in this series entitled ‘Know Thyself’ said Socrates” I introduced the concept of what I call the BIG SIX. I return to them here because they offer a short list of workplace-specific behaviors and emotional responses that add additional proof that something of significance is out of kilter and requires your attention. Specifically:
- Is your need for control, out of control; that is, you find yourself micromanaging almost everything?
- Has you openness to new ideas and criticism disappeared; suddenly the input of your subordinates and colleagues has become insulting and offensive?
- Do you find yourself avoiding difficult but required conversations because you fear what you may say or do?
- Are you having difficulty sorting out your job priorities?
- Have you developed unusual anxiety around making mistakes, screwing things up and losing the confidence of your superiors?
- Or, have you lost your sense of humor regarding the human condition, or your perspective regarding what your job requires of you?
Self management with regard to any of the big six is a great place to start. Moreover, it is an essential requirement if you are to tackle the real problem: Identifying what exactly it is that is getting the best of you? Everything else — whether inside or outside of work — are simply the symptoms.
Thinking this through can prove simple or very difficult. The obvious is often not very clear at all, although perhaps hiding in clear sight: problems with a boss; trouble with someone or something outside of work; financial difficulties; a health problem you have been ignoring; the list goes on. Sometimes we humans unconsciously try very hard to avoid acknowledging the real “bete noire” because confronting it directly portends difficulty, time-consuming hard work and often considerable emotional distress. But the above symptoms will not abate for long if we continue to avoid their root cause.
I have no magic bullet or strategy to offer here. Each of us must find our own path. But I have always found it helpful to talk things through with a colleague, friend, or trusted other. Often they seem to see things more clearly than we do or are willing to admit. Moreover, their sustained support can help bolster the confidence we need to tackle the real problem head-on.
What the best managers know is that any of the above symptoms of distress can hinder their ability to function at their clear-headed best. Thus, what they do is seek out and eventually confront the real issue or problem regardless the personal or emotional cost.