Five Leader Strategies to Keep Your Foot Out of Your Mouth

Five Leader Strategies to Keep Your Foot Out of Your Mouth

By William P. Dieckmann

Well, I have had enough. I am sick and tired of my employees not getting their jobs done and their poor attitudes. One of these days I am going to let them have it. I find myself thinking about this all the time. My family even wanted to know what was wrong at work. At the next staff meeting it happened, I yelled, “I don’t like some of your attitudes and not getting your jobs done.” I threw some papers down and stormed out of the room. Leadership hurts!

It has been said that “attitude is contagious”, and this statement is true. As a leader how you carry your attitude and emotions are very important.   Many times your emotions will determine if positive relationships will be at the forefront to being a healthy leader. Applying the right emotion to the right time, person, and setting will set the stage for leaders to succeed in work.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Have you ever thought of the influence that your thoughts have on your actions and in turn your relationships with others? Negative thoughts can move from thoughts to actions that can be destructive to the leader, family, and the work place. My guess is that we all have negative thoughts. It is said that we speak 16,000 words a day. (Emotional Agility, Susan David)* Just think how many unspoken words come through our minds. WOW a lot. So we all will have thousand of thoughts and some will be negative. That is ok, it is normal. The key question is, do we let them control us?

Let’s look at five strategies to deal with these negative thoughts so we don’t stick our foot in our mouth or hurt others and ourselves. If you would take these five items and put them on your desk, keep them in your car, and put it on your refrigerator with a magnet, it may save you a lot of heartaches.

Understand the situation. What is the context that has caused this emotion?   Think back to who was involved. What activity or situation caused this emotion? To understand the situation, it is important to ask “Why” when trying to understand the position you find yourself in. Try hard to understand the context. Look ahead and anticipate!!! Recognize patterns with your emotions. Do you repeat or replay in your mind the situation? You can’t get it out of your mind. If this is the case, you may be “hooked” or captured by your emotions.

Empathize with others. People around you will respond to you when they know you understand them. When you talk with others, focus on them as a person, not just a task to accomplish. Try and see their viewpoint. Listen well.

 Label your thoughts and emotions. Is what you are experiencing a thought or an emotion? Thoughts and emotions should only be traveling through you and not taking up residence!! Be alert to your thoughts and emotions. Call them for what they are: something that is temporary and not part of whom I am.

Accept and interpret your emotions. Accept your thoughts and emotions. We all have them. Experience them, but don’t let them control you. Take your emotional temperature and make adjustments. Consistently keep asking yourself, “Why?” over and over again until you feel you emotions slow down. This forces your brain to reason and keep you from doing something that you will regret later. Accept your emotions. They are trying to tell you something. What is it that is really behind this emotion?

Act on your values.** Expand your choice. Act on what you value. Your values are your constant guide. What does really matter to you? What are your personal core values? Act in a way that aligns with your values. Your thoughts and emotions change all the time but your constant is what you value.

Pulling it altogether:

  • Understand the situation
  • Empathize with others
  • Label your thoughts and emotions
  • Accept and interpret your emotions
  • Act on your values

*Emotional Agility: how effective leaders manage their negative thoughts and feelings.

**Core Values: personal, guiding, clarifying, articulate, guiding, informing, essential, and explaining.

***For a list of emotions, Google, “List of Emotions”

Philippians 3:13 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead


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