Effective leaders approach their emotions in a mindful and productive way. The ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to the success of their personal and professional lives.
Empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is a critical element to this. But how do you stay mindful when you’re surrounded by the emotions of your team or your peers?
Think of what a nurse has to go through on a regular basis during their day. If they take on the anxiety of the patients they are caring for, they risk carrying that anxiety to the next room or carrying it home to their family. While you want a nurse who can empathize with you, you also want someone who can stay centered to help you through your situation.
In the same way, leaders need the ability to empathize but also stay centered. We may have employees who need to vent, and we feel we need to allow them that time. And we may give as much time as they need. However, taking on others’ negative emotions can trigger your own negativity or anxiety, as well as impact performance and decision making for themselves and for you.
To avoid this, here are five ways to help you stay emotionally centered as a leader.
If empathy isn’t your thing, you probably already stopped reading this article! Those who are able to empathize can use this to develop stronger relationships with the people they work with, as well as influence others and anticipate the concerns of others; however, there is a fine line between understanding the emotions of others and taking on those emotions. Know if you’re more likely to take on the emotions of others or even sacrifice your own needs.
Recognize situations where you can help
When someone comes to you with an issue, it’s great to listen. But also ask yourself whether you can really help solve the issue. Instead of trying to find a solution first, ask your employee what they’re looking for out of the conversation. Chances are, you more than likely aren't the solution. But you can help them find a solution. And sometimes, they may just be looking for someone to talk to rather than for actual advice or a solution to their problem.
Put it back on them
If there are negative emotions, recognize you may not be able to solve for their negativity. You can guide. You can counsel. But at some point, you may need to stop giving advice and ask them, “What are you going to do about it?” More often than not, they have the ability to find the answer. They may just need encouragement to help them move forward.
Give yourself space
If you find yourself absorbing someone’s emotions, find opportunities to give yourself space from the negativity. Work out of the office to allow yourself time to focus on your own projects. Or close the door for a period of time. Wherever you decide to work, put yourself in a spot that is positive for you in order to give yourself the space to work and refresh.
Use the clock to your advantage
Don’t stop meeting with your employees, but rather, put time limits in place. If you meet weekly, can you meet for 20 or 30 minutes rather than a full hour? If you find yourself being stopped in the hall and asked for time in between meetings, be honest about your availability. Ask them to schedule a time with you later in the day rather than forcing a conversation on the spot.
Your ability to understand your emotions and others’ emotions is an amazing ability. But, you are not responsible for other people’s feelings. You are not there to make everyone happy. As a leader, seek to understand and not take on those emotions. When you stay emotionally centered, you’ll be better able to support the needs of your employees, while managing your own thoughts and feelings in the process.