Following the advice of countless management pros and business mentors (including this blog), you’ve decided to enact a small change to your management style— You’ve decided to open your office door and open your ears, to all comers. You’ve made your office into a welcoming space with a friendly atmosphere and two comfortable chairs in addition to your own. You never close the door unless you’re having a private conversation, and you constantly encourage your teams to initiate talks with you.
So why haven’t they done this? So far, all you hear is crickets, and the line outside your door is non-existent. Your teams don’t even call you on the phone—they prefer to get your attention using texts and email. Even though we haven’t met you personally, we may know why this is happening: Your teams need predictability, and they aren’t getting it from you. At least not yet.
Social Energy and an Unpredictable Boss
If you aren’t sure how your boss will respond to a surprise knock on the door or some unexpected news, you’d probably do what your teams do: stay at your desk and send a message. If you have to gauge your boss’s mood or mindset before you approach, you’re more likely to send a text. If you don’t know whether you’ll be welcomed, validated, rejected, brushed off, or yelled at, why take the risk?
Social energy is a limited commodity for almost everyone, even the most extroverted among us. And if you behave unpredictably, you drain the energy of everyone around you, especially those who report to you and depend on you for their jobs. Keeping your employees on eggshells will keep them away.
How to be Predictable
Unfortunately, just recognizing the value of a predictable demeanor won’t make adopting such a demeanor any easier. Your mood and mindset change throughout the day, and since you’re only human and you have a right to express yourself, pretending to be a robot won’t help anyone. Instead, start by exercising emotional control and equanimity, and when that doesn’t work, be honest with those around you. Use your words to describe your sense of anger or frustration instead of volume, facial expression, or unexpected actions and decisions. Try saying, “That’s upsetting news,” instead of swearing, hyperventilating, or launching into a shoot-from-hip reaction. While you’re at it, hold all of your conversations in confidence unless you have a good reason not to.
When you take a position, stand behind it. And pause for two full seconds and two full breaths in and out before you respond to comments, news, or questions that surprise or upset you. This simple courtesy of a measured reaction can yield big dividends in employee trust.
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