I was in the middle of leading a high-stakes project with a lot of moving parts and was overworked and exhausted. Late one evening, I decided to check my email before shutting down for the night.
There was a message from one of the project stakeholders that was positive about how the project was progressing. However, it seemed to ignore the effort my team had been contributing to the project’s success.
I was frustrated by this and before I knew it, I had fired off a reply — one which I regretted the next day.
The result I wanted was for my team to be recognized for their hard work. The project’s success could have led to us leading more strategic initiatives and getting more resources.
Unfortunately, my reaction was not in alignment with this result. To make matters worse, I had to spend precious time back tracking on my comments.
Does this experience sound familiar to you? In this episode we’ll discuss the impact of reacting instead of responding. And how reacting can be counterproductive to the achievement of the outcomes you desire.
Find the full transcript and other resources for women leaders at: https://livingwhileleading.com/34
The High Cost of Knee-Jerk Reactions for Women Leaders
Let’s return to my story. There were 2 things a play. First, I had no business reading my email in the wee hours of the morning. This is something I discussed at length in episode 16 Why Women Executives Should Know the Risks of the ‘One More Thing’ Mindset.
The other was that I chose to react, and quite emotionally at that, which was not productive.
If I had chosen to respond instead of reacting, it would have allowed me time to take a step back and assess the situation. This would have put me in a better position to choose a course of action that supported my long-term goals.
But what causes this to happen?
It’s often because you‘re too attached to a specific outcome. You have a fixed idea of success, and when things don’t go according to plan, your emotional brain takes over. This can lead to impulsive decisions that are counterproductive.
Some of the long-term impact of reacting rather than responding include:
- Reacting can damage relationships. Whether it’s with your team, your clients, or your stakeholders, knee-jerk reactions can erode trust and respect.
- Reacting can lead to missed opportunities. When you’re reactive, you’re in a state of tunnel vision. You’re so focused on the immediate situation that you can’t see other possibilities.
- Reacting can cement a negative pattern of decision-making. It becomes a loop, where you’re always on the defensive not strategizing.
Strategies for Mastering Mindful Decisions
I want you to think about the last time you reacted instead of responding. What was the outcome? Could it have been different?
Here are some things to consider to recognize your triggers and steer yourself towards more constructive behavior:
- Know Your Stress Responses: Everyone has physical signs that signal when they’re stressed. It could be a tightness in the chest, shallow breathing, or a rush of adrenaline. Be mindful of these signs and catch yourself before you react.
- Identify Emotional Patterns: Reflect on past instances where you reacted swiftly. What emotions were at play? Was it anger, fear, disappointment? Recognizing these patterns can give you a heads-up to pause before reacting the same way again.
- Clarify Your Values: What’s truly important to you? What do you stand for as a leader? Having a clear set of values can serve as a compass to guide your responses.
Focusing on the ultimate goal it helps you maintain perspective. It allows you to detach from the need for a specific outcome and open yourself up to creativity, invite collaboration, and navigate challenges in ways that serve the long-term success.
From Reaction to Response: Women Executives’ Guide to Mindful Leadership
As a leader, part of your role is to guide future leaders towards better decision-making processes by:
- Role-Modeling and Open Communication
Start by being the example. If others you taking a moment to pause and collect your thoughts before responding to an issue, they’re more likely to emulate that behavior.
Encourage open communication by discussing the differences between reacting and responding during team meetings. Use real scenarios to highlight the consequences of both, and foster an environment where reflective thinking is valued over hasty decisions.
- Create a ‘Response Plan’
Work with your team to create a ‘Response Plan‘ which is set of questions that they can run through when faced with a challenging situation. The questions might include:
- What are the potential long-term outcomes of my immediate reaction?
- How does this align with our core values and goals?
- Who can I consult with for a broader perspective?
These questions will encourage them to take a step back and consider the bigger picture before responding.
Coaching yourself and others to respond rather than react cultivates a mindful approach to challenges. It creates space for thoughtfulness, encouraging collaboration, and keeps the long-term vision front and center.
I hope this episode has sparked some ideas on how you can continue to lead with intention and guide those around you to do the same.
Remember, you’re the solution to claiming what’s important to you!