What are those automatic behavior patterns we return to under stress?

Leadership is fun when things are going well and there is more challenge than stress. We are operating from a ‘we’ perspective and utilizing our strengths to benefit the team and organization. We are mentoring our team, bringing up tough conversations, leading from our values and achieving results. Life and business rarely flow seamlessly. It’s in those moments, where I’m asking you to reflect.

When we are under stress, or things feel chaotic, or a project is late and over budget, we can slip into some automatic reactive behaviors. These can even be behaviors that you believed you had left in the past or overcome. You may have believed those behaviors were part of the “old you” and not the “you” that has spent time developing professionally. These can be the most frustrating behaviors. You had thought you had left that reactivity behind. Development, though, is not linear. And even though we have made progress limiting some old behaviors, and their impact, they can be triggered again in stressful situations.

What are you to go behaviors during periods of stress and/or chaos? We typically have some go to behaviors. Examples might be

  • People Pleasing
  • Distancing ourselves
  • Becoming controlling or autocratic
  • Criticizing
  • Becoming Passive or checking out
  • Ramping up the Perfectionism
  • Uncontrolled emotional responses like anger

So what do we do?

The first step to any development is awareness. We can’t change what we can’t see. My homework for you is to notice. Notice when you fall back into those behaviors. Notice the situations that trigger them. Notice the people who might trigger them. See what the patterns are.

Then, once you begin to notice when they are occurring, you have an opportunity to pause. That pause offers you a space; a space to ask yourself a question. Some of the questions can include: What are my options here? What information do I need to know? Who can offer a new perspective on this? How is this behavior serving me or this project? What option might produce different results? What will immediate action provide to this situation; What will reflection provide to this situation? There are so many questions you can ask yourself to produce new insights. These insights will help influence your behavior choice. The ultimate word here is choice. We choose our actions. No matter how automatic our old behavior patterns are, we always have the opportunity to introduce choice. And that choice will spearhead not only your development, but hopefully better results for the short-term situation.