My one-and-only, blindly followed, steadfast, non-negotiable, ‘if I only do this one thing I’ve won the day’ rule (carbs aside): The 24 hour rule. Huh? The 24 hour rule is basically this: when you are really ticked at someone (I’m talking your voice is 3 pitches higher, you are speaking in tongues, you are completely flabbergasted) over whatever the situation, you shut your trap for 24 hours. Do not try to rectify, correct, point out, discipline, or even speak with that person while you are hot, amped, and in this high of an emotionally charged state. I cannot stress how strongly you need to avoid the temptation to speak your mind. It will go bad for you. Well, maybe not always bad per se…but it will never, never, never go how you want it to. The adrenaline, whether it be disappointment that is concealed momentarily by anger, will cloud judgement and get in the way of controlling what comes out of your mouth…resulting in very strong sentiments hurled at your target. This is not good in any situation, but when it involves an employee…oooooohhhh, the damage is so hard to undo.
Because crazy never looks good on any of us. Not many can pull it off. And when someone has got us to the point where we are completely astonished at how [insert disappointment] someone could be, you are not going to be able to articulate what you would like at this time. Emotion gets in the way of rational thinking and judgement! It just does. What wins instead is the understandable (yet ultimately backfiring) desire to let that person know how wrong they were in their behavior. It is one of the worst times ever for you to be prove you're right. It will come across as tyrannical and mean, lacking any respect and self-control. Yeah, it seriously takes its toll, the situation is a complete and total loss…AND you instantly lose a lot of ground with EVERYONE.
We usually reserve these type of arguments with our family loved ones (I don’t just say loved ones because I believe we have loved ones at work too), our spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents…the ones that signed up for crazy whether they like it or not. Loved ones at home is a battle for the two of you, but your loved ones at work will not tolerate it, nor should they be expected to.
Yes, we find that we may get very upset when we see our staff do things and we know they know better. And while displays of emotion can do amazing things, such as:
- Be inspirational: motivational speech…wonderful, usually inspires action
- Provoke thought: shine light on perspective and cultivate thinking
- Pull them towards understanding: the ability to show the importance of something when they see behind the reason it exists
None of that will come across if you go off here.
Like all things leadership…it is up to you to handle and respond appropriately, awareness falls squarely on your shoulders.
Being composed to have a frank discussion about expectations, obligations, integrity, execution, consequences, future decisions are all part of teaching your team how to learn from mistakes. These conversations are crucial in working together successfully. You won’t be able to satisfy any of that when your pulse is racing because they just dropped the ball in some extra-spectacular fashion.
This is where the 24 hour rule always saved me. I literally blindly follow it. No exceptions, no debate: shut up and wait. Wonderfully, the simplicity is also what allows it to work. When wound up, your brains needs a solution that is simple to follow and the results are still powerful. This rule satisfies both.
It has also always allowed me the grace to show up on my terms when I obeyed the 24 hour rule. Better yet, I avoid causing someone I cared for to be hurt. No matter how upset I had been in the moment, later that night I would be giddy with the fact that I hadn’t gone off on that person like I wanted to. I can now professionally address the issue and resolve it like a #boss. That is priceless and will allow you to whistle your way through the halls.
Ok, you didn’t listen to me…now what?
I’ve been there too. The other reason I know this rule works so well? I’ve paid the price when I haven’t listened to my own rule.
We’re human, it happens to the best of us. But, boy…let me tell you…you'd better have enough well-earned stock with your team that they will be willing to forgive your act of indiscretion. Because it’s kind of like them seeing something horrific yet they can't look away. They understand, but it doesn’t feel right. Be very prepared to fix it. That entails speaking with each and every person who is dealing with the fallout you created. And although they do understand where you are coming from, that doesn’t mean you skirt the issue...openly admit you handled it wrongly and apologize. Nip it in the bud, you will save face and everyone will face the issue with you. The last thing you want is it to be talked about all water cooler style, hanging in the air for days on end.
Last note of caution on not following this rule…there will not be an infinite number of times you can break this and still have people want to work for you. As a leader, you are held to much higher standards when it comes to these situations, keep faltering and you will not have a team that is committed to standing up for you very much longer. No one wants to feel like you are a firing squad and they don’t know who is next. Taking the time to cool off allows you to see things in a different light, to gain perspective.
Now get out there and don’t say a word! Well…at least not until tomorrow.