Leaders must maintain an awareness of their own emotional mental state

As a supervisor in a coal mine, some of my most stressful days were those with major equipment breakdowns. These difficult days were magnified on day shift when most managers worked.

When key equipment broke down, I had frequent phone calls from the mine foreman who was in the foremen’s office outside and my shift foreman calling from a central location inside. Everybody wanted an update on the expected timeframe of getting the equipment back into production. They had to make a decision as to whether to move the crew to another section or not. In turn, I was expected to pressure my mechanic to quickly diagnose the problem and give his estimate of the repair time. In addition, I was required to keep all of my crew members busy on non-production activities. I was torn in many directions. All of these pressures seemed to clash at once.

At the end of a particularly difficult shift, my boss, Bob, came onto my section complaining my men were not busy enough. The continuous miner was out of commission and the whole crew had been in preparation for the repairs. I was worn to a frazzle trying to keep the crew busy and get the machine back in service. Bob’s complaint was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I glared at Bob, grabbed my buglight, and with an underhand motion tossed it at him declaring, “If you want to run this section have at it. If not, get the hell off.” Bob caught the light a foot from his face. As the lantern left my hand, I knew I had put more energy into the toss than I wished and that I had made a career decision. Immediately, Bob realized, given the circumstances, he had been a little tough on me and apologized for attempting to micromanage my section. I apologized for my outburst and explained the day’s sequence of events. My actions were even more stupid than they sound. Bob was well over six feet four inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. He was not a man I wanted on my bad side.

Giving in to anger even with the pressure of productivity, extensive downtime, and crew conflict was unacceptable. Bob had his own pressures as a shift foreman but he had also been in my shoes. I had known Bob for about five years and he was a friend of mine so I thought I could take more leeway with him. Even so, my own indiscretion scared me.

Leaders should maintain an awareness of their own emotional mental state at all times. Today, when emotions run high I try to keep silent and think about what I need to say, not blurt out the first thing on my mind.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday.

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