Leaders are the weather makers for an organization. Here’s how to create calm, even in a storm.

Leaders are weather makersLeaders are weather makers. They create the climate on their teams. They can turn up the heat, or cool things down. They can make it rain, or shine a light on the organization. Sometimes, though, the weather they create is not what’s needed or what they intended.
Two of my clients are facing similar challenges. Vanessa and Bill are both senior executives in the high-stakes, high-pressure world of public service. Both are new to their roles and say they often feel as if they are “in the dark” — pulled in different directions and scrutinized by leaders and media alike, with no guidance from predecessors on how to navigate the challenges of the job.

Vanessa and Bill navigate this darkness differently, impacting the “weather” on their teams in starkly contrasting ways.

Bill is a well-liked leader. He is intelligent, open to others’ ideas, technically proficient, and invested in the mission of his work. But, he has several blind spots that cause him to be unaware of the stress he inflicts on his team.

Because he is so passionate and intelligent, Bill is often a few steps ahead of others. He doesn’t provide enough context around his decisions or requests, leaving his team members confused and frustrated. He likes to work fast and multitask, and assumes everyone else does, too, setting expectations that feel insurmountable. Because he is so well-liked and respected, his team tries to meet those expectations, but they fear the pace is unsustainable. When conditions are stressful, he can be harsh or short. His team forgives this, too, because they know he has good intentions. But, the sting remains.

Vanessa works in an environment similar to Bill’s, but she is aware of her behaviors and how they affect her team. She chooses to, in her words, “be the light in the darkness.” She shields her team from the stormy conditions on the outside, creating a calm environment they can thrive in.

Here is how I coached Bill on how to set calmer, clearer weather conditions for his team.

1. Regulate your actions

I encouraged Bill to stop and think before acting or speaking. Taking a pause would give him the space to check in with himself and the people on his team, increasing his self-awareness and awareness of the needs of others. During a pause, he can ask himself, “Do they understand what I’m saying? Is my team overloaded? Have I given enough context?” Bill can’t be intentional in his actions or words if he’s operating at a constant 100-mile-per-hour pace.

2. Create clarity, not chaos

Bill’s actions would often cause unintentional chaos. He would call last-minute meetings, imparting a sense of urgency even when the situation didn’t warrant it. When invigorated by high-impact projects, he acts on impulse, which sometimes resulted in micromanaging. He also had trouble delegating, and tackling tasks others can handle just as well.

I encouraged Bill to be a force of stability instead of chaos. Consider the facts of a situation before acting: Is the situation actually urgent? Who are the key stakeholders that need to be involved (does everyone need to be at this meeting?)? Are there set processes or systems that need to be followed? Do I need to handle the task at hand, or can I empower someone on my team by delegating it to them?

3. Consider tone and temperament when communicating

Bill’s intensity and passion can often cause him to have tunnel vision, making him unaware of how the tone and temperament of his communication affect others. Sometimes, in high-pressure situations, he is abrupt and harsh. Other times, his creativity kicks in and he speaks his thoughts in a free-flowing, unstructured manner, leaving his team confused. The lack of clear direction would force his team members to draw their own conclusions, adding to the chaos. I encouraged Bill to seek feedback from others to help him assess how he communicates. These objective eyes and ears can help him balance his passion, intensity, and excitement with calmness and steadiness.

Vanessa and Bill share much in common. They are both passionate leaders invested in working for the betterment of others. By creating a climate of calm and clarity, Bill, like Vanessa, can also be a light in the darkness.

This article was originally posted on Inc.com