Composure is something I wish I had more of.
I like to think of myself as a steady, at-ease man who you can rely on to keep his head when everyone else is losing theirs. Well, my wish to be that calm person is not always how I have shown up. I get scared, I say the wrong thing, I put pressure on when I shouldn't, and I do let other’s stress response affect me — sometimes. Not all the time, and that's the point I think.
One of my dearest and oldest friends, Mark Dobson, is the Sydney critical incident manager for Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is a very cool organisation. Founded by two US Retired servicemen, a marine sniper and an intelligence officer. Jake Wood, the CEO and founder, realised that as soldiers they had a particular skill-set that should continue to be utilised post-retirement. Team Rubicon focuses on serving vulnerable and at-risk populations affected by a disaster. The Team Rubicon story is moving; you can watch the video here.
"It’s the leader’s job to do one thing: instil calm— not by force but by example.”
I love the simplicity and playfulness of Team Rubicon’s rules of engagement. ‘Don't be a dick’ is their first rule and the essence of it is, ‘stay calm under crisis’. Jake Wood talks about it in this LinkedIn post.
In The Daily Stoic, a much recommended book by Ryan Holiday & Stephen Hanselmen, one day’s entry is about the idea that calm is contagious.
Love this mantra — “Calm is contagious”. Here are the author’s words from the book:
"There is a maxim that Navy SEALs pass from officer to officer, person to person. In the midst of chaos, even in the fog of war, their battle-tested advice is this: “Calm is contagious.”
Especially when that calm is coming from the man or woman in charge. If the men begin to lose their wits, if the group is unsure of what to do next, it’s the leader’s job to do one thing: instil calm— not by force but by example.”
Here Navy SEAL Commander, Rorke Denver, explains the mantra directly:
That’s who you want to be, whatever your line of work; the casual, relaxed person in every situation who tells everyone else to take a breath and not to worry, because ‘you’ve got this.’
Don’t be the agitator, the paranoid, the worrier, or the irrational. Be the calm person, not the liability. It will catch on.
You’ve got this...
So for me, the three tones we can use more often as leaders are:
- To remove the fear and replace it with confidence tell your people, ‘you’ve got this’, and if you are on the front line with them, about to face down a challenge then ‘we've got this’.
- To remove the confusion and replace it with certainty, use phrases like ‘one step at a time’, ‘trust the process’, ‘stay the course’, and let people know what the next best action is. Turns out any action will often do, as the culture is more powerful than the strategy.
Management consultant Peter Drucker famously said ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’, and referenced research performed at the London Business School of Economics by Dr John West who showed the heavy impact that culture had, as opposed to a business focused simply on strategy.
- To mobilise us all in pursuit of a better future use words like ‘onwards’ and ‘next’. The job of a leader is to help manage the overload of stressful times. Focus on what we need to do now, what we need to do next, and then. Now, Next, and Then. Three time horizons useful in times of stress. Leaders triage the priorities for the people so that we can take action in the presence of fear; that’s the definition of courage.
To remove the fear and replace it with confidence tell your people, ‘you’ve got this’