Episode 3: Emotion Regulation
In the Global Challenge Round The World Yacht Race resilience was one of the most important factors for leaders and teams to not just survive but thrive. Otherwise you’d be at the back of the 12-strong fleet before you knew it.
Resilience is often thought of as being just tough minded, but it is actually multi-faceted. We identified 8 key factors that were essential, to not only kept us on the racecourse and in one piece, but also able to compete with the best in the fleet.
Building on the first 2 episodes here’s episode 3!
To see previous episodes click here
So why is Emotion Regulation the 3rd factor. Because quite simply, when your emotions are in control being rational goes out the window! And it was leg 2 when the wheels came off for me.
Right from the start we were having to deal with dislocated expectations – expecting one thing and having to contend with a very different set of circumstances – sound familiar? Leg 2 from Boston to Buenos Aires was billed as a light wind leg, passing south past the Caribbean and onwards to the equator. Kicking off in December, the Hurricane season should be long gone. Only of course it wasn’t, and 3 days in we were skirting Hurricane Michael!
Thankfully we had made good decisions and took the safest rather than the fastest route – it’s a long leg, one step at a time we thought. However, it still took its toll on us in several ways; from sailing more miles and losing some positions, to sea sickness in some and lack of sleep in all.
As the storm subsided my focus was straight back onto the fact that we had dropped to 5th in the fleet, with 6th and 7th romping up behind us. And with a top 3 as the goal for this leg, the next daily midday meeting was solely focussed on jerking everyone back into action and focussing on our performance.
That’s because my emotions were already starting to get the better of me. I’m a competitive person and don’t like losing, and kept in check that’s a useful thing. But if overdone, concern for anything else is lost.
24 Hours went by and we delivered a poor performance, clearly everyone struggling to find their feet after the upset of the storm. Yet that of course just irked me more, and the next midday meeting was me ranting about how we couldn’t let this happen and we just needed to step it up. Rather than a more empathetic and enquiring tone that was so needed at that point.
Another 24 hours, another poor performance. So, did
I see the error of my ways? No, I decided to adjust my shift pattern so I could bridge both watches, and I got up on deck to micromanage the situation! Looking over people’s shoulders, critiquing the manoeuvres, correcting the helmsperson when they
were 5 degrees off course.. And stepping on the watch leaders toes in the process. I also stopped the daily meeting as I was up there anyway. And I wasn’t there for the Navigator to help him with strategy and tactics.
The result? We rolled into Buenos Aires in 7th with a seriously disgruntled crew who were probably questioning whether I was fit to lead them on. Thankfully I learned the error of my ways over the next week when I sat down to do 1:2:1’s with each crewmember. The first were all a bit stilted and it seemed they were tiptoeing
around the real reasons we hadn’t done well when I asked for their input. So in the end I asked the ultimate question for any leader to ask. “How am I doing as your leader – no repercussions, if it’s me that’s holding this back I want to know?” Thankfully they took me at my word and didn’t hold back, and to be honest it was what I needed to hear.
And I resolved never to let my emotions get the better of me for the rest of the race. So that’s why Emotion Regulation is the 3rd Resilience factor!
Top Tips to help you regulate your emotions
Everyone has a shadow side, which is what your strengths look like overdone! Be aware of yours and catch it early if it starts to get in the way. Also share this with others so they can remind you too when they spot it.
Being fit to lead is key – exercising regularly and eating/sleeping well all make a big difference to your tolerance levels and mood
It’s always wise in pressure situations to share with a trusted colleague how you intend to handle a situation to get their point of view – rather than blundering into a meeting, saying the wrong thing and coming out with your tail between your legs!