You’ve Been Triggered: Honing The #1 Leadership Skill Everyone Needs, Including YOU

Creativity, innovation, flexibility andempathy have been buzzwords recently in the leadership development space and are highly valued characteristics of both an organization and leader. But NONE of those traits are possible when team members and leaders are easily emotionally activated.

We are pretty sure we don’t need to tell you this but when we are sensitized, without proper management of our emotions, we may act, think, and feel in ways that then trigger those around us, which leads to unproductive conversations, perpetually derailed projects and in extreme cases, a toxic workplace.

Perhaps paradoxically, scientists and psychologists know that banishing emotions from the workplace will effectively worsen any efforts at trigger management. Instead when leaders embrace and normalize emotions as part of the human experience, including in every working environment, teams can build towards a culture of regulated feelings there by creating space where our emotions can then support growth and innovation. In fact, in contrast to popular belief there are no separate emotional and rational brains, neuroscientists now understand that these two networks work together and are highly integrated.

How can leaders encourage and promote trigger management in themselves (and others by example)?

Examine your own triggers

What is YOUR relationship with triggers and emotions in the workplace? Are there days and events that predictably set you off and destroy your attention? Why might this be and what strategies do you currently use to manage them?

Learn about what is happening in your brain and body when you feel triggered.

Understanding why we have these responses from a medical science perspective can help you more objectively accept that these responses and emotions are normal. Hint: they were originally linked to your survival.

Get insights about how the brain can easily associate unrelated events and stimuli with each other.

A cursory understanding of how we are always learning and pairing things even unconsciously can also help us get to the root of situations that don’t seem to have clear links to survival, yet contain lots of unexplained emotional resonance.

Understand emotions and their relationship to attention to avoid “brain fog”.

When you suppress or even reprimand yourself for having emotions or being triggered you are creating a drain on your limited attentional capacity and sometimes heightening the emotions. Being aware of the emotions, processing and accepting them, having self-compassion and if appropriate, making a plan to problem-solve, are much better strategies for maintaining a “clear head”.

Know that your team members will have emotions at and about work.

Model this when you can, and provide space for appropriate sharing of team members’ emotions related to work projects, policies or deadlines.

Get excited that emotions can be a window into all of our “whys” and personal values.

Leverage these insights to provide you and your team the most emotionally meaningful projects possible.

Practice self-care in a visible way.

Model healthy coping behaviors. Take that lunchtime walk. Put a relaxation/meditation/reflection room in at work if you have the space. Schedule a day off after a particularly stressful deadline.

Key Takeaways

Trigger management is a foundational leadership skill that is rarely taught head-on. Neuroscience indicates that there is no such thing as an emotional brain that is entirely discrete and separate from the intellectual brain. Our emotions are impacting all of our thinking and doing whether it is conscious or not. Under ideal circumstances, this is a recipe for a holistic understanding of the world and others and a clear window to our intrinsic motivation. Workplaces where emotional management practices are encouraged, supported, and in the forefront are key to creating collaborative and resilient cultures. These workplaces are also less likely to be derailed by an employee's bad day and can recover from challenges more effectively.

CPS HR offers an in-depth leadership seminar series to help public sector organizational leaders understand why trigger management is foundational to their team’s success. This course is unique in that it combines brain science with a “coach approach”. The science provides evidence of the importance and accessibility of emotional recovery and management, while the coaching provides an implementation framework for individual and organizational change. Sign up HERE.

Trigger management is the most foundational, and yet least taught, element of leadership skill building. Leaders who manage their own emotions well can create stable, collaborative, brave and inspired work cultures even in high pressure and risky environments. Leadership always starts with how you lead yourself.
You’ve Been Triggered: Honing The #1 Leadership Skill Everyone Needs, Including YOUDOWNLOAD
Kelly Kent

Kelly Kent is a neuroscientist that engages her passion for the brain in all her work, including as a school board member and organizational educator.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.