How to Maintain Your Poise
Late Hall-of-Fame football coach Paul Brown once said: “The key to winning is poise under stress.” This is as true on the football field as it is at work, in the boardroom or in any situation that requires leadership.
Staying poised in pressure-filled situations is easier said than done. Psychologist Donald A. Laird developed five questions to help measure leadership potential, and subsequently, the ability to stay poised. If we turn these questions into statements, they offer valuable advice for maintaining your poise.
5 Steps to Maintain Your Poise
1. Take a reprimand without blowing up.
Dr. Laird’s first question-turned-statement underscores his claim that being a master of situations—and controlling what you can control—is key to having poise. One enemy of poise, according to Laird, is anger.
2. Accept being turned down without getting discouraged.
Laird’s second question regarding leadership potential points to a person’s resiliency. Sports psychologist Bill Cole, on his SportsPsychologyCoaching website, says that mentally tough individuals “believe in their abilities in spite of set-backs and failures” and “maintain hope in the face of temporary ‘proof’ that they are failing.” Conversely, Cole writes that athletes who lack mental toughness are “overly sensitive to criticism.”
3. Laugh with others when the joke is on you.
In his third question regarding leadership potential, Laird asks how seriously you take yourself. This follows a theme that runs throughout his writing: maintaining a positive attitude as a key to maintaining poise. Cole concurs with this in writing that athletes who are not mentally tough often feel “picked on.”
4. Keep your spirits up when things go wrong.
This is the fourth trait Laird considers when measuring leadership potential. Along similar lines, Cole says athletes with mental toughness “push negative emotions away when feeling negative is natural.” One way they do this, says Cole, is by using “logic and mental powers to overcome negative emotions.”
5. Keep your cool in emergencies
Laird advises leaders to focus on what they can do and control–not what they can’t. On his Sports Psychology website, Cole lists in his signs of mental toughness: “don’t panic when trouble hits” and “see unexpected challenges as surprises and exciting.” Cole also notes that mentally tough people are prepared for trouble, although not necessarily expecting it.
Forget the past. Only focus on what you can do going forward.
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