You know him, the one with abundant talent and potential, but who always seems to fall short. You also know the person who overcomes every obstacle and outperforms all expectations.
From the classroom to the board room, from amateur ranks to professionals, there are those who reach amazing heights, in spite of limited experience or talent, and those who never amount to much, yet have all the talent you could hope for. What sets them apart? Intent? Drive? Ambition? Or self-control?
A funny thing about intent, drive and ambition – without discipline, they aren’t much more than empty promises. As the saying goes, the road to “failure” is paved with good intentions. If we can’t manage ourselves and control our impulses, our good intentions are continually self-sabotaged and it becomes harder to accomplish anything, let alone meet our goals or build healthy relationships.1
I once had responsibility to direct a manager who, when she was under pressure, became short tempered and abrasive and would say demeaning things in the heat of the moment. Her staff feared her and the most talented employees were leaving to work for competitors. While she was quite talented in her own right, she was unable to manage her emotions.
The situation was intolerable and reached a boiling point when she finally snapped at me. Rather than terminate her, I confronted her. We had a discussion about her ability to manage her emotions and not let frustrations spill over into her work relationships. Over some months, my coaching provided her the tools to remain calm amid turmoil, she seemed genuinely happier and so did her staff. Termination was not necessary and we stopped losing good people. She eventually led her team so well, they received high performance awards.
Clearly, the difference between mediocrity and excellence is in how we manage ourselves. Maintaining control of our emotions is crucial, as my story illustrates, but all the little choices we make throughout our daily lives also have an impact on how well we perform. Do we read that leadership book or watch that movie? Should we respond to that email about a project deadline, or check YouTube for the latest cute puppy video? Are we more interested in self-improvement or entertainment? Not that some entertainment doesn’t have a place, but finding a good balance is the key.
The highest performers are not always the most skilled or talented, but they are masters at self-control. They manage their impulses, regulate their emotions and stay focused on their goals.
So how well do you manage yourself? Do you have control of your impulses and emotions, or do they control you? How about your employees? If you watch how they manage themselves, I bet you can easily pick out the star performers who have a bright future. Wouldn’t you like to have more people like them on your team?
Unfortunately, only one in five applicants for entry level jobs have good self-discipline in their work habits, and more than half of employees lack the motivation to continue improving in their job?2 What if you or your associates were better “self-managers”? Think of the positive impact this could have in your work and your life!
I’m not suggesting you fire the lot and look for better people. This would be costly and counterproductive. What I am saying, is you’ve probably already hired skilled and talented people, but they may just need some coaching on how to become better self-managers.
Not sure how to begin? You can start by taking an accurate, scientifically validated Emotional Competence Assessment HERE.
1 Daniel Golman, Emotional Intelligence, Why it can matter more than IQ, 2005, Bantum Pub.
2 Gallup Poll of American Businesses.