How well do you control your emotions during tense situations? What three steps can you take to “be level headed” during emotional situations?
I’m reminded of a Coach Wooden story at the beginning of his teaching career at South Bend Central High School when one of his students, fathers was on the school board. Coach was 99% sure he would recommend this student for a high school basketball letter even if he did not fit the criteria. This student “had worked hard with a good positive attitude throughout the season, and though he lacked adequate playing time, Wooden strongly considered him for a varsity letter in basketball.”
Coach Wooden said, ” A few days before I had written out my final list of letterman, the player’s father “suddenly” appeared in my office. Without even a hello, he demanded to know –“Are you going to put his son’s name on the list?”
“I haven’t made my final decision yet. I may include him, but technically your son doesn’t qualify.”
” The man poked his finger in Coach’s chest and threatened, “Wooden, he’d better get a letter or I’ll have your job.”
Wooden was angry and even challenged the man to “settle things outside.”
“Emotion had taken over for common sense, and fortunately, the boy’s father stormed out of the office, but not before he repeated his demand and threatened Wooden’s coaching job. Emotions got the best of him and he decided not to recommend the young man for a letter even though moments before he was 99 percent” planning on doing so.
Coach said, “It was an awful thing for me to do. In fact, after turning in the list of student athletes who were going to get letters, I came to my senses, cooled off, and tried to get the boy’s name added. But it was too late.”
What valuable lessons did Coach Wooden learn that day about “being level headed” during emotional situations?
1) “If you let your emotions take over, you’ll be outplayed because you’ll make unnecessary errors; your judgment will be impaired”
2) “A volatile leader is like a bottle of nitroglycerine. The slightest knock and it blows up. Those around nitroglycerine or a temperamental boss spend all their time carefully tiptoeing back and forth rather than doing their jobs. It is not an environment conductive to a winning organization.”
3) “Strive to provide a leadership model that is dependable and reliable and productive in the area of emotions.”
Coach Wooden, over time “became very good at controlling” his emotions. He was later called “a cold fish” and considered it a compliment. His former student and player Fred Slaughter described Coach Wooden, as “cool when it counted; his confidence and strength became ours. He had a positive attitude, focusing on moving forward with what we had to learn to make us better.” Slaughter said about Coach Wooden, “A cool leader prevents overheating.” (“Wooden On Leadership” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison)
For over 70 years Coach taught his students, teachers, assistant coaches, and family members the importance of “self-control”. He said, “Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are essential.” (Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success”)
Coach Wooden 70 years later still remembered how he let his emotions interfere with his good judgment disappointing that young basketball player who did not receive a basketball letter.
Coach Wooden lead by the following “3 Rules”:
1) “Control emotion or emotion will control you.”
2) “Avoid excess. Shoot for moderation.”
3) “Instill emotional discipline.”
Coach Wooden wore a poker face. After winning a championship, he was asked by the news media how he felt about it. He said, “I’m pleased!”
In my early years as a professor at a local college on a military base in Virginia, I was teaching a three-credit course required for all Bachelors degrees. We were reviewing the materials for our first test of the semester and everyone was taking notes. One of my students, an officer in the military, told his fellow classmates and me during our class, “that he had a photographic memory and did not need to write anything down.” I said, “It’s always good to write something down to jog your memory at a later time.”
A week later we had our first test. After grading the papers, everyone in the class had made A’s and B+’s accept “Mr. Photographic memory” whose grade on the test was an “F”.
I handed the test papers back to the class the next week of class.
After class “Officer Photographic memory” waited till everyone in the class had left and cornered me in the room and said, “If you do not give me an “A” on this test I will make up a false charge against you. I am an officer in the CIA.”
“I took a deep breath, remained calm and quiet, and listened to him. When he finished talking, I asked him “What happened to your photographic memory?” He made no reply and left.
After class I went home and thought about the student’s threat to me. The next morning I called the Dean of the College and reported the student’s name and the threat he had made to me, after failing his test.”
The Dean said, “Give him what he deserves. I will take care of him! He is CID, Central Intelligence Department”.
What three steps can you take to “be level headed” during emotional situations?
1) Take 1 to 2 deep breathes, remain calm, and quiet!
2) Listen to the threatening person without interrupting or arguing with them.
3) When the threatening person leaves, focus your thinking on how to resolve the situation. If you need assistance then asked yourself is there an honest and trustworthy person in control of the organization who can advise me? In my case the Dean of the College was the best person to advise me.
These 3 steps will keep you “level headed” like Coach Wooden . Remember to wear a poker face like a good businessman and as Coach Wooden said, “Seek consistency-avoid peaks and valleys. Avoid excess. Shoot for moderation.”
Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award winning teacher, Amazon.com Best Selling Author, 2017 Coach Wooden Certificate of Excellence, John Maxwell Team Member, Certified World Class Speaking Coach, sought after speaker, business owner, and concert artist. She helps businesses and organizations “Tune Up their Businesses”. Her innovative observations show you the blue prints necessary to improve and keep your business successful. She writes a monthly newsletter “Madeline’s Monthly article & Musical Tips Blog” and a monthly radio show “Madeline’s One Minute Musical Radio Show”. Her book “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget” is available on Amazon or Kindle. Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org