Your best self is not your stressed self.

I spent the majority of my professional life managing and leading teams in a call center. Anyone else have call center experience?  

It can be a stressful place

They are expensive, so leaders at all levels have constant pressure to keep call times down and sales up. Plus, customers don’t call because they are happy. 

This meant as a leader I knew I had to learn to do things that would make working with me less stressful: 

  • smiling, 
  • giving high fives, 
  • focusing on strengths, 
  • recognizing small wins, 
  • etc.

This was all part of my brand, but we all have our days…

One day, a leader on my team stopped by my desk and dropped off a bag of Peanut M&Ms (the best candy of all time). 

“What is this?” I asked.

“Jacob, you are hungry.” She replied and then walked away.

I took my phone out, flipped on the selfie camera, and checked out my face. I was grumpy. I was not the approachable people manager I wanted to be. I was also hungry.

But without taking the time to check on my own emotions, I was unintentionally reacting to the day based on how I was feeling.

By embracing self-awareness, we find a gentle strength to guide outcomes, make thoughtful decisions, and nurture our own confidence. It allows us to converse with clarity and purpose, while also being more receptive to diverse points of view. 

It allows us to grow.

So what do you do?

Make time to transition

Right now, how are you feeling?

Get curious, not critical.

Many leaders go throughout their entire career without ever thinking about how they are feeling or how those emotions impact their decisions. 

But as a leader, everything you do is impacted by how you are feeling because you are a person.

When you are happy, things will seem like a better idea than they actually are. When you are stressed, everything will probably seem like a pretty bad idea.

You can improve your ability to make consistently good decisions by taking time throughout your day to check yourself. 

Or as Ice Cube Shakespeare once said, “Examine thine own self, ere thou dost bring ruin upon thee.”
Squeeze the Sponge

When you are leading people, it is especially important for you to take time to take care of yourself. 

Find healthy outlets my friends. You matter. 

Do the simple stuff:

  • Run
  • Walk
  • Meditate
  • Drink water
  • Eat healthy
  • Get enough sleep

As a leader, your job is not going to get less stressful–people are complicated, the needs of the business change, budget cuts happen, etc. A lot of these things are outside of your control. What is in your control is what you do to prepare yourself to be at your best.

Squeeze the Sponge and find ways to refresh and recharge your energy. 

As a leader, people are watching for you to set an example.

Your team is learning from you by the example you set.Be Transparent with Communication

It is natural to carry residual stress and emotional baggage from one interaction to the next. 

When you are stressed or upset people notice. The problem is they won’t always know why you are upset, and without all the details they will try to connect the dots on their own.

They will wonder if you are mad at them or if they did something wrong.

Energy is contagious, it is important for you to become aware of the ripples you are creating on your team.

People will remember how you react when you are stressed. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

When you notice you are off, get comfortable telling people, “I just want you to know that I’m a little stressed right now, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you.” 

  • If you are comfortable sharing a few details about what is going on, then do it. 
  • If not, tell them it’s not something you can talk about. 

And then transition back to the conversation.

Keep it simple.

This is great, but what about other people?

Self-awareness is the first step of building emotional intelligence and is a crucial element of building an effective leadership brand. The next step is developing others-awareness, and that’s what I’ll be writing about next week.

Jacob Espinoza is a leadership coach in Salem, Oregon. For more information visit

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