Do you know, I mean, are you really aware, of how you behave when you are under pressure? Most of us, if we’re honest, are not. We’re so consumed with surviving the undertow that we can’t see our behavior and when we’ve made it to calmer waters, we’re just so glad to have survived that we don’t look back.

In the Emerging Leaders Program at UMass-Boston, we offer our fellows a psychometric assessment, called Prism. One of the dimensions of feedback that the fellows get from the report is their “personality under pressure.” This tool offers language to become conscious of the ways that we act when stressed and the impact on those around us.

As I’ve explained in prior blogs, we’ve got a significant event coming up in a few weeks and, as we’ve gotten closer and closer to the event, my stress level has risen. While I might have caught glimpses of it here and there, it reared its ugly head in a meeting with the team last week. I could hear it in the language I was using. I could feel it in the urgent, terse mandates I was sharing. I could sense it in the quiet, intense posture of the team.

Knowing my stressors doesn’t mean that they no longer trigger me, but it has helped me to catch myself more quickly. In this instance, I was able to call an audible during the meeting. I stopped the conversation, apologized for my behavior, took the time to explain to the team what was worrying me, and worked with them to plot out our next steps. Shifting the meeting from a reactive, narrowly focused monologue, to a collaborative, generative dialogue was an exponentially more productive use of time as well as a healthier mental space for me personally.

When I am able to effectively manage my stress, I am better able to lead my team. So, I’ll ask you again, do you know how you behave when you are under pressure? How does that behavior impede your leadership?