The Show Must Go On
It was a day of terror at the Discovery Channel. A sole gunman with explosives took hostages at the network’s headquarters outside Washington, D.C. Locked down for hours on September 1st, amidst chaos and uncertainty, the channel never blinked. Throughout the whole scary afternoon, programming went on uninterrupted. When the crisis was defused after many harrowing hours, viewers never knew what was happening behind the broadcast scene.
As I watched the evening news and listened to this horrific event, I thought about the drama that often accompanies emergencies in dental offices. Walk-ins and “must-be-seen-today” patients don’t bring guns with them, but the reactions to them might suggest otherwise. Have you ever stopped to think about how viewers would assess your ability to handle a crisis? Do patients see the emotion or, like Discovery, does your “show” go on without a hitch?
Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and unexpected demands. And it takes work to deal with that kind of stress effectively. Gradually it makes you a stronger person. If you frequently feel frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. As the dental practice leader, you have to realize that you’re in a position to feed into the drama or to calm the team.
You can’t control what happens to you but you have a choice about how you respond. Learning how to calm and soothe yourself – and/or helping your employees do so – is the key to restoring equilibrium. Your employees will model your behavior, so be calm and optimistic. Whatever the emotional tone is at the top, it tends to ripple down through all the levels of the practice. What you as the leader do (or don’t do) will determine the functionality of the group when there are high stakes.
Research by the Center for Creative Leadership has found that the primary causes of derailment in executives involve deficits in emotional competence. The three primary ones are difficulty in handling change, not being able to work well in a team, and poor interpersonal relations.
Daniel Goleman recognizes this in his work, Working with Emotional Intelligence, when he estimates that 90% of success in business leadership is directly attributable to "soft skills." Problems inevitably result when a company focuses too exclusively on technology skills. Emotions, when used correctly, can make us smarter than intellect alone.
Goleman describes why an effective emergency response requires “the intelligent application of emotion.” Cognitive intelligence is often rendered irrelevant in our response to highly stressful situations. During these events, the brain’s decision-making center shifts from the left prefrontal cortex (which usually governs logical and analytical thinking) to the amygdala, the brain’s emergency response center. Since they are rooted in deep-seeded biological survival tactics, reactions typically generated by the amygdala are strong, sudden and emotional, and they often lead to poor decisions. In order to be effective in emergency situations, leaders must learn to resist the “amygdala hijack” and remain calm and focused enough to draw on necessary expertise to devise an innovative solution.
There are four domains in Goleman’s model of leadership. Each area is essential for effective crisis management.
3. Social Awareness and Empathy
4. Relationship Management
"The show must go on" is a well-known phrase in show business - meaning that regardless of what happens the show must still be put on for the waiting patrons. Improve your emotional intelligence and improve your business. And like the Discovery Channel, in crisis situations, never skip a beat.
If you’re having trouble managing your emotions, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll assist you in learning the skills to navigate around the amygdala hijack.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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