The one thing I have been consistently accused of over the last two decades is that I am too calm. I get asked how do I remain cool & collected while everything around is chaotic or in a pressure cooker situation. I don’t consider myself to be calm in all situations. I am like a duck – very calm on the surface of the water, while furiously paddling under water.
At workplace, however I do make an attempt to be calm. I have been fortunate to have worked with leaders who have been calm in extremely stressful situations & learnt from them. Frankly, being calm is the only thing that we all can do, because the alternative doesn’t build confidence in others at work. The other thing I have learnt is calmness in any situation also comes from deliberate practice – a focus on the big picture, a sense that this too shall pass, a curiosity of what can be learnt from this, & a quiet confidence that this is another challenge to overcome.
This was exemplified by Capt Sulley, whose plane got hit by bird after take off & he had 90 seconds to decide what to do. When air traffic controllers instructed him to head for nearby airport, he calmly informed them that he was “unable” to reach a runway.
“We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” he said simply, and then told the 150 terrified passengers & crew members to brace for impact. 150 passengers walked out of the plane on the Hudson river with no fatalities. After walking up and down the aisle twice to ensure a complete evacuation, Sullenberger was the last to leave the sinking plane.
He said that the moments before the ditching were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced. He also said: “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”
In my upcoming e-book – “Keep Calm and Lead On” I am exploring ways in which we all can make these small deposits to build our balance of Calm. I look at some behaviours and tricks used by great leaders who kept their calm and carry on. Leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Ekkapol Chantawong – the Thai teacher who kept the kids trapped in a cave motivated for days, and leaders like Jacinda Ardern, who kept calm and lead on even during the most horrendous terrorist attacks.
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