Do you remember those childhood family trips to a vacation spot, a parade, or Grandma’s house? A sense of excitement seemed to slow time down and we continually asked our parents, “Are we there yet?” from the back seat of the car. Those parents who were patient knew how to deal with that question by playing a game (“how many out of state license plates can you count?”) or otherwise focusing the attention of impatient children elsewhere.
As an adult leader, you may have been promoted to a position of authority because you were able to get things done quickly. Your pace and impatience to achieve results may have served you well; there may still be times when a sense of urgency is called for.
However, when your impatience manifests itself in your own inappropriate behavior, it can work against you. Interrupting others, lack of full attention, sighing, being dismissive, or even walking away when someone is in mid-sentence may actually result in others avoiding you, gossiping behind your back, or not being completely honest to you because they think you don’t care. Ultimately your impatience can be damaging to your leadership and to the mission of your organization.
If you’re receiving feedback that you: lack empathy, take over a conversation, have all the answers, or that people just can’t seem to keep up with you, consider what leadership means. Are others willingly following you?
Some strategies that might help you to show more patience:
Notice triggers: The things that trigger impatience aren’t always about getting things done. You may want to be acknowledged (thus interrupting or speaking out of turn) or you may not care about socializing and small talk. It helps to know what sparks your impatience so you can manage it. You might also want to notice where the sensation of impatience begins in your body and what behaviors you manifest when you feel it.
Breathe deeply: Deep breaths can be wonderfully relaxing and can serve to slow you down when you feel that sensation of impatience. Different from a sigh, a deep, quiet, full breath that goes all the way into your belly may allow the exasperation you feel to reach the logical part of your brain where you can make a decision about more appropriate behavior.
Focus on the present: Return your focus to what’s in front of you. Listen, observe, and enjoy it. If that impatience trigger goes off in you again, you can go back to taking some deep breaths. Know that by focusing and listening, you are forming relationships and showing empathy in a way that you haven’t before; these things will help you to lead at your best.
Match others’ pace: As you pay attention, you’ll likely notice that not everyone has the same pace as you do. Some are faster, but the ones who likely frustrate you are those who are slower. When in conversation, try to match their pace. You’ll find that when you match the other’s pace, the relationship will deepen and flourish.
Don’t let your outward manifestations of impatience spoil your otherwise good leadership. Learn to notice and manage the sensations you feel to lead at your best.