We’d let some kids come out and help us work cows. We put them in the pen, bringing cattle from one pen to another. I was working in the catch pen, when we stopped everything for a few moments to lance a boil on a calf.
We heard the cattle stirring, and then I heard Uncle Earl’s voice boom, “Cut it out, you’re stirring up the cows!”
The kids had discovered they could run the cows in a circle in the pen. The cows were getting anxious and were pressing against the fence. The cypress boards were groaning from the pressure.
The kids naturally assumed a posture of innocent cherubs. One of men helping us, Tom, climbed the fence into the pen, and just stood there, calling to the cows: “Whoa, cattle, whoa.” In a few moments, a swirl of cattle settled down.
One non-anxious cowboy equals a herd of non-anxious cattle.
People take emotional clues from leaders. If the leader is anxious, the followers are anxious. The leader sets the emotional thermostat.
As a leader, I cultivate self-awareness. I need to know what feeling I am transmitting. I bring perspective to problems that may seem huge to members of my team. I remind them of greater context, of resources they may have forgotten, and possible outcomes.
Anxiety is rarely a performance enhancer. A little bit is needed to help add energy to an organization, but too much dissipates the focus of energy.
So are you stirring up people? Be sure it’s what you want to do. A little anxiety is not bad, but too much equals chaos!