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Sir doesn't run. It makes the troops nervous.

Three characteristics your staff are looking for in you. Courage, Confidence, Calmness.

Regarding calmness...

"Sir, I wish you wouldn't run. It makes the troops nervous." Long ago, this statement was reportedly made by a sergeant to his platoon commander. During my air force career, it became somewhat bastardised to "Sir doesn't run. It makes the troops nervous!", and was used as a very convenient excuse for lazy officers to avoid breaking into a jog! But, it does teach us how our actions as leader are interpreted by our staff.

Our team are always observing us, and more so in times of increased stress. If they observe their leader running from place to place and generally looking flustered, their level of confidence in us will diminish. Conversely, if they see us remaining calm, this will indicate we are in control and have a plan; generally raising or at least maintaining their confidence in us.

So how does this work in modern workplaces?

In my workplace, the flight deck of an airliner, I am regularly faced with periods of increased stress. My crew will be subconsciously assessing my tone of voice, the rate at which I issue instructions, my body language and a host of other verbal and non-verbal indicators which all add up to their feeling of 'this guy has this under control'. During an emergency, my crew and I are at a raised stress level, and I can deliberately use my actions to control this to an appropriate level.

At least four times a year, my performance under stress is assessed in a simulator. In preparation for these events, I have spent hundreds of hours rehearsing my actions during airborne emergencies. From the way I address the passengers, to the briefings I give my crew, to the way my hands move when operating cockpit controls...these are all important indicators which give my crew (and passengers) confidence in me.

What about your workplace? Well, that's for you to interpret. But regardless of whether you are in a law firm, a race car garage, or at your desk writing an email, rest assured that your team is constantly looking for cues that you are in control. Sometimes, like me, you may have to 'fake it', but this in itself can help reduce our anxiety level. By forcing ourselves to 'act' calm, to speak slowly and clearly and to move deliberately, we control our own response to stress and help reassure our team.

Remember..."Sir doesn't run. It makes the troops nervous."

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