I had an interesting exchange with a local sign supplier a couple of weeks ago that reinforced just how much of a career derailer a lack of impulse control is. I'm sure that you've experienced it at some point during your career. The ultimate is when someone hits the reply to all button and send on a totally toxic email that ends up going places it never should have gotten to. If anything it seems like the problem is becoming more prevalent as we continue to embrace social media.

In the work I do with my leadership development clients using the EQ-i 2.0 emotional intelligence assessment we often talk about the four most common leadership derailers. Number one on that list is Impulse Control along with Stress Tolerance, Problem Solving and Independence. Because of the high expectations that are placed on leaders, it is important to strive towards exceptional performance in these areas in order to prevent moments where you may actually avoid your leadership responsibilities.

Impulse control is the ability to think before acting and to show restraint in the face of impulses and temptations to act. Leaders with effective impulse control are highly stable, composed and methodical in their approach. They can steer clear of rash conclusions and impatient behavior, putting analysis into every move they make. Leaders with impulse control are:
  • Deliberate and apt to survey a situation before making a decision
  • Patient when communicating with and mentoring their direct reports, and they deal with obstacles in a composed manner
  • They remain calm and unperturbed under trying circumstances, allowing others to trust in their leadership ability during difficult times
A leaders ability to remain focused, delay temptation, and avoid making rash decisions ensures that they are at low risk of derailment. Leadership requires flexibility, but it is astute focus and deliberate planning that achieve corporate buy-in. By reflecting before they speak, the emotionally intelligent leader presents a position that is well articulated and, as a result, respected and trusted by the people they lead.

Here are 5 strategies that are based on Dr. Steven Stein's book The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success that will help you to deal with impulse control:
  1. Look before you leap. Part of the analysis you should be performing is a risk assessment on how will this decision could impact you in the future? What are benefits and potential negative outcomes of the decision? Do the positive outcomes outweigh the negatives? Listen to both your rational voice and emotional voice when making decisions.
  2. Delay. Sometimes referred to as the "24 hour rule". One of the best things you can do if you're not sure that making the decision you're faced with will bring a positive outcome is to take some time to decide. Most decisions don't need to be made at the speed of sound and by delaying you will often find alternate solutions that work better than your original idea.
  3. Be aware of internal influences. According to Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, we like to think that we are in control of our decisions. Yet evidence from various neuroeconomics and marketing studies have shown that many of the decisions we make in our day-to-day lives have less to do with our own personal choices than we would like to think, and that we are instead easily influenced by internal visceral states and external suggestions and primes.
  4. Keep your emotions in check. Paying attention to the intensity of your emotions when making a decision is a great way to determine when you should be delaying your response. It's not easy to do but is an absolutely essential skill for you to learn. One client went so far as to set up a separate email account so she could email her initial response/decision there before she did anything else. She practiced the 24 hour rule and would open up the email and reflect on it the next day. The number of times this strategy saved her was amazing.
  5. Think of others. The choices that you make can significantly affect the people in your life. When deciding how to respond, think about how your network of family, friends and associates will be impacted.


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