Staying calm is a choice

In business lots of things can get us worked up – even when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic quarantine. We frequently don’t get to choose our circumstances – but we always get to choose how we respond to those circumstances.

Me, trying to stay calm

That’s what was going through my head yesterday as I was transferring four frames of honey bees from two nucs to two, ten-frame hives. Why?

As bee keeping experts will tell you, bees pick up on your stress, so it’s important to remain calm while you’re working with them. That’s what I was telling myself as I peeled back the lid to the first nuc and exposed thousands of bees.

And it was easy to remain calm while they sat on the frames in the nuc. But the calm didn’t last long. Once I started removing the frames, those previously calm bees started swarming and buzzing around my head. And if you’ve never experienced that before, I promise you that my first instinct was not one of calm.

Here’s the thing, I had to continually remind myself to stay calm. The first frame won’t easily slide out? Stay calm. The top box is heavier than I remembered and I almost drop it? Stay calm.

I think business is the same way. We know that finding order in chaos is an important attribute of leadership today, according to Justin Menkes in his fantastic book, Better Under Pressure. But it’s usually not our natural response when things don’t go according to plan. That’s okay. Just remind yourself that this is a normal response – but it’s also one that you can change.

What happens if you don’t remain calm? When you’re working with bees, they get stressed and start attacking. And then you get more stressed and the negative feedback loop continues. In business, it’s the same way. It’s often not the negative event that kills a business. It’s our negative response to that event that does it. By responding in a state of stress, we just make the situation worse.

So, how do you stay calm? By constantly reminding yourself. It’s that easy and that hard. You must choose calm, especially when everything swarming around you is pushing you in the opposite direction.

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