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Your Impatience May Be Undermining Your Ability to Manage


Are you one of those leaders who moves quickly and deliberately while getting impatient that others (your direct reports, peers, or other stakeholders) aren’t matching your stride? They can see your impatience, whether you realize it or not. Your behavior is giving you away in these ways:

  • You are “short” when communicating: you may not give people the time they need to really understand what’s required to do the job.
  • You exhibit anger and frustration at the people whom you perceive to be causing the delay; they become fearful of telling you anything.
  • You take shortcuts (or allow others to do so), causing quality of the work to be lowered.
  • You change goals often, thus nothing gets done on time and your team is confused about where they’re headed.

Even though there may be times when it makes sense to show your impatience, be aware of the negative impacts when you should be managing your behavior. Being brief, angry, taking shortcuts or changing goals can create problems for you and your organization’s mission.

What you can do

Look to yourself before you blame others. Consider whether your impatience may be backfiring and causing the very delays you’re frustrated with. Some thoughts on managing your impatience:

Take a deep breath to slow yourself down. It’s amazing what breathing can do to calm you, and it’s a portable tool that you can use anywhere at any time that you feel the rising tide of impatience beginning to hijack your words and your body into saying or doing something that can cause lasting damage. A long, slow deep breath into your diaphragm once you notice the sensation to act out can provide immediate and noticeable relief to help you to do something different.

Have a conversation with the stakeholders who are causing you anxiety about your deadlines. Ask them what they need in order to meet the deadline, and whether they are still willing to commit to it. You may be surprised to find that they need additional information or training to assist them in some way – something that you can provide. Or perhaps they are simply more laid back than you are, and have every intention of delivering their commitment on time.

Decide what’s most important. Is a show of annoyance the best thing for you to do now, or would it make more sense to lay low and let others do their job without behaving in a way that might befuddle and confuse them? If a deadline is arbitrary, or the work they’re doing minor in comparison to the big items that require your intervention, then help them to prioritize their work if needed, or simply trust them to meet their commitments.

How do you manage your impatience? If you aren’t managing it well, what is it costing you?

Mary Jo Asmus is an executive coach and a recovering corporate executive who has spent the past 12 years as president of Aspire Collaborative Services, an executive consulting firm.

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