Counting to 10 – Communication Under Stress

March 12, 2024

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Counting to 10 - Communication Under Stress

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There is wisdom in the adage of “counting to ten when you’re angry.”

In our Maxwell DISC reports, there are three charts. There is your perceived self, your public self, and yourself under stress. While you are inherently who you are, these charts indicate how you may be adapting to your environment and circumstances. While, hopefully, you do not reach the need for counting to ten, you will notice changes in yourself and your team under stress.

Strengths Under Stress

For example, if you are “DI” wired, needing to get a project across the finish line, you may lean heavily into your “D”, delegating rapidly and pushing for responses. Or you may lean into your secondary “I” and pull your team into a fast, positive energy. Ideally, you would operate in both strengths, but under stress, you may find one more dominant than the other.

If you are an “SC” who is normally a very “go with the flow” kind of person, you may lean more heavily into your “S” under stress. You may work harder than usual to create team harmony. You may get quieter and delve into creating a smooth process. Or you may hunker down into your C-wired secondary, where you become very detail-oriented, bold, and conscientious. As you near a deadline, you may communicate more succinctly, dismissing the more social conversations.

If you are an “SCI”, your inclination would be to pull your team together and boldly push through to completion. In this sense, an “SCI” could be perceived as a “D” because, at that point, they are moving in a very targeted, focused fashion.

As you can imagine, these combinations can work extremely well together, even under stress, if they understand each other’s range of strengths. Together, they create a powerhouse that not only gets the job done; but gets it done right. If they understand the variability that can occur under stress, they can adjust to it, creating even more momentum as a team than they could as individuals.

Weaknesses Emerge

Now this is where the “count to ten” part comes in.

Each person not only has strengths; they also have inherent weaknesses.

Under stress, those weaknesses can be magnified. Thus, as much as it is important to serve in your strengths, it is also important to be aware of your weaknesses.

For example, if you are “DI” wired, you could exhibit weaknesses under stress that could be perceived by your team as aggressive, strong, pushy, or abrasive. In a rush to the finish, you could drop the ball on important details.

If you are “SC” wired, you may find yourself digging in your heels and becoming stubborn and resistant to change; or you may dive into analysis paralysis.

If you put these two team members together, operating in their weaknesses, you easily could see the workplace drama unfolding.

Counting to Ten

In any given work environment, there will be stress. It is inevitable and, in some ways, healthy for productivity.

The key is to understand there will be adjustments under stress – towards strengths and toward weaknesses. As a leader, you must practice leading under stress in your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses under stress wherever possible. (Yes, count to ten if you need to.)

You may want to communicate with your team how you operate under stress, so they are not confused by the changes. This helps them understand and adapt to the changes.

And it is very important that you work with your team so that each person knows how they will use their strengths under stress and how they can guard against the weaknesses.

Thirdly, help your team members gain respect for their fellow team members by learning how they operate under stress. Help them learn how they can best communicate with each other in those circumstances.

The powering up of strengths under stress across a team can create great forward momentum. The key is to educate yourself and your team on how best to work together normally and under stress.

And to, occasionally, count to ten.


Action Steps

  1. Think about a recent period of stress for your team – for example, an imminent deadline, a major project, or an issue.
  2. How did you respond and communicate?
  3. How did your team respond and communicate?
  4. What changes did you observe?
  5. Consider taking a Maxwell DISC assessment for yourself and your team to identify best methods for communicating and working together under stress.

For valuable resources on Communication, click here.

Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!