Responding vs. Reacting
As leaders, we occasionally deal with team members who get irrationally upset. What we do next is most important.
On Monday night, San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler did something that’s standard practice in baseball. He walked out of the dugout to remove his relief pitcher from the game.
But instead of gingerly giving Kapler the ball and nodding like most do, relief pitcher Zack Littell aggressively handed it to him, then turned back and mouthed several angry words.
This is a f—ing managerial clinic from Gabe Kapler. Such a pro move to not show up his player on camera.
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti)
Sep 13, 2022
Littell was pitching poorly and has pretty underwhelming stats overall this year. Questions of “Who the hell does he think he is?” and “Is this guy serious?” probably ran through Kapler’s mind in the moment.
But the manager didn’t say a word or retaliate. He instead waited until he got back to the dugout, then quickly took the conversation with Littell into a hallway so they could chat privately.
As leaders, we occasionally deal with team members who get irrationally upset. It may be because of a substitution, a criticism or some other perceived slight — but how Kapler navigated the situation with his player was a critical snapshot into the difference between reacting and responding.
Reacting consists of:
• Being overly emotional and borderline irrational because of a slight
• Immediately cursing at the person or seriously raising our voice
• Saying something hurtful that can’t be taken back
• Allowing our ego to balloon after we feel insulted
• Pausing briefly before we say or do something rash
• Speaking coherently and not raising our voice
• Intelligently articulating the problem with the behavior
• Forming a logical resolution
In essence, when we deal with a hot-headed team member, it’s crucial to remember that the first 30 seconds are most important — and we can’t act on what may be our short-term impulses in the moment.
We must respond, not react.
Pause, breathe, construct some logical thoughts, then address the conflict.
It’s the most efficient way to extinguish what could otherwise be some fatal flames.