So the second block of the High Performance Pyramid is building Emotional Capacity.  The idea here is that positive emotions create optimal performance, while negative emotions create suboptimal performance.  During their research, Loehr and Schwartz asked hundreds of athletes to describe how they felt when performing at their best.  Using words like “calm,” “challenged,” “engaged,” and “optimistic,” they revealed they were not stressed, but happy during these peak performance states.  Conversely negative emotions like frustration, anger, fear, and resentment drain energy and can be toxic to the body and to performance.  Athletes tend to choke in competition when feeling negative emotions.

These same emotions affect freight agent performance at work.  That is why it is extremely important to cultivate positive emotions.  According to Barbara Frederickson, author of Positivity and creator of the “broaden-and-build” theory, “positive emotions open our hearts and our minds, making us more receptive and more creative.”  Conversely, negative emotions close our minds to the possibilities that are out there, narrowing our focus and reducing our probability of success.

So what does this mean for freight agents in your day-to-day lives?  You can cultivate positive emotions by interacting with people who are important to you, practicing gratitude by recognizing the small things that are going right in your life, listening to music that soothes you or makes you happy, performing a random act of kindness. Even acting “as if” by smiling and having a confident posture can ultimately create the emotional feeling internally.  As you look at all the tasks a freight agent has to do in any given day, find some pleasure in those that you like and really master them.  Create a sense of satisfaction when you calmly solve a customer’s problem on a difficult load.  Smile when you are talking on the phone, your positive energy will shine through.

When you feel the stress mounting and the negative emotions coming to the surface, you are really experiencing a physical “fight or flight” reaction.  When early humans were confronted with a threat, stress hormones were released by the body so it could mobilize to fight or run away from the threat.  These same hormones are released in our bodies when we are under stress, and we need a physical release to counteract the effects of these stress hormones.  A good workout can help burn off negative emotions, and a regular exercise schedule is highly recommended.

For freight agents dealing with difficult customers or drivers, or the myriad of calamities that can occur as a load is transported from pickup to delivery points, another more practical way of dealing with mounting stress can be practiced right in your office. Loehr and Schwartz also came up with a ritual to help push negative stress emotions back:  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths from the belly not the chest, consciously relax your facial muscles, soften your voice and speak more slowly, try to understand the other person’s point of view, and frame your response in  positive language.  If you work in your own home office, playing music in the background can also help you relax and decompress.  If you feel isolated in a home office, call a friend or colleague for five minutes and focus on what is going on in his or her life to take your mind off your stress.  Then when you feel calmer, you can start anew.

In my next blog, I will address how the third block of the High Performance Pyramid—Mental Capacity—can help freight agents increase their energy level and improve performance.

– By Cheryl Biron, President