Have you heard these statements before?
“There’s no room for emotions in business.”
“Never let them see you cry.”
“You can’t get emotional about business.”
“Business is business. Business isn’t personal.”
Leaders are always talking about the lack of accountability and responsibility in their teams. They wish their team members would take more ownership. Often times the leadership or manager feels like they are the only ones who really care about the projects and initiatives they are working on.
Have you been there? Have you thought these thoughts before?
Well, here’s the path that most leaders are on:
- They need to change something.
- Change requires movement and action.
- Movement and action require energy.
So what creates energy in human beings? Yes, Red Bull and Starbucks. What else?
Sadly, it is:
- the very thing that many businesses have tried to take out and remove from their business interactions…
- the very thing that most leaders shy away (or run away) from…
- the very thing that people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to repress…
So, the very thing that you need to bring about change is the thing that you are not wanting in your business or team environment. A real Catch-22 as they say. So, now what?
What if you could learn to have both? What if you could have energy and emotion in your team AND be able to handle it? Would you like to know how?
As we look back on emotions in business and corporate environments, we find that many leaders only want one side of the emotional coin… the happy, positive side. They want their team to be engaged and empowered. This will lead the team to be accountable, responsible and take ownership. Hooray!!
But then, the leaders will talk about change and managing change and making things happen. As it turns out, most people are happiest when they know what is expected. The team members like to be certain of the outcomes and how they are going to be viewed and measured.
Change is the opposite of that. Change is about trying something new in hopes of an outcome which isn’t certain. With change comes changing expectations which means they often don’t know if they’re meeting them. This causes them to be unhappy, disengaged, and dis-empowered.
Why does this happen? I believe it’s because we aren’t allowed or we aren’t expected to bring those “negative” emotions to work. These emotions don’t belong at the table. Every member of the team and management is supposed to be confident and sure. They are “professionals.” They should know what they are doing and how best to do it. There should be no hiccups, no uncertainty and no blunders along the way. And heaven forbid, any emotions show up! That would be preposterous!
Do you work with human BEINGS?
So many leaders and managers treat their team members as human doings instead of human beings. There is a HUGE difference, you know. Human doings are expected to be robots and unemotional. Human beings show up, well, as people. Real, live, breathing, emoting people.
Why have we kept emotions out of business?
Well, I believe one reason is that in the past we only needed the human being’s hands. Most of our current management literature and practices came from the industrial era when we didn’t need our workers to think. But, the times have changed and so must those practices.
Another reason is that most managers don’t feel comfortable around emotions… especially negative emotions. So what happens when people feel uncomfortable… they label the emotions as “unacceptable” or “unprofessional.”
When a human being tempers their emotions, they aren’t just tempering their negative emotions. They are tempering ALL of their emotions. If you think about it… how would a person discern whether an emotion is acceptable or not? Excitement and passion could be viewed as anger or bullying. Rather than take the chance, they will just curtail all of their emotions.
Keeping emotions out of your meetings, your business, and your team environment is putting a damper on the energy that can be created by the members of your team. This is inevitably and often unintentionally slowing down the change that you are wanting to create and the results you are wanting to achieve.
What is the key?
Become comfortable around the emotions of others.
- Remember you are ALWAYS at choice. You can choose to get caught up in the emotion or you can choose to observe the emotion or you can choose to squelch the emotion. I recommend that you first become an observer of the emotion. You don’t have to change it or fix it. If someone is responding or reacting emotionally, realize that they are a human being. Realize that there is goodness in their emotions. How is that good? Well, most people don’t get emotional over things they don’t care about. To put it another way… you know that a person deeply cares if they are showing emotions. That’s a good thing!! It’s so much better than someone who is indifferent or doesn’t care because they will bring no energy and effort to the change at hand.
- Before reacting, be mindful of how their emotions are making you feel. As human beings, our emotional system is an open-loop… meaning that others emotions can impact our emotions. That doesn’t mean we have to respond to those emotions, just become aware of how they make you feel.
- Acknowledge the emotions. (NEWSFLASH: You don’t have to fix them. You don’t have to change them. You don’t have to respond to them.) Just acknowledge them – a simple glance may do the trick as long as you don’t roll your eyes or let out a huge exasperating sigh afterwards. “Say, Joe, it looks like you’re feeling angry/upset/frustrated about this issue. Should we stop the meeting and address this or are you OK with us moving on?” You’re giving Joe a couple of choices and he can decide. If he wants to address the issue, then dig deeper into the emotion and/or issue for a minute or two. Ask questions. He may think that path forward is not a good path or have another valid concern. Hear him out and then move forward. It’s OK that he’s emotional; it means he cares and is engaged.
- If it goes on longer than a few minutes and isn’t moving the conversation or project forward, say, “I know this is important to you and I think we should look into this. Can we schedule a time outside of this meeting to discuss? This further acknowledges his feelings and his human-ness and helps him to feel accepted and valued.
- Move forward after acknowledging the emotions. This is when you’ll feel the energy level rise in the room. Yes, it can rise from positive or negative energy. Just remember emotion leads to motion and that is exactly what you need to get the job done.
When people on the team know that they are being valued as human beings as well as human doings, they will help you by bringing the energy needed to create movement. Then you, as their leader, can direct the movement to create the change.
Remember, you can’t steer a parked car.
Don’t shy away from these emotional situations. Don’t be afraid of emotions. And, please don’t say that they are “unacceptable” or “unprofessional” unless you want to stay parked right where you are. They are not right or wrong… they simply “are.” They are a part of being human and when you work with human souls, they are a part of your work.
You will exponentially grow your leadership when you learn to be mindful of your emotions and your ever-present ability to choose.