Going to discouraging or negative places is natural when coping with an intense life challenge such as critical illness. But how long do you allow yourself to stay there? Can you think of a time when you were in a hard place and all of a sudden, your mood or outlook spontaneously changed for the better? Perhaps you were deep in the flow of your work, out for a walk, or even doing some housework.Read More
In the last decade, leadership development experts have enthusiastically pushed to improve leadership strengths instead of addressing leaders’ weaknesses. This approach may have some success in growing individuals’ effectiveness, but it’s fundamentally flawed. When overemphasized, strengths become overused. This post is the first in the series on Lopsided Leadership.Read More
Hearing the phrase “midlife crisis” evokes the cliché of a successful man, between 40 and 55, who wakes up one day and decides he’s been chasing all the wrong things: his career, family, wife, car, and possessions. Nothing provides him with the satisfaction he craves. He demands more. Years later, after making some drastic changes, he finds himself with the same unfulfilled yearnings. Rinse and repeat.
Roughly a quarter of Americans report experiencing a midlife crisis.Read More
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My clients and their employees know me for busting workplace myths. One of my favourite myths is the notion that “common sense” is all we need to keep us productive and safe. More about the pitfalls of “common sense” in the workplace another time. In this blog, I focus on the myths and assumptions about “emotions” in the workplace.
When leaders communicate, they often focus on message clarity and overlook its important emotional component. In my previous blog on Emotional Expressiveness for Leaders, I wrote about the high intellectual understanding of emotions, but the low effective expression of emotions. What stops us from utilizing this critical communication and leadership skill?
Barriers to Expressing Emotions
So many of us cling to myths and assumptions about expressing emotions. Where do these myths and assumptions come from? Most likely from our experience in a workplace environment that rejected any emotion other than fear. Thankfully, workplace environments are evolving. The old “command and control” is waning and we are seeing workplace models that inspire and ignite engagement and peak performance.
To generate excitement, leaders need to master their emotional expressiveness. Most leaders continue to demonstrate resistance. How? Why?
Many leaders still cling to long-standing assumptions about showing emotions:
- It’s unbecoming
- It undermines authority
- It reveals a lack of control
- It conveys irrationality
- It indicates weakness and vulnerability
- It isn’t masculine (and is, therefore, too feminine)
What I’ve been most curious about in my work life is how and why expressing negative emotions of aggression and instilling fear have become acceptable. I have never seen anything so unbecoming, so irrational, and such an exhibition of weak character, as a corporate CEO, glowing red with rage, belittling and bullying his executive team and managers, shouting that they are worthless and unemployable anywhere else. Experienced first-hand in 1991! Exited that environment really fast.
In today’s workplace, both men and women leaders grapple with assumptions about being emotionally expressive. Men in leadership positions don’t want to come across as dictatorial, angry, moody, or over-sensitive. Women in leadership positions avoid showing emotions because they believe it plays into stereotypes about women being high-strung and over-emotional.
Does Your Head Overrule Your Heart?
In business, leaders are highly respected for sharp minds to the extent that we frequently ignore and squelch our emotional voices. But even the most analytical personalities experience emotions.
Peter Bregman addresses this issue in “Don’t Let Your Head Attack Your Heart,” a July 2014 Harvard Business Review blog post:
“We are trained and rewarded, in schools and in organizations, to lead with a fast, witty and critical mind. And it serves us well. The mind can be logical, clear, incisive and powerful. It perceives, positions, politics and protects. One of its many talents is to defend us from emotional vulnerability, which it does, at times, with jokes and quick repartee.
The heart, on the other hand, has no comebacks, no quips. Gentle, slow and unprotected, an open heart is easily attacked, especially by a frightened mind. And feelings scare the mind.”
No wonder leaders become entrenched in a comfort zone of data, facts, and ideas. But safe isn’t always smart. Truly inspirational leaders express their full range of emotions and are quick to pick up on others’. However, many continue to avoid expressing their feelings, fearing they’ll appear weak or out of control.
Practising empathic listening while observing and encouraging others’ emotional expressiveness will take you out of your comfort zone and align your mind and heart. To understand the power of empathy in leadership, refer to an earlier post Empathy in Everyday Conversations.
When I work with executives and executive teams, I coach many who are still clinging to the idea that emotional expressiveness is seen as weak and ineffective. Women leaders, in particular, struggle with this myth, as do business owners and executives who are members of minorities. They fear of being judged harshly and unjustly.
What do you think about this in your organization? What are you doing to debunk myths and stereotypes in your business? Your comments are welcome. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedIn, or on Maestro’s Facebook page.
Coming up in my next blog post: Bad news for buttoned-up leaders. Failure to show emotions makes leaders far less effective. Failure to recognize feelings impairs decision-making.
Photos © DXfoto.com - PhotoXpress
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How well do the leaders in your organization express their emotions? What about you? Do you appropriately articulate your feelings? Do you use emotional expressiveness to persuade and inspire others?
“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great leadership works through the emotions.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Primal Leadership (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)
Leaders are responsible for their organizations’ energy levels. While research has demonstrated a strong link among excitement, commitment, and business results, many leaders stumble at emotional expressiveness. They hesitate to express both positive and negative emotions in an effort to maintain credibility, authority, and gravitas. Consequently, they’re losing one of the best tools for achieving impact.
Leadership and Emotional Intelligence
“The role of emotional maturity in leadership is crucial.” ~ Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern, Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire(Penguin Group, USA, 2004)
MBA programs do not teach emotional expressiveness, although professors often address emotional intelligence as an important leadership quality.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your — and others’ — moods and emotions, and is a critical component of effective leadership. Leaders at all organizational levels must master:
- Appraisal and expression of emotions
- Use of emotion to enhance cognitive processes and decision-making
- The psychology of emotions
- Appropriate management of emotions
Every message has an emotional component. Hence, leaders must learn to articulate and express their feelings. Mastering this objective inspires your team in five essential domains:
- Developing collective goals
- Instilling an appreciation of work’s value and importance
- Generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation, and trust
- Encouraging flexibility in decision-making and change management
- Establishing and maintaining a meaningful organizational identity
Leaders create authentic relationships by expressing interest in their people and showing empathy. They must also learn to express their emotions publicly, albeit in an appropriate and effective way. Expressing emotions does not mean wielding the sword or making others feel uncomfortable or even unsafe. There is a lot to be said for expressing emotions with grace, dignity, and respect.
When I am consulting and coaching executives and executive teams, I find many who are intellectually conversant about emotions… but that is different than expressing their personal feelings. Not many are comfortable being that open and transparent.
What about you? In your organization, do people express emotions? Do they feel safe and competent in expressing a wide range of emotions? I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at email@example.com, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedIn, or on Maestro’s Facebook page.
Coming up: My clients and their employees know that I love debunking myths – such as the myth of “common sense”. In my next blog, I address the myths and assumptions about “emotions”.
Books and Audiobooks
The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, Third Edition, Steven J. Stein, Ph.D. and Howard E. Book, M.D.
Assessment for Measuring Emotional Self-expression and Empathy
For information about qualified administration and briefing of Emotional Intelligence assessments (EQi 2.0 and EQ360), contact Patricia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 905-858-7566.
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Previous blogs have summarized the first 4 steps in the Cycle of Excellence and referenced in the book Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011).
Recap: Dr. Hallowell, the author, a psychiatrist and behavior expert, draws on brain science, performance research, and his own experience to present the Cycle of Excellence process and the 5 steps to build peak performance:
- Select: Put the right people in the right job, and give them responsibilities that “light up” their brains.
- Connect: Strengthen interpersonal bonds among team members.
- Play: Help people unleash their imaginations at work.
- Grapple and Grow: When the pressure’s on, enable employees to achieve mastery of their work.
- Shine: Use the right rewards to promote loyalty and stoke your people’s desire to excel.
We continue with the fifth step.
Step 5: Shine
People rarely give out too much appreciation. In my work with leaders and executive teams implementing Quality Management Systems and Healthy Workplace programs, I witness the emphasis on identifying deficits, gaps, and non-compliance. Mistakes, unsatisfactory performance, and non-conforming processes get too much attention. Overwhelming energy is spent on analyzing weaknesses and attributing blame.
Not enough attention is given to recognizing strengths, talents, and attitudes. An analysis of what is working well and celebratory meetings focused on attributing praise is rare in the workplace. Yet research shows most people learn better from positive reinforcement of success than focusing on improving weaknesses. Every employee should feel recognized and valued for what he or she does well.
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope, “Essay on Criticism”
I would add to this quote: To acknowledge successes, divine!
People learn from mistakes and continue to develop when their successes are noticed and acknowledged. Letting them know that you appreciate efforts and victories large and small will motivate them to shine.
Ironically, when a person is underperforming or otherwise disengaged, lack of recognition may be the root cause. An employee will rarely come right out and tell you that she feels undervalued. It’s one of those dreaded conversations that people avoid while the issue festers. An astute leader and manager will be alert for the subtle signs that an employee is suffering.
Preventive and Predictive Action
I encourage my executive clients to follow a process of preventive and predictive action rather than fighting fires when employees disengage and problems arise:
- Be on the lookout for moments when you can catch someone doing something right. It doesn’t have to be unusual or spectacular. Don’t withhold compliments.
- Be generous with praise. People will pick up on your use of praise and positive acknowledgment and will begin to emulate for themselves and each other.
- Recognize attitudes as well as achievements. Optimism and a growth mindset are two attitudes to single out and encourage. Look for other desirable attitudes.
Notice that the above actions have a positive-focus aka “positive psychology interventions”.
Positive Psychology Interventions
Insights from the recent Canadian Positive Psychology Conference in Ottawa validated positive-focused interventions. Try a few simple positive psychology interventions to add praise and positive acknowledgement to your workplace culture:
- Begin your meetings with “what’s going well”. End with “what we learned today”. Best Practice: Make it safe for everyone to engage in positive feedback.
- Install a Gratitude Bulletin Board beside your Health and Safety Bulletin Board.
- Post-the-positive on your Employee Communications Board on a regular basis including positive affirmations; acknowledgements; employee achievements behind the scenes and outside the workplace; and positive news. Based on personal experience with clients and their employees’ response, I guarantee this one positive intervention will stoke your employees’ desire to excel and shine.
When you’re in sync with your people, you create positive energy and opportunities for peak performance. Working together can be one of life’s greatest joys—and it’s what we’re wired to do. Watching people grow and excel can be most gratifying – it’s what leaders are wired to do.
What do you think about this?
- Are you watching for and acknowledging what is going well?
- Are you modeling a culture of praise and positive feedback
- Are you going beyond your workplace celebrities and acknowledging the work been done behind the scenes and bright lights?
Books and Audiobooks
Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011)