Here’s How to Approach This Often Overlooked Leadership Factor

Last week, my feelings got hurt.

The circumstances aren’t important but neither will I say everything’s OK.  It was uncomfortable; “hurt” is not just an expression when it comes to feelings!   But I knew enough about myself to let the feelings work themselves out and not to try to shut them down before they were done.   

Why am I sharing this in a leadership newsletter?

Emotion is a greatly overlooked factor in management and leadership.

This is especially true for us science-trained folks. There are facts. They can be relied on. There is forward direction, which is desirable.

And then there’s the messy people stuff that “gets in the way.”

For example, once there was a leadership team who rolled out an unpopular policy. They listened to the feedback and made adjustments, but there was leftover resentment amongst the staff.  The leadership team was adamant it was time to move past the issue: they wanted it to just go away. 

I was sympathetic to their desire to move on, but had to remind them that you can’t rush how people process events and emotions.

If the expert to leader journey is about expanding what you pay attention to – not just facts but context, business, strategy, and what’s going on in the room – emotions are yet another facet to become comfortable with.

Here are a few ideas to address this complex topic using the framework of the three levels of leadership:

Leading self:  

The first step is being aware of your own emotions.  A simple exercise is to jot down all the emotions you experience over a day or half day. Since we’re better at working with our emotions when we name them, take a look at Brene’s Brown’s book “Atlas of the Heart” or her downloadable list of emotions here

Leading others:

It can can be uncomfortable dealing with other people’s emotions.  Yet, I believe part of what makes it so hard is the energy we spend believing emotions are inappropriate at work and/or wishing they weren’t there.  When this arises, try reminding yourself that, “Emotions happen.”  Then, you can focus on responding to the person and situation.

Leading the organization: 

Have you noticed – organizations have moods!  I’ve been hearing about this a lot lately as many companies are going through change.  The mood may be a collective sum of the group emotions, but it’s important to keep in mind that each individual may have a different emotional response to any situation.  The best approach may be to just ask people how they are and openly listen.

Being aware and accepting that emotions exist at work is a great first step to helping people and organizations through difficult times – and eventually to be able to capitalize on the positive emotions that fuel our best work.

In addition, coaching can be a safe space to talk about emotions and how to respond to them.

This is just the tip of the emotional iceberg…

Are you or a leader you know feeling stuck because what’s worked in the past isn’t working anymore?   It may be a good time to talk about coaching.  Find a time on my calendar for a “Chemistry Call” at this link.

You can find past newsletter articles here

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