Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Come Out of the Emotional Closet
Posted by Melinda Guillemette
When I hear a business person speak with disdain about emotions in business, I can feel my feathers ruffle. And my feathers get ruffled a lot. For example: “We’re all about technical proficiency at this firm. Soft-skills education is a waste of time and money.” Better yet: “Showing emotion at work is a bad career move.” Or my personal favorite:
“Oh, I don’t have time to worry about that touchy-feely crap. That’s why I have HR people.”
Bias against emotion at work is as ridiculous as bias against gender, race or sexual preference. To deny that employees are emotional beings is to deny reality. No matter how cold the exterior may be, a heart beats inside. Ignoring the heart and what makes it beat happily is stupid business.
After all my years working with humans, I am sure of one thing: feelings are the foundation of everything, whether personal or professional. Feelings drive thoughts.Thoughts drive behavior. Behavior drives results. In that order, always. As a leader, if you want a good result from your team members, then recognize that emotions form the foundation of who they are and how they perform.
I’m pretty sure I know why so many leaders dismiss emotions at work. It’s because many of them, mostly male, are uncomfortable with their own emotions. They’ve spent a lifetime living up to society’s definition of masculinity. They have stuffed their emotions under mountains of work and less-productive endeavors like overeating, over drinking, and shutting down at home. And while I hate to admit this, plenty of women in leadership positions are doing the same thing. What a pity. We can do better. Here’s how:
Get comfortable in your own skin. Accept that you are a whole human being walking into your firm every day. You are not just your brain; you are your heart, body, and spirit. All of you comes to work. When you understand and accept this, you will get better at recognizing that your emotions are an integral part of your successes and your failures. In fact, your emotions play a huge role in making you uniquely you.
Respect and acknowledge others’ emotions. Everybody has them, and they bring them to work every day. You don’t need to run around hugging everyone. However, you can certainly allow for a discussion of emotional responses to ideas, initiatives, and specific experiences. It’s as simple as this: just add a question to your conversations. In concluding a thought or conversation, you might typically ask “What do you think of that?”. Now just add one more: “How do you feel about that?” You are likely to get a richer and more meaningful response by asking both questions.
Actively seek out the emotional temperature of your organization. Don’t just find out whatpeople are doing. Find out how they feel. Ask them. Then give them room to answer. Make it safe for them to answer truthfully. And if you don’t like the emotional temperature in your firm, take action to make things better. Be intentional about it and take personal responsibility for it, rather than relegating it to your Fun Committee or to HR.
All of this is easier said than done. But once you begin down the path of understanding people as whole beings rather than intellectual capital, no doubt you will find the journey rewarding for yourself and your firm. You will unleash your team in all its wholeness, increasing creativity, reducing turnover, and adding to your bottom line. It sure beats living life in the dark, cramped quarters of an emotional closet.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Lessons Learned on a Ledge
Posted by Melinda Guillemette
When you’re afraid of heights, it makes no sense at all to slide down the side of a five- story building. But I am afraid of heights, and I did it, anyway.
The Great Leap of 2013, as I will forever call it, was a fantastic closing of a year-long project that I co-facilitated. It was a leadership workshop designed to build deep relationships and increase understanding of leadership strategies and tactics. Certainly rappelling contributed to those goals.
Here are some of the things I observed and learned:
1.The first steps are the scariest. That’s the time to keep pushing in the face of fear: when your feet are edging toward what feels like oblivion. Whether you are launching a new service, creating a new position, or handling a fierce conversation, the beginning is the toughest part. Get through that, and you can keep going.
2.Whatever narrative you repeat, you will believe. If you stand at the ledge and tell yourself you can continue, then you will.
3.When things get scary, focus on what’s right in front of you. For me, looking down was not an option, especially at the start. So I just looked straight ahead. It kept everything in perspective and lessened the fear. The same applies to working on a complex project with uncertain outcomes.
4. Break big tasks into small steps that you can control. When I thought about the fact that I was about to crawl down the side of a building, my entire being screamed, “What are you, nuts? Stop this!” But when I told myself to take the first step up to the edge, then hold the ropes, then lean back, then take small steps down, it was doable.
5.Stress can bring people together if you handle it right. In our case, we handled it with humor. Each of us who rappelled was scared. All of us had knocking knees. But we kept laughing, joking, and hugging each other — before and after going over the edge.
6.Doing scary things is exhilarating, and worth celebrating. The sense of accomplishment that results from facing a lifelong fear is huge. Our team earned bragging rights for at least the rest of the year. It gives us a reason to celebrate success. When you and your team achieve something challenging or overcome a difficulty, don’t be humble. Be proud. Jump for joy. High five each other. Let the moment of victory linger.
When we push our boundaries, we make our world a little bigger and our spirits a little stronger. When we do that as a team, the whole group bonds and grows. I hope my experience will encourage you to take a big step off of a very high ledge...with proper ropes and guidance, of course.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
Posted by Melinda Guillemette
Dictionary.com defines complacent as:
“pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc., often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied”
What the dictionary doesn’t say is that being complacent eventually kills both relationships and revenue. If you’re hearing the statements below in your firm, you’re probably at risk of losing clients. The only way to save ourselves is to ask questions that counter individual and organizational complacency.
Complacency: “We’ve had this client for years. They love us.” Well, maybe they do and maybe they’re just feeling so-so about you. To think you can serve them year after year the same way you always have is pure folly. Rest assured, your competitors are looking to take your place with that client. They want what you have, and they will work hard to get it.
Counter: Have I asked this client how we’re doing, face to face? Better yet, have I sent someone else in to ask the client how we’re doing -- just in case there’s something making Adoring Client uncomfortable or less than pleased with us? Have I spent the right amount of non-billable time partnering with this client to improve something about their business or their life? Have I brought them a new idea?
Complacency: “We’ve always done it this way.” What this really says is, “Hey, it’s not broke. Let’s not fix it. Let’s concentrate on our real (billable) work.” The trouble is, your clients expect you to keep doing things better and working in their interests more effectively, on a fairly consistent upward spiral. They may not express it, but they surely do expect it. And if they don’t get the most forward-thinking innovation from you, they might just get it from your competitors.
Counter: More questions. Which of our systems or processes are clunky, ineffective, or unnecessary? When is the last time we asked our clients what they’d like to get from us? What’s working well right now that we could do even better?
You’ll notice that the counters to complacency are similar. They both require asking hard questions. We have to look in our organizational mirror and see who’s looking back. The price of not doing so is high: disaffected, disengaged clients that are ripe for the picking by your competition.