Emotions are a completely natural human reaction, however, from an early age, we are encouraged to suppress and/or hide them. They are a very valuable resource and can help us to not only to recognise our wants and needs but we can use them to help us become better leaders.
Here’s an excerpt on emotion from my book Leading Through Uncertainty…
Emotions have been made wrong in business because people use them in an unskilled way. The unskilled usage of emotions comes from a lack of practice.
If you regularly stifle your emotions and don’t allow yourself to express them in the moment, your emotions will explode at an inappropriate moment in a less professional way. We’ve probably all experienced explosions of emotion in the office too. When horses suppress their emotions, they become unpredictable and explosive, and that makes them dangerous.
We all have moments of unskilled behaviour with emotions as most people have not been trained to use them in a powerful way throughout their life. From as early as being a toddler, you learn that it’s not appropriate to have a tantrum in the middle of a supermarket just because you can’t have your own way. In the process, we learn to suppress our emotions and adopt a new behaviour – that of withholding emotion which leads to the ultimate explosion at an untimely moment.
Anger builds up when we suppress frustration over a period of time and pretend it’s not happening. When your emotion says: “I’m feeling frustrated”, it’s just information. Be curious. Why are you frustrated? Frustration indicates unmet needs and desires. Instead of being frustrated and letting it build out of proportion, ask for what you want. The frustration can guide you more powerfully to make effective decisions and meet your needs if you are curious about it as a source of information instead of suppressing it.
Anger often comes from unresolved frustration that has been suppressed repeatedly over time. The quicker you resolve minor frustrations and disagreements, the less likely they are to grow out of proportion and out of control. Your emotions tell you what wants to happen.
What emotion are you suppressing and what impact is that having?
Uncertainty increases our emotions. The self-awareness required to manage your emotions grows exponentially alongside the volume of pressure that you are subjected to. The more pressure you feel, the harder it is to manage your emotions. That’s why it’s important to create a culture where people feel comfortable expressing their needs so that we don’t need to resort to unskilled explosions.
Emotion is a way of expressing a desire that is met or unmet. If you allow yourself to feel the emotion and get curious about it, you can use it as a source of wisdom to understand what you want to create.
Organisations are full of people who are disengaged. Yes, they work hard, yes they are driven, yes they deliver. But why?
Many people I meet love their job and may love their business but feel under excessive pressure to perform. They are driven by fear of failure or fear of getting it wrong, fear of not being good enough, missing out on the next promotion or being made redundant. Yet they are afraid to be explicit about this level of pressure for fear of the consequences.
Are your team coming with you through fear or because they are engaged?
How do you know?
One is leadership, the other is not. Whilst people may come with you through fear, horses will not. They will refuse to cooperate until you engage them through relationship, clarity and a sense of purpose.
The future of business depends on creating a culture where people can be truly human. If you overlook the humanity and only strive for results and financial returns, people eventually lose focus and disengage. Emotions are therefore critical to the engagement of your team.