1) A strong mental or instinctive feeling; 2) The capacity to feel; 3) An opinion or notion.
Question the business world’s ambivalence about feelings. For many leaders, “happy, happy, happy!” is all they want to hear; do not bring them any bad news. Instead of classifying feelings as OK/not OK, allowed or forbidden, accept them as natural. Feelings simply are…neither good nor bad. We are human beings, and to shut off the valve to our emotions is to eliminate some portion of our humanity.
Deal with issues openly. Contrary to the tired advice, “employees must learn to manage (also known as control and squelch) their emotions,” why not instead teach them to deal with issues openly and directly? Bringing out pent-up emotions purges festering resentment, heals unhealthy relationships and releases blocked creativity.
Scrutinize how people act on their feelings. How we act on feelings (our behaviour) can and should be subject to scrutiny. Those who express anger through temper tantrums should be held accountable for acting out. Neither petulant outbursts nor sulky moodiness have a place in business settings. It is the difference between moving forward productively and unleashing a flood of dumping.
Avoid allowing feelings to slip underground. When feelings are submerged, they do not conveniently disappear (contrary to popular belief). They go from overt (visible and available for being worked through) to covert (hidden and difficult to access). The goal is always to facilitate having the covert become overt so that feelings do not become painful, time-consuming and costly to excavate.
Get comfortable with conflict and emotional upset. Being afraid of “discussing the undiscussables” actually heightens tension. Conflict will not miraculously clear up if ignored. Communication breakdowns must be explicitly declared. Teach people that feelings are healthy and take the lead in drawing out emotions. Make it easy for employees to express their points of view.
Invite the expression of all emotions during times of transition. Periods of intense change naturally create transitions. Transitions (the psychological process people go through to come to terms with a new situation) are no time for stiff upper lips. If anything, unspoken dictates to hold emotions in check are probably the greatest disservice done to people at work; anger and tears are vital to clearing emotions.
Apply “emotional intelligence” when dealing with feelings. High in EQ, or “emotional intelligence”, soul-inspiring leaders listen with empathy when dealing with their own and others’ feelings. They do not confuse sympathy with empathy. Instead, they empathize passionately and realistically with people, and care intensely about the work employees do. They are open to both laughing and crying each day.
Reframe the belief that showing feelings is weak. Soul-inspiring leaders throw away the old adage that displaying feelings is weak. They do not have to be aloof and analytical to be effective. In being willing to bring their whole selves to work, they recognize one does not have to be the cold-hearted boss to be respected. It is not necessary to choose being liked or respected; one can have both.
Questions For Reflection
To what extent do you allow yourself to show your true feelings at work? Are there any feelings you consider inappropriate to display in business?
What do you honestly think of others who freely demonstrate a full range of emotion at work?
What is the strongest feeling you have about your organization?