Leadership Psychology Skill #3: Manage Emotions

DG-leadership-psychology_pt4Each of us is an emotional being. For decades, business experts discouraged emotional expressions at work. These days, we know it’s impossible—and actually detrimental—to ignore or suppress them.

“In successful and emotionally balanced companies, the people working in them discuss things, no matter how bad things have gotten. They don’t run and hide, they don’t name call, and they don’t put their foot down. They’re willing and able to talk without rancor and in a straightforward manner about what is bothering them. I call this process ‘carefrontation.’” — Dr. Barton Goldsmith, “Carefrontation,” Office Solutions, Fall 2009

Awareness of emotions actually lends wisdom to our decisions and interactions. Emotional intelligence is now viewed as a hallmark of high-potential leaders. It is an essential focus in the work I do with executives, it is a critical piece for being in relationship with others.

We all want to be liked, appreciated, rewarded and respected. We need friendships at work—some level of closeness and affection. People thrive when we have a work environment that allows us to safely express our opinions and feelings, including our aggressions.

If you expect your people to put aside their emotions and “just do the work,” you’re failing them. Emotions are a fundamental part of what makes us humans, so you must be prepared and able to deal with, understand and accept them.

Regardless of your industry, you’ll encounter three common emotional needs
at work

  1. Attachment and connection: Some people’s social needs are minimal, while others are more pronounced. Some prefer to work alone, viewing social interactions as obstacles to productivity. At the other end of the continuum are people who never want to be alone. Be sensitive to people’s basic needs so you can place them in the right jobs and supervise them effectively.
  2. Dependency, independency and interdependency: People depend on others for approval, validation and understanding. Even when these needs are satisfied outside the workplace, people seek to satisfy them at work. An effective leader is sensitive and responsive to how much direction and interaction each employee needs to thrive at work.
  3. Aggression, anger and conflict: Aggression is a primal human behavior. When properly harnessed, it can energize a team and be productively channeled into creative projects. That said, aggression can also be disruptive. Many people are embarrassed by, or uncomfortable with, anger—especially their own. It’s up to you to recognize the early signs of aggression and talk openly about people’s feelings. Channel it away from destruction and toward innovation.

“Being ‘carefrontational’ requires a willingness to take a risk and to be understanding of the person you’re talking to,” Dr. Goldsmith writes. “If you’re not willing to share something that is bothering you with your teammates, then your working relationship will be diminished.”


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