5 Steps To Managing Emotions At Work

“If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
~ Daniel Goleman

A subscriber writes:

 I have found that because I’m passionate, I tend to get emotional. I look at things objectively, however at times when I am having a much-needed conversation my emotions get to me.”

Emotions get funky and screw everything up. It’s not just the “distressing” emotions. Joy, excitement, and passion easily overwhelm your cause too. Emotional extremes of either breed raise eyebrows and damage credibility. Listen well to your emotions and hear what they have to say. Channel that energy to serve your cause.

5 Steps to Channeling Emotions

Don’t lose that leading feeling. Use it to inspire your leadership:

  1. Time Out – Back away from the scene. Let it steep. Your heart is screaming, “say something now.” “This is urgent.” “I must speak my truth.” Most moments of truth last more than a moment. You will be more effective with a deliberate plan.
  2. Name That Emotion – Naming your feeling helps you understand it. Jealous, scared, pissed off, hurt, or some combination. Sit with this a minute. Write it down.
  3. Ask Why – The old 5 Why trick is very useful here: (1) Why am I so excited? “It will help the customer”, (2) Why is that important: “their lives will be improved”, “We will win JD Powers”, “My boss will be happy.” Even the second “why” begins to uncover root cause. Go for 5 whys. Be honest. Ask a mentor or coach for help.
  4. Seek To Understand – Really listen to alternative point of views. Ask open-ended “what” and “why questions.” The picture is always bigger than it appears.
  5. Now Speak Your Truth – Write down your top 3 points. Read them aloud. Envision conversation. Breathe, don’t blurt. Use a calm tone of voice. Don’t feel compelled to handle it in one shot (see #1 back away as needed). You’ll gain respect with each well- handled encounter. The next one will be easier.

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On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.