Emotion: Tapping the final frontier

132301_cheersquadThe roar of the crowd watching football on a large-screen TV on Saturday immediately drew me into the cafe.   And it wasn’t even my team playing!

What makes sport such a spectacle to watch is the emotional rollercoaster it unleashes on players, fans and even unsuspecting passers-by.  Could you imagine watching sport and feeling nothing?  No emotion – that would be almost impossible.

In the business arena, despite embracing the need for emotional intelligence, we shy away from emotions as being too messy, unpredictable and dangerous.
Philosopher Descartes said ‘I think, therefore I am’.  When it comes to sports or business, I prefer this twist on his words: ‘I feel, therefore I am’.

So how can leaders tap into emotion at work?  One way is to speak to the emotion in the room, as this is often the biggest undercurrent in any situation.

A senior leader announcing the company’s new hot-desking policy started by sharing what he felt when he first saw the policy.  “Yesterday when I opened the email announcing the new hot-desking policy, I immediately felt “Here we go again, another sexy label for what seems like a cost-cutting measure.”

Immediately you could see the nods around the room.  By speaking to the emotional elephant in the room, the leader earned both trust and respect.  He then went on to explain why his initial fear was unfounded.  Imagine staring at the emotional end of the stick instead of the logical end.  As Richard Branson said: “In business your intuition and emotions are there to help you.”

So where have you seen this done well at work?  Please comment, I love hearing from you.

What motivates you?

Have you ever wondered why we spend so much time going through our email inboxes, when there are so many other pressing demands on our time?   This question intrigues Dr Jason Fox, a leading global motivation strategy and design expert on an epic quest to liberate the world from poorly-designed work (got to love a great quest!)
I never expected his answer to lie in a longitudinal study on motivation conducted by Harvard Business School.

In the study, HBR researchers asked leaders what motivated people and the response was the usual mix of things such as money and feedback. Then the researchers asked employees what motivated them.  Their answer was surprising.  The number one thing that motivated employees was  a sense of progress.  This is known as the progress principle, or the power of small wins.

Dr Fox recommends making progress visible, whatever that looks like for you: scoreboards, meetings or status updates.  This piece of research also answers that vexed question of why, when we have an important pressing deadline, we work through our emails first; because it gives us a sense of progress!  It’s so satisfying to knock your emails down from 110 to a more manageable 25 – at least temporarily.

So, how are you going to make progress visible for yourself and your team? Please comment – I would love to share your insights.


PS: I am also loving Dr Jason Fox’s best-seller, The Game Changer.  It’s full of fascinating science-based techniques to boost workplace motivation.

What gets you out of bed?

Just yesterday morning, the alarm went off and I hit the snooze button,  I then had a goose bump moment thinking about what my friend Rachel had just said to me the day before.  But before that goose bump moment my mind was racing with a 100 excuses on why staying in bed was a better option than going to the gym.  Too cold, too dark, too cosy, I just went yesterday, I will go in the evening…alarm-clock-ringing-at-six-gt1fng5i
So, often to motivate myself I say just give it 10 minutes and then stop.  This works because the hardest thing is often starting, and once you start and have momentum you actually find it hard to stop.  Other times I plan a reward, like catching up with a friend for a coffee, after cracking that complex proposal.  But none of those strategies were relevant that morning, when the choice was gym or sleep in.
But coming back to Rachel and the goose bump moment.  I remembered how she had just said the previous day “You never regret going to the gym, but you always regret not going”.  So the thought of regret propelled me out of bed.  And Rachel was right.   At the end of boxing class I felt so glad I went.  In an ironic twist I got a text from Rachel saying she had slept through her alarm!
What about you?  What motivates you to get out off bed?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Epic or everyday?

Quite often our first exposure to inspiring storytelling is when we see a motivational speaker on stage.  And they usually narrate an epic story that involves scaling Mount Everest or sailing around the world solo. download
But interestingly in leadership I find what works on a daily basis is not epic stories but everyday stories.  Stories about shopping in Bunnings, or going to a restaurant with friends or dropping your kids off to school.  Everyday stories work because your audience can relate to them.  They can see themselves in your stories. 
An epic story has your audience in passive spectator mode, they enjoy the spectacle of your story, but they are not involved in it.  An everyday story on the other hand engages your audience differently. They emotionally invest in your story and relive their own experiences through your story. 
Here are some examples of everyday stories that have delivered potent results.  So unless you are a motivational speaker, the next time you embark on a story think everyday not epic, to unlock the power of storytelling.