Three things I have learnt about how we Anna Clayton

Article originally posted on Linkedin here

I recently worked with leaders to help them define the emotional culture they wanted for themselves and for their teams. Although each conversation was different, with its own complexities and its own challenges, I was surprised to discover some core similarities...

1. Our thoughts precede our emotions.

Emotions do not just appear on their own accord. Nor does another person 'make' us feel a certain way. Situations and environments also do not indicate what we should be feeling. So, what makes us feel a certain way? Our thoughts. Yep, that pesky little internal voice we often hear shouting thoughts, assumptions, judgements, and 'facts'. The problem is that we trust this voice and treat these thoughts as hard truths.

So, when we see a colleague peering over our shoulder to read an email we think 'she is nosey!' or 'she doesn't think I can do my job!' which leads us to feel intolerant or guarded. We think this feeling is justified... but, is it? We have chosen to apply a negative thought to what we observed which will lead to a negative feeling. But, what if we applied a positive thought ('Ah, she must want to learn how great emails are written!'), or, at best, a neutral thought ('she has looked at my computer screen'). These thoughts may lead to feelings of pride or confidence, or may lead us to feel nothing at all.

So, in short, when you feel an undesirable feeling, maybe check in on your thoughts and see if these are really serving you right now.

2. Emotions are a two-way street.

During these conversations it was interesting to explore relationships that brought about undesired feelings. While it was insightful to learn about the relationship from the leaders perspective, it was even more insightful to learn about how the other person felt. Following our conversation, most leaders took the opportunity to explore things from the other person's perspective. In all cases, the other person was also feeling undesirable feelings.

Now, this might not shock or surprise many people. But for the leader who initially identified the undesired feelings, they never considered the other person was experiencing undesired feelings. Instead, they either thought 'that's just the way they are' or they were out on a mission to make them feel bad. In short, if there is a relationship that is not making you feel great, I would put money on the fact the other person is not feeling great either.

3. There is usually a 'bad guy'.

Some leaders felt their team culture was lacking or felt that their team opposed them as a leader. Conversations initially focused on the team as a whole, but quickly a key person in the team was identified. This one person seemed to have the power and influence to turn the whole team against the leader... or did they? When one relationship led to an undesired feeling, was the leader then viewing their whole team through these 'undesired-feeling glasses'?

When you think of 'toxic' workplaces or negative team cultures you have been exposed to, was everyone the same? Or, was there one key individual who cultivated certain feelings for you? Or, if you are reading this and this is the case for you currently, I strongly encourage you go back to point 2, read it again, and get talking. It is likely that this 'bad guy' is feeling some pretty similar emotions as you are.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website; click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course as I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

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