Transformative Insights: The Five Most Powerful Lessons from My Emotional Culture Journey – By Cathy Shepherd

Originally posted on LinkedIn here >>

Over the last six months I've been on a journey to become a Pro-Elephant Rider using the Emotional Culture Deck from riders&elephants. Working with Jeremy Dean with a select group of 11 others has been amazing. We've done a deep dive into using the Emotional Culture Deck cards in so many situations.

For those that don't know about the Emotional Culture Deck (the ECD), they are a set of cards, black and white, with 47 positive feeling cards, and 38 negative or more uncomfortable feeling cards on them. They can be used in so many ways - with individuals and teams - helping people to discover the incredible power of knowing and using emotions in workplaces. The ECD has a range of tools - handbooks and canvases developed to use with it, and this journey has introduced me to them all.

It's been a great journey as amazing workplace cultures are so important to me. It's something I've valued for a long time and it's become my life's work to help create amazing workplace cultures.

Why is culture so important to me? Because having an amazing workplace culture changes EVERYTHING! For the business, for the people in it, and for their wider families as well.

Here I want to share my top five lessons from this journey so far. Number 5 is the most important, but I'll go through the other four first.

Lesson 1: Emotional Culture in Workplaces is Nebulous - Using the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) Makes it Easy

Crafting a positive emotional culture in the workplace can often seem like navigating through foggy terrain. People crave a positive work environment, but the challenge lies in defining and cultivating it. "HAPPY" just doesn't cut it. The Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) makes this easy, offering a structured and accessible approach to understanding and shaping emotional culture. By using the ECD, teams can transform abstract aspirations into concrete words and actions. It has proven to be an invaluable tool for initiating conversations around emotions at work, creating a shared language that facilitates the co-creation of the positive workplace culture everyone desires.

Lesson 2: Broaden Your Emotional Language - Know the Words, Know What They Feel Like

Developing emotional literacy makes the biggest difference to how successfully people can navigate the challenges of life - both in the workplace and in their personal lives as well. As humans, we all experience a wide range of emotions. Most people don't have the words to describe what they're feeling, and have been trained from childhood to squash negative emotions. On the contrary, being able to identify the different emotions we feel enables us to move through them, rather than getting stuck in those negative feelings. "Name it to Tame it."

Expanding our emotional language empowers us to articulate and understand the feelings within ourselves and others. This heightened emotional intelligence enhances teamwork and creates a workplace where everyone feels heard and valued. The set of cards, with suce a variety of emotions, has become a powerful tool for broadening this emotional language, also facilitating meaningful conversations that transcend the limitations of conventional workplace jargon.

There are three steps to developing this emotional intelligence - knowing the emotion vocabulary; knowing what they feel like in ourselves and look like in others; know what to do when feeling the emotions, especially those strong ones.

Lesson 3: The ECD is More Powerful Than I Initially Realised

I initially learnt about the ECD as a tool for team-building and coaching. However, I've been amazed to find out how versatile the Emotional Culture Deck actually is! It's such a powerful resource for leaders developing themselves as leaders, navigating change scenarios, fostering partnerships, and addressing diverse professional challenges. It acts as a catalyst for understanding the emotional landscape, not only within teams but across entire organisations, and to their clients beyond.

Recognising the profound impact of the ECD has transformed the way that I now use it, integrating it into everything we do in my business, BSI People Skills Ltd. It is that powerful!

Lesson 4: Diverse Delivery Methods and Tailoring for Any Situation

The strength of the ECD lies not just in its content, but in its adaptability to diverse learning environments. From running interactive online sessions to in-depth in-person workshops, I've used the ECD to cater to so many different preferences and team dynamics. Its flexibility allows for tailoring to address specific challenges or opportunities, ensuring its effectiveness in any situation.

Recognising that emotional intelligence is a personal journey, and emotional culture needs to be co-created by the people in particular workplaces, diverse delivery methods of the ECD accommodate individual and team needs. This makes it a comprehensive resource for developing a deep culture of emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Lesson 5: The most important! Knowing Yourself First is the Most Powerful Step

Embarking on the journey has not only been about deepening my personal growth, but also about enabling me to facilitate the growth of those around me even more powerfully.

The first and most crucial step is always helping individuals learn more about themselves. Thinking about what success feels like - what their success relies on them feeling - is always an eye-opener for people and it's not always easy. Very few people have thought about it before. They tend to really enjoy it, then sharing this with others. Success is different for everyone, and this is part of the magic of it! Once they've identified those feelings, it's easier to identify what they need to do to get more of them!

On the flip side, we also look at the emotions people don't want to feel but recognising that they will feel them from time to time. Again, forewarned is forearmed - identifying these emotions, then knowing what makes them feel like that, and most importantly identifying what to do when they feel them is very powerful. And this is just part of the power of the ECD.

It's not just about understanding what's important for oneself, but using the ECD fosters an environment where individuals can openly reflect on and share what's important to them. This shared exploration reveals the diversity of perspectives on success, emphasising that we are all distinct individuals with varying aspirations and definitions of fulfilment.

In this process, identifying the emotions associated with success and acknowledging those people wish to avoid becomes pivotal. By openly discussing and recognising these different emotions, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our colleagues. This shared knowledge fosters empathy and a sense of shared purpose within the team, as people collectively navigate the intricate landscape of emotions in their workplace.

The power of this knowledge lies not just in understanding the desired emotions but also in acknowledging the nuanced array of emotions we might encounter. By recognising and accepting the full spectrum of emotions, individuals gain insight into the triggers and catalysts for both positive and challenging feelings. This self-awareness becomes a compass for managing and optimising our emotional experiences, leading to a more resilient and adaptable approach to the dynamic nature of work and collaboration.

In essence, the first lesson extends beyond personal introspection; it is a call to create a culture that encourages open conversations about success, emotions, and the diverse ways these manifest within each individual. By fostering this awareness, we cultivate an environment where individuals can not only thrive personally but also contribute to the collective success of the team. Through shared reflections and understanding, we pave the way for a workplace that celebrates the unique journey of each individual while fostering a united, emotionally intelligent team.


In conclusion, this Pro-Elephant Rider journey has been a very powerful one. Learning so much more about how the ECD can be used to bring richness of understanding to individuals and teams has been amazing. It has increased my competence in the work we do, creating amazing cultures in organisations, and reinforced for me the power of being able to identify emotions in so many different situations.

Using tools including the ECD, we can create work environments with amazing cultures, where individuals thrive, teams flourish, and success becomes a collective journey.

If you want to know more about how to make your workplace an amazing place for your staff to be, please reach out to me. I'd love to talk with you about your situation and what's possible.

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

Download a free Emotional Culture Deck and join our mission to re-humanise the workplace. Emotions drive life’s experiences. They can inspire and embolden people to push their limits or crush confidence and motivation, leading them to languish. Embraced, emotions are a marvellous force for good. Learn more here:


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