The ONE skill that separates FUTURE leaders from others

A manager recently told me:

”My job is to deliver RESULTS. That’s what is expected of me. When I go to meet my bosses, they ask me about the results only. That’s it. They’re really not interested in anything else. So, I focus on increasing our profits and efficiency. It’s not really on my agenda to think about how people feel. Sure, I don’t want people to feel bad and I hope they like working here. But I really have no time or energy to start taking care of their emotions. It’s not my job. I’m not an expert on such topics. I’m a business leader. I expect my employees to manage themselves and to do their jobs.”

This type of thinking is very common among managers. It’s understandable. After all, this is what they are trained to do. To manage a business. To manage strategies, processes, and finances. Their job is to get results. That’s what they are ultimately accountable for.

But to be honest, this type of thinking is outdated. It doesn’t really work in the modern, complex, high speed, 24/7 connected world. It doesn’t work with millenials and future generations. Also, we have seen where this type of thinking has lead us. The world is filled with emotionally dead corporations. People get sick with the corporate syndrome. They lose their passion. They become like zombies, walking around, feeling unfulfilled, giving only a fraction of their true potential. They become emotionally dead.

The Gallup’s employee engagement statistics are horrible:

  • 15% of employees worldwide feel they are engaged with their work
  • 24% are actively disengaged (undermining all efforts to improve conditions)21% feel they are managed in a motivating way

These statistics mean there is a vast amount of wasted human potential in the workplaces. Disengaged employees take more time off, are less productive and more expensive. Gallup estimates that active disengagement costs the US in the region of $450bn to $550bn per year. In Germany, it ranges from €112bn to €138bn ($151bn to $186bn) per year. In the UK, actively disengaged employees cost the country between £52bn and £70bn ($83bn and $112bn) per year.

Yet most of us would want to have a great job. To feel motivated and energized… To be treated well… To feel good about what you’re doing… To have a good spirit at work… To make a difference.

The future leaders have understood this. They have read the research showing that companies whose employees feel good about their work, bring up to 184% more stock return in the long run. They understand you have to create a connection before you can lead. They know that compassion is a more effective managerial tactic than just being a tough guy. They understand that the emotional climate of an organization is the future competitive edge that winning companies have; organizational climate may account up to 20-30% of organizational performance. Future leaders know that a team’s emotional climate (psychological safety) is the number one success factor for a high performing team.

Future leaders know that skills for DEALING WITH EMOTIONS are crucial for success.

Sometimes I wonder: Why is it that so many managers ignore the significance of how people FEEL at work? Even though the research is so clear. To date, I have not yet seen any research indicating that emotions are irrelevant or that a bad emotional climate would be good for business.

After talking with hundreds of managers, I’ve come to understand there are two major obstacles preventing them from true success. Either 1) they really are unaware of these facts. They don’t have an inborn, natural understanding and interest in the topic. They have not seen, read, or understood the research. The topic is out of their awareness and they just don’t think about it. Or 2) they understand it, but they don’t know what to do about it. “Yes, I understand emotions have a huge impact on employees’ performance. But what can I do about it? What should I do now if I want to boost the emotional climate here?” And because they don’t know what to do about it, they go on as they have always done.

Yet I want to emphasize this one fact: the skills for dealing with emotions are learnable and available to absolutely everyone! I’ve seen it hundreds of times. There are dozens of easy, practical things you can learn and do. If you just WANT to learn these skills, you CAN learn them. The key question is: do you WANT to?

I want to help you with your first step. Actually, the first step is one of the most difficult steps. So if you learn to do this, many of the later techniques will be much easier for you.

The first step is that you start building your emotional vocabulary. Many times, we can describe our emotions at a very general level only: “I feel good”or “I feel bad”. But if this is your level of describing emotions, it’s like a wine taster who can only say wine is red or white. But a true connoisseur has a rich vocabulary for describing wines: rich, full-bodied, aged, with a hint of oak, black currant and vanilla… Once the connoisseur develops a rich vocabulary, also his ability to notice and distinguish different flavors increases. Language and skills develop together.

It’s the same with emotions. Once your vocabulary for emotions increases, you’ll start noticing and distinguishing more emotions. And once you start noticing more emotions, you also start experiencing more emotions. And you start seeing with much more precision what is actually happening in yourself and in your team or organization. Because emotions are information and energy. They are telling you something, and they are adjusting your levels of energy.

Emergy Map of Emotions
Emergy Map of Emotions

To help you get started to build your emotional vocabulary, I created this map of 36 emotions for you. It’s a great way to get started with your emotions skills. Print it out and place it above your computer screen or some other place visible where you can see it easily. Then ask these two questions at least once a day:

1. How am I feeling right now?
2. What emotions do I see expressed in my workplace today?

That’s it! You just ask these questions every day, and your skills for dealing with emotions start building.
By tapping into this crucial skill, the potential for growth is enormous. Not only in your leadership role, but also in your personal life. Because I strongly believe that growing as a leader means growing as a human being.

Give it a try. Ask these two questions and use the map to help you. Don’t settle with “People are pissed off” or “They seem to be fine”, but dig into it more precisely: Are they feeling angry? Sad? Curious? Relieved? You’ll be surprised to see the amount of emotions at your workplace! And in yourself. This is the first step to build skills for leading the emotional climate. You have to see the emotional climate before you can lead it.

As you do this, many questions tend to arise. I’m here to help. Hit me with an email or leave your comments below, and I’ll do my best to help you further.
/ Jarkko


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