Key Point: What emotional energy do you bring to the workplace? Are you aware of it? Are you a sharpening your observation skills about the energy of the work environment you walk into? Do you notice the energy walking into an Apple Store? Compare it to the atmosphere in a local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). How would you compare the on plane atmosphere of one airline to another? What is the energy atmosphere in your work place? Yes the product/service has something to do with it. Let’s face it, selling Apple products these days is flat out more fun than renewing drivers licenses. However my belief is that a realistically positive atmosphere is possible in any work environment; including funeral homes. How do you contribute to the energy field in your workplace?
Emotional contagion sucks. Nothing drains or distracts a workplace more than unbounded negativity. On the other hand, sticking ones head in the sand and avoiding issues through “lolly pop” (pretend everything is perfect) management, is dangerous. Effective energy leadership involves the paradox of positive realism. This balances recognizing issues and problems while building on positive, progressive steps forward. It is like when you’re a kid standing on a teeter-totter in the playground; you have stand in the middle or it crashes down to one side or another.
Here is how I’ve seen negative emotional contagion work. On the behavioral side it involves someone presenting a predominantly sourpuss look. The person rarely smiles or laughs and often says and/or emails negative things. Diminishing other people (especially when the other person(s) is not present) with a subtle smirk or more direct hit is a practiced art. What negatively wired people do (at times unaware of the damage their causing) is make people their confidant in shared grousing. However, they usually have many “confidants” and their agenda is shrouded in their own emotional immaturity. Their negatively has often more to do with their own personal demons than the betterment of the organization. The result often involves a negative haze that takes over a group. Like the proverbial frog sitting in increasingly hot water, negativity becomes “normal” and accepted. Whether in the role as a leader or colleague, we have the responsibility to address unbalanced negativity. The invitation to the individual has to be clear and direct: Demonstrate an immediate commitment to changing positively real time OR get out NOW. Believe or leave!
- Recognize that the emotions others and we bring to work are as important as our job skills. This is heightened when in a formal leadership role. Negative emotions are toxic.
- Invest in self-awareness! Because it’s not possible to check our emotions at the door when we get to work it is vital to be aware of what we’re feeling. You can’t change what you don’t notice! This takes conscious practice.
- Authenticity matters because we can’t fake positivity for long. It is possible to put on a “game face” — to say you’re feeling one way when you’re actually feeling another — but the truth will ultimately reveal itself in your facial, vocal, and postural cues. We must learn to monitor and manage our moods. Sometimes for a number of reasons (personal and professional) it is just time to exit. Don’t screw it up for everyone else because you’re in a negative hole.
- The key to balancing realism and optimism is to embrace the paradox of realistic optimism. Practically, that means having the faith to tell the most hopeful and empowering story possible in any given situation, but also the willingness to confront difficult facts as they arise and deal with them directly. Be on the positive side of that that teeter-totter!
Positive energy in the triangle,
Key Point: Sometimes we “taste” exactly what we expect in our heads. There is a great lesson about wine tasting as captured in this intriguing article in Forbes and the potential bologna that is paired with it. A group of wine journalists, each boasting some expertise in wine, some with fancy degrees behind their names and official titles, travelled to Paso Robles, Calif. to participate in wine tasting. At Still Waters Vineyards the proprietor poured two whites (the bottles were covered in brown bags) and asked them to determine the varietals. The following by journalist Katie Kelly Bell describes the event:
”Everyone loves a challenge. We swirled, we sniffed, we wrinkled our brows in contemplation. Some of us nodding with assurance. I took notes, finding the first white to be more floral and elegant than the second. Drawing on my years and years (there have been too many) of tasting, studying and observation, I swiftly concluded that the first wine was an un-oaked Chardonnay and the second was a Sauvignon Blanc, easy peasy. Much to my mortification I was dead wrong, as was everyone else in the room. The proprietor chuckled and informed his room of bright-eyed ambitious wine journalists that the wines were actually the same wine; one was just warmer than the other. He wasn’t intentionally shaming us (not one person got it right); he was pointedly demonstrating the power of just one element in the wine tasting experience: temperature.”
The article goes on document other examples that reinforce the truth of wine: Much of what we taste is in our heads and not in the wine. I wonder if we risk making the same “tasting wine” faux pas when making assessments about people?
Over my years I’ve learned that in talent recognition, selection and performance management, one needs to guard against letting biases dominate our objectivity. Like the wine experts in this article, we can be seduced into believing people are GREAT or NOT because we expect it. As an example we may put a halo around someone based on some characteristic(s) and evaluate what we expect. I wonder what would happen if we could put a metaphorical “brown bag” over people in advance of determining the value they bring to companies.
- Be conscious of what’s in our heads versus what the data/past behavior/results really say when evaluating others.
- Rely on other viewpoints and numerous data points to paint a very complete picture before declaring a decision when assessing people.
- Slow down to apply objective based decision making in assessing the talent and contribution of others. Put a “brown bag” around elements that may make your decision match the expectation in your head. (For example, a degree from a certain school, the shape and size of the person, etc).
Better tasting in the Triangle,
Key Point: As promised in my last blog, the following includes the third and final element that Harvard’s Dr. Clayton Christensen presents in his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, to help frame our life’s purpose. Christensen is most renowned for encouraging Harvard business graduates to seriously ask themselves that question. He makes a convincing argument for actively working on developing one’s purpose in life by consciously launching that journey of discovery and definition as they take the next big step outside of school. This is a process not an event. In my previous blog I noted the first two elements, “likeness” and “commitment.” What would you like to become and how committed are you to really making that aspiration come true? Did you work on defining or refreshing those concepts? Read on to learn more about the third element.
Christensen, not surprisingly, notes the importance of measuring. What evidence denotes that you are making progress? Like many things we aspire to, the data tells us whether we are really achieving what we set out to do and become. The world is filled with people aiming to lose weight, announce their commitment to do so, and yet they make little or no progress when measurements are taken. While this is perhaps too simple of an analogy, it has some merit. If one of my purpose statements is to Be Abundant, filled with care and generosity of spirit, it is fair to ask, “How will I know I’m living that way?” It is also important NOT to measure in too small of units. As an example, one sales order does not determine whether a company is having a good sales year. On the other hand, the accumulation of those orders is what counts. The same applies to the measurement system you want to utilize for measuring your life.
- Allow yourself to reflect and define measures that will indicate progress.
- Develop a basket of measures. The combination will provide a more balanced perspective. You may want to develop superb relationships and become renowned for giving to others. However a divorce, while likely not a preferable outcome, does not mean giving up on the vision of mastering relationships.
- Remember that the journey of giving serious consideration to your life’s purpose and how you measure is as important as the result. Most people cast about rudderless and one day they recognize the runway is very short to leave a purpose driven legacy.
- Don’t wait. Do more work on your purpose and measurement system now. You deserve the investment. It really is never too late to start.
Measuring in the Triangle,
Key Point: I talk to so many people who are confused and/or frustrated about determining their life purpose. Unfortunately a lot of psychobabble has added to the “guilt quilt ” on this topic for lots of folks. It’s like one day you wake up and should know your life’s purpose. The reality is that determining one’s purpose is a uniquely personal journey and for MOST of us mortals, it is a process and not an event. It normally evolves over years. The best work on having a framework for honing in on our life purpose comes from Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen. Read on for a digestible guide. For a more complete examination read his (along with James Allworth and Karen Dillon) new book…How Will You Measure Your Life?
1. Determine Likeness:
Likeness is the definition of who you want to become. The likeness you draw will only have meaning and value if you deeply think and act to become what you aspire to. It can sound like “mush” to an outsider. It is uniquely important to you because you have given deep consideration in adopting it. Christensen’s likeness statement is:
* A man who is dedicated to help improve the lives of other people.
* A kind, honest, forgiving and selfless husband, father and friend.
* A man who just doesn’t believe in God, but who believes God.
2. Becoming Committed.
The likeness statement is aspirational. So how does one become deeply committed enough to make it a guide to daily living? The gratification comes from aspiration translating into day to day practice. You need to know your likeness is right for you by continually asking yourself “who do I truly want to become?” Being committed to the likeness is VERY hard work. It is not always convenient. It takes constant practice and work. You will get challenged all the time. Your likeness takes shape through the application of all the little daily parts of your life. Every once in a while, an elephant size spoonful of “life test” is served up to stress test your resolve. But most comes about in our daily habits. For example, if you want to be a highly respectful and caring person, you can smile to your neighbor in the grocery store, but giving him the famous finger when you’re in a traffic squeeze is a step in the wrong direction. (But hey… It’s not about being perfect).
Stay tuned for next week’s blogs for the rest of the “purpose story.” In the meantime:
- Give yourself meaningful time to check in where you are regarding your life’s purpose journey. What likeness aspirational statements have you clearly defined? What could you do to sharpen the aspirational definition if you haven’t done so already?
- Honestly reflect on how committed you are to what you aspire to become. What is evolving well? What’s tricky? What could you do more of? Less of? Stop? Start?
- Ask a dear trusted advisor how they see you relative to your purpose statements? Try not to be defensive. Learn.
- Enjoy where you are in the journey. If you’re breathing, it is NEVER too late to start the rest of your life.
Life’s purpose and The Character Triangle,