Your emotional wellness is connected to these two emotional states
A new approach to looking at emotions could be just what the modern C-suite needs. While leadership used to rely heavily on intellectual leadership, we now understand that emotional intelligence, or EQ, is a necessity.
While IQ focuses on attributes like logical thinking, passion, and technical expertise, EQ focuses on creativity and empathy, social opportunity, and the ability to collaborate. Emotional intelligence is our ability not only to understand and manage our own emotions, but also to recognize and influence the emotions of others. The first concepts behind EQ were developed in 1990 by researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey and later introduced by psychologist Daniel Goleman in a 2004 article in the Harvard Business Review. These skills define great leadership in the 21st century, but this definition of EQ is only the tip of the iceberg.
I am a professional coach who works with business leaders and new founders to shape emotionally resonant lives, careers and businesses. My coaching work builds on 30 years of strategy consulting, which is characterized by research into human motivation: How executives can use the role of emotions to motivate customers and employees to achieve their business goals. In my view, leadership is about inspiring others to turn visions into reality, and decades of research show that emotions (not logic) drive behavior.
The conversation around EQ often focuses on managing the emotions that take us away, rather than anchoring on those that move us to action. While recognizing and managing the emotions that are overtaking us in the moment is important, a seasoned leader understands what moves people, starting with themselves.
Of the 34,000 human emotions, almost all are mutable – in other words, they come and go and are heavily dependent on the context of the moment. But there are a handful that have been overlooked in today’s EQ discussion. Motivating emotions are the emotions that unconsciously guide our decisions and ultimately define our personal identities.
Mutable emotions are those emotions that change from moment to moment and that can affect our ability to make decisions when we are afraid, stressed, surprised, angry, etc. These emotions are highly contextual – if the unexpected happens it can trigger one Emotions that cause you (or your team) to make decisions that are inconsistent with your core needs or goals.
One way to encounter changing emotions is through mindfulness meditation, which has become a part of the modern business dictionary thanks to the pioneers of Silicon Valley taking command of longstanding Buddhist traditions. We can begin to manage changing emotions through meditative practices that aim to move emotions through us, observe and note their meaning before they happen, and avoid falling prey to transient emotional states.
Our ability to see the impact mental wellbeing has on our emotions at work has resulted in the Top 100 Mental Wellbeing Apps growing to a $ 1.1 billion industry in 2020. Learning to work with changing emotions is a key component of executives focusing on emotional intelligence – when we understand that we are not the emotions, but that the emotions we feel on a daily basis are like a wave that is abating – and drains. From this understanding we can allow ourselves the freedom to pause and think. An example of this thinking is when you say to yourself, “Yes, my colleague has frustrated me. And that’s my reaction, not who I am. “
Emotional intelligence requires more than just managing emotions. It’s also about understanding our individual needs as individuals and how we want to feel when those needs are met.
In coaching I always start with the question “who” instead of “why” because self-image creates clarity about your personal values, your vision and your actions, which are necessary to achieve your most sought-after goals.
Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi realized how emotions drive leadership, especially those associated with two core needs that drive people – recognition and purpose. She developed the corporate mission “Performance with purpose”. This included social and ecological sustainability as well as the development of the workforce. The latter was crucially geared towards the recognition or added value of an employee.
Nooyi also wrote more than 400 letters to the parents of her officers each year. This is a unique token of personal appreciation and gratitude that makes your employees feel valued and their families feel proud.
If we embrace the handful of emotions that motivate us as individuals and use them to aid decision-making, we can become more effective leaders. In my coaching practice, clients report a greater sense of control over changing emotions when they are firmly anchored in those who motivate and drive them. These motivating emotions act as a “signal in the noise”, structure the emotional inner worlds of the individuals and guide a more targeted design of their outer worlds.
Identify your motivating emotions
Motivational emotions are how we feel when our core needs are met. Models such as those popularized by Abraham Maslow, Max Neef, and other thinkers and scholars give us the words to discuss and categorize these needs. Ask yourself how you want to feel about your work and your life. The answer shouldn’t just be a general feeling like “happy” but one that is deeply personal and essential to you.
Some common emotions related to basic human needs are feeling safe, free, connected, expressive, impactful, and growing. Ask yourself what are the top two to three needs that are ubiquitous to you? How can you make your life and work more targeted so that these feelings occur more often?
We cannot control emotions directly, but we have the power to create the right conditions for those we want, as authors McKee, Boyatzis, and Johnston discuss in their book Becoming a Resonant Leader.
Once you know your own desired states, you can bring that skill into the workplace. Who are your colleagues, customers and partners and how do their motivational needs differ from your own? What insights into your similarities and differences could influence your leadership style and how could you create more effective alignment?
So we can go beyond the current definition of emotional intelligence. We can better recognize the needs and emotions of our colleagues, employees and partners. We are able to authentically tap into what moves people in order to accelerate the forward movement towards a common goal.
If we understand our motivating emotions (in addition to our changeable ones), we can create the conditions for a more positive work environment in a more targeted manner. When we are ready in our workplaces to do this beneficial emotional work, the answers will define the next generation of great leaders.
Jen Rice is a strategist and coach. She has worked in strategy and communication for decades, starting with customer profile research, CX, insight, analytics and business technology. Jen has focused her career on understanding what motivates both individuals and individuals in corporate structures to change behavior.