Emotional Positioning System

I was driving the other day thinking about the world before GPS.  I can remember when our family bought one of the first Garmin GPS systems and how amazing it was to always know where we were, where we were going, and where we came from. All we had to do was enter a destination and the path was clear! Even if hunger, accident, or the “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” interrupted our trip, it was easy to get right back on track. There was a great stress release in knowing that we could easily get right back on track and reach the goal destination.  The entire psychology of road trips has changed because of the GPS.  Priorities have shifted to other challenges and the concept of getting lost is, well...lost!

We need to make this same shift as leaders when it comes to emotions. Often when I am coaching to leaders they sound lost. They know they are in pain, that their staff is in pain.  They see the cracks. They want change.  However, they just end up spinning their tires when it comes to progress out of that pain. Today, I was talking to a client who had to terminate a staff member due to attendance issues and predicted that he was would be doing the same thing again in a week or two. I asked him if he thought this might be symptoms of a larger, systemic problem. He paused in thought, said, “You know I’m feeling like it is, but I know I shouldn’t lead with my feelings. The company has decided we need to revamp the PTO policy and we(managers) need to enforce it more diligently.” Sound familiar?  

You have recognized intuitively that the problem is deeper, but rather than exploring this intuition to develop solutions, you jump to the next best (tangible) thing such as endless meetings around revisions of the PTO policy while never addressing the elephant in the room.  I this particular case, I brought him back to his first comment on his gut feeling and encouraged him to explore that feeling deeper. We uncovered a plethora of wisdom about his team, their needs, and hashed out a concrete action plan that he was able to start implementing immediately. In short, I encouraged him to use his EPS: Emotional Positioning System.  Once he tapped into his EPS the path was clear!

All too often we are taught, directly or indirectly, that emotions are the problem and have no place in the professional arena.  Think about it, it’s an insult to call someone emotional.  Emotions are treated as something bad or dangerous.  They are best to be repressed and/or denied: There’s no crying in baseball!  Sure, emotions can be jarring, overwhelming, and disorienting. However, like this world before GPS, cutting off from our emotions is like flying blind and just leaves you lost.  Emotions are a wealth of information and contain deep wisdom about the world around us.  They are part of a natural process that has guided humans successfully for thousands of years. Most of all, as I discussed in the previous post, emotions are part of us whether we like it or not.

Developing your EPS is key to fast, efficient, proactive management!  Emotional Quotient (aka Emotional Intelligence) is the ability to have and experience one’s emotional state while not being subject to it. A common misconception is that someone with a high EQ does not experience emotions, which could not be further from the truth.  Affective based leaders have the ability to access the information within the emotional bandwidth and orient themselves based on that rich wealth of knowledge.  Emotions can be broken down into two primary categories:  attraction or repulsion. In other words, you are trying access something or avoid it. Happiness is an attraction.  Anger a repulsion. Jealousy is an attraction and disgust is a repulsion.  Contentment is an attraction and so on. Like the GPS, the EPS can tell you if you are getting closer or further from your destination. That being said, GPS is terrible at driving the car.  I am not advocating that we surrender to our emotions and let them lead us blindly around this world. Emotions are meant to be a copilot and never a pilot.

Developing EQ and your EPS to become an Affect Leader cannot happen overnight.  It is an art form and not a skill. First you need to develop your sense of awareness or mindfulness to be able to observe your emotions.  It is difficult to do this without slipping into analyzing of judging.  Try find simple single words to describe the emotion.  I am feeling disappointed. Take a moment to feel the emotion without shifting to the next thing. This might be unsettling at first, but with practice it will become easier. Second you want to try to identify what is behind that emotion. Is there an unmet need or request you should be making?  As you are observing your emotions, cast your net a little broader and see what thoughts start to emerge. Try to keep a spirit of observing and not analyzing. At this point the path will start to emerge out of the fog. It might go like this: 1) I am feeling disappointed.  2) I really thought that person X would have shown up on time after our talk. I need them to respect the expectations I’ve placed as their manager. Lastly, as the leader, you need to address the situation once the path starts to become clear. Beware, this wil not be a linear path. You will be repeating the above steps over and over constantly. You cannot successfully drive to you destination by glancing at the GPS once.  You need to stay diligent and continue to follow its lead as new intersections emerge.

Shawn MeredithComment