All Your Problems Are Emotional

Post by All Your Problems Are Emotional

All your problems are emotional. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. 

The Board is asking you to raise money before you’re ready. Your teenage son got kicked off his sports team for poor grades. Your CFO just notified you an employee has embezzled funds from the company. Your spouse is contemplating a career change and you worry about your finances. Your beloved VP of Sales just resigned. The product launch will have to be delayed at least 90 days.

All these problems are emotional. Can you spot the (hidden) emotion?

  • The Board is asking you to raise money before you’re ready - are you feeling unprepared and scared?
  • Your teenage son got kicked off his sports team for poor grades - are you embarrassed and angry that you didn’t know his grades were in jeopardy?
  • Your spouse is contemplating a career change - are you sad your financial goals will be delayed?

When choices become unresolved problems it’s the result of hidden emotions. 

The dumbest business advice is “check your emotions at the door.” Followed closely by “we only make data driven decisions.” Metrics and data are only the beginning of a decision making process and no business has enough time to compile enough data to make a perfectly logical decision. 

The distance between where the data ends and where the decision is made is called EMOTION.  

Admitting data only takes you so far, beckons the question “How do I use emotions to make great decisions?” and “How can emotions improve my decision making process so that I consistently make better decisions over time?”

Inviting emotion into the conversation

The answer is inviting emotions into the conversation. Your own and your team’s’.

Emotions are Energy-in-MOTION. They are sensations on or in your body that convey important data about your experience and environment. 

For most leaders, inviting emotion into the conversation is the last thing they want to do. As leaders, we worry that if everyone fully expresses their emotions we’ll get bogged down in an endless pit of inaction and drudgery. Business will grind to a halt as meetings become therapy sessions.

But the truth is that emotions are there whether you invite them into the conversation or not. Some teammates will express them openly in an attempt to sway opinion to their point of view. Others will remain silent, opting to share their opinions more privately. Some will never share their perspective. Yet everyone has an opinion on the decision. Everyone has energy tied up in the decision.

And if you ignore these emotions, you’re ignoring relevant data.

We often think of emotions as a hindrance to making good decisions because we’ve all made hasty decisions fueled by big emotions.

I remember when I abruptly amended our vacation policy and a beloved “truth-sayer” on my team openly remarked in an all-hands meeting that he thought my presentation was akin to “the fine print in an insurance policy.”

He was expressing the big emotion of the moment. Did it hurt? Absolutely. I was angry and embarrassed. Standing at the front of the room, I felt terribly alone, my desperation and frustration turning into helplessness. It was also the catalyst that pointed us in the right direction.

Emotions aren’t to blame

Our culture categorizes emotions into good and bad and we learn at an early age that some emotions are permissible and others are not. This can vary from family to family, but anger, fear, and sadness always get a bad wrap. But data is not bad. It’s just information. 

Our mistakes arise from all of our cultural patterns that limit our expression of emotion. We can not consistently make great decisions without using our emotions. 

The fault is not encompassed in the emotion but in an underdeveloped decision making process. 

Opening your decision making process to include emotions will provide you with a richer data set to make high quality decisions. While it’s not the norm in most corporate cultures, your decision making process will improve by encouraging your team to voice their emotions. 

What do you think you’d learn from this? Would you be more or less informed about the problem and the possible paths forward? How could learning how everyone feels make the decision harder? What else could go wrong?

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Dave Shepherd

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