Leadership through the eyes of a Horse
I was contracted in 2008 to develop & present a Leadership Conference for Women using horses for an Association in Indiana. The program honors an advocate to women in business and an avid horsewoman who had passed. What a beautiful way to honor someone who gave so much of herself to assist others.
The past 3 years, 45 women joined us for 2 ½ days of fun, experiential learning, and exploration that pushed them outside their comfort zones to increase awareness and develop a deeper level of leadership.
One theme continues to emerge and becomes stronger each passing year – the desire to learn how to handle emotions in the workplace. More and more leaders come to us with tremendous stress, ridged bodies, inability to breathe deeply, and basically burned out. In minutes of talking with them it became clear each has a tremendous amount of emotions locked inside of them.
This awareness begs me to question – Have companies becoming so sterile that emotions have no place at work?
I have been a student and proponent of Emotional Intelligence (EI) for years, yet it seems the message and value of EI has gotten lost or has no place in the world of work. Or maybe business owners and leaders haven’t heard about EI yet? Whatever the case, knowing and understanding EI is critical and important to the bottom line.
Understanding your emotions and their triggers leads to clearer thinking and better decision making. Research has proven that we feel before we think. We have more neurons in our gut than in our brain. If we only pay attention to our thoughts we lose ¾ of the data available to us in making better decisions. So if we are unaware of our feelings and their triggers, our thinking can be flawed because of an “Amygdala hijacking” (based on neuroscience and published in books by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee).
In a webinar given last week by Daniel Golman he stated the 5 main Business amygdala hijacking (which are also many of the reasons people leave companies) as:
When you have any or all of the hijackings listed above, performance declines, people become burned-out, are easily upset, become ridged and stuck, are grumpy and cranky – all which affect the bottom line. Not to mention moral of the whole workforce goes the way of the leader! Our Social Brain interacts with another which activates “mirror neurons” creating an emotional contagion, much stronger than the flu bug that runs through a company.
The book “Primal Leadership” linked leadership to company climate and to business performance. They found that the climate (how people feel about working in a company) accounts for 20 – 30% of business performance. The climate of a company is traced to the actions of one person in the organization – the Leader. The mood of the Leader is not a private thing; it affects everyone in the organization and directly affects the bottom line profits.
Still think EI is a touchy feely subject with no place at the office?
Hows the bottom line of your organization? Not as good as you’d like?
Think about the leaders in your company. Are they aware of their emotions, understand the triggers, have a place to express themselves and to feel heard, are deadlines realistic with consideration to outside influences that change them, do you/they recognize the “try” of employees, do you/they discuss what is going well? If not the whole company could be losing out on the bottom line not to mention the customer base. For every 1% improvement in the organizational climate, there is a 2% increase in revenue (Primal Leadership, pg. 15)
What can you do as a leader? Become aware of your emotions and their triggers, talk to people, make room for emotional understanding, encourage people to relax and take their vacation time to recharge (yes, without checking in via voice mail, email, blackberry or taking their laptops with them to finish a project), reward the “try” – the effort, encourage positive, non-judgmental, non-blaming communication, recognize perfection is an illusion and focus on what went well, teach people to breathe deeply – it helps eliminate stress, be the leader you want your people to be and model the behaviors.
Don’t know how to start, try seeing yourself through the eye of a horse!
Lesson’s through the eyes of a horse:
Sometimes you find energy & support where you can!
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