Talking openly about your feelings, particularly in a business setting, is alien to many people.
But improvements in morale and commercial performance can be achieved by addressing individual’s feelings and the shared reality of how a team works together.
We were recently asked if we could help a team to achieve better results in an increasingly competitive market.
In our initial meetings with individual members of the team, a clear pattern emerged.
At an operational level, the team was a success and results were broadly on a par with others in the business.
Then we asked each person what they thought might be holding the team back.
And the answer was always the same. ‘It just doesn’t feel right.’
Beneath the headline were some strong emotions. The team leader felt undermined that she now had to seek approval from above before spending money. Two team members felt that they could not request additional resource to cope with a growing workload. Two more were worried that their own technical skills, and those of the team, were falling behind.
At one level of reality, this was a team that was doing OK. Meeting targets, and functioning in text-book fashion.
But they were only too aware of the ‘felt reality’ of the situation. Their experience was that it ‘didn’t feel right’ and only by attending to that feeling could the team move to a more rewarding and successful place.
Being aware of how feelings affect teams, and individuals within teams, is an essential part of learning to communicate with authenticity.
In the case above, our team coaching work progressed along two strands: helping the team to address the felt reality and at the same time helping the team members to work on understanding and harnessing their own feelings.
We worked with the team to bring what they called a more ‘human element’ to meetings. They made a point of sharing personal updates from beyond the world of work at the start of meetings; they agreed protocols for which discussions would stay confidential to the team and which would be shared beyond. And at the end of the meeting they would go round the room to ask how people felt as they were about to leave.
The team members now report that the team meetings ‘feel good’ and commercial results are starting to improve.
In coaching the individual team members, and other clients, to connect with their feelings, we’ve seen that there tend to be five stages of an iterative process, with each stage being more or less of a hurdle or springboard for each person.
The first step seems to be one of permission. Coming to accept that it is perfectly normal to have feelings, even at work, and that your own feelings carry as much value and validity as anyone else’s.
Next comes clarification. Our description of emotions can be very hazy, and we can pour frustration on top of the original feeling by failing to be clear with ourselves about the root emotion.
Then, we look at triggers. Which people, which times, which circumstances are causing which feelings? Might they best be avoided, met head-on or a strategy employed to create a different outcome?
By now, it might well be time to look how you can control negative feelings and sustain positive ones. Often, a rage or sadness seems to far out-last a leap of joy or flash of inspiration and it could be that some concentrated exercises to start recalibrating these thought patterns is the order of the day.
Expression of feeling is the final area and the biggest obstacle here is often a fear of how other people will react.
Our view is that this shouldn’t stand in your way – so long as you remember one thing.
Which is that the other person will have feelings too. About the situation. About you. And about any number of other things too.
If you express your feelings clearly and in a way that allows the other person (or people) to share their feelings too, then you can change the felt reality of a situation. At which point you can start working together to change the actual reality of the situation.
This post is adapted from My-Fi: how to connect with yourself and those around you by Ken Kelling and Chris Wood. Available for download at http://kellingwood.co.uk/download-ebook/