In my previous article, I discussed how one can read other people’s emotions, and why positive emotional states foster business success. When people are in a positive emotional state, their cognitive ability is significantly enhanced and their ability to be creative is elevated. As leaders, we can learn to monitor the emotions of our employees and teams.
“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to become angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.” ~ Aristotle
Aristotle was a student of Plato, and his primary disagreement with his teacher was his respect for emotions. Unlike Plato, he realized that rationality wasn’t always in conflict with emotion. Instead, Aristotle argued that one of the critical functions of the rational soul was to make sure that emotions were intelligently applied to the real world.
Yet, we continually discount emotions when we weigh data, correlate statistics and use results from customer surveys and focus groups. Many companies rely on surveys and focus groups to make product and marketing decisions. Without careful consideration of context, they may miss making the best decisions.
The problems of focus groups are well known. It’s why some television shows don’t make it to the networks. Seinfeld tested poorly, as did The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Hill Street Blues.
Focus groups are a crude instrument to measure audience responses because people express their feelings, but they don’t explain them. Data is recorded based on impulsive feelings with all the usual flaws of the emotional brain.
Executives have to sort through the data and make qualitative decisions using contextual information. You can’t rely on emotional data and obey it blindly.
Sorting data and making sense of it is what the prefrontal cortex does well. The audience in a focus group is like our emotional brain, constantly sending out visceral signals about its likes and dislikes. The prefrontal cortex, also called the executive brain, is like a smart TV network executive, patiently monitoring emotional reactions and deciding which to take seriously.
Rationality can work to save us from impulse decisions based on negative feelings that aren’t justified. But relying exclusively on rational thought can easily backfire. When the rational brain takes over, people tend to make all sorts of decision-making mistakes. As rewarding as a strong analytical mind can be, it is a detriment if we become conditioned to always keeping our awareness in that realm.
People ignore the wisdom of their emotions, and start basing their arguments on things they can explain rationally, like survey data (without considering that customers respond to them emotionally.) One of the problems is that even when our feelings are accurate, they can be hard to articulate. So instead of going with an argument that feels best, we go with one that sounds reasonable.
I remember when Subaru launched their “Love” campaign several years ago. It highlighted the love that drivers feel for their cars, and a Washington Times article was quick to berate them for mentioning love as a reason for buying a car. According to the article, love is an irrational emotion that has no place in the realm of purchasing decisions or anywhere in business. It’s a common belief that the emotion of love should be barred from business, yet this is highly ironic because love is the one ingredient that can help businesses generate the highest prosperity.
Emotions profoundly impact the rhythmic beating of our heart and the signals it transmits to our brain. These signals cause measurable changes in our brain’s ability to think and process information. When our emotions are positive, emanating from the heart, we are in a state of coherence, where the electrical patterns of the brain synchronize with the rhythmic patterns of the heart. In this state, our brain functions at peak levels.
When we experience positive, heartfelt emotions, such as compassion, appreciation and gratitude, our mind becomes far more sharp and clear. Our cortical function is enhanced and we are able to see possibilities where previously we could perceive only dead-endings. We are able to rapidly recall information committed to memory and mentally sift through large amounts of data, finding the most relevant facts and making the best decisions. New understandings about the market place and the organization are quicker to emerge, and we are more adaptive to change. When businesses consistently foster positive, heartfelt emotions in their organization, the performance of their employees skyrocket and enhanced creativity leads to greater innovations.
A recent IBM survey of over 1500 global CEO’s concludes that creativity, adaptability, and the mental aptitude to process growing volumes of data, are the qualities that organizations need to succeed into the future. As the business world becomes increasingly complex and fast-paced, employees are increasingly challenged to find local, instant solutions that work. The capacity to thrive in these environments is engendered by positive, heart-based emotions.
In contrast, when our emotions are negative, such as fear, anger, worry, and anxiety, we severely limit learning, memory, cognition, and problem-solving. This causes decreased productivity, poor or short-sighted decisions, difficulty finding the right words and remembering key facts, a slowed reaction speed, and the feeling of being overwhelmed. People and organizations in this state simply can’t compete effectively.
Many corporate environments are riddled with anxiety, sometimes even by design, as many leaders believe that employees work harder when motivated by fear. But as a leader, don’t let conventional thinking convince you that having heart in business is irrational or a sign of weakness. Leaders maximize prosperity not by aggravating people into doing more, but rather by nurturing their emotional health. This is the key to the organization’s long-term viability. Among other methods, you can help people feel positive, heartfelt emotions by controlling your own emotions, defining a purpose that resonates, trusting people, and creating more collaborative environments.
Watch this short video on emotions.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.