Many organizations seek to accomplish their purposes with so little effectiveness that it's as if they were literally chained to the past and to procrastination. Yet when away from work, and doing something they love, many of the same people act more like forces of nature... moving themselves and others with great emotion by drawing upon compassion and genuine concern to make needed improvements.
Leaders can make a difference. I well remember a company where no decisions could be made without a year of discussions, even when the management team was unanimous in supporting a change. The organization's leader just couldn't bring himself to make a decision and then to take action.
When the organization's leader was replaced, one of his colleagues on the management team took over. The new leader had talked through what was needed so many times that he didn't want to talk any more. He just polled the management team, made decisions, and put them into action... often on the same day.
Even with a decision-making leader in place, little may be accomplished. Here's why: Many companies are dull and ineffective because their leaders operate as if emotions don't exist, seeking to keep any emotions that do surface under tight control.
You find, instead, a surface politeness that causes most thoughts and reactions to stay submerged, often pushed down so deeply into the subconscious mind that individuals may not notice how they feel.
When a leader allows internal agreements to develop without the benefit of emotional responses, the result is usually a compromise that won't light anyone's fire, including the customers and end users the company is trying to attract and encourage.
Why do many start-up businesses operate much more effectively? The founders of such firms often strongly desire to express their ideas through serving customers in ways that make everyone feel great. Shouldn't life always be like that?
In recent years, the concept of emotional intelligence has started to enter into the corporate lexicon. That's the good news.
There's also bad news. The notions of helping people to become more aware of and able to use their own emotions, to be aware of and able to engage constructively with the emotions of others, and to create environments where negative emotions are de-emphasized while positive ones flourish are more often given lip service... than are brought into actual use.
As someone who has had the opportunity to study many dozens of companies and nonprofit organizations, I more often notice business leaders seeking to avoid stirring negative emotions than engaging with whatever emotions already exist.
While teaching business students, I'm always delighted to discover those who see learning about emotions and how to engage constructively with them. These students see opportunities to humanize and improve organizations where others only see barriers to achievement. Such learners can greatly add to an organization's capacity for making changes that deliver much-needed breakthroughs.
Thinking about such breakthrough learners reminds me of some wisdom shared with me by an MBA graduate of Rushmore University who specializes in helping companies create positive emotional cultures. Here are some of his observations:
-- There are joyful and easy ways to deal with our own as well as with others' emotions.
-- If you allow people to express emotions, they work better, feel better and are more loyal.
-- After people finally express their emotions, many then accomplish a long-held personal goal and go on to keep achieving at a higher level.
Earning an MBA online sparked this man's interest in improving corporate emotional cultures. At first, he was fascinated by just the business aspects of optimizing processes. On closer look, he became inspired by the enormous potential of constructively engaging with emotions in companies.
An upbeat person, he's inspired by the opportunity to work with CEOs to create far-better emotional corporate cultures than exist today. Due to the difficult business environments many organizations face, the potential reward for doing so is very high.
What is holding your company back today? Could it be failing to appreciate and engage the emotions that are being felt and addressing those emotions in joyful ways?
Now is an excellent time to learn how to engage constructively with emotions. What are you waiting for?
Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit