Organizations are run by people, and people run on emotions. Though business leaders have often pretended that they have no place in the office, emotions -- expressing them, reading them, misunderstanding them -- play a critical role in how business is conducted.
Unfortunately, many people are bad at sensing those feelings. People read each other's minds incorrectly, bad intentions are assumed, and small slights balloon into career-derailing moments.
We often have blinders on when it comes to our own behavior, and a magnifying glass when assessing offenses we have endured.
In three decades of experience as a clinical psychologist and corporate consultant, often working in the C-suite, Dr. Melanie Katzman has learned some professional, practical ways to handle the emotional side of work.
Her core thesis is that all business leaders need to pay close attention to the simple but significant moments between people -- moments of connection. If you do that consistently well, you can unleash your personal capacity, increase organizational effectiveness, face the future with courage, and position yourself for leadership.
In an in-depth interview on the Love in Action Podcast, Katzman revealed some game-changing, eye-opening tips from her new book CONNECT FIRST: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work, which was released today.
1. Saying "Got It" shows respect.
No one wants to send notes into the ether. Respond with "Got it" as soon as you receive a request, special announcement, or finished project. Don't wait until you have read through lengthy documents, or completed time-consuming tasks.
On the flip side of that transaction, let people know that an action is required -- state it in the subject line. If you need a response immediately, write "URGENT." Include expected actions at the start of the message. If you don't need it until next week, then write that, too.
2. Everyone matters. Let them know it.
In every organization, people want to be recognized -- they want to be seen. Don't treat people like furniture. The flesh-and-blood janitors polishing your floor and cleaning your bathroom mirrors should not be invisible. Failing to acknowledge the presence of the people we work with reinforces a destructive hierarchy.
The privilege of being seen is not equally distributed in organizational life. Opting to look into the distance when approaching another individual communicates "you don't matter." In contrast, looking/seeing and making eye contact with a colleague confers respect.
As you enter and exit your building, take a second to catch the gaze of the people opening your door, taking in packages, or cleaning the break room. Pay attention to them. Learn their names. Stop and say hello. Make a connection.
Carry that spirit into your day. Before you begin a meeting, scan the room. Have you made eye contact with everyone? Take a walk with someone different than yourself, and open yourself up to focusing on (and being introduced to) the people they know. To connect first, open your eyes to all that surrounds you. You'll see some new things.
3. Tell a story, a real story, so that others will follow.
Emotional engagement is created in the heart. Effective storytelling strips away our work armor and allows us to establish the personal connection. Then we can get down to business.
As a leader, remind your coworkers or audience that although you may have designed a beautiful exterior life, your success grew out of mistakes that were the same or worse than theirs. Your story is the basis for where you are in the present tense -- and where you're taking them. If you want them to join you in that future, you need to get them to join your journey.
4. Squash the negative dialogue in your head.
The world outside may seem treacherous, but it's your inner terrain that will trip you up. To quiet your inner demon, you have to catch negative thinking. Blaming yourself or assuming you won't succeed is a recipe for passivity and depression.
Thoughts are not necessarily facts so challenge any corrosive inner monologue in your head. Write down three alternative ways of viewing a situation. Go to work tomorrow and act as if at least one of those alternatives is correct.
Joyful experiences are ignited at work when our inner environment is freed from negative assumptions. Countering destructive thoughts makes us better friends to ourselves and more desirable colleagues to others.
5. Find your rhythms.
Daily rituals between just two people reassert personal connections. Big companies have HR departments with firmwide initiatives, but sometimes the best rituals are organically grown and local to your team.
Find what works and build on it. Recognize the rhythms of work. Acknowledge project milestones, especially if the final goal is far off. Host a "we are halfway there" gathering. Restate the dream. It's a good chance for staff who have been on projects from the start to share stories of how far you have come.
6. Optimism works -- but be practical about it.
We wake up every morning knowing lots of stuff is broken, and more is about to break. The most productive professionals incorporate optimism into their work -- but they're realistic about it. After all, pretending everything will work out won't lead you to success.
The key is to avoid bowing to the shrine of problems. Focus on the future, set ambitious targets, have the courage to consider the obstacles, and remember to rejoice when you conquer them. Break big goals into manageable, tangible actions that can be accomplished and celebrated.
It all starts with creating a positive work space
In her book, Katzman reminds us that it takes five positive comments to counteract the demoralizing impact of one negative remark at work. This means that if you want to create a positive, emotional place for work to take place, you have to work five times harder than people who default to criticism.
So be on the alert for chances to praise generously and treat interpersonal connection as an essential habit for your business. It's one of the easiest ways to avoid employee disengagement and turnover and a practically free way to inspire respect and trust.
Whatever your role is in the company, if you don't take anyone around you for granted, you'll be quickly surrounded by people who want to support you. As a leader, that's a good outcome to strive for.