Having one of these days?

Heart MeditationWhile working and feeling a bit overwhelmed today with all sorts of things happening and different emotions passing by at the same time, suddenly a mail popped up in my inbox. I get quite a lot of newsletters and blog entries on a daily basis, hence am not reading them directly normally. This one though, caught my attention as the first line that I saw read the following:

“Recognize that you are feeling disturbed, overwhelmed, depressed or some other depleting or negative emotion”.

I thought, oh, yes, ok… I acknowledge that I am feeling kind of disturbed today, maybe I should do something against that and simply send some kindness to myself instead of judging and ruminating.

So I continued reading the newsletter and immediately felt better after some moments of stillness. As we all have our good and less good days, I wanted to share this little exercise with all of you. It is called “Soft Heart Tool” and comes from heartmath.org. Hopefully it will help you too!

  1. Recognize that you are feeling disturbed, overwhelmed, depressed or some other depleting or negative emotion.
  2. Acknowledge that it is not these or other emotions that cause you to feel drained or out of sorts as much as it is the significance you give them.
  3. Find your Soft Heart attitude by intentionally feeling love, care or appreciation for a person, pet or something you truly care about. This helps take you to a soft place in your heart and increases your ability to feel care and compassion for yourself.
  4. Soak and relax any unwanted feelings in the compassion of your heart, letting the significance dissolve a little at a time. Take your time.

Jenny

 

 

Mindful Leadership and the influence of emotions on trust

Emotion: happyIn preparation of D. Goleman’s presence and presentation in Lausanne at the IMD later this week, I was reading some very interesting articles/research about emotions and their influence on trust.

As more and more leadership publications and organizational excellence discussions talk about emotions and how important these are for successful self-management, people-management and organizational functioning and well-being (for the company as a whole as well as for the people in it), I find their influence on trust highly important. Trust is indeed necessary for effective teamwork, functioning partnerships, management, social life etc. It really is the main ‘ingredient’ for making things happen, able to reduce the complexity that we are confronted at all times so that we can be together, work together, deal together in business matters and other things. Once lost, it is very difficult to re-build trust in whatever context.

Thanks to research conducted in the field of psychology and neuroscience we now slowly begin to better understand and value how our ‘brains’[1] function and why it is so important to listen to both of them. The idea, that certain emotions can influence trust is hence extremely interesting.

So far, I only knew of research identifying links between affective states (moods and emotions) and unrelated judgments[2] and not how specific emotions influence subsequent judgments. “Unlike moods, emotional states are typically shorter in duration (…)”[3] and they are more complex than moods. In their research, Jennifer Dunn and Maurice Schweitzer, found out the following correlation:

“Happiness and gratitude—emotions with positive valence—increase trust, and anger—an emotion with negative valence—decreases trust. Specifically, (…) emotions characterized by other-person control (anger and gratitude) and weak control appraisals (happiness) influence trust significantly more than emotions characterized by personal control (pride and guilt) or situational control (sadness). (…) Emotions do not influence trust when individuals are aware of the source of their emotions or when individuals are very familiar with the trustee.”

Applied to leadership, these findings are of great importance. As we have seen in one of my previous posts, certain mental qualities or attitudes, “(…) provide a rich soil in which the seeds of mindfulness can flourish: [4]

  1. Patience
  2. ‘Letting Go’
  3. Non-Judging
  4. Trust
  5. Generosity

To summarize: Under certain conditions, emotions such as happiness and gratitude thus increase trust whereas a key attitude for being able to plant the ‘seeds’ of mindfulness is also trust. If you thought that mindful leadership is out of your reach, well here’s a place to start!

 

 



[2] See Joseph P. Forgas for example

[3] Jennifer R. Dunn and Maurice E. Schweitzer:  “Feeling and Believing: The Influence of Emotion on Trust”, page 737

[4] Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are”, New York 1994, p. 3.

About moods, leadership and the social brain

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Tying onto one of my last posts on emotional intelligence and leadership, it struck me how much moods and our emotional states have an impact not only on our own working results but also on those of others and maybe even of a whole organization. As scientists have discovered, our emotional centers in the brain are so-called “open-loop” systems who depend largely on external sources to manage themselves.
As Daniel Goleman writes in his book Leadership, the power of emotional intelligence, “(…)one person transmits signals that can alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function etc. in the body of another” person (page 70). This mechanism was an important one in human evolution as it allows a mother to bond emotionally with her child for example. Even though we don’t really notice that this process is going on, scientists were able to prove that when two people meet and pay full attention to each other, putting aside all distractions as well as being in synch non-verbally, a phenomenon called “mirroring” will happen. This means that the physiological profiles of the two interacting people will look very similar at a certain point.
The same happens, when people work together in an office, a shop floor etc. People will somehow “catch” the feelings of their co-workers, sharing moods, good or bad.

Why does this matter so much? Well, first of all it shows the impact moods have on the overall climate in an office, at home or wherever we are. What is also important from an organizational perspective is that people usually take their emotional cues from the top (Goleman, Leadership, page 72). The attitude and the mood of the leader,the manager etc. will have an enormous impact on his or her direct reports.
Luckily, cheerful moods and laughter spread much easier than negative ones or even depression. But if constantly confronted with these negative attitudes and moods the whole climate of an organization will finaly be affected.

Increases in anxiety, stress or worry will make people less “emotionally intelligent” (Goleman, Leadership, page 77). Our cognitive efficiency erodes and the brain cannot operate at full performance anymore. Motivation goes down, challenges suddenly become overwhelming
and we are simply not able anymore to solve problems creatively. With high levels of anxiety and stress the brain secretes high levels of cortisol and norepinephrine, two substances which will interfere with the smooth operation of learning and memory. (Goleman, Leadership, page 90). At a certain point the person won’t be able to take more levels of stress and become sick and or break down (which can be observed quite often in our Western societies nowadays).

Interesting, don’t you think, how just by being an “emotional intelligent” leader, knowing when to apply which leadership style and how important moods are you can:

  • motivate
  • inspire
  • retain your staff and
  • reach your performance goals more easily (as there are of course many other factors of impact here) outerperforming all other leaders.

    I wish it would be so simple!

    I hope you enjoyed reading this article! Have an excellent weekend,
    Jenny

  • Think about this and put it into practice! What are you going to do about yourself this year? How are you going to find the resources you need inside yourself?

    Make Time for Personal Renewal—4 Strategies for the New Year.