April 9, 2021

Emotional Intelligence at Work: Feeling Your Way to the Top

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Emotional Intelligence at Work: Feeling Your Way to the Top

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At the beginning of Taryn Toomey’s The Class the other day, she asked a question: 

What is the feeling that comes after action?

So often we’re so focused on the doing part and simply checking things off the list that we miss the feedback that comes from our emotional body. We miss the opportunity to ask ourselves, How do these actions make me feel?

The invitation and permission to explore the feeling that arose after the action was so beautiful and it got me thinking, Why don’t we incorporate this into our work lives? Why isn’t this taught in business school? Why isn’t this incorporated into most leadership curricula?

Well it is now! 

The Old Paradigm

The old paradigm has taught us that feelings in business are undesirable, a distraction, a deterrent, and something to be avoided. 

Yet as humans our brains are wired to feel first, think second. Since feelings drive behavior (remember Simon Sinek’s, Start with Why?) we have to understand not just our own feelings, but the feelings of those we interact with on a regular basis. Then use those feelings to make better decisions as conscious leaders. 

The NU Paradigm

The new (NU) paradigm invites us to ask questions and deeply listen to what our feelings are trying to tell us. Once we’ve had the chance to process those feelings, we can consciously communicate how we feel to our team. So, that way they can have a more solid understanding of the bigger picture. They’ll be able to navigate the deeper complexities and nuances of the business challenges you face. 

The NU CEO knows not only how to access their feelings, but how to make decisions. They know how to set up their work lives with the core intention of feeling good. Especially as we’re swimming in uncertainty nowadays. But you don’t need a crystal ball when you know how to tap into your emotional body to get crystal clear. This is the beauty of feeling your feelings in a work context. You’re able to focus and feel confident about the next best step. This alleviates anxiety around having to know the entire plan forward (which nobody knows right now).

Here’s what you’ll learn in this blog post: 

  • Why we prioritize thinking over feeling in business
  • What happens when we don’t listen to our feelings
  • An exercise that gives you two easy ways to start listening to your feelings as a CEO, Founder, or Executive (even if you’ve been burying them for a long long time)
  • Why doing these things will support you in your success 

Why We Need to Listen to Our Feelings

As women, we prioritize thinking over feeling in business because we’re taught not to feel at work, to never cry at work, and to not be emotional. We’re taught to be happy, but not too happy. Express some concern, but not too much. Get close, but not too close. We hear these as we’re climbing up the ranks, but we often don’t realize how much these mixed messages have adversely impacted our career until we’re at a senior level. Once we’re a CEO / executive and have power, suddenly more people are interested in what we’re thinking and how we’re behaving.

That’s when we’re penalized for not demonstrating the traditional feminine behavior. The behavior that requires us to be able to access, demonstrate, and act on our feelings. 

So first things first…

Exploring our Emotional Intelligence

So how fluent are we in the language of feelings? We can’t fully experience something if we can’t fully conceptualize what it is. So, being able to name the feeling is really important. Also, if we can’t name it, we certainly can’t make decisions based on either trying to avoid it or trying to replicate it 

You become more emotionally intelligent when you are able to name your feelings. But we’re taught not to feel at work. So, most of those feelings, especially in a work context, are usually stuffed down and saved for later (when it’s safe to let them out). We’ve all seen this play out. There’s either a volcanic-like eruption where everything comes up and out — that’s no bueno. Or even worse, the feelings stay stuffed down. They act like a low-level virus or a cancer that slowly robs us of our health, joy, vitality, and vibrancy.  You will never reach the levels of success you dream of in either of these scenarios. Well you might, but you probably won’t enjoy it.   

Think about a recent time when you were going about your work day and a deep, overwhelming feeling surfaced. The feeling of anger, frustration, fear, or joy. What were you doing? Right in that moment, what were you doing? And what was the feeling that came up for you? Can you name it? If you’re having a hard time naming the feeling that you felt, I’d like for you to tune into our podcast where we’ll be sharing more about this topic.

A successful powerful woman is made only more powerful when she is in touch with her feelings, owns them, and can communicate them (and in turn, effectively deal with others and their feelings as well).

Reflecting on our Emotional Intelligence

First, write down three things that take up the most time for you in your work. Then, write how you feel after completing each one. For example, if one on one meetings with your team take up an entire day of your week and leave you feeling depleted, then listen to your feelings. They are telling you that you need to make some changes in how you do your one on ones. 

  • This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many women executives simply keep on doing things that deplete and exhaust them (yet they have the power to change them).
  • What is it about the meetings that makes you feel that way? Do your team members ramble on about things that don’t matter? Did they not come prepared? Was too much time on personal instead of business topics? How can you make a small shift in these meetings so that you would feel differently? Maybe you can make the meetings forty-five minutes instead of sixty minutes, ask your team members to send an agenda in advance (to keep them focused), or have them run the meeting. Possibly take time between meetings to move, breathe, and recenter. Would that make you feel differently?

Not everything in your work life is going to feel amazing, but that’s why we’re focusing on the areas where you spend the most time. If we can get the three areas where you spend the most time to feel good, then more of your work life is going to feel good!

To Summarize

As a CEO, Founder, or Executive, the more powerful you become, the more your success depends on you being an emotionally intelligent leader. In turn, the more you can build your career, company, and work-life around feeling good, the more success you’ll enjoy. So, you’ll need to be able to name your feelings and you’ll want to map out how the three things you spend the most time doing in your work-life make you feel. If this is not how you want to feel, dive into what specifically doesn’t feel good and look for ways to make small, incremental changes.

Interested in learning more about how Emotional Intelligence can supercharge your career? Let’s talk

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