In this time of chronic uncertainty, it can be a real struggle to know how to stay strong, carry on – and to show (or not to show) your emotions.
We know that up to 85% of our professional success is correlated with our EQ and interpersonal skills. And we know that emotions provide vital information for problem solving.
Yet when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed, how do we build a bridge of trust and safety, or psychological safety, for our staff and colleagues? What happens when we’re on empty and can barely trust our own reaction to things?
In the wonderfully illustrative article You Can’t Check In Too Often With Your Remote Employees, the author offers succinct and emotionally astute advice. (The recommendations are equally appropriate for front-line, essential employees).
Here’s the cliff notes:
- Talk More: If you don’t communicate regularly your employees will disengage
- Be Human: Don’t plunge into action on video calls, lead with candor and compassion
- Schmooze: Keep the bonding, set up some team play time, with or without you
- Let ‘em Fight: Teach and model and practice safe conflict
- Be Gentle: Ff you need to difficult news on performance
- Go Deep: Check in on people’s emotional state
Emotional engagement management.
That’s what Dr. Timothy Clark (quoted in the article) calls this process and he concludes: People can smell your intent. You can’t fake it.
It’s true, isn’t it? While faking it may seem the most successful option in the moment, it serves the opposite effect and actually pushes people away.
The challenge then becomes how do you appropriately engage your emotions to create greater safety, trust, inclusion and connection?
The EQ skill you want to engage is emotional expression.
When used effectively, healthy emotional expression reflects your openness, willingness and ability to share your emotions — verbally and non-verbally — to create reciprocity and trust in relationships by acknowledging and sharing in the reality together.
I’m not talking about excessive emoting, drowning a room with your feelings or wearing your heart on your sleeve. That’s over-engaged emotional expression.
But I’m also not talking about a stiff upper lip either, because then you will likely be perceived as uncaring, detached, disconnected, or in denial of reality. And as a result, people are less apt to believe you, trust you and seek you out.
Right now, your team is watching you closely, whether in person or on the video camera. More than ever, your behavior, your emotional expression, is shaping your culture.
Two of My Favorite Emotional Engagement Activities
1. At the beginning of a meeting, ask each member to share a word or a phrase that represents them at their BEST and MOST STRESSED right now.
That’s right. I just asked you to invite the team to say a word or phrase to identify their stressed behavior.
And, no, you will not lose control of the meeting by asking this question. Instead, you will be inviting people to be real, thus creating greater interpersonal connection and deepening your team’s ability to effectively share and problem solve. You’ll probably also hear some laughter and sighs of relief as people realize they are not alone.
If you’re a blank slate, so goes the team. So make sure you start first and genuinely share your feelings.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the common threads and bond that emerges.
You’ll gain more information and also model safety in sharing real concerns. Because you want to know these things.
2. At the end of the meeting, ask each member for a word or phrase regarding their take away from the meeting.
Again, make sure you model it first and include pleasant, and unpleasant, as appropriate, emotions in your statement: I feel encourage, concerned, hopeful, committed, anxious, grateful, stretched, exhausted yet energized…
If it’s a weekly meeting, allow AT LEAST 15-minutes for this check-in.
Here’s your bare bones agenda: Connection — Content — Connection. A little emotional engagement goes a long way , and chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beneficial outcome.