|this guy? this guy? or this guy?|
Easy- the last guy. The first one does not look to sure of himself, and the middle one does not look too trustworthy. But how do we all know this, and so fast? Because we are good at picking up emotions.
Ask anyone what they think the most basic element of an organization is. They will probably (and correctly) skip past functional units like sales and HR and tell you "Why, it's the people, of course". Yes, but dig a little bit deeper. What is the most basic element of people? I don't mean water, or carbon, or anything like that. It's emotions.
Emotions are the basic building blocks of people's actions, and those accumulated actions, added up across all the employees, managers, and owners (even the temps!), give that organization a personality, a trajectory, and a performance level. They also define how we perceive the organization from the outside. Consider:
- The customer service rep on the other end of the phone when you call about your cell service; if she is in a terrible mood, what is going to happen to your impression of the company?
- Jeffrey Skilling and Kenneth Lay of Enron. Emotions of greed and competitiveness, and the lack of empathy or ethics in these two individuals affected thousands.
- The barista who is genuinely happy (maybe he just went on a great date last night) and greets you with a heartfelt Good Morning! You may just walk out of that coffee shop liking it a little more.
|Unilever does what?!?|
So why is this important? Bad leaders ignore emotion altogether, and may actively implement strategies that disregard emotional consequences. For example, the little league coach who rules by fear and intimidation. Mediocre leaders are aware that emotions matter, but have no idea how to handle them. The smartest leaders, however, acknowledge and respect employees as whole people, and in doing so create policies, interactions, and strategy that increase organizational performance.
A smart leader stops looking an an organizational chart simply like this:
...and starts to think about it like this as well:
But just as you can't correct someone's grammar in Japanese if you don't speak it, a leader can't recognize what is means for an employee to be a whole person if they are not whole themselves. This is why many leadership development programs focus on creating a more whole, rounded, and complete person. It starts at the top, with the leader, and once he or she becomes more rounded and complete, then it is possible to recognize this need in others. And once they do, the organization improves.
Finally, if you don't believe me, look at the results of this study from RPI's School of Management. Entrepreneurs who scored in the top 10% of "Most Expressive" and "Best at Reading Emotions" earn much more money than those who scored in the bottom 10%: