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Leading With Emotions

by Jonathan Jones

As a rule of thumb, emotions are more potent than facts and figures. My life has been forever changed by this lesson. With my corporate business training, I was well-prepared for my first managerial job and eager to turn around an underperforming unit. Clearly overconfident, I had much to learn.

I followed all my training. I put in structure. The technically appropriate people were in the right roles, so we were destined to win in terms of productivity and profits. “Everything is running great!” I gloated to a lead administrative assistant. “No!” she exclaimed. What???

The engineer in me pondered why things were not perfect. The epiphany came from an unexpected source: While I had built what I thought was a world-class, lean productivity engine, I soon realized that knowing people was critical.

She had sensed disengagement. Unhappy people update their resumes. I would have failed miserably without her emotional intelligence. She offered me the missing piece of my plan — involvement of the people. They may have been in the right bus seat, but a world-class culture requires people to be cared for with an emotional connection to the purpose. I was not in touch with the people.

I had to turn my leadership around, beginning with getting to know my team as humans and listening to them. We got a huge improvement in profitability because I accepted her intuition. Emotions are the fuel that drives us, and they dominate our lives, affect our decisions, and encourage us to go above and beyond.

Leaders must understand and engage their employees’ underlying ideas, aspirations, and interests to create a work environment where people want to be. The culture will change if you help people use their strengths. My previous master plan was mainly about numbers. Now, I start with emotion.

Jonathan Jones (Jonathan.jones@vistagechair.com or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.

Submitted 35 days ago
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