The aim of future organizations is to cultivate an environment, where the majority of its constituents (if not all) can thrive through unleashing of potential and the aim of leadership is to grow independent artists that can effectively participate in the process of recreation.
There is one major roadblock to the acclaimed mission – the condition of our human spirits.
Majority of us start our adult working lives on a condition of dependency. Similar to an experience in childhood, we have a need to gain new knowledge, to develop skills through application and to grow a sense of intuitive intelligence on our way to mastery. The difference is that by the time we reach the age for joining the workforce, we have already grown a deep sense of personal identity and often, a deeper sense of separateness, neither of which we had as children. The kind of interruptions and mental models we may have encountered during our developmental phase(s) up until we show up in the workplace combined with unattainable goals and aggravated expectations mandated onto us end up manifesting itself then as various behaviors of fragmentation, alienation, emotional stickiness or mental exhaustion.
Even if we were skilled to navigate through the ocean of our own spirits, in today’s modern society, the pace of work, the high demands, professional exigencies, the pressure to meet regulatory standards put many of us back at the fence in effectively shaping our relations in the organizational context. It doesn’t help that our highly competitive, often control-seeking organizations promote values dictated by the utility and extreme pragmatism contributing the dissonance of our artisanship either.
The outcome of the scenarios described is an overspend of resources – both at an individual and collective level.
The effect of the discrepancies between the subjective reality of our employees and the organizational climate is often most felt at the level of emotional experience, resulting in a number of SAD-ness cases, feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, and highlighting a number of inadaptable behaviors such as low frustration tolerance, diminished self-esteem, lost ability to manage stress, etc. resulting in invisible and often unmeasured costs of our diminished performances.
Did you know job-related stress is estimated to cost only US companies more than $300 billion a year in health costs, absenteeism and poor performance? That’s billion, not even million…
According to a large number of scientists from a variety of disciplines, this diminishes of performance, resource and energy spent in trying constantly meet demands of an outside world leads to self-separation, dissolves contact from inner self and strips our ability to show up authentically and holistically, including outside of work.
Here we are, sitting with our 75 trillion cells each, going through about 4 million cell divisions every single second, replicating our DNAs, finding errors, engaging in correction and reactivation as we are granted the luxury to rejuvenate by every breath; yet, we continue to struggle with the task of effectively leading ourselves and forming our experiences. Even though neuroscience has confirmed that our nervous systems want us to connect with other human beings, that we are literally, hardwired to connect, we fail at engaging our employees and influence of others.
Gaining emotional insight may be key to survival here.
Our recent research findings with Stanford University’s CCARE present evidence that in the event we are able to grow our ability for conscious-living, self-acceptance, self-respect, self-assertiveness and we learn to better handle our emotions, we grow capability to engage and connect with others more effectively.
Activating Human Spirit…
Emotional insight is a core human attribute, one of many we have found to be playing an active role in growing capacity and in driving positive organizational outcomes.
It is most commonly viewed as a capacity to become aware, to identify, express and work with emotions effectively. It allows us to see beyond what may be visible to the eye. By attending to our complex ways of being and others’, we allow ourselves the opportunity to explore into unforeseen and catch one another at the level of our deeply rooted and often buried humanities.
The science of emotional insight points us importantly to the body calling attention to emotions being somatic events and having distinctive physiology that goes along with tendencies to act in certain ways. While our emotions have been driven out of work historically, the insight that comes through emotional awareness and agility proves a source of fundamental advantage for future organizations.
In her book, Emotional Agility, a Harvard Medical School psychologist and Founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, Dr. Susan David shares a scientific approach to expanding emotional capacity. Dr. David argues that the way we perceive our inner selves becomes a key determinant of how we live and the successes we incur. For example, to maintain a negative self-image for prolonged periods of time can become destructive to our ‘being’ and may impair our potential for successful relationship building while maintaining a positive self-image and showing a will to work with our emotions in its entirety may equip us to develop better navigation (and as a result happiness) through life.
She shares a four-step, practical, applicable methodology to work with our day to day emotions.
Through our studies and living it in practice, I have come to think of emotional insight as an outcome to the ignition of the human spirit. The human spirit, as Sherwin Nuland, a professor of surgery and an award-winning author, once wrote: “is the result of adaptive biological mechanisms that protect our species, sustain us and serve to perpetuate the existence of humanity.”
Some of the older wisdom traditions have reference to this state using words such as ‘nephesh’ in Judaism, ‘nefes’ in Sufism, and ‘phenuma’ in Greek philosophy.
Unfortunately, many of us tend to brush off anything related to livelihood, claiming it is an intangible and others confuse the human spirit with consciousness, but consciousness is more of an awareness to our emotions and responses whereas spirit is more of an enabler to the enrichment of experience.
Not only the human spirit is tangible, but it also is scientifically measurable, and it supports our momentary choices. By doing so, it allows us to step deeper into our ways of being, offering an enhanced, richer experience for who we are and/or becoming. The key word is choice here: If we are going to benefit from the human spirit to demonstrate a level of energy and pass along inspiration, we need be willing to step into the depths of our being, face both the light and dark corners of our deepest emotions and ride the wave of joy and disparity, sometimes uncontrollably.
Because only then, when we accept and own our thoughts, emotions and insights in its entirety, we are able to meet others at the level of their humanities. When we are able to sit with our joy, pain, high and low, it helps us perceive and project what others may potentially be experiencing. Acknowledging our response to a wide variety of emotions – especially negative emotions- teaches us forbearance, a big value in my Anatolian culture. It helps us understand the condition of someone else’s spirit and helps us moderate our responses accordingly. It literally and physically expands our capacity to comprehend, empathize and to hold space for the other’s way of being.
At an organizational level, we have been able to validate through our research that in environments, where leaders are reportedly more in tune with their emotions, demonstrate components of self-esteem and shown ability to relate in a conscious manner to others’ feelings, employees feel better heard of, cared for and organizations do significantly better in employee engagement scores holistically.
This finding offers a good explanation as to why many work environments feel “insane” to us. Every day, we observe leads who don’t do as they say or say as they do; who have a hard time admitting to mistakes or offering an apology, where necessary. We experience the application of rules or policies that are hard to understand, inconsistent and at times, unfair. One day we find our behavior is ignored, the other day it is punished or even rewarded. We live by and try to navigate through expectations of leaders whose emotional lives are less than predictable.
It is a missed opportunity that many times culture in an organizational setting is described only in values, artifacts, behaviors, leaving out the biggest driver, emotions at the center. Organizations are living organisms, just like human beings. Organizational cultures give us emotion norms and display rules just as much as they give us behavioral norms and expression rules. How we feel at work is equally about us as it’s about the demonstrated leadership behaviors and the culture in which it is deemed appropriate to feel that way. There is a deep interdependency there that are often looked over and underplayed.
It became clear to us through our analysis that some types of organizational cultures make emotional insight easier and those that welcome all emotions without labeling as positive or negative grow abundance cultures in which people embrace the benevolence of the human beings and assume the best out of each other supporting a repertoire of virtuous behaviors and assumptions about the value of virtues in the environment.
Emotional insight, just like any part of our bodies, can be strengthened and developed by regular practice and through a cycle of reflection. Just as the body, where neglected, it can grow weaker and even perish if left untended.
As leaders of the 21st century, there are a few skills we must actively invest in to grow emotional agility.
If you are unsure where to start, consider how to notice, show up to and live your emotions and as a leader, consider how much you are able to demonstrate behavior that projects:
- Acceptance of an others’ thoughts, feelings and value of their persona,
- Definition of clear context and limits enforced in a fair, non-oppressive and negotiable manner,
- Respect for dignity,
- Setting common standards for coaching,
- Role modeling the values cherished by the organization.
It is impossible to theorize about the ideal state of an organization’s culture with expanded emotional insight from one to another, yet there is enough evidence to support that every encounter we have is a matter of feeling at first. Plus, any theoretical scheme and most of the current outside-in intervention to culture will likely be lacking in the essence of its creation the inner desire for human expression — unless intentionally designed.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a clear connection between the ability to express our make-up, the way we show up and relate to others and the overall quality of our joint cultures.
In other words, the artist always has a direct influence on the DNA of its climate. Our thoughts are the kind of brush, our state of heart is the pallet of our colors and our eyes are the form of weight coloring in painting our reality. The artist’s hand is the vehicle, then, to reflect the spirit into the picture.