Putting emotions to work

Earlier this year, I attended an Emotional Intelligence program run by Dr Susan David from Harvard. It was a fantastic opportunity to consolidate all my previous learning on the subject, and gave me many new ideas.

Emotional Intelligence is a bit of a buzz word, and is often seen as yet “another management fad”. However, emotions are critically important to our success. Emotions contain data and information about ourselves, other people and the world around us. Emotions assist us in thinking and decision making. Emotions are not chaotic, they can be understood and predicted and often follow certain rules or patterns. Because emotions are data, we can utilise them in our thinking, our decisions and our actions.

As a leader, what are some practical ways to leverage emotions?

Setting yourself up for success. Check in with yourself at the beginning of your day. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel at the moment?
  • What is my thinking style right now?
  • How do I need to feel for the rest of the day to be most effective?
  • What strategies can I use to move myself into that emotional head space?

Expand that to your team or your clients. One of the things we know is that mood impacts tasks. In order to be creative and brainstorm, a positive mood is required. For detail work, like budgets, a neutral or slightly negative mood is best.  A study found that doctors were more likely to misdiagnose when they were presented with a box of chocolates right before seeing a patient – the positive mood was not conducive to the detailed work required for accurate diagnosis. When going into meetings, think about:

  • What you will be doing
  • What mood would be most helpful
  • How is the team / client likely to be feeling at the moment?
  • How to move your team/ client to the emotion that will be most helpful to the task at hand.

If you need the team to creatively solve a problem, spending a long time defining all the issues and dwelling on the negative isn’t going to put the team in a useful mood. However, spending a few minutes chatting about someone’s amazing holiday before you get onto the brainstorming will help.

As a facilitator, I have a few games in the kit bag that I use to create the right mood for brainstorming. They usually involve a bit of running around and laughing – sounds silly, but participants come back into the room on an emotional “up” and ready to get creative.

I am going to expand on EI and how to develop it in future blogs.

Contact Ros for leadership development, coaching and facilitation or visit Shaping Change at

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5 replies on “Putting emotions to work”

Like your recommendation for starting the day – the questions to ask yourself to create a good start to the day. Very useful. Thank you

Then , the suggestions going into meetings – SO valuable.

Great information here!

Hi Ros

Great advice. I spend a great deal of time in this field as well and I agree with everything you say. There was an interesting paper published only recently that confirmed the mood -performance relationship and went even further to point out that start of day mood was particularly important in influencing performance. I tell my clients to be mindful of the messages they give in early morning meetings, as they have a big impact on the performance and productivity for the rest of the day. A quick, positive and happy chat at the beginning of the day can reap great rewards.

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