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Emotionally Intelligent Communication for Leaders

Emotional Expressiveness for Leaders

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great leadership works through the emotions.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Primal Leadership (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

How well do the leaders in your organization express their emotions? What about you? Do you appropriately articulate your feelings? Do you use emotional expressiveness to persuade and inspire others?

Leaders are responsible for their organizations’ energy levels. While research has demonstrated a strong link among excitement, commitment and business results, many leaders stumble at emotional expressiveness. They hesitate to express both positive and negative emotions in an effort to maintain credibility, authority and gravitas. Consequently, they’re losing one of the best tools for achieving impact.

Emotional Intelligence

“The role of emotional maturity in leadership is crucial.” ~ Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern, Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire (Penguin Group, USA, 2004)

MBA programs don’t teach emotional expressiveness, although professors often address emotional intelligence as an important leadership quality.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your — and others’ — moods and emotions, and it’s a critical component of effective leadership. Leaders at all organizational levels must master:

1.  Appraisal and expression of emotions

2.  Use of emotion to enhance cognitive processes and decision-making

3.  The psychology of emotions

4.  Appropriate management of emotions

Every message has an emotional component, so leaders must learn to articulate and express their feelings. Mastering this objective inspires your team in five essential domains:

1.  Developing collective goals

2.  Instilling an appreciation of work’s importance

3.  Generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation and trust

4.  Encouraging flexibility in decision-making and change management

5.  Establishing and maintaining a meaningful organizational identity

Leaders create authentic relationships by expressing interest in their people and showing empathy. They must also learn to express their emotions publicly.

Myths about Emotions

“Emotional leadership is the spark that ignites a company’s performance, creating a bonfire of success or a landscape of ashes.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, December 2001

When leaders communicate, they often focus on message clarity and overlook its important emotional component. To generate excitement, they need to master their emotional expressiveness.

But most leaders demonstrate resistance. They cling to long-standing assumptions about showing emotions:

·   It’s unbecoming

·   Undermines authority

·   Reveals a lack of control

·   Conveys irrationality

·   Indicates weakness and vulnerability

·   Isn’t masculine (and is, therefore, too feminine)

Men in leadership positions don’t want to come across as dictatorial, angry or moody. Their female counterparts avoid showing emotions because they believe it plays into stereotypes about women being high-strung.

Does Your Head Overrule Your Heart?

In business, we’re highly respected for our sharp minds, to the extent that we frequently ignore and squelch our emotional voices. But even the most analytical personalities experience emotions.

Peter Bregman addresses this issue in “Don’t Let Your Head Attack Your Heart,” a July 2014 Harvard Business Reviewblog post:

“We are trained and rewarded, in schools and in organizations, to lead with a fast, witty and critical mind. And it serves us well. The mind can be logical, clear, incisive and powerful. It perceives, positions, politics and protects. One of its many talents is to defend us from emotional vulnerability, which it does, at times, with jokes and quick repartee.

The heart, on the other hand, has no comebacks, no quips. Gentle, slow and unprotected, an open heart is easily attacked, especially by a frightened mind. And feelings scare the mind.”

It’s no wonder that leaders become entrenched in a comfort zone of data, facts and ideas. But safe isn’t always smart. Truly inspirational leaders express their emotions and are quick to pick up on others’. Most, however, avoid expressing their feelings, fearing they’ll appear weak or out of control.

Bad News for Buttoned-Up Leaders

Research into emotional and social intelligence reveals the contrary. Failure to show emotions makes leaders far less effective. Without recognizing our feelings, our ability to make wise decisions is impaired.

Feelings are often suppressed and go unexplored. We also ignore them in our peers, employees and customers. We assume everyone feels as we do.

In truth, every human interaction is emotionally charged — especially at work. You can try to ignore this reality, but do so at your own peril. Your moods, both positive and negative, are ultimately contagious. Expressing your emotions may make the difference between inspiring employee commitment and perpetuating a culture of ennui.  

3 Basic Techniques

Lubar and Halpern offer three guidelines for developing expressiveness that inspires others, influences change and drives business results.

1. Generate Excitement

Creating excitement begins with showing enthusiasm and fighting the urge to suppress it. You’ll deepen your bond with others by revealing your humanity and vulnerability.

Anger, frustration and pain, when properly expressed, bring us closer to one another. Never forget, however, that expressing emotion has a powerful effect, so think before you emote.  Always wield emotions with thoughtfulness.

Unfortunately, we must address one important caveat: It’s wise for women and members of minority groups to proceed with caution. Like it or not, these groups continue to walk a tightrope between showing authenticity and playing the conformity game.

Yes, we’ve come a long way, but the road to success remains strewn with unspoken rules and hidden prejudices. If you own your emotions and feel completely comfortable with them, you’ll likely be fine.

2. Put Nonverbal Cues to Work

“What makes presence is not just the clothes you wear, the words you speak or how you think. Rather, presence requires alignment between your mind, body and words — to walk the talk, you need a simultaneous focus on all three levers: mental, skill and physical. Your presence is an interconnected system of your beliefs and assumptions, your communication skills and your physical energy.” ~ Amy Jen Su, Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

While the words you choose play an important role in your message’s emotional impact, research tells us that facial and body cues may be even more significant:

·   Body language and confidence level shape your message’s impact.

·   Tone of voice radiates clarity, energy and passion (or lack thereof).

·   Actual words have the least effect on communication impact.

 Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, conducted studies that revealed:

·   Words account for only 7% of a speaker’s impact.

·   Vocal tone is responsible for 38%.

·   Body language trumps them both at an astounding 55%.

Despite these game-changing findings, most of us spend 99% of our time on crafting language when planning a presentation — and a mere 1% on how we’re going to convey our message.

You lose credibility when your face and body send different messages. You may not even be aware of your “tics”: unconscious movements or gestures that are out of sync with how you truly feel.

Speak from your core values to achieve alignment. If you’re struggling, consider hiring an experienced executive coach. The challenge is too important to ignore. Your overall leadership presence ultimately determines whether you’re perceived as a strong candidate for promotion.

3. Find and Express a Passionate Purpose

Imbue your words, actions and stories with passion and authenticity. Every time you want to communicate a message, incorporate specific, dynamic verbs that characterize your intentions.

Leaders generally try to explain or relay information. This very act lacks energy, passion and/or tension. Instead of using dry, colorless verbs to convey your point, substitute action words that carry emotional intensity.

For example, don’t “make an announcement to explain upcoming changes.” Instead, “challenge people to make some adjustments” or “overcome obstacles to success.” Focus on what truly matters: your passionate purpose.

Have you ever noticed what happens in a conference room full of people when a speaker starts telling stories? People sit up straight and lean toward the speaker. They put down their smartphones, stop texting and begin to pay attention.

Effective storytelling goes beyond the conference room. The minute your boss tells you a personal story, you listen intently because you’re gaining a glimpse into his or her true passions.

Telling stories helps you express yourself naturally. You needn’t be an accomplished or trained speaker to come across as genuine and interesting. When you tell a personal story, your voice, body and emotions work in concert to create authenticity. You generate emotional responses from your audience, touching both head and heart — a far cry from relying on PowerPoint presentations and ordinary bullet points.

Connect with your inner passions by asking yourself:

·  What am I fighting for?

·  What do others want?

·  What are the obstacles?

Use your answers to choose verbs that capture your passionate purpose.

Never forget that every human interaction — from meetings and presentations to memos and face-to-face conversations — involves needs and desires, real or potential conflicts. These pivotal moments are opportunities to change minds and influence behavior. Your goal is to identify the desired change or problem to be overcome and invest it with energy and passion.

You can develop the qualities of positive leadership by working with a professional coach.The investment is well worth the reward: your ability to influence the future, your career and your personal-development capabilities.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put positive leadership into action?Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to be more conscious tap into the intrinsic motivation of followers? Positive leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a positive leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders develop more positive teams.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture mindful conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area Executive Coaching Firm Helping Innovative Companies and Law Firms Assess, Select, Coach, Engage and Retain Emotionally Intelligent Leaders; Executive Coaching; Leadership Development; Performance-Based Interviewing; Competency Modeling; Succession Management; Culture Change; Career Coaching and Leadership Retreats

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Advisor to Executive Leadership Teams
Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Workplace Expert

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

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