leader development, coaching, performance, talent, teams & change
Harvard Business Review May 2007
In 1999 I was asked by Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College, and his colleagues to assist them in finding meaningful ways to apply their ability based model of Emotional Intelligence to the workplace. To that end I have created the Emotion Roadmap, a tool designed to help clients improve their ability to respond to difficult situations involving strong emotions and to help them become proactive and ultimately more effective in anticipating and dealing with the emotional issues associated with managing change in the workplace.
Along with my own tools, I occasionally review other people’s research and findings that relate to Emotional Intelligence and share them with my clients. Below is a review of an article just published that I believe will benefit our understanding of how emotions impact performance and what managers can do to be more effective.
Inner Work Life: Understanding the Subtext of Business Performance by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer
Harvard Business Review May 2007
The authors describe their study as "The first comprehensive look at what employees are thinking and feeling as they go about their work, why it matters, and how managers can use this information to improve job performance" (p. 72).
In the Emotion Roadmap I have created to help clients apply Emotional Intelligence, we identify the key individuals involved in any situation we are interested in. Then we ask how is each key person feeling? We then ask ourselves how we want them to feel and what we might do to make them feel the way we want. Having thought all this through, we move to the management of emotions and again ask ourselves, based on our analysis, what are we able to do and what are we willing to do? The authors, in this thought provoking article, address each of these issues and provide an answer at the end that is useful for any manager or leader anywhere.
The authors of this article have not framed their study using the Emotion Roadmap, but we can do so by considering the questions this way:
2.How are managers feeling? (identify emotions)
3.What should employees be feeling in order to want to perform at a very high level? (use emotions)
4.What might we do based on how employees are feeling and how we want them to feel? (understand emotions)
5.What are we willing and able to do for our employees? (manage emotions)
The authors acknowledge that most companies that rely on knowledge workers to create success recruit high-intellect people and attempt to provide them with incentives and compensation to channel their intellect and efforts in the proper direction. The authors speculate though that their experience suggests that few companies consider their employees’ inner work life. I concur. In my experience every company talks about how important their employees are, but few actually attend to their employees’ inner world.
In my work as an executive coach I constantly am addressing the inner work life of the executives I work with and asking them to consider the emotions, perceptions and motivation of the key people that they are interacting with. It is a fascinating journey and it mirrors what Amabile and Kramer discovered in their study of 238 professionals who kept a daily log of their inner work lives. Through a thoughtful research design that included reviewing over 12,000 entries all reviewing one key event from each day by each person, they discovered the following: "When something happens at work-some workday event-it immediately triggers cognitive, emotional, and motivational processes" (p. 75).
Perceptions of the event generate emotions and these emotions in turn influence future perceptions while both perceptions and emotions can lead to shifts in motivation that directly impact performance. Through a series of case studies of various projects the authors discovered how certain events were highly motivating and others at the same company, very de-motivating. What is striking is the apparent lack of awareness by the managers of the different reactions of the employees.
Why is this important?
The authors believe that their research demonstrates that performance is linked to inner work life and that people perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of work, team, leaders and organization (p. 77). The case study feels alive because it relates the real entries of key team members.
While elements of this study may seen predictable, i.e., people high in positive emotions demonstrated more creativity, there were also some very interesting and innovative discoveries.
For example, when most people are asked what does management do to have the greatest impact on employees’ inner lives, they would probably cite items such as positive reinforcement and skillful interpersonal relationships. While of course these matter, the two most powerful findings to influence the inner world of employees are managers’ ability to enable people to move forward in their work and to treat them decently as human beings.
Therefore, managers and leaders who wish to behave in an emotionally intelligent manner will provide employees with the tools that they need, remove obstacles in their way, support and provide protective cover for them, and treat them fairly and in a humane fashion.
Charles J Wolfe Associates, LLC.