Building an Emotionally Agile Workforce
“Leave your emotions at home.”
Almost every working individual must have heard of this phrase. And leaders admit repeating it time and again, to eliminate the ‘so-called’ emotional drama at the workplace and foster ‘practical thinking’.
This raises many questions. Is it even possible? Aren’t emotions the part of human existence? Can they be separated from daily living? Can workplace be ever free from human emotions?
No. It’s impossible to be free of emotions. They are as much part of human existence as brain or five senses are. And not only the daily living but also the workplaces have been emotional battlefields since eternity. It’s high time that managers begin to regulate emotions, instead of straightaway abandoning them.
The Emotional Connection
Emotions are crucial and so is their management. Various studies suggest that there is a relationship between emotional intelligence and workforce agility. The former facilitates the latter. This is because emotions can be directly related to:
- Self awareness
- Professional competence
- Drive and motivation
- Satisfaction in personal and professional lives
- Relationship management
- Mental agility
- Traits like flexibility or rigidness
When emotions play such a crucial role, organizations need to have a mechanism to regulate the emotions of their employees and set the right tone. For example, one’s vulnerability can lead to disaster, if not managed properly. But it can work wonders and result in innovation, if synchronized.
An agile organization understands how to fix emotions, endorse positivity and foster out-of-the-box thinking. A careful management of thoughts and resulting actions can put it in a better position.
What is Emotional Agility ?
Before we move on to discuss how to build an agile workforce, let’s first understand the concept of emotional agility. It means being in the moment and responding effectively to the outer environment while also being aware of your thoughts, emotions, behavior and actions. Emotionally agile people are capable of handling unpredictable situations and adapting to changes efficiently.
Helping Employees Become Emotionally Agile
Here’s how leaders can help their team members become emotionally agile:
- Set a Value-Based Emotional Connection
Happy employees are more productive. Everyone knows it. But very less people know that it’s half-baked truth. The sense of belongingness, variety in work, accountability, trust and a feeling of contribution keep employees content, motivating them to work harder. An agile leader promotes positive thoughts and suppresses negative and devastating emotions of his team members. This selective treatment of emotions helps them build a value-based connection between the organization and its people.
Investing in understanding employees and their mindsets is a cornerstone of a successful business. It can be done easily in a startup or a small business. Organizations employing thousands of people may find it extremely challenging. But there is a way out. Of course, it’s going to take long but it’s worth putting time, money and effort. Big organizations need to prepare their middle management, so that it can identify and nurture talent, and utilize the vulnerability of their team members.
- Unlock Negativity to Get Rid of It
Consider these situations:
- Anny is a working mother. Despite being a brilliant team member, she remains distracted and tries hard to create a work-life balance. She feels guilty of not giving her child the required attention. Also she’s lost her promotion due to not focusing on her job.
- Dave is in his late 20s. Extremely hardworking but things don’t seem to fall in place. He has not been promoted even once. Gradually, he’s losing interest in his job. He feels stuck because this job pays his bill.
What would be the right approach to deal with such situations? Leaders are not expected to jump to the conclusions and get rid of distracted people. They are supposed to understand the reasons that trigger such kind of response. They cannot nurture emotional agility simply by talking about it. Rather they need to work closely with people. As each situation is different, its treatment is also different.
Anny needs reassurance that she’s doing great because it’s really difficult to be a mother and being regular at work simultaneously. In fact, it’s very easy to unlock the negativity around and make her feel confident again.
Dave may not be good at the work he’s doing. He may be good at something else. A leader needs to understand why Dave is losing interest in his job and why he feels stuck. Once the reason is known, it would be easier to get rid of negativity and find a working solution.
- Prepare Them for “Yes, I Can”
Nurturing emotional agility is an ongoing process. Generally, when employees are asked to do certain tasks that require them to push boundaries and come out of their comfort zone, they often hesitate. In such a scenario, neither a cheering speech nor the fear of losing job is going to help. Leaders must deliberately delegate such tasks on frequent basis, so that it becomes a routine. Also, it requires streamlining of thoughts, which means dropping the negative ones and reinforcing the positive ones.
It’s a leader’s responsibility to clear the minds of team members of ‘can’t’. Help them practice agility and take risks. This strengthens them emotionally over a period of time.
- Create a Culture of Experiment-Fail-Next
Active participation in discussions around their ideas and interests help leaders understand their team members and their behavior. Leaders must encourage them to test and validate their assumptions. The test results help them gain clarity and adjust their thought process. If their ideas fail, they move on to the next. And if they succeed, they will be more than happy to contribute as innovators.
However, what should be kept in mind is that – one shouldn’t be made an object of condemnation, if the idea fails. Leaders should encourage them to focus more on the journey rather that its climax. The fear of failure is the biggest of all. Therefore, they shouldn’t be attacked for the outcome but praised for their efforts.
Listening to your team members and understanding their concerns help you gain insights into their lives. It gives you ample clues regarding what really drives them. This changes the interpersonal dynamics and gives them the confidence to experiment and fail – fail gracefully.
Since agility is a state of mind, emotions play a critical role. And a careful management of emotional triggers can help leaders develop an agile workforce.