Getting things done Part 4: Manage the emotions
This is the third of a four part series, in Part 1 I introduced the framework, Part 2 was about understanding the people and situation and Part 3 was about preparation. In the final part we’ll talk about why and how to manage emotions.
The number of people involved in a decision or change effort is the number of people whose emotions you need to manage and that includes your own. What I’ve learned from many years as a ski instructor is that habits develop because they work on some level. You change a habit means letting go of something even if it’s not working well for you. It’s like your friend who sticks with their crappy boyfriend or girlfriend instead of seeking out someone better.
Each of us has a Rider (logical side) and an Elephant (emotional side) according to the book Switch. The rider can only control so much for so long but if the elephant wants to do something, it’s going to happen. What scares or drives each elephant is different.
Know your what drives your elephant
According to Patrick Lencioni’s Getting Naked, our fear causes us to withhold ideas, hide their mistakes and edit themselves to save face.
What motivates you? drives you? annoys you? infuriates you? scares you? These are the things that are driving your elephant whether you know it or not. The more you accept this, the more successful you will be in emphasizing, managing emotions and ultimately creating change.
Look for invisible drivers
There is often something that is spooking the elephant that isn’t on the surface.
My mom worked for the federal government and as big government does they made a decision to ban space heaters because they were causing computer damage and increased fire risk. One of her employees kept resisting, it was getting so bad that a formal rebuke was the next step. She called her the office and asked what was going on. The woman’s answer? “I’m cold.” In 10 minutes the building contractor was fixing the heating.
It’s always stuck with me as a good example of what’s driving our emotional reaction and how important it is to investigate it.
Read the room or person
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in making our point or achieving our goal, we don’t focus on others. Are they interested, indifferent, annoyed, confused, jarred? Pay attention and make the effort to connect, we willing to say “you look confused” or “you seem concerned” so you can deal with any issue quickly. It’s not enough to ask for Some people just aren’t good at this so you may want to have others help you.
Be on the lookout for what Bob Rogers calls an “approach response.” I hate split pea soup with a passion and just thinking of it on the stove in my parent’s house makes me ill. My approach response to pea soup is yuck and if you noticed it and to told me about the health benefits or how your pea soup is special you might get me to try it and maybe even like it.
As a side note, I recently had a very productive team meeting using PollEverywhere, more reserved members of the team where able to anonymously ask questions and share concerns before and during the meeting.
Make awkward OK
Sometimes there is no way around you, you have to get into the awkward stuff. The best way is to admit it’s going to get awkward up front.
Calm the elephant
If you spook the elephant, it’s going to take a calming and firm hand to get it to calm down and it may take several attempts to make the change. Don’t get discouraged, just be creative and keep working until you get there.
Image: an abstracted version of the part 1 image