By Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D.
"Leadership isn't something you do writing memos; you've got to appeal to people's emotions. They've got to buy in with their hearts and bellies, not just their minds." ~ Lou Gerstner, IBM's former CEO
Emotions are critical to business success because they drive behaviors. Companies that achieve an emotional buy-in from consumers and employees will have a competitive advantage in a world of increasing commoditization.
Business has a long tradition of ignoring emotions in favor of rationality. But a growing body of scientific evidence reveals that subconscious feelings drive decisions, up to 95% of which are made through the brain's emotion centers and only then filtered into its cognitive parts.
Psychologists, neuroscientists and behavioral economists now agree that leaders who fail to understand how emotions drive actions will ultimately fail.
Emotionally astute leaders leverage feelings to gain employee commitment, engagement and performance, according to Dan Hill, CEO of Sensory Logic and author of Emotionomics: Leveraging Emotions for Business Success (Kogan Page, 2008). However, there are two barriers that create a trust gap between leaders and their staffs:
- The financial chasm that results from large pay disparities
- A disconnect between verbal and nonverbal communication
While there is an inherent desire to identify and bond with one's leader, people exercise caution before committing their careers and livelihoods to anyone. No one wants to commit to the wrong cause or person, thus the importance of leaders' honesty and authenticity.
Evolution gave us feeling before thinking. Leaders must quell fears before expecting employees to embrace the cold, hard facts. Facts are malleable, but our gut instincts are unyielding.
- The human side of business consumes most of a company's operating costs. Failure to be emotionally adept is counterproductive-perhaps even suicidal.
- Employees are the players who turn their CEO's dreams of progress from a nuts-and-bolts strategic plan into reality-an outcome that requires emotional commitment.
Emotions Matter: An Action Plan The following action steps can help you achieve your desired results:
- Create faith in a "greater we" by establishing yourself as a leader who's a real person-not the heir apparent to a big title, office and salary.
- Be more personable in your communications. Only then can you generate the emotional momentum necessary to push through change.
- Communicate a vision that inspires pride. Negative feelings can undo a company during a period of change, and they're highly contagious. Become a student of nonverbal expressions and body language.
- Meet with employees in person, and use face time to connect with them and solicit or accept advice. Greater familiarity leads to sound relationships.