In this final installment I discuss managing emotions, which for many can be the most challenging aspect of increasing emotional intelligence. We all know people, ourselves included, from time-to-time, who lose control of their emotions. They tend to be incredibly passionate about what they do, but have a hard time managing their emotional outbursts. A great example of this is Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple. Before reading his biography I would have never guessed he had a hot temper and liked to yell and scream profanities at those who worked for him, but, according to the author, he was a real jerk to be around some of the time. You no doubt have also worked for or with someone similar to Jobs who doesn’t have the ability to control their anger, and has emotional outbursts that leave those around them wanting to run in the opposite direction.
Researchers John Mayer and Peter Salovey, the academicians who coined the term “emotional intelligence”, argue that managing emotions is the most challenging of the four branches they use to define emotional intelligence (identifying, using, and understanding are the other three branches). People who are great at managing emotions have the ability to psych themselves and others up and inspire other people. When I think about someone who stands out in this ability I think about Dr. Martin Luther King and his “I have a dream” speech. Listening to this speech gives me goose bumps even 30 years after he delivered it!
Emotions are a powerful source of energy for action!
As Lean Six Sigma professionals we have the opportunity to tap into our emotions and those of others by managing our feelings and not becoming a slave to our emotions. Do you have the ability to psych yourself and others up? Can you tap into positive emotions from a previous event and use those positive emotions to get through challenging situations you’re currently facing? Can you make positive emotions last for long periods of time? These are all great questions to ask yourself in evaluating whether or not you can manage emotions well.
How can you increase your ability to manage emotions? Four techniques I use and prescribe to my clients for improving their ability to manage emotions include writing an emotional journal or blog, routine exercise, emotional mind mapping, and taking routine emotional clarity breaks.
Emotional Journal / Blog
Writing about your emotions is a simple way to get a better understanding of why we feel the way we do. David Caruso and Peter Salovey, authors of The Emotionally Intelligent Manager, suggest the act of writing is not what is important. What is important is the element within the writing. Caruso and Salovey offer several suggestions for what they call “emotionally healthful writing”. The elements include:
· Using positive words frequently
· Moderate use of negative words
· Using causal words and phrases such as “led me” or “caused me to”
· Using insightful words and phrases such as “realize” and “understand”
Exercise is another tactic for improving your ability to manage emotions. Research suggests those who are active tend to be in positive moods more frequently than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. This exercise doesn’t have to be anything extreme like running marathons; simply taking a walk once a day for 30 minutes is enough to get the blood flowing and help free your mind from the challenges of the day.
Emotional Mind Map
As Lean Six Sigma professionals some of you may be familiar with the mind map tool for brainstorming. This is another great way to understand who, what, when, why, where, etc. around an emotional loss of control. For example, you can start in the middle of the map with a situation in which you lost control of your emotions. Next, expand the map out to who you were with, what were you talking about or doing, when did it happen, etc.
In many cases we lose control of our emotions because of a “surprise attack” that we didn’t see coming. For example, I was once in a series of budgeting meetings and when we would get to the line item for training that I was responsible for the CFO would started to question the dollars for Lean Six Sigma training, and I would start to lose control of my emotions. After I mind mapped the situation an discovered it was an emotional “hot spot” for me it became easier to control my emotions in future meetings. I would sense the line of questioning by the CFO coming as we worked down the line items in the budget, but knowing it was coming made it much easier to control my emotions.
Routine Emotional Clarity Break
We all need to take a break once in a while. Personally, I like to schedule these for Friday mornings and use the time to write, read, and just think about life in general. The challenge we face in the busy lives we’ve built for ourselves is finding the time to do this. I highly suggest scheduling a meeting like you normally would in your calendar only this meeting is just with yourself and no one else! This technique also allows you to utilize the aforementioned tactics in that you could walk to where you take an emotional clarity break and then use the time to write in your journal.
Managing emotions is a challenge because we have such passion and energy for what we do, but sometimes that passion and energy can get the best of us and we lose control. Deliberate practice of these techniques will provide one way of helping you become an emotionally intelligent Lean Six Sigma professional.