Emotions drive business results. If people aren’t engaged in the workplace, then all sorts of problems can arise, from apathy to sarcasm to aggression. Unfortunately, wherever human beings organize themselves, there’s a propensity for dysfunction. Negativity unchecked can run rampant and have adverse impacts including loss of productivity, low morale, and turnover, to name a few.
It takes a special, mindful leader to make developing emotional skillfulness a top strategic effort. It also takes a conscious leader to realize that oftentimes, as John Yokoyama says in his book “When Fish Fly,” “The fish stinks from the head.” Don’t be a leader who is the stinky head or falls prey to what Daniel Goleman calls “CEO disease” — that is, having a higher opinion of your leadership then of the people you support. Instead, top mindful leaders need to become masters of their emotional worlds. This level of awareness and engagement with the self can, over time, transfer to teams and employees throughout the organization.
In my coaching work with hundreds of people in different industries, I have created an emotional management technology I call “the S.T.A.R.R model” to help leaders become more mindful or emotionally intelligent and then bestow that gift to others. Here’s how to put this art and science to use immediately to great effect in your company’s workplace culture.
Become a More Mindful Leader: The S.T.A.R.R. Model of Emotional Management
S.T.A.R.R is an acronym for Stimulus, Trigger, Action, Result, and Repeatable pattern. Basically, it works like this: an unforeseen and unwanted situation happens (stimulus) where our needs, desires, or expectations aren’t met. This can lead to a negative feeling (trigger). This feeling leads us to take an action and get a result. Usually this action and result are a repeatable pattern in your life.
If, for example, one of your middle managers is negatively sarcastic at times and this frustrates you, then the sarcastic comment is the stimulus and frustration you feel is the trigger. Let us say you then avoid the person, tune out, or roll your eyes and walk away. These would particular actions you have taken to deal with the negative feeling. The result is a poor working relationship and feeling disconnected from the manager, as well as no change in the manager’s behavior. Over and over again this happens, making it a repeatable pattern. What’s worse, you probably blame your manager for your stress and complain about him to others, thus perpetuating negative behavior in the workplace, the very same thing you disdain in him.
So what can you do? The magic happens in the space between having an adverse feeling from a non-ideal stimulus and taking a non-supportive action. In that moment in between trigger and unhelpful action, add what I call a “calming tactic.” This is an action you will take to calm your trigger first before, say, rolling your eyes at your manager. Taking a couple deep breaths or walking to the water cooler are ways to keep you more calm and collected. Think about something that would fit for you to calm yourself down and employ it immediately. By doing this, you’ll create a little wiggle room for you to think rationally about the situation and take an action that will actually support your desired result and keep your values intact.
Conscious Management: Finding your desired result
But what is your desired result? Your triggers are actually messages in a bottle for you to take out and read. They can shed a light on how a less-than-ideal situation would look if it was to your liking. In this case, you probably want your manager to use less sarcasm and communicate more respectfully. And instead of the actions that don’t support your desired result (tuning out, avoiding, eye rolling), one inspired action you could take is to give the person feedback about his behavior. Delivering feedback itself can cause another trigger (scary for instance), but if you don’t do anything different the negative behavior most likely will persist. By taking positive action, you get to find the courage to show up for what you truly desire, take a risk, and speak up respectfully to hopefully effect a change in your world. Believe it or not, most times feedback is well-received and change ensues. By doing this again and again, you will turn your emotional ore into the gold of change.
By equipping your company with solid emotional management skills, starting with yourself, you can take morale, collaboration, and innovation to a new level. So start today: Notice a trigger, then build in a calming pause for yourself before you react.
Jeff Saari is leadership and teambuilding consultant and author of “Zero Stress Leadership.” He serves small businesses helping leaders and teams become more productive and innovative by increasing emotional intelligence and morale in the workplace. Learn more about his method by downloading a free copy of his ebook: ZeroStressLeadership.com/ebook