Boundless Leadership: Why we need to get better at wrestling gremlins
Here’s what my clients are facing this week:
- Voluntary redundancies
- Unhappy toxic cultures
- Struggling to get traction in building the business
- Work drying up
- Staff not up to the job they are keen to move in to
- Personality conflicts with Board Members
This is some seriously challenging stuff! There’s lots at stake. Anxiety and fear are rife.
In Australia, talking about feelings at work is akin to dancing on a tabletop in your underpants. You just don’t do it. Not unless there has been a significant amount of alcohol consumed.
Here’s why we need to get over ourselves and start talking about feelings:
Hidden feelings will go rogue. Feelings have energy that takes on form, kind of like a gremlin. Here’s the thing about gremlins, they need attention! If we don’t give them attention, they seek solace elsewhere.
Sometimes the gremlins kill our self-control switch and Glutton Chops emerges. We find our heads buried in chocolate cake and hot chips. And melted cheese. And doughnuts. And a few gin and tonics. And boatloads of humus. And nachos. Lots of nachos.
Feeling gremlins highjack our personality. Our Best Self is calm, centered, smiling. A friendly and compassionate beacon of loveliness. Gremlins kick the Best Self to the kerb and unleash the Nasty Beast.
Nasty Beast takes no prisoners. Like the Hulk, it sees everything as the enemy. Nasty Beast is sarcastic, defensive, argumentative, petulant, and self-righteous in the extreme.
No one likes Nasty Beast.
Feeling gremlins tether us to dark and lonely prisons. We hide and shrink in the shadows, slowly withering. Far from Boundless, we are trapped.
How now to tame gremlins?
We’ve got to get those suckers out in the sunshine.
If you and your team are facing a heady mess of uncertainty in the wake of a restructure or some other calamity, gather the troops and get ready to show your gremlins.
The purpose of this is not to have some ‘whine’ with cheese. The purpose is to talk about the gremlins that if left unattended could hijack the show and run amok.
Here’s how you do it:
Set the scene. We’re going to check in the gremlins. Much like checking in luggage, they get carried along, but we don’t let them fly the plane.
Ground rules. We are going to exorcise those gremlins, not exercise them. Ask folks to share what emotions they are experiencing, not who or what they want to blame.
Language. Say, “I am experiencing the emotion of....” rather than saying, “I am angry”. When we say we ARE an emotion, it stops us from getting perspective. In short, saying “I am frustrated/ angry/ pissed off” is an invitation for a gremlin to unleash Nasty Beast.
Once the emotions are on the table, we simply acknowledge them: “We’ve got a lot to handle. There’s a lot at stake. Your emotions are valid, Thanks for sharing.”
Move through to proactive focus. Once those gremlins are heard, it’s time to consider what to do. This is a helpful way to challenge the energy. Say, “I’m confident we can work our way through it together. What’s something we can do to move us forward through this uncertainty?”
Having our say and being heard helps. It does not solve the problems or make them disappear. It does help us get our Best Self back in charge, working on creating the next best step.
How do you manage emotional energy in the workplace What are your favourite techniques to get those gremlins heard without letting them take over?