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Your team needs you – creating an emotional culture

By Dan Handscomb

Emotional culture is an increasingly used term within the corporate world but to what extent does it really exist within businesses today? Emotions are universal, yet they are strongly affected by culture, and having a clear culture is key to the success of an organisation – it will encourage collaboration and bring the values of a business to life. A clear and positive culture will also pay dividends in encouraging and enabling the expression of our emotions.

So, why should we share our emotions? While most individuals feel comfortable portraying positive feelings – such as joy, passion and happiness – many fear the consequences of expressing the more limiting emotions that can go hand in hand with work. High-powered life has become the corporate norm, and anxiety, stress and even fear are increasingly common as we work faster, harder and longer every day. We have reprogrammed our lives to accommodate ‘turbo-capitalism’ – as explored by Carl Honoré in In Praise of Slow – but the ‘negative’ emotions that come with this remain a taboo within many organisations, suppressed by well-meaning workers striving to portray success in this frenetic world. This is both unsustainable and perpetuating – and often reflective of culture and the people we work with.

Corporate culture starts and finishes with people. The most impactful person in our day-to-day working life is traditionally the individual for whom we work – and their relationship with emotions will strongly influence our own experience within the company in which we work. I have seen many instances of senior players successfully harnessing both positive and negative emotions within their teams, individually and collectively. Progressive businesses are increasingly recognising that to create a balanced, diverse and productive work base, they need to invest in senior talent and equip leaders and mentors to tease out and nurture the feelings of their people.

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Coaching plays a significant role in this, both in empowering leaders and providing an objective outlet for the unhelpful emotions that we need to address in order to succeed. Often managers themselves can be the source of their employees’ negative emotions, and investing in an independent channel in which we can explore and manage issues will pay dividends in creating a flourishing and productive team.

An organisation may comprise many individuals but every one has a role in defining, building and maintaining an emotional culture. Leaders need to set the tempo for a working environment in which people can thrive and express themselves, and teams need to collaborate to maximise this. Once we feel comfortable expressing – and listening to – emotions, then we can truly be ourselves and fulfil our personal and professional potential.

Dan Handscomb, Consultant, Facilitator and Coach, xl-erate