— March 28, 2019
As HR professionals, engaging in dialogue that creates trust and connection, building great cultures, and bringing out the brilliance in people are top among our chief aims. To do so effectively, however, requires harnessing the emotional energy of an organization’s culture.
When I speak of emotional energy, I’m referring to the emotional engagement a team member has with an organization—their individual connection to an organization’s purpose and direction. By this definition, a company’s emotional energy is the sum of every team member’s engagement. Emotional energy reflects how people are invested in your organization and its mission; it’s a measure that’s both personal and collective.
Of course, the skill of harnessing a culture’s emotional energy isn’t listed in any job description I’ve ever seen. Nor is it likely to be listed on a resume. Yet that’s precisely what many effective, respected leaders do in the process of inspiring people, rallying them around a vision, and giving them an opportunity to contribute to something greater than themselves. They tap into the positive emotional energy of the culture and galvanize it for the greater good.
So how can you harness the emotional energy of your cultural system? By leading by example. As a leader, you represent an organizational wheel hub. As people evolve and change—as they learn new behaviors, increase self-awareness, and are emotionally congruent with the change at hand—it’s your job to exhibit the mindsets and behaviors necessary for an emotionally safe transition. That means being willing to learn, to practice psychological safety and inclusivity, and to connect to the discomfort or exhilaration that comes with pivotal cultural evolutions. It means changing in ways that reflect the changes you hope to see in others.
Here are ten steps to take that will strengthen your cultural leadership and effectively harness the emotional energy of your organization:
- Get support. This may involve hiring consultants or coaches to partner with you in learning your organization’s emotional energy, but it can also mean ensuring you’re managing stress and taking care of yourself as well.
- Know your blind spots. What are your weaknesses as a leader? Knowing your blind spots and weaknesses—and planning around them—will allow you to work with your team more effectively.
- Be ready to change. As a leader, you cannot reasonably expect others to change and grow without also modeling that change and growth yourself. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult for leaders, especially for those who see themselves as removed from the people around them.
- Be brave. Being aware of areas where this may be hard for you allows you to prepare, whether that’s working on truly listening to people and hearing where they’re at, or modeling a new behavior that may not be comfortable for you at first.
- Take on tough conversations. Sometimes this is the place where you need to be brave, as you may need to have tough conversations with people or team members who really don’t want to have them.
- Tell the truth about what’s not working. Barriers and blocks that no longer serve the organization or its culture may need to be removed for you to truly harness its emotional energy in a positive way. This, too, may require bravery or tough conversations—or both.
- Train your flexibility muscles. You may not know an answer until a situation presents itself; being willing to adapt to unexpected challenges is one of the best ways you can gain access to your organization’s emotional energy.
- Organize your allies. You cannot harness emotional energy alone. First, identify those individuals with common aims. Then work together to make everything easier for all of you.
- Effectively communicate your goals and intentions. Transparency does wonders for getting emotional buy-in, so think very clearly about your messaging and convey key messages early, often, and more than you think you need to.
- Appreciate people. Both telling and showing people that you value and appreciate them (and their work) is one of the best ways to build emotional energy.
Above all, let ideas, trends, and patterns emerge in your cultural system and keep following those leads—no matter how minor they may appear—and you’ll be well on your way to harnessing your organization’s emotional energy.
**Originally published at HR.com