Success factor emotional competency

Guest contribution by | 19.11.2018 | Project management | 0 comments

When I talk about the usefulness of our feelings in everyday project life, then for some it seems rather suspect at first glance. What do feelings have to do with everyday work, where rationality, analysis and a clear mind are called for?

Thank God I have noticed a counter-trend in recent years: more and more people are fed up with everything in business being trimmed to function, measurability and control. More and more people are discovering the meaning of their feelings. They openly talk about appreciation, their personal motives but also their fears and worries and thus create the first, tender approaches to a new consciousness in business. Because our feelings belong to us as humans, they are individual, subjective and very different depending on temperament and personality. Enthusiasm, inspiration and curiosity are the basis of intrinsic motivation. Compassion and empathy are the basis for good cooperation and collaboration. Feelings distinguish people from machines.

But they also have the aura of unpredictability. We are simply not used to paying attention to our feelings and taking them seriously. Especially not in hard business. We often don’t even know how to deal with our feelings in such a way that it does us and others good and supports them. Admitting this requires sincerity and courage.

Emotional competence means understanding oneself and others better. This is simply indispensable for a successful cooperation.

Before I now give you 3 tips for the enhancement of your emotional competency, I would first like to say something about the benefit of our feelings in general. Of course, always in the context of everyday project work.

Feelings provide colour, dynamism and movement

Our feelings bring colour into our lives – especially our everyday work. They provide dynamism and movement. Just imagine:

  • You couldn’t be inspired by new ideas or a new challenge anymore?
  • You would no longer be angry or annoyed if your work colleague or yourself were attacked or treated unfairly?
  • Do you feel no pride or satisfaction once you have successfully completed your project?
  • You wouldn’t be frustrated if you opened your email account in the morning and found 50 new messages, but you already had to go to the first meeting?
  • You don’t feel joy and satisfaction anymore after having a stimulating conversation with your team mate about a problem solution that has really helped you?

Even if you don’t like everything about these examples, how monotonous, how lifeless would that be? However, I also know that many of us do not consciously perceive their feelings and moods. Because they are simply lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday working life. Because we don’t really take them seriously and don’t recognise their importance. Some people have difficulties perceiving and naming their feelings. I know that myself, too, and I have only really become aware of the true meaning of my feelings in recent years. Even if you do not consciously perceive your feelings, they are still there. You are then hidden in your unconscious and trigger many emotional reactions and actions from there. The pushing away of unpleasant feelings is not a solution either. Especially not if your feelings have an important message in store for you. Because then you would simply not get this important message. You would then not have the opportunity to react and adapt your behaviour.

I therefore maintain that a conscious, constructive approach to our feelings is an important success factor. Especially when it comes to working with other people or shaping change. Which is always the case in project work. That’s why I have 3 tips for you, which you can try out in your everyday project work:

Tip # 1

Feelings are the measure of your energy level

It can be reduced to a very simple denominator: Pleasant feelings give you energy, unpleasant feelings cost you energy. Imagine a battery inside you that is constantly charging or discharging during the day. Whenever you experience a pleasant situation, an inspiring conversation with a teammate or a good meeting in which you have received many tips, your inner battery is charged with the pleasant feelings associated with it, such as joy, gratitude or confidence. Your brain releases feel-good hormones and you also feel physically good.

The opposite happens with unpleasant feelings. Some of you may know so-called brooding loops, which we always get into when we are stuck in our problems:

  • Couldn’t I have made the presentation shorter?
  • Wouldn’t it have been better if I had answered the division manager more quickly?
  • How am I supposed to manage to meet this tight and unrealistic deadline?

These thoughts trigger unpleasant feelings such as fear, frustration, powerlessness or anger. We build up inner pressure and if we don’t manage to get out of such a vicious circle of negative thoughts and feelings, such situations cost us a lot of strength and time. Physically, we release a lot of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can remain in our body for up to 6 hours.

Our emotions are the connection between body and mind. This has also been proven by Finnish scientists. They asked 700 people where they felt their emotions in the body. For example, we feel fear in the surroundings of our heart, melancholy is manifested in our limbs and we even feel joy in the whole body.

By consciously paying attention to your feelings, you can build up an early warning system for your power sources and energy leaks. And at these points you can then start to bring about positive changes.

Tip # 2

Unpleasant feelings are unfulfilled needs

Like I said, it doesn’t make any sense to just push your unpleasant feelings away. That would be like beheading the bearer of bad news and silencing him. Behind unpleasant feelings like fear, impotence, anger or impatience there is usually a message hidden.

Let me give you an example: Before I go to a meeting, I usually prepare topics well. So I have my solution practically ready in my pocket. That wouldn’t be bad in itself if I didn’t occasionally expect my solution to be accepted exactly as I propose it. So all the other participants have to do is nod them off. But in team meetings, where everyone wants to find a solution together, it doesn’t go down so well. The team members want to be involved and not just have my finished solution put on top of them.

In such situations I expect the solution to be found more quickly. When I consciously deal with my feelings, then I notice my rising anger when my expectation is not fulfilled. And my proposed solutions do not find the necessary recognition.

If I know this pattern, then I can pause and act accordingly. I can immediately change my behaviour in the situation and respond to the needs of other team members. Then they are also much more open to perhaps take a closer look at my suggestion. In this way I can understand my unpleasant feelings as a message that draws my attention to the fact that something is wrong here. Some of my clients find it difficult to say no. This is usually associated with a feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. If we are not aware of this pattern, then we either automatically go into an aggressive defensive attitude and categorically reject support or we accept every demand that is brought to us. Depending on personality or situation. Here, too, it is worth taking the time to get to know your personal patterns and the underlying needs. In order to then select a suitable and conscious action. Instead of reacting like in an autopilot and always having the same frustrating experiences.

So pay special attention to your unpleasant feelings and find out which pattern and which message is behind it.

Tip # 3

Train pleasant, constructive feelings

Emotional competency also includes the ability to actively practice constructive feelings such as composure, appreciation or gratitude. You can use this in stressful, challenging situations to recharge your inner battery.

Training this “emotional fitness” works in a similar way to learning a language. The more consciously, intensively and frequently you use a new language, the more successfully and quickly you can communicate with others. Awareness, intensity and frequency are also the right starting points to train your emotional fitness.

In order to be able to deal more consciously with pleasant feelings, it is important that you notice them at all:

  • Which tasks do you feel particularly comfortable with?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a team?
  • Do you like activities that require precision or do you enjoy working out a concept or finding a creative solution?
  • Which feelings do these tasks/activities trigger in you?
  • What effect does this have on the quality of your work and the cooperation with others?

If you know what does you good and strengthens you, then in such situations you can consciously and intensively feel the associated pleasant feelings such as joy, satisfaction or enthusiasm, so to speak savouring them. In this way, you can easily begin to strengthen and train pleasant feelings.

By focusing your attention more and more on pleasant and positive events in your daily work, you strengthen the corresponding neural networks in your brain. If you manage to stay that way, this pattern will become stronger and stronger. Then you automatically perceive more and more positive things in your everyday life. It becomes a new habit that builds and strengthens you. Simply by changing your perception.

In this way you recharge your inner battery and refill your strength and energy. And you urgently need them for all the challenges that your everyday project life brings with it.

With emotional competency to a fulfilling everyday project life

Now you know why I consider the conscious handling of our feelings to be so important. Emotional competency is the key to satisfied, fulfilling everyday project work.

I believe that it is precisely because we wanted to solve everything rationally with our minds in the past that we create the feeling of simply functioning. Like a machine that has no feelings. We miss appreciation and have no clarity about our needs because we have learned not to pay attention to our feelings. It is best to start taking your feelings seriously today and further developing your emotional competency. The good thing about it is that this resource is present in all of us, we just have to bring it out again and strengthen it.

Martina Baehr
Martina Baehr

Martina Baehr is a work and organisational psychologist and owner of Project Management plus - with the right mindset for project success. As a project supervisor and mindset coach, she supports her customers in building their inner strength. So that they act from their full strength and bring their projects to success in a relaxed manner. In her German mindset blog she writes about new thinking, emotional intelligence, intuition and value-adding cooperation.

Martina Baehr has worked in various medium-sized companies as a project manager and department head for internal process and systems consulting, and has more than 15 years of experience in managing large reorganisation and IT projects.

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