By Lola Gershfeld
In the last decade, I’ve worked with various leaders, teams and boards improving their effectiveness. From executives to managers, from CEOs and board members, nothing can create better transparency than through the process of emotional connection. I can see when a team is struggling and when it’s operating smoothly. The main difference between the two is emotional connection. Leaders that are emotionally connected have a strong positive effect on the rest of their team and foster an environment for more transparency. They get better results and provide support for each other. Let’s talk about how leaders can use the process of emotional connection to role model, promote and foster transparency within their team and company:
- Create Emotional Engagement. The first step in creating transparency is through emotional engagement. It fosters safety and connection. Stop saying things like, “I don’t want to talk about this.” Instead, when you feel stressed, say, “I’m sorry, I’m getting really confused here. Somehow, we keep getting stuck, and I’m finding I’m getting sort of annoyed, which is crazy, but I guess that’s how I feel. We all get annoyed when we lose our steps and get all tangled.”
- Regain Emotional Balance. Negative interactions can take down the team, recognizing and stepping out of these cycles, will help the team to stay connected and focused on the goal. Research shows that we need others to regain our emotional balance, especially when we feel really worried about something. Don’t say, “This is absurd!” Instead, say, “I am really worried about this. Can we take a few minutes and hear how everyone feels about this issue?” By inviting others to express emotions openly about an issue creates safety and an opportunity to share information that may otherwise be omitted.
- Allow for Conflicts. Conflicts are about differences. Success of the team does not depend on whether the team gets in conflicts, it depends on how quickly the team can reconnect with each other on an emotional level. Emotionally focused leaders know how to explicitly validate each person’s differences to expand views and opinions. This validation reconnects team members quickly, fostering safety and encourages people be more engaged in working together.
- Nurture Relationships. Never give up on relationships. We are bonding social animals. When we work together, we depend on each other and creating a secure bond with each other will nurture the relationship within the team. Leaders who recognize that there are moments when individuals might have difficulties. They know how to offer the support needed to successfully re-engage them with their team. They say, “I sense that something is difficult for you. Is there some way I can be more supportive?”
- Model Vulnerability. Emotionally connected leaders recognize when they feel overwhelmed or alone. They know the importance of sharing emotions in a way that pulls people closer. They are not afraid to show their vulnerability and know how to ask for what they need to feel connected. Instead of shutting down and withdrawing, they strive to be open and honest to let themselves be seen as they are. This inspires others to follow suit. Research shows that when people are transparent with their emotions, they become more transparent in sharing the information.
- Promote Emotional Responsiveness. Emotion is what directs our interactions, it literally moves people in specific ways. Emotional responsiveness allows to connect people’s emotions quickly and help them feel understood and heard, fostering acceptance. Saying statements such as, “I think what I am hearing you say is that when you hear that tone of voice, it makes you feel like you want to run. Am I getting it?”
- Foster Attachment. Research shows that the best source of resilience in human beings is our ability to reach for each other in times of stress. It is also predictive of every good social skill – people start to listen more, learn better, be more transparent, share information. It is predictive of personal growth – people become more motivated, accountable, energized, enthusiastic, and excited about working on projects. Emotionally connected leaders understand and recognize the value of secure attachment. They able to resolve relationship injuries and help the team to stay accessible, responsive and engaged.
The most powerful motivation system and the deepest need that human beings have is longing for connection. When the people you depend on answer that need, you create a lasting change, you create a secure bond. And with every emotional connection, you change the way the brain responds to stress. The more emotionally connected you are, the more collaborative, creative and transparent your team becomes.
Nothing grows people like emotional connection. I get more individual change when I work with the whole team or board than when I work with individuals because people grow each other. When you create a culture of emotional connection, people blossom.
About the Author:
Lola Gershfeld, PsyD, is a Board Dynamics Specialist, Founder and CEO of Level Five Executive, helping leaders, boards and teams to be more effective through the process of emotional connection. Dr. Gershfeld is a developer of the Board and Team Dynamics Process, she also teaches Mastering Emotional Connection and Train-the-Trainer Certification programs at Pepperdine. She has authored over a dozen published articles and two books, TRUSTMAKERS and The Effective Board Dynamics Guide. Dr. Gershfeld presents webinars and speaks at conferences, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.