Why managers need to pay attention to their ‘emotional signature’
Every leader has a distinctive emotional signature, which they imprint on every person they meet. That emotional signature is one of the most powerful tools of motivation. How you make other people feel will determine how motivated they are, and that will determine how well your team performs.
The first half-hour of Lois’s day is a joy to watch. As managing director of a 60-person agency, she loves to walk around her office chatting to staff before the day gets underway. She is a manager I coached, so I know that she instructs her secretary to ensure that she has no formal appointments before 9.00am. She always gets in around 8.15am to walk around and chat with her early-starter staff. She asks them how things are going, how they are feeling, and really listens to what they have to say. She knows their names and the names of their spouses and children. She knows what issues they’re trying to cope with both at work and at home. She asks how she can help, or what they might need in order to better deal with the challenges. If they have any specific queries or requests, she makes a note and promises to get back to them. She compliments them on work done and is always looking for ways to connect one member of staff with another.
As people come into the office, she greets them and chats with them in turn. By the time she returns to her own desk, nearly everybody in the office is smiling. They have been warmed by her presence, visibly touched by her attention, and positively affected by her engaging personality. To watch her work the office is to watch a pro, because Lois hasn’t always been this way. She is a deeply thoughtful person, and unless she pays careful attention to her own tendencies, she can be very withdrawn and insular, lost in her thoughts. She has learned to be warm and charming, and practised it so much that it now seems natural.
She doesn’t have a lot to say herself and spends a great deal more time listening than talking. She doesn’t make many jokes, but often joyfully laughs at what others have to say. These walk-abouts are not about her, she makes it all about them. She has totally bought into the idea that the single most important thing a leader can do is make other people feel valuable, respected and part of something bigger than themselves, so she devotes a lot of time and effort to doing exactly that.
Develop the key skills that will make you a charismatic leader and more easily win over customers, peers and colleagues and create a culture where everyone succeeds.
Think about your impact on others
How do you think you make other people feel? Do you make them feel nervous? Do you make them feel anxious? Do you inspire them? Do you frustrate people? Do you bore people? Have you even stopped to think about your impact on others? It is highly likely that you don’t know for sure how you affect others. Next time you are in the office, look around the room and pick someone. How does that person make you feel? Try someone else in the room or imagine a colleague or boss. How does that person make you feel? There will be some people you love to be with and who always leave you feeling better than before you engaged with them. There will be others who leave you feeling frustrated and annoyed.
Each and every person has an emotional signature, which if you stop to think about it, is distinctive. After being with them, you’ll leave feeling their unique touch, whether it’s positive or negative. They will have left their emotional signature on you. Sadly, too few leaders think about paying as much attention to their emotional signature as they do to their written signature. Yet, as a leader, your emotional signature is one of your most powerful tools to motivate others. How you make other people feel will determine how motivated they are, and that will determine how well your team performs. In fact, there is no other management behaviour that matters more to employees. Leaders who make their people feel respected, valued, trusted, and part of a team with shared goals, will always have better performing teams. They are effective because they are affective.
Be affective to be effective
We sometimes confuse the words affective and effective, even though they have very different meanings. The word ‘affective’ describes something that has been influenced by emotions, is a result of emotions, or expresses emotion. The word ‘effective’ describes something that produces a desired result. As a leader, you have to be affective in order to be effective.
How you make members of your team feel will absolutely have an impact on how they perform. You have to be conscious of this no matter how you person-ally feel. Charismatic leaders are brilliant at self-monitoring in order to exercise emotional control. They’re the ones who leave us feeling warm even if they’re feeling sad. They know that it’s more about how they leave others feeling than it is about how they themselves feel, so they develop the skills that enable them to have a positive affective presence. Equally, poor managers will be unmindful of how emotions are contagious, and they will not care about how their own emotional state impacts on others. They will have a consistently negative affective presence.
To develop the skill of warmth, leaders need to work on the abilities that will make them more engaging, attentive, appreciative, inclusive and respectful. If you are engaging and warm, you will attract people and easily set them at ease, quickly able to make them comfortable in your presence. By being attentive, and applying the skills of listening and empathy, you can demonstrate that they are important to you, and that you care about what they have to say. By learning to be more appreciative, you can give people the respect they earn through their good work or good behaviour.
By being more respectful, you are able to give them the respect they deserve and expect as another human being. When you are more inclusive, you bring people into the team, make them feel they belong, and build powerful relationships and a strong culture. When people feel worthy, appreciated and respected, when they feel part of a team, and that their ideas and insights are valued, their levels of personal motivation skyrocket. To develop warmth and have an affective presence, leaders need to be:
- More engaging
- Better, more attentive and empathetic listeners
- More respectful
- More appreciative
- More inclusive
Being a good listener is regarded by employees as one of the most important skills of a leader, but most employees rate their bosses poorly for their listening skills. Conversely, leaders tend to rate themselves highly. Also, most employees say they very seldom get the appreciation they deserve for good work, and that their managers seem to find it difficult to give them praise. Worse, many say that they are often disrespected at work, leaving them feeling angry and demotivated. These issues are all easy to fix if managers are simply more mindful of what is needed and more practised at delivering it.