Emotions and Leadership

Why you need a different approach today

It’s all about the facts.

Every memo, every report, every presentation is about the facts.

It’s all about the facts. That is what they told you at business school. That is what they told you during your time as a trainee. That is what they told you when you prepared for your job.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

It is all about the facts.

Suddenly you realise that this approach does not work as well as it might have worked in the past. Even in the past, this approach was debatable. Of course, facts are not irrelevant. Leaders who do not stick to facts, deliberately ignore or misinterpret them or even come along with their own ‘alternative facts’ are leaders who fail on an international level.

Still, how can you be sure not to be called “tone-deaf” in the situation in which we are right now? How do you know that your message comes across the right way?

Facts are important, but…

Facts are never irrelevant. Never listen to people who tell you “when the package sounds nice, you can get away with anything” or “good rhetorics make any message sounds great no matter what the content is”. This kind of advice is old-fashioned, outdated and disrespectful to your audience. Still, people may forgive you when it comes to which words you used. A person may forgive what you said. However, a person will not forget how they felt when they heard your message. We all know precisely how we felt during our best and worst moments in life. We do not remember the exact words, but we do remember the emotion. These memories are the reason why addressing emotions is essential, and facts alone do not win the people.

When you do not say anything at all…

Make no mistake: when you are not a person of public interest, people will forget about incidents quicker than you think. Still, many people who are of public interest and especially in today’s times of cuts, job losses and severe changes, you must address the issues proactively. If you decide not to talk about the problems arising, the people in your organisation will do so without you. This non-communication will always lead to people expecting the worst and declaring it the truth. After all, getting the wrong information out of the people’s mind far more complicated than addressing the right issues and emotions in the first place.

Relationships need your focus

There is a high likelihood that as a leader, you will be in a privileged position. Also, many changes will affect others more than you. Think of salary cuts, job loss or changes when it comes to payment. Your position as a leader is privileged as your life will be less affected, and the worst consequences will happen weeks or months later.

Telling people the facts and also instructing them to ignore anything else besides the facts will not help to communicate bad news to them. You must address the emotional side of a change. The better you address the issue, the more help and the more options you offer, the better the result will be. The worst-case scenario will be that you stay in a comfortable situation while others will not, and you have nothing better to say than “the numbers tell me to do so — goodbye”. Explain the story behind the decision, the struggle to get to a conclusion and also explain which help you will offer. Emotions stay with people longer than facts and your actions will speak louder than your words.

All the best for you when implementing this in your organisation.

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Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt

Niels Brabandt is in business since 1998. Helping managers to become better leaders by mastering the concept of Sustainable Leadership. Based in Spain & London.