Tell Me How You REALLY Feel!


by Steven Reeder, ACC


Through my decades (exactly two) working in corporate America, I remember a profusion of training workshops being offered. Many of them provided great ideas for how we could be more efficient, proficient, and productive. They promised we could be more innovative, idea-driven, better manage our time, effectively handle change, be more strategic, and make the right decisions to drive success, which would lead us to the nirvana of business excellence.

Many of them were very good at delivering on their intentions. It was also very intentional that they didn't involve any of that touchy-feely crap. Feelings... phfffth! Psha! Feelings? We ain't got time for no stinkin' feelings! This is business; it's not personal. It's. Just. Business. Leave that other stuff at home. There's no crying in baseball, and there's no feelings in business.

Except feelings came up all the time. The overwhelm of sixty-hour work weeks. The panic of deadlines. The exhaustion of business travel. The anxiety of being judged harshly. The annoyance of your coworker's incompetence. (Don't deny it; you've been there.) The disappointment of dashed career expectations. The guilt of failed work-life balance. The boredom of repetitive tasks. The apathy of yet another training workshop, with new ideas to help us forget about the old ideas from last year that never took hold. The dread of work that gets missed while attending off-site workshops. The skepticism upon returning to your desk and realizing you haven't a spare minute to test and apply these new ideas.

Yeah, it's business. Business as usual.

Feelings are in fact already a big part of business. However, we tend to only condone the feelings that "get the job done"; feelings like determination, ambition, competition, and resolve. These are what keep us going when we return to the office from two days of bereavement leave. Or when we're handling a family crisis at home. When a new member of the family comes into our home. When a surprise diagnosis morphs our health needs in spite of our busy schedule.

As much as we'd like to ignore feelings in business, feelings — and the lack of attention and dignity we afford them — exact a heavy toll on the very things we say we want to improve: productivity, proficiency, and effectiveness. We try our darnedest to compartmentalize everything to our heads, and focus on structure, strategy, vision, tasks, and goals. We fail to realize the impact of heavy feelings on decision making, our ability to maintain focus, and the quality of our social interactions. They lead us to be distracted, make errors of judgment or input, and even cause physical injury to ourselves and others.

"See, Steven? That's why we don't talk about this. It's depressing, and there's no panacea! We've got work to do here; now suck it up and get on with it!" Indeed, the point of business is to make money. So what are these unresolved feelings costing your company? In a 2003 report, the Grief Recovery Institute estimated a yearly price tag of $276 billion to industry due to alcohol and drug abuse, and 147 million lost work days due to musculoskeletal injuries correlated to lack of concentration tied to grief and stress events. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimated $117 billion of total and indirect costs attributed to obesity.

Those feelings have to go somewhere. As confident as we may be that we've buried those "bad" feelings - or left them at home when we go to work - they often resurface as burn-out, pressure, stress, dis-ease, anxiety, addiction, or isolation. Where are yours going? How are they showing up? How are they affecting your social interactions? Your intimate relationships? Your parenting? Your health and wellness? Your finances? Your fun and enjoyment?

If you're feeling that the subject of feelings is an awkward one to broach at work, you're not alone. Few of us were taught how to express or process them effectively. And we were each given different rules based on culture, gender, situation, and other very arbitrary considerations. A quick Google search on handling feelings at work offers tips and strategies for how to let steam out of the pressure cooker, but not how to turn down the fire.

The first thing to know is that feelings are really just that: feelings. They can be an intuitive signal that something warrants our attention. However, we carry so much judgment around specific feelings that we choose to ignore them, amplify them, indulge them, exaggerate them, analyze them, or shut them down - whatever our culture deems appropriate - to the point where we miss what they're trying to tell us.

We label feelings as "good" or "bad" based on simple sensation. Sadness, fear, shame: those feel bad so we hide them at all costs. Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, eating, drinking, smoking, spending... those feel better, and — at least temporarily — can cover up the bad feelings through distraction. In all, "good" and "bad" are terrible indicators for whether our feelings are truly serving us or not.

Finally, the reason there's no panacea is: it is personal. Just as every relationship is unique, the feelings that arise from any relationship will be unique to you and that relationship. Your feelings are yours; based on every thought and experience you've ever had since birth.

It's said that "how you do anything is how you do everything." That's why whenever I work with a coaching client, we always start with the Energy Leadership Index Assessment (E.L.I.). The E.L.I. evaluates and tangibly measures your current level of engagement, satisfaction, and stress in all areas of your life. It is a one-of-a-kind assessment that pinpoints exactly how much your current thoughts, feelings, and actions are bringing you closer or further from personal and professional success. It gives you a baseline for where you might be stuck or struggling, as well as identifies the strengths you possess which can disrupt self-defeating patterns.

The E.L.I. has been recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 10 assessments for understanding your strengths and challenges. I'm proud to be a Master Practitioner of this assessment because of its power to bring awareness and affect change in our culture's judgments about feelings. I love being part of the movement to turn the tide away from the craziness that is allowed to go on inside our corporations.

Along with the E.L.I. assessment results, I deliver a one-hour private debrief of exactly what your assessment results mean to you, and how you can choose ways to move forward.

Who wants to feel more confident, energized, eager, liberated, optimistic, hopeful, powerful, and fulfilled in the workplace? And everywhere else too? Learn to trust your feelings now at www.stevenreeder.com/feelings.