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What is the feeling?

Connecting your head and your heart at work.

How does your team problem solve after a challenging time? How do they debrief when something has gone wrong? In my work as an organisational consultant I am often called in to help people during these times. My experience is what people do really well is explaining what has happened, they capture the events and are able to detail quite objectively what went well and also where things went pear shaped. People then tend to go straight to the action plan and I think here lies the problem. We do this because broadly we don’t like the “messy middle”we are wired to crave a level of certainty and we like to tie things up with a bow. This has happened and then immediately this is what we are going to do about it. I think this is also occurring because of the pace we are living at; everything is instantaneous, it needs to happen now, or perhaps even yesterday?

In moving so quickly from, this is what happened to this is what we are going to do, are we really exploring the issue comprehensively or are we just popping on a quick Band-Aid to make us feel better in the short term but perhaps not addressing the broader issue in a way that produces a good long term outcome. If we take the time to stop after going through the details and ask people how they are feeling this may allow us to understand in more detail what has happened and its real impact on the people involved. But here is the bigger question; do we really want to know the impact, do we want to sit with and consider people’s feeling or is this a little too uncomfortable? People’s feelings are messy and sometimes we don’t feel we have the space to go there. Because when we ask people in a genuine way not a cursory how are you; we may not be ready for the answer? Perhaps what they might say is that they feel incompetent, ashamed, guilty or embarrassed and then what would we do? You can be sure the action plan or strategies to address these feelings would be different to perhaps an action plan that you develop after hearing just details of something without delving into the feeling.

This type of exploration involves bringing not only our head to work but also your heart and sometimes this feels uncomfortable and it is easier to rush through this stage. A lot of work problems though are people problems and people have feelings and without this further enquiry it is like having a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle and only having 93 pieces. What will you do next time? Will you ask people how they are feeling and really provide the space and the time for them to answer? In doing this you are taking one step closer to connecting your head and your heart at work.

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