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Emotions at Work: What’s Underneath Them?

One of the most useful skills we can use as a leader and colleague -- and as a parent, spouse, or friend -- is the skill of being an Emotional Translator.

In a matter of a few seconds, this skill lets us understand what the real issue is, for others and we can also use this skill for ourselves. We can then work together to resolve the question or issue or concern.

Here’s a chart that I often use with clients to help them identify emotions and get underneath so they can identify what’s really going on. See Peter Bregman’s article in the HBR for more, “Do You Know What You Are Feeling?

The Wisdom of Emotions

Every emotion is a message – but sometimes it’s hard to understand. This chart from Six Seconds can be useful in exploring the purpose of different emotions.

Source: Six Seconds

There’s a benefit to these insights because they allow us to connect with our larger life or work goals, as Six Seconds notes. On an organizational level, they point us towards what people really care about and can be useful in building effective teams, hiring good employees, and retaining good employees.

In his excellent book, “Emotional Equations,” Chip Conley makes the point that, with a level of self-awareness about emotions and focus, we’re able to combine emotions in support of good outcomes or turn around equations that don’t serve us so well.

For example, Workaholism = What Are You Running From?

What Are You Living For?

Or another I appreciate that’s a more positively focused equation, Wisdom = √Experience

When you understand what’s beneath your emotions and why they’re important, you’ll start to see these equations and others show up in your life. You can also begin to build emotional equations and apply them as a leader. It’s one way that mindful leadership can lead to organizational success.

Can we help with building your talent and leadership pipeline, recruiting the best people, and retaining the best people? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, Ph.D., at or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching services or our Talent Management services are right for you. All services are customized to your needs.

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