All of us struggle with stress at work. It is difficult to know how to handle those feelings, particularly when we are supposed to lead others. Does sharing your anxieties with your team undermine your reputation?
Leaders all experience emotional turmoil. But they show that emotion in three distinct ways, according to researchers. The first group was called heroes. Those are leaders who focus on the positive. They do their best to influence their people that they would get through a difficult situation no matter what. Second, there were technocrats. These are leaders who focus on tactical solutions and ignore emotion. Third, there were sharers. These leaders openly confessed their stresses, fears, and other adverse feelings. The sharer group of leaders was the best at building resilient, cohesive, and high-performing teams.
Technocrats’ Results are Poor and Heroes Aren’t Heroic
While positivity is good, research shows that ignoring negative feelings makes us feel worse. When people are tired and fearful, they don’t feel that their leader understands their plight if they are always upbeat. It’s not authentic. Team members feel distant from a hero leader because the leader doesn’t appear to struggle at all. That facade can undermine relationships with others.
Technocrats ignore emotion and focus on results instead. While leaders certainly need to focus on results, it undermines long-term results to ignore the emotion of the leader or his team. Technocrats usually lack the self-awareness to understand their own mental health. And it leads to team members doing the bare minimum.
Emotions propel everything that technocrats care about — job performance, customer satisfaction, and turnover. When we ignore emotions, we fail to secure the good emotions that drive productivity and to approach the bad emotions that undermine the good.
The Best Leaders Are Sharers
By sharing negative emotions, the leader opens the door for others to talk about their own struggles. It helps us understand we are not alone. Teams with sharers at the helm have the highest morale and performance in companies. When leaders are authentic, people have the confidence to weather difficult days. When leaders are vulnerable, team members have a deeper psychological connection to their leader and teammates.
Become a Sharer
It’s natural to want to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Many of us worry that sharing something bad will create anxiety among the team. If you want a more productive team, work on becoming a sharer.
Check-in with yourself. You can’t recognize emotions in others until you understand yourself. Track your emotions with a daily “temperature check.” Set aside time to write or talk about your emotions. Write a journal or have a conversation with someone about your emotional state. Create a system. Just 15 minutes of reflection at the end of the day can boost your performance.
2. Start small
You can’t share too much too soon if you don’t yet have the rapport with your coworkers. Start by sharing a minor frustration instead of a major challenge. Build up from there.
3. Plan your disclosures
Don’t share all the dark thoughts. Think about your personal challenge library that you can access when appropriate. This limits others from feeling uncomfortable and allows you the opportunity to think through your communication with others.
4. Create dedicated time and space for sharing emotions
Timing is important. Don’t let every meeting become a complain-fest. Set aside weekly one-on-ones where you can discuss these negative feelings. You could also dedicate a few minutes to expressly discussing your teammates’ highs and lows during a recurring meeting.
5. Model effective emotion regulation
You must lead by example. Ask for help when you need it. Show your employees that you reach out for help so they will do it too. Help others. Research shows supporting others improves your physical health, mood, and confidence.
Reassess your perspective. Refocus your mind on the positive aspects of a difficult situation. Recharge. Disconnecting from work reduces stress. Let people see you taking breaks, keep your evenings free, pursue hobbies, and using your vacation days.
6. Share the good and the bad
No one is perfect. Be open about a time you failed to handle a challenging situation or negative emotion. When your team hears you discuss how you would do something different personally, they can be better prepared to do the same.
Effective leaders openly and honestly acknowledge their challenges and invite their coworkers to do it too. They do not push negative emotions under the rug.