From Spreadsheets to Emotions

October 12, 2023

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In every high performing environment, one of the key competencies that leaders focus on is discipline. Discipline creates habits, habits make routine, and routine drives high performance. However one of the drawbacks of discipline is that people often confuse it with structure, stability and rigidity.


As much as it is possible to say that processes can lead to some sort of structure, their rigidity can hinder adaptation in a world where the future holds uncertainties and surprises.


So, if rigidity is not the answer, what is? This rigid structure lacks an important ingredient-empathy. In today's fast-paced and ever-changing workplace, the importance of empathy cannot be overstated. Empathy, when nurtured and practiced within the workplace, can foster a culture of agility. It goes beyond mere sympathy or understanding; it is the ability to truly connect with the outside and understand their different perspectives and emotions. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, empathy is not found. This then creates an inflexible environment where individuals are unable to connect with each other.


What happens when there is a lack of empathy? The absence of empathy in the workplace not only prevents future opportunities, but also undermines psychological safety, making it unsustainable for future work. The future work relies on the factors of human touch and agility now more than ever. A lack of psychological safety will lead to a less empowered team- a less empowered team that will not be able to adapt, resulting in missed opportunities and decreased productivity.


According to a research conducted by Gallup, employees have four significant needs: trust, stability, compassion, and hope, which are fundamental for them to feel secure and engaged at work. Leaders who address these needs in an effective manner will be better equipped to navigate through periods of change with clarity and purpose, giving a sense of stability to their team.


Compassion, trust, and empathy. These are the ingredients needed for future work that holds uncertainties and unexpected changes. However, are we losing discipline when we let “emotions'' and compassion get in the way? You might think that when “emotions” get in the way and when we allow our team to feel empowered, the structure is lost, and the discipline as well. On the contrary, this is where they effectively begin, with an individual and collective purpose.


Adjusting the balance between emotions and discipline is significant, especially for success in the uncertain workplace. The compromise between emotions and structure forms the basis for a workplace culture where individuals find purpose.


This balance, along with psychological safety, will not only maintain the discipline, but will also strengthen it, encouraging continuous improvement and accountability. Psychological safety allows team members to take risks and make mistakes without fear of retribution. This will result in an environment of continuous improvement and learning, which ultimately strengthens discipline within the team.


If you want to foster an environment of empathy and high productivity, here are some ways you can do that:

• Encourage your team to share and discuss their challenges

• Identify potential frustrations and take steps to minimize them

• Foster an environment that encourages giving and receiving feedback

• Listen to your team’s concerns and address their needs

• Encourage employees to get to know each other, to be able to understand their differences and point of views

• Lead by example, emphasizing the aspects of trust and respect


By embracing emotions and empowering individuals, leaders can create an environment where discipline is not compromised but rather enhanced through a shared commitment to growth and development, resulting in accountability as well.

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