A recent Next Level Blog post about the Dalai Lama stimulated my thinking about leadership and communication. The post noted that the Dalai Lama encourages people to communicate not person-to-person, but heart-to-heart. As leaders, it can be all too easy to communicate position-to-position, so even person-to-person seems like a tall order. What would it mean for your leadership performance if you were able to speak to the hearts of those you lead?

Acknowledges the reality that we are all spiritual beings. We are not defined by our jobs, bodies, capabilities or any other physical characteristics. We are more defined by our hopes, dreams and feelings than by our physical being. Research in emotional intelligence has verified that a healthy emotional state is critical to leadership. Recognizing the spiritual aspects of people means that leaders must understand both what is important to others and what causes them stress or worry. Likewise, leaders must be willing to share at least part of their internal selves as well. As Pierre Tielhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Conveys a more authentic you. Expressing your genuine emotions with others allows them to get to know the real you. This does not have to mean baring your soul. It does mean that if you’re sad or angry, you should acknowledge it. Hiding your emotions, whether you realize you’re doing it or not, is rarely successful, because the people around you recognize that something is going on.

Allows you to influence your people on a deeper level. Effective leaders seek to motivate and influence the people around them. Inspiring someone with no emotional connection is extremely difficult. When leaders have heart-to-heart connections, they are better able to galvanize the collective energies and connect to the reasons people do more than just show up to work. These leaders are able to connect the work to people’s passions.

Creates an environment of trust. It can be frustrating to work closely with someone who keeps you at arms length. This isn’t about wanting deep and meaningful conversations. This is simply creating an atmosphere of approachability – where issues are openly dealt with, whether they be content-based or related to how people work together. Trust can be adversely affected when one or more team members have feelings that affect team functioning, yet are not discussed. A healthy environment and a degree of emotional connectedness allow team members to deal with the tough stuff.

Allows for healthy discourse and disagreement. When people are connected on a deep level, they are able to express their ideas fully, including dissenting opinions. This is exactly the atmosphere you want as a leader – candid and respectful debate that leads to the best decisions and creative solutions.

Makes you more persuasive. Creating an emotional connection with others sets the stage for being able to sell your ideas effectively. Nothing is more compelling than a solid set of facts embedded in a story that connects with people’s emotions. If you already have a good understanding of how your audience feels on the subject, crafting your message is much easier.

I have had the experience of working with a person who was very closed when it came to emotions. He took “never let them see you sweat” to an extreme. As a colleague, it was frustrating and nonproductive, because it inserted more noise in the process. First, we had to gain an understanding of his position on an issue. Then we also had to figure out how he felt about it, which was darn near impossible. What a waste of energy that could have been otherwise invested productively in the organization!

If you tend towards a more unemotional approach, how can you begin? Consider how you arrive at work each day. I have a terrible habit of marching in, head down, deep in thought. Look up, smile and say, “Good morning.” Whatever you do, align it with how you really feel; be authentic, not fake. Otherwise, you leave people wondering, “What’s up with her?” You’d rather have them saying, “It’s great to work with her, even when she’s having a bad day!”

Could your communication practices be more heart-to-heart? Or is there something else on your mind about leadership?  Contact Humanergy.

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