Bob’s Letter September 2021

Signs of fall seem to be everywhere. Halloween candy at Walgreens, a dry crispness to the air, and sending my son off to his first day as a high school sophomore.

I love fall. It makes me think of gathering humans together and enjoying the fruits of our labor. Harvest, bounty, and community.

This year is tinged with a bit of sadness. The pandemic wears on; climate change is causing increased uncertainty, and state legislatures act to limit what teachers can teach and women’s reproductive freedom. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and under-resourced.

It’s times like these that turn me towards my “team” (wife, friends, coach, therapist, and others) who help me make sense of the circumstances and feel better too.

It’s the combination of making sense intellectually and feeling better emotionally that we need to stay motivated and active. However, in business, we have a tendency to overvalue the intellectual and objective and undervalue the emotional. But emotion is essential.

The research of neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (check out his amazing book “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain”) demonstrates that our emotions are an essential part of good decision-making and that we ignore them at our peril.

As a facilitator and team coach, I always make space for emotion — both good and bad. Emotions focus our attention, and an uneasy feeling can be a good leading indicator that there is something to be concerned about. I often ask leaders what keeps them up at night, and only rarely do I find their worries unfounded.

Emotion is also an essential part of bonding as a team. A team that feels like a team is far more productive than a team that’s indifferent to, or at odds with, each other. We need trust and team engagement over the long haul, which means we need to care for the emotional landscape of our teams.

Diverse teams tend to have more differences of opinion and perspective (which is why they can be so valuable), but they also can have more interpersonal tension and must take extra care with the emotional landscape of the team.

If you’re wondering how your team is doing, download our “Aligned Team Assessment” that will walk you through a questionnaire designed to illuminate the operational efficiency and emotional engagement of your team. I guarantee that this simple exercise (it takes about 30 minutes) will give you insights not only into how your team is doing but also what you can do about it.

And if you’re really ready to go deep, pick up a copy of our book “Radical Alignment: How to Have Game Changing Conversations That Will Transform Your Business and Your Life.”

Here are a few things to read and listen to about emotion.

BOOK: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

This book by Antonio Damasio details how cognition and emotion are intimately linked. In one story, you learn about a man who suffered brain damage so that he could no longer feel emotion which made it impossible for him to choose what to eat for lunch (since he no longer knew what he liked) and to focus on the right things at work (since everything was of equal importance — choosing a font for letter became as important as the content).

BOOK: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Dutch psychiatrist and researcher Bessel van der Kolk will change the way you think about your own behavior and that of others. He goes deep into how even minor early traumas can impact how we eat, form relationships, and more. It’s especially valuable as we hit the long-haul pandemic.  

VIDEO: Theories of Well Being (Introduction to Moral Philosophy, Lecture 3)

I’m slowly working my way through this entire lecture series from Princeton professor Johann Frick. He makes the large and complex field of moral philosophy easy to understand and even fun. This lecture, I think, is relevant to today’s discussion of emotion and well-being.

PODCAST: You’re Wrong About: The Anti-Vaccine Movement

“You’re Wrong About” is one of my favorite new podcasts. I’ve listened to perhaps 20 hours of them in the past month. This one in particular is both timely and topical when it comes to emotion and reason. It’s timely because vaccination rates are especially important to getting our collective butts out of the current situation we find ourselves in and topical because otherwise, very reasonable people seem to lose all ability to reason when it comes to assessing vaccine safety and efficacy.

All our best,
Bob + Alex

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