Feeling Your Feelings

The other day the top 40 leaders from one of the premier oil refining companies in the world met to talk about feelings.  How bizarre is that.  By and large these are hard-core engineers … facts and figures, data driven, head type folks.

They spent a day learning about feelings because they believe that the leadership styles that have gotten them to where they are (wildly successful) won’t get them where they want to go (continued wild success).  They realize their decision making, problem solving, innovation techniques aren’t good enough.  Tried and true as they are they don’t match up to the speed and complexity of the world as it is.  In addition to what they have they know they need something more.

Their answer: FEELINGS.

Why?  Because they are part of an ever-growing group of leaders who know in practical ways that IQ will only get you so far and that EQ (emotional intelligence) can take you farther.  EQ as a body of research has been around for several decades and thanks to people like Dan Goleman the research has shown that EQ trumps IQ as a predictor of long term success in one’s career.

But there’s more.  EQ is not just self-awareness, knowing and managing my feelings and tuning into and relating to the feelings of others (empathy).  EQ is also a gateway to faster, better decision making.

Here’s how it works.

1.  Bring a current issue, problem, concern, opportunity or possibility to mind.  Think about it for 60 seconds.  Think in vivid descriptions.  Really play it out in your mind.  Go big.

2.  Ask yourself, “What am I feeling in this moment?”The key here is to pause, breathe (one deep breath) and actually check.  This is not about what you were feeling yesterday or last week or what you think you’ll feel tomorrow.  This is about now.

3.  Answer with one of the 5 core feelings: Sad, Angry, Scared, Joyful or Sexual feelings.Feelings are like colors (red, green, blue), there are primary ones and all others are made from the primary ones, so stick with the big 5.

4.  Ask yourself, “Where is the feeling in my body?”All feelings occur as sensations in and on the body.  Get out of your head and into your body.  The head is the old way (and still very useful) of making decisions and innovating and the body is the new way. 

5.  Breathe for 60 seconds while simply keeping your attention on the sensations. At this point the mind is not helpful.  In fact, it’s a distraction so if the mind gets involved simply come back to the body and the sensations.

6.  Ask the feeling what it is here to show you.

This is where the engineers had to take a leap of faith.  Don’t ask the mind.  The mind has already given you what it has to give you.  Ask the body where the feeling is occurring.  Ask from openness and wonder and then LISTEN to the body.

If the feeling is anger, ask it, “Who or what do I need to say NO to?”  “What needs to stop?”  “What is no longer of service to the whole?”

If the feeling is sadness, ask it, “ Who or what do I need to let go of?  What am I holding on to that needs to be released?  (Often we hold on to relationships, beliefs, visions, processes etc and don’t let them go so that the new can emerge.)

If the feeling is fear, ask it, “Who or what do I need to pay attention to?  What do I need to face I’m not fully facing?

”If the feeling is joy, ask it, “Who or what do I need to celebrate and appreciate fully?

”If the feeling is sexual, ask it, “What wants to be created?  What is calling for my full creative attention? What wants to be birthed into the world through me/us?” (Sexual feelings in decision making and innovation are not about having sex they are about creating.  We get confused about this in life and it causes lots of issues).

Don’t figure out the answers to these questions.  Figuring out engages the wrong part of the decision making, creating, innovating self.  Just “live in” the questions and listen to what you hear (this is part of intuition).

Finally, trust what you hear.

Today, I’m talking with the oil company execs about candor!  Practicing going all out in saying everything they have to say about an issue, not filtering, not withholding, not manipulating others or a conversation.  This is the new way of talking.  It is the leadership of the future.

Meet the Conscious Leadership Group

Jim Dethmer has been devoted to the practice of conscious leadership for 45 years. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people about how to lead and live from consciousness. He has coached Fortune 500 CEOs and their teams supporting them in transforming their lives and their cultures. He has worked with over 200 organizations led by entrepreneurs and professional managers across all industries. In addition to The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, Jim also co-authored High Performing Investment Teams (Wiley, 2006). When Jim is not working with clients, you’ll often find him at his soul’s home in Northern Michigan playing golf with his wife Debbie and delighting in their six children and three grandchildren.

Diana Chapman has been a trusted advisor to over 700 organizational leaders and many of their teams. She is also a well-respected facilitator for YPO forums and chapters worldwide. Clients from Genentech to Yahoo! value her clarity, compassion, ferocity, and playfulness. She brings you to your edge and ignites your courage to step into the unknown where you can experience what you want the most. When Diana is not with her clients, you will likely find her gardening at her suburban farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. She lives there with her husband of 25 years and their two children.

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