Leading Ideas: Don’t Ignore the “F” Word

“Mankind are governed more by their feelings than by reason.” –Samuel Adams (1722-1803) American politician and Revolutionary leader

Consider this:


The “F” word, in this case, is feelings. Feelings are seldom discussed in the workplace. On one hand this is understandable. Feelings can be messy. And they don’t provide the efficiency of rational reasoning. But on the other hand, neglecting feelings can be destructive. Strong feelings are more powerful than reason. If you don’t explore them in yourself and your colleagues, you could be playing with a ticking time bomb.

Recently, I encountered an example of this with a client. The heads of IT and HR had an icy relationship dating back 12 months to a failed project. The tension between the 2 was palpable – and it was negatively affecting current projects. When they finally peeled back the layers of “what happened” they found strong feelings that had never been discussed. One felt manipulated while the other felt disrespected. They both had their heels dug in and didn’t want to budge. It wasn’t until they cleared up these strong feelings that they were able to find workable solutions to the current issues.

Try this:

The next time you’re dealing with a tough interpersonal issue:*
1. Write down 3 lists – what happened, how you feel about what happened, and how you contributed to the problem.
2. Take a guess at what that list would look like if the other person wrote it.
3. Share your thoughts with the other person.
4. Invite them to do the same.
5. Recognize that you can’t effectively discuss tough issues if you leave feelings on the sidelines.
* based on the work of Doug Stone, Bruce Patton, & Sheila Heen

Doug Sundheim • Executive Coach • New York, NY • •