By Harrell Kerkhoff, Maintenance Sales News Editor
Recognizing and understanding the emotional side of how people “show up” in challenging times is important when is comes to focusing on long-term success — both at work and at home.
Presenting an educational session titled “Managing the Emotional Energy of Leadership and Engagement,” during the virtual 2020 ISSA Show North America in November, was Don Phin (www.donphin.com)
Designed for leadership and sales personnel, Phin’s session addressed the concept of “emotional intelligence,” and how to manage the “emotional energy” associated with leadership and engagement. As a solution to ending painful and destructive dramas — whether in the boardroom, in a sales meeting or at home — Phin discussed how participants can better learn from and feel through emotional problems, while also feeling good about themselves.
Phin helped attendees gain greater awareness of how their individual stories and life experiences impact the roles they play, and in turn, how they can successfully “feed off” their “emotional energy” for a better relationship with co-workers, customers and family members. The end result is a greater understanding of how to handle the most difficult of situations.
THE DEATH OF CONTROL
— AND WHY THAT IS GOOD
The workplace is changing, and not just due to advanced technology.
“Perhaps the biggest change of all that I have seen in today’s workplace is what I call the ‘Death of Control.’ The old idea of work was, ‘We (as company leaders) at the top of the pyramid are really smart. We have figured out the best way to do things, and please, whatever you do, don’t think for yourselves,’” Phin said. “However, in today’s world, the whole idea of controlling the workforce is dead. The catch-22 today is, those employees you can control are not the ones you want working at your company.”
He added that today’s employees shouldn’t be viewed as children, wanting to please their parents. A better option, he said, is “engaged collaboration,” the act of not only helping employees better work together, but allowing them to actually find their work interesting.
“That is one of the greatest jobs of management today — engaged collaboration — rather than forcing your way, as a boss, on an employee,” Phin said.
He explained the latter is similar to arguing with a teenager in a hallway.
“Do you think pounding more of your logic into that teenager is going to be the answer? No. When people act out and engage in drama, and when they do things that just don’t make sense to other people, the answer is not simply pounding out more ‘logic,’” Phin said. “Emotions for many people (in 2020) are at the highest level I can recall. It’s therefore important to learn how to navigate emotionally, not just logically.”
To further make his point, Phin quoted William Shakespeare, who said in the play As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
“Shakespeare is reminding us that every day, we all walk onto a ‘stage.’ He is talking about drama — on our emotional stage. The reality about drama is, it’s our emotional educational learning system. How else have you learned to deal with emotions, but through the dramas you have experienced?” Phin explained. “Some people read books on emotional intelligence, but the vast majority of us learn through the experiences of our dramas, while on our emotional stage. That is true whether we are at work or home. We are never off that ‘stage.’
“The tipping point of our emotions often takes place when something seems unfair. That means it might also feel unsafe and, therefore, we have to protect ourselves. It’s where the true drama begins. We ask ourselves, ‘Where is the threat to me?’”
Most actual plays involve a victim, a villain and a hero. The same can be true with a person’s “emotional stage.” There are also different levels of those three roles.
“Just because somebody has a victim’s mentality, doesn’t make him/her a real victim. If you get struck by a Mack truck, you are truly a victim. The same applies to the villain. There are true villains, while others will occasionally show a villainous mentality, such as when they lose their cool and yell at another person,” Phin said. “There is also the storybook hero, such as a person who runs into a burning building to save a life. He/she went out of his/her way to make a difference. On the flip side, there is the negative hero. That is when the intention is good, but the outcome is not.”
Phin described the victim, villain and hero further as they relate to a person’s emotional stage.
■ The Victim — “Today’s reality is, everyone (due to the pandemic) has been a victim (in 2020),” Phin said. “Even if your business is still doing well, life may not feel right.
“We all can acknowledge feeling like a victim. If we don’t acknowledge it, then we won’t have the proper empathy toward ourselves, or other people.”
■ The Villain — “When something feels unfair — and as a result we feel like a victim — we want to externalize it and find out who is putting us at risk. We look for a villain. It can be a person we feel doesn’t care about us, such as a parent, boss or ‘friend.’ People can be villainized if, for some reason, we don’t think they care about us,” Phin said.
Often, people don’t realize they are playing the role of a villain. They simply fail to fully understand the importance of showing other people that they really do care about them. Instead, they wait for a calamity to occur before showing empathy.
“Which begs the question, ‘Do you need a calamity to show somebody you care?’ When I realized I was guilty of that deception, I made a point to build a habit around it, to show at least one person a day, for 30 straight days, that I cared about him/her,” Phin said. “The No. 1 way to show anybody you care is to listen to what he/she is saying. We are all running at 75 mph right now, but spend very little time actually listening. It’s important to do the opposite, to simply listen. Make sure you have the ability to fully listen to somebody for five straight minutes — without interruption. Build that muscle. Let your silence do the heavy lifting. Try not to drop a person when he/she has completed a thought. When that person is finished, ask followup questions.
“It’s such a rare experience to truly get clarity in a conversation. See how good a listener you can become. I don’t know who said the following, but it’s very true: ‘Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.’ If you want to show people you care, give them a few minutes of time by listening.”
■ The Hero — “Most of us, since we were young, have wanted to play the role of the hero. There are hero stories that drive us,” Phin said.
He noted in the book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, it states just about every hero dies by the sword in historical mythology. It is as if they had to sacrifice themselves “for the cause.” But, in reality, it doesn’t have to be that way.
“At the end of the book, Campbell states that it’s not necessary to be self-sacrificial in order to be a hero. That is just mythology,” Phin said. “For myself, I have realized that being a hero is not about self-sacrifice, rather it’s about the positive results that can be produced. If you take better care of yourself, use your time wisely, and become clearer as to what you are trying to achieve — all those things will allow you to make a greater difference. The opposite is simply trying to get by in an over-stressed world of self-sacrifice.
“Being a hero also doesn’t have to involve overcommitment. The No. 1 trap for the hero is that he/she can’t say ‘no.’ They overcommit. Anytime you overcommit, you, by definition, put too much in the basket. It’s important to avoid that trap.”
The other hero myth Phin spoke about is that being a hero is supposed to be hard, like climbing a big hill.
“Ask yourself, where did that way of thinking come from? Where is the logic? When I entered law school, I was told it would be very hard. I disagreed. I didn’t see how reading a bunch of books, and listening to smart people talk, would be that hard,” Phin said. “For three years, everyone in my law school class attended the same lectures and took the same tests to earn the same degrees. I had three years of fun, while they had three years of hardship. We all did the same work, but attached a different story to the work.
“What if building your business doesn’t have to be hard? What if building your business could be fun, adventurous and actually easy? It can happen through discipline. When you hear great ideas, for example, stop doing the low value work, and start implementing what is new and exciting.”
Each of the three roles (victim, villain and hero) found on the emotional stage comes with specific energy levels. Understanding each level helps an individual to better comprehend how different people can either succeed or fail — when working with other people. That includes employees and clients.
“If I were to ask, ‘What would be the energy level attached to somebody in a victim’s role, your answer would probably be ‘low, weak, sad and an inward type of energy,’” Phin said.
He classified the energy level of most victims at 20 percent, whereas the energy level of a hero is higher. However, having a higher energy level can be exhausting, such as at 80 percent. Those are people who feel the need to always “save the day” as the hero. It can also build resentment.
“If we can learn to better manage our energy level, we can do a better job of managing our future roles,” Phin said. “When a person is alone on an emotional stage, that person represents 100 percent of the entire energy on that stage. However, when he/she gets on the stage with another person, the thought of many is that the ideal energy level of the two should be reduced to 50 percent — split evenly between the two parties.”
The problem is, 50/50 is not reality when two people are trying to work together — such as a boss/employee or a sales representative/client. Energies fluctuate, but they are never truly at 50/50 between two parties on the emotional stage. One is always higher than the other. Also, at 50/50, there would be no room for new ideas to flow freely.
According to Phin, people who play the role of victim on the emotional stage will show a weak energy level. Nobody plays a victim with strong energy, and nobody would think that a villain has anything but strong energy. It’s therefore important to watch for manipulation from the villain, while he/she is on the emotional stage with a victim. Villains can be the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“The hero’s role is one of strong energy as well, but the hero will back up when confronted. The last thing a hero wants to do is hurt somebody,” Phin said. “What will the villain do when told he/she is too strong? Keep proceeding and justifying along the way. That is when the true hero does the hardest thing of all — walks off the stage. That leaves the villain stuck with bad energy. A moment of integrity may follow. The greatest moment of integrity is when we, as ‘villains,’ realize we have made a mistake.
“By allowing the person with the high energy to realize he/she has done wrong, that person has the opportunity to say, ‘Oh man, I blew this,’ and come back with an apology.
“Personally, if my energy is too strong, I prefer my family members to simply walk away. I will then let my high energy dissipate, and hopefully a better conversation will follow.”
Therefore, if a 20 percent energy level is too weak, 80 percent is too strong and 50/50 is not realistic, what is the best level of energy for two people to exhibit on the emotional stage together? Phin said the answer is 40/40.
“That is the sweet spot. It’s the only spot where there can be two heroes in a relationship, with room for creativity in the middle. It also allows for dialogue. It’s very hard to have creativity without dialogue,” Phin said.
He added the 40/40 solution is a metaphor with unique insight, describing, for example, the best way to participate in a sales conversation.
“If a person is at 20 percent and too weak, or 80 percent and too strong, he/she will either lose the sale or everybody involved will regret making it. While 50/50 may been seen as the level of fairness, it’s too close for comfort. At 40/40, that level provides the emotional space required to have a sales dialogue and co-create workable solutions,” Phin said. “Only at 40/40 can both the buyer, and the seller, be heroes in the sales story.”
One of the objections to the idea that 40/40 is the best level of energy between two parties is that 40 percent seems weak to some people.
“It’s important to remember, however, that we are talking about relationships, where two people are involved. Being a 40 percenter is far from a weak position,” he said. “When talking about team and couple dynamics, it’s important to be at 40 percent with each other. It’s how we can all be heros in a relationship.”
He added that the best thing to do with a high energy level is to work on channeling that energy, or simply letting it go.
“Eighty percent energy is fear-based, and the people around you often pay the price as your high energy goes all over the place, affecting other people,” Phin said. “As a person goes from 80 to 40, the law of attraction changes and better clients come forward. The last client type you want to attract is the 20 or 80 percenter. It’s much better to be at the 40/40 energy level between two parties, allowing for greater creativity. That level becomes very powerful.”
40/40 SWEET SPOT
Achieving the 40/40 sweet spot often requires moving away from a role that is too weak or too strong. That can be done by following the meaning of three words: Coax, Encourage and Inspire — all the while taking one safe step at a time.
“The extreme of emotional victimology is depression. One of the greatest cures for depression is to do something,” he said. “It’s important to tell oneself, ‘Let’s try this as a first safe step, and see how it feels.’ That is such a powerful sentence. It’s part of being coaxed.”
Encourage is the second key word to achieving the 40/40 sweet spot on the emotional stage.
“How many people in your life have gone out of their way to make you feel good about yourself? You might be lucky if you can name a handful of people. If you can name two handfuls, consider yourself significantly blessed. It might have been a parent, an uncle, a coach or a friend’s parent. Making people feel good about themselves is such a rare commodity. Encouragement is so critical,” Phin said. “Most of us run around this world trying to find problems. I’m a lawyer. I can find a problem with anything. It’s important to stop that practice. Many really successful people are masters of encouragement.”
The third key word is inspire. As Phin explained, throughout millennia, successful leaders have inspired with stories. Through the various trials of 2020, Phin said he found his own personal inspiration through the book Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Phin noted that when people are fragile, they often don’t have a “plan B.” They get hit with something, like a pandemic, and their businesses and/or lives start to shut down. That is fragile. The basis of Antifragile, however, is that life can often benefit from negative events.
“Nature provides a classic example. There is chaos and disorder in nature, but nature evolves and becomes stronger,” Phin said. “My goal (in 2020) has been to work on becoming ‘antifragile.’ As a public speaker, for example, I have learned to successfully conduct virtual meetings. For many people involved in the cleaning industry, new opportunities have arrived related to disinfecting products and services. That is how those people have embraced ‘antifragile.’
“When a 40/40 level of energy is achieved between two parties, it allows for creativity to take place, helping them become ‘antifragile.’ It can be achieved through the use of three words: Coax, Encourage and Inspire.”
Phin is an attorney, advisor, speaker and coach. He has worked with 6,000-plus CEOs nationwide and created over 30 online
training programs, including “The GreatHR Program” and “The Great Employee Program.” In addition, Phin has written
seven books, including his recent, "The 40/ /40 Solution: Mastering Emotional Energy in Leadership and Sales."
Visit www.donphin.com or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.