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Harnessing Emotions in the Office

I was honored to be the emcee for the Chicago Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Soldier Field recently. As I reflect on that gorgeous day, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to be able to support causes that are near and dear to my heart while doing what I love, on-stage or on-camera.
I had a really emotional moment on stage that day and it got me thinking about emotions in the workplace and how my approach to it has changed over time. The loss of my father is still very raw and present in my heart and mind and I started crying during the Promise Garden ceremony… a tender moment of the program where we honor the reason why we walk. It was TOUGH.

I have spent 30-some years talking to and performing in front of people. I give robust and personal keynote speeches on a regular basis and I think it’s fair to say that there’s an expectation to always hold it together in public (and especially on stage), no matter how challenging it might be. At least that’s the expectation that I have had for myself for quite some time.

People at the walk were super supportive. I looked out into the crowd and saw so many people smiling knowingly, sending love and crying along with me that it felt good to share my experience. Their empathy and kindness was soothing, cleansing and even empowering. That’s when I realized again for myself the thing that I remind my clients of oftern — that emotion fuels response in all of us.

I think we, as women in particular, may overcompensate in the other direction, thinking that emotions have no place at work. Clearly, some emotions are inappropriate, disruptive and unproductive, but if you think about the people who really are the best leaders, they lead with passion. Passion is an emotion and there’s nothing derogatory about that word. A great leader will express their joy or displeasure about something and that’s what motivates action and gets a response. And I think it’s time that we ALL do that more.

I talk about authenticity with my clients and with my audiences all the time. And I will continue to shout this from the rooftop: there is SO much value in bringing our whole selves as well as our experiences to our work.

Of course, there will inevitably be times when you should say, “I need a moment.” That’s healthy and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in taking a break to regroup. There will also be some people or groups you’re just not going to be vulnerable with for any number of good reasons. That’s absolutely fine. Check your fear, but trust your gut. When you do, you’ll know the right situations where it could really move things forward for you.
I know that for me, there have been many times where I have held things in for far too long… it’s so draining and has never really been worth it. In the past few years, I have had colleagues and work friends say that they’re glad to see more of me and that they love how I’m sharing more facets of who I am. That’s affirming. I’m not looking for validation but those moments confirm to me that I’m adding more value to someone else’s experience by doing so. Vulnerability and empathy build trust and foster stronger relationships.

So, going forward, here’s my message to you.

Do not be afraid to show your emotions (reasonably and only when you’re comfortable) because it will help build connections you didn’t know were possible. Our success is in who we are. Not just what we do. It’s also in the way that we do what we do… emotions are an essential part of that and your future successes. And that’s all authentic and truly fearless!