Last weekend I was at a food event in Athens and was reminded of how tactile and emotional southern Mediterranean people are compared to us rather restrained Brits. I arrived with a male work colleague for a meeting on Monday on the way back to the airport at his restaurant. Our cases were wheeled away somewhere, and he proceeded to greet us with hugs and kissed us both on both cheeks. My colleague was a little taken aback, to say the least. I wish I had whipped my phone out and taken a photo. I remember, several years ago, being in Argentina walking down the road with another guy and he started holding hands with me, not in a sexual way whatsoever. This is a normal gesture of male-to-male friendship over there. It takes a bit of getting used to, but there is something about connecting with other people that is positive!
This led me to start thinking this week about emotions in business. Should we exhibit our emotions to our team or keep them all under control? I used to believe in the latter viewpoint completely, but it is probably both. For most of my life I have erred on the restrained side, in fact for 10 years at least I did not shed one single tear. There is a degree to which if you are running a business, for people’s security and peace of mind, if things are going really badly, you have to appear calm and in control, even if you are not! If the company is falling apart and everyone senses that from you, panic will set in, and the meltdown is more likely to happen. I have been there and got the tee shirt. There was a period of two months in our history when we were a whisker away from going out of business. Staying calm in the face of that was essential and key to us pulling through, and as a result the company is much stronger and growing faster because of showing strong leadership at that point. It is true that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.
However, there are other occasions when it is good to show emotion in business. After all we are in the people game and people reach each other via emotions. Last autumn I presented the winner of the New Producer Awards, Change Please, with their trophy. This was the category I had judged and so I knew the wonderful back story that these guys take homeless people off the streets, train them to be baristas and give them a job. I was straight off the plane from a challenging event in Toronto, and so, was fairly emotional from that anyway. Presenting this award tipped me over the edge and I cried in front of a room full of people. I don’t mind at all! Tears are not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you are engaging with people and care about the things that other people care about. Some of you men are like I used to be and do not cry – release your emotions. It will be good for you and do you the power of good!
Now I do not necessarily recommend blubbing at every staff meeting, but I have been on the edge of tears when thanking members of my team for doing something particularly good. That is because I care and can see how much they have given, often in a selfless way. If you show your emotions, you are transmitting that you are a real person with real feelings and actually just like everyone else. I believe that will make you a better leader or team-member and help you take your business forward.