We live in a time when heart is rising on the planet. More and more people are getting in touch with how they feel about what they see and experience, instead of just relying on what they think about it. When we tap into how we feel, it can be challenging for us and to others. There often are not words to explain to the rational mind why we feel a particular way. This contributes to confusion within ourselves and to conflict with each other that can simmer unresolved when the two views simply cannot be reconciled.
In a situation I experienced, when the board of directors at the company where I was a Vice President fired the CEO without warning, no amount of rationalizing by the board could calm employees who felt that the decision was wrong. The board talked past employees, failed to hear their concerns, and had an expectation that everyone just needed to mind their own business and focus on their work. This approach didn’t acknowledge that people were having emotional responses that had no outlet for expression, thereby preventing them from moving forward.
In my own team, instead of gathering everyone for a pep talk “from the leader” to deliver the board’s message, I convened the entire 100+ member employees in a circle for a round robin sharing session. Each person was given an opportunity to answer one or two questions1 or to pass. Everyone was to refrain from commenting or referring to a previous team member’s remarks, phones were stowed, and no one was allowed to take notes. Other than issuing these directions at the beginning, I put myself on the same level by adhering to the rules I’d outlined.
In this process, everyone was given an opportunity to give voice to how they felt and to be heard without judgement. The heart energy that had been contained was allowed to flow, and after this session we as a team were able to once again put more of our focus on our work. As an executive accustomed to functioning in my head in my interactions with the CEO and the board, the most surprising part about this experience was how much heart energy needed to be expressed. The vast majority of the team—IT professionals—were tapped into their hearts and needed a safe place to express what they were feeling.
While it might be tempting for someone who is in their head to dismiss people as naive and dumb for being in their hearts, in fact they are using a different type of intelligence—the same intelligence that causes schools of fish to move in unison, animals to sense danger, and birds to fly south in the winter. None of these things happen because someone analyzes a situation and decides a course of action; the group knows innately. Just because one’s rational mind doesn’t understand this heart energy and can’t explain it intellectually does not make it something to ignore. Rather, it should be seen as an indicator of something that the rational mind is missing or overlooking in its search for a logical explanation that it can understand.
Ignoring or dismissing the heart energy in a workplace, or anyplace, is becoming increasingly difficult and unwise; no matter what one says to persuade another of something, the heart more and more knows the truth. Head and heart are working toward a new equilibrium on the planet, and successful leaders and teams will learn how to honor the heart energy without risking their standing in thinking-based organizations.
- The questions were “What are your concerns” and “What do you want to share?” ↩