Emotional Hygiene when leading in a crisis – Anneli Blundell

By Courtney Mathew

17 May 2020

In our latest Ask the Experts we were joined by Anneli Blundell – affectionately known as the “People Whisperer” – sought-after speaker, mentor and leadership expert who helps her clients improve their influence, engagement and impact. Voted one of YMag’s Top 10 Women to Watch in 2019, Anneli is on a mission to humanize the leadership landscape and change the way we see each other. Anneli is the co-author of the acclaimed leadership book: “Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders,” the leader’s guide to developing leadership on the job.  

With the explosion of virtual work, uncertainty, and fear, your staff need to trust and see you being centred and calm now more than everBut how do you be the voice of reason when you are in fear? When you don’t have all the answers? When you are worried about your own family and loved ones? 

Anneli explained that your brain cannot be in a state of fear and creativity at the same time. When we operate from a place of fear, we lose access to our higher order thinking and problem-solving capacities. However, leaders need to stay in the executive brain centres to be at our best. By using our intellectual and empathetic resources, we can get others into a healthier state of mind. The power of the leader lies in how everything we say, do and feel affects the thoughts and feelings of those around us. Your thoughts, words and actions can cause hysteria or hope. 

Anneli stressed the need to be consciously mindful that while your emotional state may be good, others may be in heightened states of emotion which affects how you should approach conversations. She likened emotions to a yawn – they’re unconscious, contagious, give you signals about what’s going on and are hard to suppress.  So even if you try to hold it downother people can tell. In fact, research has shown that if one tries to suppress powerful emotions, the blood pressure of the person next to, or in conversation with you, goes up as well; they physically catch your emotions! 

Anneli gave us her practical strategies to own your personal emotional state and maintaiyour emotional hygiene: 

Notice out of character behavior for yourself – if you’re snapping easily, getting frustrated easily then that is a signal that something is going on, and; 

Pause before you respond – take a moment and give yourself the time to process the emotion. Respond from a place of space, not from immediate response, and; 

Pivot your perspective – in stressful situation, such as a role change or a goal has become no longer achievable, try to find a way to pivot this emotion and find a silver lining. Wonder what else is possiblewhat you could do instead,  and try to tell yourself a different story to help you to process these emotions. 

What can you do to help your team with their emotional hygiene? Anneli emphasised the importance of allowing people have their emotional responses and states. 

Don’t downplay or ‘upbeat’ any emotional responses – She stressed the importance of validating all feeling, to not brush them off by saying that ‘everything will be fine’. 

Meet them where they are at – let them be where they are; if they are worried, let them worry without trying to placate them. Trying to repress emotions is only going to make them pop back up again. 

Allow space – Allow them the space to be there, acknowledge the situation and emotion giving them time to process the emotion. 

Lastly, in these uncertain times, there needs to be a balance between connection and content. It doesn’t always have to be about the task and performance. Share what you have been going through, give people permission to be real and vulnerable. Engage with your team in a variety of ways to find what works for the relationship as some people need more contact than othersAsk them for their input about what works for their preferred style and allow that to guide your interactions.  

Thank you so much Anneli for sharing your advice on how we can all be leaders of hope. Anneli has lots of fantastic resources for women in banking and finance on her website: https://www.anneliblundell.com.au/ 

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