Are you all head and no heart? - Michelle Gibbings

When I reflect on my corporate career there are a few leaders that stand out in helping to shape how I saw myself as a leader and my practice of being one. What I learned was that the best knew when to make ‘head’ based decisions, and when to think with their ‘heart’.

It’s very easy to make head-based decisions. There are lots of tools that exist to you help you do that. For example:

  • List the pros and cons
  • Consider cost/benefit ratios
  • Explore risk/reward trade-offs
  • Map a decision tree
  • Workshop the ideas
  • Generate options for debate, and then vote on them

‘Heart’ based decisions go beyond thinking with your head or relying on instinct. They challenge you to approach the decision differently by looking at the issue through multiple perspectives.

With a heart-based decision you ask yourself:

  • If I was courageous, what would I do?
  • If I put the needs of others before my own, what would I do?
  • If I put this decision through an ethical framework, would my decision change?
  • If I took a compassionate approach, what would I do?
  • If I respected the other person involved with (or impacted by) the decision would my actions change?
  • How will I feel about this decision in a month’s time, a year’s time, ten year’s time, and so on?
  • Will I be proud to share my involvement and part in this decision with the people I care about the most?

All of this means you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It can be uncomfortable to ask yourself those questions, and you’ll often need courage to then follow through on what that means in terms of what you do, and don’t do.

It helps to build in daily practices that provide the groundwork and environment in which it is easier to connect with the heart at work.

Here’s six ideas to consider:

1. Be prepared to self-reflect – so you are able to take the time to see how you are feeling, thinking and ultimately reacting to what is going on around you

2. Welcome all types of news – even news that is difficult to hear. Not only is your reaction a test of your character, it sets the standard for what happens in the future. If you shoot the messenger, next time an issue arises, you’re less likely to find people willing to alert you to it

3. Beware of gatekeepers – whilst your support staff will often be acting with good intent, if access to you is so heavily managed that it is impossible for people to see you, you will find it harder to build connections across the organisational hierarchy

4. Take the time to walk the floor – casually walking around the office and incidental conversations can often prove an invaluable way of finding out what is going on. It’s also a great way to build rapport and relationships with people

5. Don’t silence the dissenters – it is often the person with the dissenting opinion or the person who’s asking the probing questions who will help you see the issue from a different perspective. Having your perspective challenged is an important part of heart-based decision making

6. Build the emotional quotient – seek ways to build connections with your team and actively show you care and understand their needs

Adopting this approach requires courageous leadership, where you make heart-based decisions and head-based decisions in the best way, at the optimal time and for the right reasons.

The subsequent benefit is the positive impact on team engagement and motivation. Your team will recognise and appreciate your efforts to connect with them on an emotional level. They’ll know you have their backs. With that support in place, they’ll be more willing to innovate, learn and try to new things as they strive to secure progress.

They’ll also know that you won’t shy away from the tough decisions when they need to be made.

In the words of author, John C Maxwell, “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®

Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’.

For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact [email protected].


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