Emotional agility – and how we should let our values guide us

And just in case you’d forgotten, here are our Smartmatic values

November 06, 2013

Emotional agility – and how we should let our values guide us

Staff Stories

By Hayes Thompson

Have you heard of emotional agility? It’s the ability to free yourself from patterns of negative thoughts and feelings and move forward positively towards your goals. 
According to Susan David and Christina Congleton in the Harvard Business Review magazine:

“Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we call emotional agility.” 

It reminds me of some research we learned about in our leadership training in Amsterdam – research that shows that the more we try to deny certain feelings – the more they’ll come back to bite us.

In a way, we have to embrace our thoughts and feelings – however negative. We shouldn’t try to supress or control them. We should experience them, perhaps inside ourselves, and then use their power to channel positive action.  

David and Congleton continue:
“In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.”
 The authors go on to suggest four practices taken from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) designed to help us build this skill; build emotional agility.

Recognise your patterns  
As with any type of change of behaviour, the first step is awareness. You have to realise you’ve become hooked by your own thoughts and feelings.

It’s difficult, not impossible, say David and Congleton. Look for repetitive thoughts and feelings. Those things you always say to yourself when you doubt yourself, perhaps, that you’re not good enough, that you can’t do it.

Label your thoughts and emotions 
Labelling helps you look objectively at thoughts and feelings that can be all-encompassing. Simply saying you’re having the thought instead of having the thought helps you distance yourself and see negative ideas as temporary sources of unhelpful data. You might already know this as ‘taking a helicopter view’. Look down on your thoughts from above, as they float by like clouds. 

Accept them  
I’m going to quote from David and Congleton verbatim here because it’s so good: “The opposite of control is acceptance—not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. Take 10 deep breaths and notice what’s happening in the moment. This can bring relief, but it won’t necessarily make you feel good. In fact, you may realize just how upset you really are. The important thing is to show yourself (and others) some compassion and examine the reality of the situation. What’s going on—both internally and externally?”

Act on your values 
When you detach yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you can decide to act in a way in line with your values.

This is really what made me want to share this piece here – because at Smartmatic we have such strong, clear values.

So next time you face a challenge, call on these values to help you respond in a workable fashion – in a way that will serve you and the company in the long-term; in a way that will steer others towards a common goal. 

And just in case you’d forgotten, here are our Smartmatic values:

•    We commit to honesty and truth at all times.
•    We base our dealings with others on mutual respect and trust.
•    We show appropriate behavior and performance as an example for others.
•    We act and behave in accordance with what we say.

•    We challenge the status quo and search for continued changes.
•    We propose state of the art ideas.
•    We uphold new initiatives in our work.
•    We encourage others to be creative and innovative.
•  We are flexible in the presence of challenging situations, leading us to efficient and creative solutions.

•    We are able to communicate frankly.
•    We say what we think and have others understand our objectives.
•    We are open to change and to adopt new attitudes from our learning and feedback.
•    We create an environment where everyone can learn from mistakes.
•    We offer and seek for training as well as informal feedback at all levels to improve performance.

•    We deliver results as agreed.
•    We perform our tasks diligently and with quality.
•    We simplify systems and processes to eliminate unnecessary workload.
•    We deliver excellent quality results without mistakes.

•    We support and implement decisions.
•   We are completely committed, i.e. we are morally obliged to reaching the company's objectives (we work hard to achieve what is "almost impossible").
•   We follow through objectives with determination. We do not give up, much less when facing adversity.
•    We encourage professional and personal betterment and development.
•    We overcome barriers to achieve our objectives.

•    We understand the organization's business objectives and translate them into specific principles.
•    We balance daily activities focused on our future.
•    We align objectives, goals and resources to the needs of the business
•  We anticipate and eliminate potential problems that may arise, and implement contingency measures when necessary.
•    We understand the priorities and work of our colleagues.   
•    We track progress and adopt plans according to the circumstances.

•    We share information without a problem.
•    We anticipate and promote conflict resolution.
•    We listen carefully and accept answers.
•    We genuinely care for others and show sympathy.
•    We encourage people to work together.
•    We promote a sense of belonging to the organization.

By the way, these values don’t just help guide our response to challenging situations. They also help guide the way we sound in our business communications – our tone of voice – but that’s another blog post.