Emotions, Are They Running Your Business?: Local Business Owners Can Struggle To Understand How Their Emotions Affect Their Decisions
Emotions play a big part in our business lives - whether we recognise it or not. For the self-employed and the small business owner this is even more important as the success or failure of your business rests entirely with you - and therefore also with your emotions.
So we need to not only recognise the fact but also work out how to deal with the consequences - especially when we worry about things going against us.
The stress created by the multiple challenges of running a business are bound to have an impact on our emotions - which are pretty much an instantaneous response by our bodies to whatever is happening to us.
So they’re going to affect your quality of life - and your decision making. So perhaps we should be making an effort to understand them better.
Business is a pretty regulated place. We work to make it that way by planning for every conceivable outcome - and we usually find ourselves in a business environment as a result of some sort of premeditated thought process:
- A planned purchase or maybe an inherited family business or;
- As the results of a well thought out business plan and start-up launch or;
- But there's always the spur of the moment decision that seemed like a bright idea at the time!
But planning only goes so far. The military know from long experience that a plan never survives first contact with the enemy.
Because once someone else is involved - together with their ideas of what the world should look like - then there are simply more variables involved to help make things go wrong.
Add multiple business competitors into the mix together with your customers, the government both local and central and you begin to get some idea of the problem.
Your spreadsheet doesn’t fight back; your laptop might not argue about quality control. But every item line on your business plan spreadsheet has the potential to cause problems for you.
The minute you launch your grand vision is the moment when things start to go wrong, or as Barry Gibbons puts it in his book with the title: "If You Want To Make God Really Laugh Show Him Your Business Plan".
The Impact of Emotions
And before we know where we are we are at risk of being overwhelmed by a tide of changes that have to be managed, decisions that have to be made and the famous Donald Rumsfeld conundrum about the things you know you don’t know (which are manageable) and those that you don’t know you don’t know (they’re the hardest ones to deal with).
And you’re going to react to it all. Not just you in your intellectual brain that you have some hope of controlling but also your body - in ways you cannot control. Adrenaline, fear, stress.
They will range from good feelings of satisfaction for the problems you have cracked to the fear and stress caused by those that you don’t yet have a solution for.
Back to Basics
Suddenly you're dealing with multiple problems and possibly with a mounting tide of difficulties that threaten to overwhelm you. Your stress levels are rising.
When confronted with a difficult situation it is always a good idea to go back to basics to find a way of dealing with it. In this case, all the medical specialists tell us that at the most basic, human level we are always driven by the 'Fight or Flight' decision.
Choose Your Battles: Fight or Flight?
Is choosing whether we stand our ground and fight when we believe we have a good chance to win and we flee when we decide there is a high probability of failure.
Even lions are known to back away from contact and possible conflict with a bigger pride. Studies show that the dramatic roaring in the night is actually lions counting the size of an opposing pride - not so stupid, huh?
The fight or flight response in humans is now recognised as the first stage of a longer stress response process in our bodies that occurs when we perceive a threat. And the problems that occur in our businesses are threats to the continued survival of our business - which by association are threats to us personally.
Indeed, whether you’re a start-up entrepreneur or a long established family business owner a threat to the business can be a very real threat to your personal life. To your health, your income, your assets, your reputation and even to the security of your partner and family.
Managing Your Emotions
So now you’re under pressure - is it to be fight or flight?
You don’t really have a choice in this because to flee, to avoid addressing the problem whatever it might be, is to abandon any hope of running your business successfully.
It was Sir Francis Bacon who was first attributed with saying: “Knowledge is power” - and it is the knowledge that the emotions that emerge from the stress of your business are not some ephemeral thing that cannot be pinned down but actually have a physical origin that gives you the power to manage your response to this situation.
Watch Joshua Freedman of 6Seconds.org explain that your emotions arise physically within the body - and they affect every cell in your body.
Automatically, instantaneously and constantly.
They affect the way that we think and the way that we act. They also communicate with other people around us - as the emotions of other people do with us. Again; automatically, instantaneously and constantly.
So that flush of embarrassment when we discover we’ve put our foot where it does not belong or that painful rush of pins and needles of adrenaline that floods through us when we have some near brush with danger - they all originate physically within us.
Yes, it's these guys:
And knowledge is the first step towards understanding that this is something we can manage and understand and by understanding it can even channel - even though we may not be able to control it.
Emotional Intelligence, a term coined by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer in 1990 and popularised by Daniel Goleman's bestselling book also enables us to understand better what is happening both to ourselves and to our interactions with others.
The image below probably explains it better than the description.
And are you aware of how other people are responding to you?
Some of us in business get a ‘buzz’ out of the battle, the wins and even the losses. Some manage to tolerate the stress and hold it at bay while others sadly go under.
It’s long been recognised that the ability to influence the actions of others is what marks out the most successful business people. Read Dale Carnegie's: "How To Make Friends and Influence People" if you doubt this.
But before we can influence others we must be aware of ourselves, the influences acting upon us and how we are reacting to them.
The social awareness, how we can influence others, is informed by our self awareness, how we are conscious of our own behaviour, which is informed by our own emotions.
And finally, there's grit, a less well understood personality trait also often described as resilience which appears to be a defining characteristic of successful people. The most interesting aspect of it as explained by Angela Duckworth in her Ted Talk on Grit is that the definition of grit as being 'passion and perseverance in pursuit of a long term goal' appears to be far more important in success than 'being smart'.
The brain constantly learns - even from failure. So failing, with a task, a project, or even a complete business failure is not, in itself, a bad thing.
More importantly, it is knowing this fact, just the same as knowing about the physical origin of your emotions and about the interaction of people depending on your emotional intelligence that encourages your brain to learn at every step.
Whether it is success or failure your brain is learning all the time. Know this and persevere. It is the knowing that is the most powerful ingredient.
Being aware that we are going to react physically, whether we like it or not, to the emotional strains put upon us in our business and that our behaviour then follows some well mapped out paths either good, bad or indifferent is the knowledge that we need to be able to cope with the situation.
Knowing that even when we fail we are learning encourages us to continue - even when we think we are struggling.
Being able to identify the biggest, most dangerous problems. Working out how to deal with them and both understanding and believing that it is possible is the necessary first step in keeping your business on track when being buffeted by everything the world can throw at you.