One of my favorite movies is the Swedish Turist (Force Majeure). Without revealing too much, it is about a Swedish family with two kids who go on a ski holiday. In one of the opening scenes they are sitting together on a terrace having lunch when the father notices an avalanche slowly roaring down the mountain. First they think it is a controlled one, but within seconds it becomes clear that it is real. Everyone jumps up from their seats and panic breaks out. The father flees with the crowd, leaving his wife and two children behind. Eventually, the avalanche misses the restaurant, and people start slowly appearing from under the snow. The father, too, returns and without saying a word they continue having lunch as if nothing happened. From this moment on, the parents try to explore and digest what actually happened, with no success as the father’s immaturity and childishness prevents him from taking any responsibility and reflecting on his own behavior.
This movie represents what I experience during my coaching sessions on a daily basis. I can see many families with children but with only one adult. Usually it is the mother who behaves like an adult, and men are part of the family as grown-up kids. It is important to clarify that there is nothing wrong with being a child, “children are born to be princes and princesses, until their parents turn them into frogs” as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, Eric Bern put it. Being a child means:
1. I don’t recognize my own emotions, and I cannot express them (except for anger and occasional happiness).
2. I am not taking any family responsibilities besides supporting the family financially.
3. I cannot say ‘I’ve made a mistake I am sorry.’ Instead I come up with excuses and blame it on external factors or others
4. I expect my needs to be fully met all times and everyone should read my mind and figure out what I want and what bothers me without me telling them.
5. I never or hardly ever give positive feedback, but I give negative feedback quite often, accompanied by threatening outbursts.
6. I avoid conflicts at work and instead I explode at home.
7. In the unlikely event of expressing my feelings, they overwhelm me so much that I can’t understand what is happening with me.
I hope this sheds some light one why the idea of self-leadership and the so called OYS (Own Your Sh*t) skillset is so crucial to be a successful leader at work. I need to be able to be in charge of my emotions since emotions are the basis for motivations and what propels us to act in certain ways.
As Warren Buffet said” if you don’t have passion you don’t have energy, and without energy you have nothing.” I would add that without emotions you have no passion. So if you don’t own your emotions, if you can’t deal with them in an adult way, or if you believe you can come to work leaving them at home, then you are in for a surprise.
My suggestion is to turn the above-mentioned symptoms into positives:
1. Learn to recognize your own emotions, be it negative or positive, and learn to express them without hurting others.
2. Recognize that your family is a system and you need to assume more roles than just being the finance minister.
3. If you make a mistake, admit it, say ‘sorry’ and mean it. OYS.
4. Do not expect others to read your mind and figure out your unspoken needs. Say it when you need something without making others feel guilty.
5. Give balanced feedback.
6. Don’t avoid conflict, learn to deal with them in an adult-to-adult manner.
7. When you have difficult feelings, don’t try to avoid them. Accept that part of you is angry or sad. However, do not let that part fully overwhelm you. You are much more than this little part of you.
As a consultant and OD specialist I’m on an on-going mission to convince executives and HR leaders that people who can’t lead themselves won’t lead others effectively either. It seems that our education forgot to teach us emotional intelligence, self-reflection and effective ways of communicating our needs and feelings to others without hurting them. This is a void we should strive to fill in sooner than later, or else our future will be in the hands of sociopathic leaders whose emotional maturity is below that of the aforementioned frog.