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  • Pay attention to emotions

    30/03/2015 | Zaltbommel

    It’s still rare to talk about emotions at work. Anke Baak: “That’s too bad, because paying attention to emotions every once in a while, will restore confidence. That’s what every high performing team does.”
    Just like Team Brunel, our Schouten Global-team travels around the world to make sure that our ‘Leadership: the human factor’ seminars are splendidly organized at every stop-over. That remains exciting every time, because there is a lot at stake and expectations are high. Will everything  run smoothly and how will the audience respond this time?

    High performing?
    Our’ Team Brunel won the second leg at Abu Dhabi. That’s a great example of a high performing team. Then I was wondering about my own team: were we also high performing? By now the seminars are running very well. Every team member does what he/ she is supposed to do and collaborates very well, but it hasn’t always been like that. Our first seminar in Alicante was totally different. Besides the fact that we had to do everything for the first time there, we were also faced with a lot of technical setbacks like malfunctioning of the audio, logistic problems and a script that didn’t work out the way we expected. Murphy’s law seemed to apply everywhere, which lead to frustrations, reproach, emotional outbursts and not enough alignment in the team. The initial enthusiasm and productivity visibly diminished – not really what you would call a high performing team.

    Practice what you preach
    Of course these setbacks affected me as well. In stressful situations I usually tend to set my feelings aside, roll up my sleeves and start fixing things. Someone got upset about something I had done…. and I tended to ignore it. “Quit nagging, show some muscle and keep on going. Keep calm and carry on.” But in the meanwhile I  very well know that the best way to re-align a team in such a situation is to share their feelings. The reproaches and outbursts that occurred are predominantly stress-symptoms that emerge from concern and commitment. Actually they  come from the same common ambition: everybody wanted our seminar to be successful. People can become emotional when they are very committed and see that their goals might not be reached.

    So I admonished myself: “Practice what you preach. Hold your horses for a minute. Listen first, pay attention to the emotions and tell them that I’m sorry.” We consciously took the time for this. For a while we sat together to reflect and to ask how everyone was doing. At that moment emotions came out. It’s so important to express feelings and  recognize them. Instantly we felt the renewed energy releasing. The team got aligned again and after that we rolled up our sleeves and got started.





    Personal profile

    Anke Baak is director International Project and Business Development Manager at Schouten & Nelissen. She advises companies about business/organizational changes, management development, performance management and cultural changes. Furthermore, she helps management teams with collaboration issues. She’s also the co-writer of ‘Verbeteren van Teams’ and “Improving teams”, which is the special Volvo- edition of this book. Anke studied ‘Information science’ and ‘(Organizational) Sociology’.


    What I learned?Fotoverdiepingsartikel.JPGFotoverdiepingsartikel.JPG
    Sometimes becoming a high performing team isn’t about heroic persistence or winning a leg in a race, but it’s about overcoming yourself.
    To talk about emotions at work still remains difficult. People often think it’s too soft and unprofessional. But if you ignore emotions, they will keep on nagging. People get stuck in worries and start to abreact, like reproaching. By talking about it with each other, conception commences. You’ll have a better understanding about why the other one acts a certain way. The whole session took only twenty minutes and right after that everyone was motivated and productive again.

    What needs to be done first?
    During his presentation at our seminars, Tom Touber, COO of the Volvo Ocean Race, refers to the example of Team Delta Lloyd that got severely damaged at the race of 2009-2010. You might think that he, as a team manager, would give top priority to repairing the boat. No way! First thing he did was having breakfast together and let everyone talk about how they were doing, to restore the mutual atmosphere. His first priority was restoring confidence. The air needed to be cleared first. During the debriefing of Team Brunel, after the disappointing fifth place at the fourth and fifth leg,  this also was the first thing that was paid attention to.

    For more information about High Performing Teams,  Team coaching of collaboration skills, click here.

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