This week I gave a workshop called “Your Emotional Business Plan” to a group of up-and-coming women entrepreneurs. We discussed how traditional business plans ignore emotions. They include elements like market strategies, competitive analysis, operations, management and finances. And yet, the emotional aspects of business can be just as essential to success as any of those factors.
In the book The Start-up of You, LinkedIn founders Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha suggest that in today’s economy “everyone is a small business” and we can all take an entrepreneurial approach to managing our careers.
So, whether you work for yourself, a major corporation or a non-profit, you need a plan to manage the emotional ups-and-downs that come with every career. An emotional business plan is a written document that will improve your emotional self-awareness and self-management by articulating the emotions that are holding you back and making plans to increase courage and resilience so that your career can flourish.
Here are five reasons why you should write an emotional business plan.
1. Fear of failure is holding you back. Fear of failure keeps us from starting a business, growing a business, and entering untested markets. In more traditional jobs, fear of failure keeps us stuck in that “dead-end” job we’ve been doing for years. With an emotional business plan, you will identify the reasons underneath your fear of failure and articulate steps you can take to be more courageous.
2. You secretly feel like a fraud. Don’t we all feel like a fraud at one time or another? Also known as “imposter syndrome,” when we feel like an imposter or fraud, we devalue our own expertise and the unique contributions. It’s often difficult for us to speak clearly and specifically about our value – and put a monetary amount on it – because we have been raised to be humble and not brag. Writing an emotional business plan will help you articulate your worth, for yourself and your clients.
3. Ignoring your emotions doesn't work. Successful entrepreneur Chip Conley’s book Emotional Equations reminds us that, “one of the simple truths about life is that the more we ignore our emotions, the more likely they are to wield a powerful influence over us.” If you are harboring emotions but ignoring them – say pretending like you are not scared to send the draft of your book to a publisher – than those emotions will take an even greater control over you. Surfacing these feelings in your emotional business plan gives them less power.
4. Bad is stronger than good. In all realms of life, negative events have a stronger sway on our overall mood than positive ones. For example, people are more upset about losing $50 than they are happy about winning $50. And the effect of the negative event tends to stick with us longer than the effect of the positive event. To counteract this, your emotional business plan should include elements about how you are going to cope with foreseeable negative events as well as strategies for enhancing the positive experiences and giving them more weight and sway over your mood.
5. Your customers/clients make their decisions based on emotions. When we pretend that emotions are not a part of business, we are overlooking a crucial element: most people make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Your emotional business plan is not just about you, it’s also about the emotional needs of your clients and how your services or products are going to meet their needs. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or employed by a multi-billion dollar corporation, your business will be more successful when you tap into your customer’s emotional sweet spot.
Remember the first Foresight Blog posting, when I invited you to join me for big ideas in small bites? Last week’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology was an overflowing buffet of big ideas about how to live our lives with more meaning and fulfillment. Since the conference, friends and colleagues have been asking me for a summary of the highlights and new research findings. While I can’t possibly fit all the big, juicy bites into one blog posting, below I summarize three talks that most inspired me. For those of you who live in Los Angeles, later this summer I’ll be giving a free workshop about how positive psychology can help your business flourish. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive more details about this event.
As with any good conference, the kick-off keynote presentation was a thought-provoking speech by one of the founders of the field, Martin Seligman. His talk was about prospection, which he defined as mental representations of the future, and he challenged the audience to think creatively about the positive benefits of envisioning the future. He suggested that past-based thinking tends to be negative, the present is fleeting, and the future is the home of hope and meaning. Because of our ability to hold a positive future outcome in our minds, we sacrifice happiness in the moment to achieve meaning in the future.
Another inspiring speaker was Chip Conley, founder of one of the most successful boutique hotel firms in the country, who used positive psychology to generate optimal experiences for hotel guests and employees. He said that companies have gotten smarter about their environmental footprint, and now is the time to get smarter about their “emotional fist print.” Conley argued that toxic work environments create emotional fallout in all aspects of life and the leader’s job is to manage the emotional pulse of the organization.
A theme across many sessions that I attended was the importance of relationships in every aspect of life. As a big fan of storytelling, I opted to attend the talk by Hollywood movie producer Lindsay Doran who spoke passionately about how the great movies that we think are about accomplishment (Rocky, Dirty Dancing, The King’s Speech) are actually about how the relationships in our lives are transformed during our pursuit of accomplishments. In other words, the accomplishment that movie audiences most care about is the ability of our relationships to survive and thrive in spite of our struggles.
What does all of this mean for our day-to-day lives at home and at work? My best takeaway is: if we want to feel meaning and fulfillment in future, cultivate positive relationships and positive emotional experiences in the present. What’s your takeaway?
An earlier Foresight Blog posting introduced the idea of imagined conversations that we have in our minds with people from our real-life, including our coworkers. During these imagined conversations, we are talking with our boss, peers or subordinates about all sorts of topics related to actual situations at work.
Many people have asked me whether work-related imagined conversations are helpful or harmful. My response: it isn’t that clear cut. Having conducted research on the topic and talked with many clients about their actual imagined conversations, my conclusion is that they can be helpful or harmful depending on the situation.
For example, in my research the majority of the people said that they felt negative emotions during their work-related imagined conversations. But, importantly, a sizable portion experienced mostly positive emotions (21%) or a mixture of positive and negative emotions (18%). In order to shed more light on the positive aspects of imagined conversations, I took a closer look at the stories told by the people who experienced positive emotions.
In June I presented the results of this data analysis at the 3rd International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) World Congress. The findings suggests that we may be able to do our jobs better when we imagine conversations with our coworkers. People can flourish at work by invoking imagined conversations that feel emotionally positive, nurture relationships, and support accomplishment of one’s job.
Specifically, the people who mentally rehearsed work-related conversations in advance of a difficult conversation reported that they developed more conversational options, were more prepared, and had a sense of greater competence to perform their job. Imagined conversations helped them feel more confident, focused, thoughtful, organized, effective, and able to achieve desired outcomes. Through imagined conversations they became more in touch with their thoughts and assumptions about their coworkers, increasing their ability to sensitively communicate.
Ultimately, the goal is to have effective, productive workplace relationships and imagined conversations are one technique that can help people accomplish this.
Can you remember a positive work-related imagined conversation, or a time when you felt you accomplished your job better by mentally rehearsing a conversation? I invite you to share your story in the comments section.
Many of us who took an Intro Psych course in college probably remember learning things like diagnosing mental disorders and the controversies around anti-depressant medications. Thinking about that class, you might wonder “where is the positive in psychology?”
That’s the exact kind of question which started the positive psychology movement in the 1990s, when some leading psychologists decided to make a conscious shift in the field away from the negative aspects of our psyche and toward the positive. One of the founders of the positive psychology movement defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Positive psychologists believe that we can improve well-being and goal-achievement by focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad.
As a coach, one of the things that attracted me to positive psychology is its grounding in research evidence that shows us how we can be most successful and satisfied in our life’s pursuits. Some people confuse positive psychology with the self-help movement or trends like affirmations. That’s not what my coaching practice is about. Coaching using the science of positive psychology involves understanding the research findings about how people thrive in their given endeavors, and applying those findings in meaningful ways in our lives.
For example, substantial psychological research shows that one of the most powerful predictors of long-term happiness is high-quality, supportive relationships. The relationships we have with our friends, family members, significant other and our coworkers all matter. This is one of the reasons that my own research has examined workplace relationship management as an important factor in our ability to accomplish our job. Next week I will be presenting this research at the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology taking place here in Los Angeles.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Foresight Blog, where I’ll give you a sneak peak at what I’ll be presenting and how it relates to coaching using positive psychology.
In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about positive psychology, below are links to some of the most influential books in the field:
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Stumbling on Happiness
The Myths of Happiness