Much as we pretend superficially that it’s not the case, emotions are rarely far from the surface at work. The crucial difference is how – and to what extent – we express those emotions. This presents us with a minefield. Emotions are variables all by themselves, right? But wading through a bunch of them every working day is like trying to cross a whole swamp of variables, with traumatic explosions or a sinking feeling awaiting every misstep.
Over and over again, we are told that concealing emotions is the key to being professional – as if we were all able to calibrate our feelings along exactly the same baseline. But that’s an unrealistic view. No matter how much you try to control an organisation’s ‘culture’, it will still be comprised of people with a host of different temperaments and persuasions. All of which will come to light at some point, subtly influencing how colleagues interact with each other, and – just occasionally – sparking pockets of friction.
Mindful of the tight grip that emotions exert upon the workforce, Lumina Learning – the psychometrics experts behind Lumina Spark – have devised a new toolkit that will enable leaders and workers to understand each other’s inner lives more fully. Not with the aim of categorising and filing people away in pigeonholes, but of encouraging them to venture beyond their current set of emotional dynamics, so they can build bridges between themselves and their colleagues.
It’s called Lumina Emotion. Here’s how it works.
Spectrum of feelings
Regular readers of Inemmo’s blog may remember from this previous entry that Lumina Spark is based around the following diagram, or ‘mandala’, of various personality traits, from ‘Inspiration Driven’ at the top, all the way round to its neighbour ‘People Focused’ at the top left:
As you can see, the mandala takes the form of a colour wheel, with the colours shading or blending into each other. This conveys the notion that people shouldn’t feel confined to specific traits, but can segue out of them and explore other territory.
Lumina Emotion has a similar mandala – but this one is tagged with a series of emotional traits. From the top: Follows Feelings, Introspective, Expresses Emotions, Independent of Others, Focuses Feelings, Grounded, Contains Emotions and Regard for Others.
Essentially, the mandala comprises four pairings: traits that face each other directly across the mandala. So, for example, Regard for Others is paired with Independent of Others, and Contains Emotions is paired with Expresses Emotions.
That, though, is only about 50% of the Lumina Emotion spectrum. The rest of it emerges from a second mandala, featuring what Lumina’s behavioural experts call Emotional Reactors. As you can see, this new mandala is divided into two halves:
The grey, upper half contains the Reward Reactors: Confident, Optimistic, Resilient and Even-tempered – traits likely to be expressed by people who are drawn to the reward available in any particular scenario.
By contrast, the pink, lower half contains the Risk Reactors: Impassioned, Responsive, Vigilant and Modest – traits likely to be expressed by those who are sensitive – perhaps even excessively so – to the risks inherent in certain situations. These would often be the very same types of scenarios in which reward-drawn people tend to see opportunities.
It’s important to note, though, that Reward Reactors and Risk Reactors do not separate workers into capable and incapable people. As we shall see, each half of the mandala contains its fair share of potential benefits and pitfalls.
So, you may now be thinking – what do the two mandalas have to do with each other? The answer is: quite a lot. Remember what I said about those pairings that live on the first mandala? Well, for examples of what I mean, let’s take a look at how two particular pairings pan out on the Emotional Reactors register…
Regard for Others / Independent of Others
High on ‘Regard for Others’ scale + high in Risk Reactors May be less confident but place a high importance on seeking approval from others. Sensitive to risk or possibility of being judged negatively; more likely to acquiesce or comply with others’ demands. Broadly agreeable by nature, so could be a great peacekeeper – but may sometimes feel taken advantage of.
High on ‘Regard for Others’ scale + high in Reward Reactors More internally secure. Flexible, trusting and accepting of others – keen to seek harmony and points for collaboration. However, where their regard for others and reward reactors both peak, they may be too accepting of others, or give their trust too easily.
High on ‘Independent of Others’ scale + high in Risk Reactors Very self-critical – but also critical of others, too. Takes a lot to gain their trust – but the plus side of that is that they’re unwilling to let people take advantage of them, because they are alert to hidden agendas. Tend to set high standards.
High on ‘Independent of Others’ scale + high in Reward Reactors Confident, dominant – potentially strong negotiators. Compared to previous group, more likely to get on well with and trust others. However, can also become argumentative if they feel their needs have been infringed, and may be less concerned with how that reaction impacts upon others.
Contains Emotions / Expresses Emotions
High on ‘Contains Emotions’ scale + high in Risk Reactors Modest, generally cautious and apparently unassuming. Measured – averse to distractions and being rushed into decisions. Difficult to tell when they’re stressed, because they tend to keep it all inside, which may look like withdrawal. Don’t like being the centre of attention, or, being judged.
High on ‘Contains Emotions’ scale + high in Reward Reactors High inner confidence – but the way they express that confidence may be quite muted. May seem more modest than others because they don’t seek much attention or airtime. More likely to be observers or listeners in meetings. Under pressure, they can appear controlled and unflappable.
High on ‘Expresses Emotions’ scale + high in Risk Reactors Revolve around emotional highs and lows, and wear their hearts on their sleeves. Emotionally open books, because they take the plunge of expressing their feelings, showing other people what they’re going through.
High on Expresses Emotions scale + high in Reward Reactors Confident, assertive, energetic – these people like to have a rich and exciting life with lots of different plates spinning. Tend to be social butterflies with large networks, online and off. They focus more on the positive side of any scenario that’s happening around them.
Making emotional sense
That kind of analysis can continue all around the dial of the first mandala. And what does it demonstrate? Well, hopefully, that people are very complicated.
As you can see from the eight characters outlined above, they’re anything but easy stereotypes. In fact, in many ways, they’re quite conflicted – as we all are, in both our daily actions and moods, and at key moments when the limits of our energies are tested.
So, when you think that there are Risk and Reward ‘readings’ of all eight of the primary traits on the first mandala, you’re looking at 16 different emotional personas. If you imagine those personas as a kind of ‘scale’, then the purpose of Lumina Emotion is to help you understand where you may currently place on that scale. Not to keep you there – but to encourage you to more consciously monitor and re-evaluate your emotional reflexes.
You may decide that some of them are not working for you – in which case, Lumina Emotion can helpfully suggest other terrain you may want to explore in an effort to leave those unproductive responses behind.
Alternatively, you may discover that some are proving very effective indeed, but are not currently as prominent in either your everyday state or your pressurised self as you would like them to be. If that is so, then Lumina Emotion can suggest how to enhance those reflexes so you’re even more equipped to meet the various challenges of the workplace. As with Lumina Spark, this is done with the aid of colourful infographics contained in a Portrait of your emotional personality.
We all get very attached to our feelings, and the ways in which we feel. But the personality is a dynamic beast, and it is in our power to either tame it, or galvanise it to action. That is why Lumina Emotion is a powerful, new ally in the world of coaching.