We are entering a new era of business. One that demands we question long-held assumptions about the nature of work.
Our insatiable desire to measure, automate and scale every inch of our experience, is causing a seismic shift it what matters. Radical changes are taking place within talent acquisition, customer & employee experience, innovation, marketing & employer branding. But the savvy, courageous few are embracing an emerging conversation.
Like it or not, believe it or not, the new era of business is as much about feeling as it is about thinking. As much about trusting as it is about testing. As much about emotion, intuition and instinct as it is about listening, learning & leveraging.
‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou
How your employees feel about themselves, about each other, about the work they do and the organisation as a whole, greatly impacts the quality, quantity and consistency of their output.
How your vendors, customers and competitors feel about your company continues to define the value, length and profitability of those relationships.
How the job market feels about your workplace will influence the calibre of talent waiting and wanting to work for you.
Heck, the way you feel about this article will determine whether you choose to gain any value from it.
Make no mistake, how your business feels is now just as important as what it does. And the organisations brave enough to explore this with enthusiasm and vigour will be leaders in tomorrow's economic climate.
But let’s be honest, to speak earnestly about feeling in most boardrooms today would leave us open to ridicule and regret. Despite our best intentions for a more human-centric workplace, one that allows, encourages and champions the entire spectrum of the human experience, we’re not all there just yet.
So how do we navigate such a delicate & dangerous conversation?
Perhaps one reason we dismiss talking about ‘feeling’ is we are yet to find a language that sufficiently contains it. We don't have effective enough words to frame the value and relevance of feeling. When discussing the ‘vibe’ of our latest offering or the ‘feel’ of the next leadership offsite, we can so easily wind up sounding fluffy and esoteric, lightweight and inconsequential.
Inevitably we're asked for proof. Our people require us to find data, we're told that the business will need to see a clear ROI if the company is to direct any funds into anything of this nature.
And those concerns are legitimate because feeling is unpredictable. It’s flakey, inconsistent and idiosyncratic. It won’t fit within a formula, rarely submits to a system and is heavily influenced by factors outside our control.
Feeling is hard to work with, but work with it we must.
Because despite the perks, the pay packet or the positive rhetoric, our people stay, work harder & smarter when they feel something. Our customers stay longer, engage deeper and share louder when they feel something.
And I don't necessarily mean feeling something good. I'm talking about feeling something real. Something deep, emotive, visceral, meaningful. Something that stirs your soul, that speaks to your spirit, that rips you, your colleagues or clients out of the numb, default, predictable way of being, and demands you feel...anything.
But what does the feel of an organisation even mean? Where do we start if we want to accentuate it? And how on earth do we begin a conversation about the feel of our business without alarming or alienating our colleagues or clients?
Given the nature of this conversation, it feels cheap, ironic and hypocritical to distill the dynamic realm of emotion into a formulaic template for success. But I will say this…
1. Begin with how you feel.
Allow yourself to lean into your experience. Listen with your body and try to trust your gut. No one else has to know. It’s between you and yourself. But give yourself permission to go there. To play with it in your heart and mind. To fully experience what is emerging within you, in the conversation or in the atmosphere around it.
To be truly effective in the future of work, we must rebuild the dialogue between our thoughts and our feelings. They need to work in tandem, shift workers, high-fiving when they tap each other in. Imagine the possibilities for your career, team or business if you could draw on the entirety of your human experience. Dropping in and out of thinking and feeling when it serves.
2. Capture how you feel.
Take notes in a private moleskin. Draw pictures in the margin. Scribble on draft copies and leave hidden comments on google docs. Getting it out of your body makes it real. Playing with language and colour and shapes will help you form more concrete reasons as to why you or why it feels a certain way.
This will enable you to better articulate how you feel to others. Widening the palette of language you can use to illuminate specific feelings, gives you a far batter chance of having it be understood by your colleagues or clients.
3. Seek to know how others feel.
Listen to the language of those around you. Look for what articles your colleagues are liking on LinkedIn. Read between the lines of customer reviews. What are they not saying? What are they hinting at? What are they hoping you’ll feel too but struggle to find the frame for it.
Then ask them how they feel about it. Speaking to, acknowledging and celebrating how others feel, legitimises their experience. It gives them permission to trust their instinct, to follow their own flavour. It invites participation in the whole spectrum of our experience and cultivates a broader, more inclusive and diverse conversation.
The world was flat once.
People always laugh at those who dance with the unknown. So we might not currently have an acceptable, agreeable or manageable way to measure, articulate or scale the ‘feel’ of a team, an event or an organisation. But it doesn’t mean it’s not already impacting you.
I’m reminded of the Joseph Heller quote ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.’
Just because you can’t measure it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
Now more than ever is the time to risk what they might think on how it feels.
So how do you feel about that?
***Author note: I intentionally left out any case studies, statistics or stories that would give weight to my argument. How does that make you feel? ***