Helping leaders emerge



Seven New Rules About Emotions at Work

This month, I’m writing about Seven New Rules About Emotions at Work. You might notice that I underlined the word “new”! When I attended Chicago Booth business school from 1990 to 1992, we were taught to keep emotions out of the workplace. Interestingly, I now work as a leadership coach in the Wharton MBA program, where students are not only evaluated on their ability to manage their own emotions but also on their ability to read and manage the emotions of others. What a shift!

The following seven rules on how to manage emotions in the workplace for improved outcomes and reduced burnout are derived from two co-authored books by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy: “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work” and “Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay.”

Seven New Rules About Emotions at Work:

1. Be Less Passionate About Your Job: This doesn’t imply having a job that you don’t like or disengaging at work. Instead, it means prioritizing your mental and physical well-being over your job. It’s about finding balance and dedicating time and energy to activities outside of work that bring you joy and purpose. This way, you can come to work refreshed and enthusiastic, rather than feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.

2. Inspire Yourself: This is about autonomy and focusing on what you can control and find meaningful to maintain motivation at work. For leaders, it means establishing clear objectives for your team members and direct reports instead of insisting on strict processes to enhance your colleague’s engagement and motivation. Additionally, it involves connecting with aspects of your job that you find meaningful, interesting, and enjoyable to cultivate a deeper sense of purpose. If you’re in a toxic work environment and this situation persists for an extended period, it can be challenging to find meaning, and it may be time to explore other opportunities.

3. Emotion is Part of the Equation: By being aware of and acknowledging your feelings, you can make better decisions. This involves processing and regulating your emotions (or temporarily setting them aside) so that they don’t negatively impact your actions and interactions.

4. Psychological Safety First: This is when everyone in the group feels they can suggest ideas, admit mistakes, and take risks without fear of embarrassment or punishment. One suggestion is for leaders and their teams to set aside time during meetings to discuss challenges and what’s not going well. Another idea is for managers to share their own vulnerability, mistakes, and lessons learned with their teams.

5. Your Feelings Aren’t Facts: Our feelings, reactions, judgments, and conclusions are often based on false assumptions. Make sure to give yourself enough space and time to check your assumptions and interpretations before responding.

6. Emotional Culture Cascades from You: Emotions have a way of spreading, even among people who don’t know each other. Consequently, we all share the responsibility of being mindful of and regulating our own emotions.

7. Be Selectively Vulnerable: To maintain professionalism and enhance effectiveness, it’s crucial for everyone to carefully choose the emotions they reveal and the people with whom they share them. Leaders, in particular, bear the responsibility of thoughtfully selecting the emotions they convey to their teams and providing a positive direction to keep colleagues motivated and engaged.

When it comes to emotions at work and in life, I found it fascinating to learn that women are biologically wired to shed more tears than men. Under a microscope, cells from women’s tear glands exhibit distinct differences from those of men – women have shallower tear ducts, which is why women tend to cry more easily than men. Understanding this biological difference can help us create a more inclusive work environment where emotions are recognized as a natural part of human expression. This in turn, contributes to building a more supportive workplace culture that benefits men and women.

A Deeper Dive Into Emotions at Work

  • Click here to learn more about the book “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work” co-authored by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.
  • Click here to learn more about the book”Big Feelings: How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay” co-authored by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.
  • Click here to listen to How to Handle Your Emotions at Work | Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (90 minutes).

Why A.W.E. Matters and How to Access It!

This month I’m recommending a simple technique called the A.W.E. method because it’s easy to do, research-based, and supports having a clearer mind and calmer nervous system. And given how chaotic and stressful everyday life can be, the A.W.E. tool is a great resource for improved overall health and well-being!

Research suggests A.W.E. Method:

  • Encourages curiosity
  • Inspires energy, especially when experienced in nature
  • Quiets the mind’s “monkey chatter”
  • Calms the nervous system
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Makes you more open-minded and less rigid in your thinking
  • Leaves you feeling more present and patient
  • Leads you to be more friendly, humble, and connected to others
  • Improves life satisfaction
  • Makes you less materialistic and more generous
  • Increases spirituality as you experience being part of something larger than the self
  • Diminishes your sense of self so that you are less self-absorbed

The A.W.E. method is based on research by Jake Eagle and Dr. Michael Amster and described in their book, The Power of AWE: Overcome Burnout & Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity & Purpose – In Less than 1 Minute Per Day.

This simple three-step A.W.E. practice takes 10 to 20 seconds per cycle (what the authors call a microdose) and offers an immediate reward. The good news is that the more you practice A.W.E., the more benefits you derive. And what I love about the technique is that you don’t need to go anywhere special to access A.W.E. because this positive emotion can be found in everyday ordinary moments throughout your day – at home, at work, on a walk around the block, or even in line at the grocery store. And in order to receive the full benefits, the authors recommend practicing the A.W.E. method three times during your day.

The A.W.E. Method: How to Practice!

  • A: Attention means placing your full attention on something that you appreciate, value, or find amazing. For example, it could be focusing on an object (flowers are my favorite!), a joyful memory, or a sweet moment with a friend, child, or pet.
  • W: Wait means slowing down, taking a deep inhalation, and amplifying the amount of attention you’re placing on whatever you’ve decided to appreciate, value, or find amazing.
  • E: Exhale means making a slightly longer exhalation than normal. This step activates the rest and digest (parasympathetic) system so that you feel more relaxed and at ease. The end result is feeling more present, clear, and emotionally regulated.

A Deeper Dive Into A.W.E.

Cultivating Presence in a Radically Fresh Way

I hope this finds you well and that you are taking time to enjoy summer in whatever way has meaning for you! This month, I want to share two things: 1) a meditation to help cultivate presence and 2) a four-part work series that addresses important topics including mental health, imposter syndrome, jerks, and mindfulness at work.

For the first part, I want to discuss a skill that many clients are working on called executive presence. This type of presence is about showing up confident, clear-minded, calm, and grounded – especially in complex, politically charged environments. And while presence is a crucial skill in the workplace, it is also an important personal leadership life skill because cultivating a clear-minded, calm, and grounded presence helps us show up better for our families and communities.

While I appreciate that meditation is not for everyone, I believe it is one of the most effective and efficient ways to self-manage and regulate emotions … based on research, and client and personal experiences.

Norman Fischer beautifully captures this by saying, “We’re stepping back from our calculating, intelligent, controlling mind to a more receptive and intuitive space. We’re developing another kind of presence, another kind of skill to be able to stand within our experience differently. And the foundation is this ability even in a moment of time to step back into the body and the breathing.”

This process involves:

  • Shifting your posture so that you show up with strength, stability, and a brighter energy.
  • Becoming aware of your internal experience, including emotions, body sensations, and thinking mind.
  • Using the breath as an anchor and a way to give the thinking mind a rest.
  • Using awareness of breath and body sensations to support showing up clear-minded,
  • calm, and grounded in complex external environments.
  • Becoming aware of and freeing up personal biases and past experiences so that you can approach each situation, especially challenging ones, with a clear mind.

If you want to learn more about meditation and want to try the practice of meditation, click here to listen to Norman Fischer’s guided meditation on “Presence,” a client favorite (13 minutes).

I would like to share another useful resource: The Four-Part Work Life Series featured on the Ten Percent Happier podcast.

  • Click here to listen to Scott Galloway on: The Impact of Work on Mental Health, the Role of Luck in Success, and How Much is Enough on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (50 minutes).

Galloway is a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, a serial entrepreneur, founder of nine companies, including Profit, Red Envelope, and Section Four, has served on the boards of directors of the New York Times Company, Urban Outfitters, and Panera Bread. And best-selling author of many books, including, The Algebra of Happiness, Post Corona, and his latest book, which is called Adrift: America in 100 Charts.

Key discussion topics in this podcast include:

      • Why work is such a big factor in determining our mental health.
      • Where Galloway stands on the idea of “bringing your whole self to work.”
      • How to get over being fired.
      • Plus, lots more!
  • Click here to listen to Do You Feel Like an Imposter? | Dr. Valerie Young (Co-Interviewed by Dan’s Wife, Bianca!) on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (65 minutes).

Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally recognized expert on imposter syndrome, the co-founder of the Imposter Syndrome Institute, and author of the book titled, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.

Key discussion topics in this podcast include:

      • Three things that define imposter syndrome.
      • That imposter syndrome is not just for women — men deal with it, too, as do many other people along the gender spectrum.
      • What it means to shift from imposter thinking to thinking like “a humble realist.”
      • Three tools for dealing with imposter feelings.
      • Plus, lots more!
  • Click here to listen to Jerks at Work | Amy Gallo on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (71 minutes).

Amy Gallo is a workplace expert who writes and speaks about interpersonal dynamics, difficult conversations, feedback, gender, and effective communication. Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review and the author of a new book, Getting Along, How to Work with Anyone, Even Difficult People. She has also written The Harvard Business Review Guide to Dealing With Conflict, and she co-hosts the Women at Work podcast.

Key discussion topics in this podcast include:

      • Why quality interactions at work are so important for our professional success and personal mental health.
      • Why Gallo believes one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to dealing with difficult people in the workplace.
      • A taxonomy of the eight different flavors of difficult coworkers, including the pessimist, the victim, the know-it-all, and the insecure boss – with tactics for managing each.
      • Plus, lots more!
  • Click here to listen to Does Mindfulness Actually Make You Happier (or Better) at Work | Prof. Lindsey Cameron on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris (55 minutes).

Professor Lindsey Cameron is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management. Her research focuses on mindfulness, as well as the future of work. She has a 20-year practice, having studied and taught primarily in the Vipassana and non-dual traditions. In her prior career, Professor Cameron spent over a decade in the US intelligence and diplomatic communities serving the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

Key discussion topics in this podcast include:

      • Where she stands on the whole “McMindfulness” debate.
      • What companies mean when they talk about mindfulness at work.
      • Which specific practices are most beneficial, depending on the situation.
      • Plus, lots more!

This Month’s Thoughts ….

I came across this short yet meaningful passage by Pema Chödrön and it captured, at least for me, what we all need to keep in mind to show up for ourselves and each other with joy, compassion, kindness, humility, and a sense of humor.

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.

On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.

Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

Showing up with Executive Leadership Presence

Many of the executive clients I coach are working on ways to show up with a strong executive leadership presence. And while each leader has their own unique challenge around showing up with executive leadership presence, it’s mostly about managing the intensity and drama of the situation and bringing a sense of optimism and stability to their teams and colleagues.

So this month I’m sharing practices to meditate, pray, or journal on to help with establishing executive leadership presence and showing up confident, calm, compassionate, decisive, and joyful. Feel free to use or adapt with your own phrases.

May I Live My Life with Trust
May I love (and be with) myself just as I am.
May I sense my worthiness and well-being – my basic okay-ness, my basic goodness.
May I trust life (it’s not all up to me), the path, and mostly myself. It’s going to work out until it doesn’t.
May I hold my pain and suffering (my sadness, worry, fear, anxiety, anger, doubt, existential angst) of all beings, including myself, with gentleness, compassion, and loving-kindness. 

Meditation for Dealing with Difficult Individuals/Situations and Maintaining Equanimity
May I meet the ignorance and self-centered behaviors of others with acceptance, spacious awareness, unconditional friendliness, boundaries, and a good sense of humor.  
It’s not personal how others behave. Their well-being and happiness are their business and depend on their own intentions & actions (twisted karma). It’s not up to me to change, transform, or fix others.
May I hold the pain and suffering of all beings, including myself, with equanimity and compassion, so that I may be “okay” with whatever arises. An unwavering, unconditional friendliness toward self.

Meditation on Joy
May I remember that life is precious.
May I use this day well and live with nobility and dignity.
May I be easily contented and joyful.
May I enjoy the simple pleasures of being alive.
May I show up with a spirit of lightness, joy, confidence, generosity, and a sense of humor




12 Ted Lasso Leadership Lessons

This month I’m sharing the 12 Ted Lasso Leadership Lessons That Will Transform Your Workplace that my dear (and very smart!) friend Debra found on LinkedIn and shared with me!

As you probably know, watching Ted Lasso (on Apple TV) is a fun way to learn more about being an effective leader in your family, community, or work situation. Ted consistently shows up with humor, humility, vulnerability, unconditional love, and compassion – and by doing so, wins others over and brings out their best.

What a refreshing change from people in charge being more obsessed with status, power, control, politics, and what is best for oneself than what is best for others and their organizations.

And I can’t wait to see if Ted converts Nate to being a lover (from a hater) … four more episodes to go, so stay tuned!

Ted Lasso’s 12 Leadership Lessons

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Doing the right thing is never the wrong thing
  3. All people are different people
  4. See the good in others
  5. Courage is about being willing to try
  6. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness
  7. Tell the truth
  8. Winning is an attitude
  9. Optimists do more
  10. Stay teachable
  11. Be a Goldfish – If you do something wrong do not let it define you. Forget it – like a goldfish – within 10 seconds.
  12. Happiness is a choice

Effective Leadership: Show Up as Your Best Self When Dealing with Difficult People

For the world to be better,
people are going to have to be better.
I have to be better. 
You have to be better.
We have to be as good as we can be, and 
encourage everyone around us to be better, and
work to make the world as good as we can during this brief life.
– Norman Fischer, Everyday Zen podcast 6/9/22

Recently, client leaders have been complaining about colleagues who are behaving in unacceptable ways … peers talking behind colleagues’ backs, colleagues being more concerned about personal agendas than doing the right thing by teammates and the company, and partners not following through on their commitments.

Let’s face it, people can be difficult. While we need others, often nothing is more troublesome than managing and getting along with others. Conflict is not the exception in human relations, it’s the rule. And unfortunately, that’s never going to change. We can’t fix, transform, or change others. The best we can hope for is by showing up as our best; we can inspire others to do the same.

As a leader, it comes down to taking time to reflect and having effective practices, so you show up as your best self – someone who is present, grounded, and compassionate – when dealing with difficult people – and hopefully elevate others.

When facing difficulties, the effective leader asks:

  • How can I best face this difficult situation?
  • What practices will keep me more present, grounded, and compassionate in this situation?
  • Where should I put my energy?
  • How might I avoid unnecessary drama?
  • What do I have control over to improve the situation?
  • Who can help me?
  • What practices, frameworks, tools, models, etc. might help?
  • What do I NOT have control over? What must I let go or accept?
  • What might I learn about others and myself?

When facing difficulties, the ineffective leader asks:

  • Who has wronged me? Who can I blame?
  • How can I show others that I’m a victim of wrongdoing?
  • How can I punish those who have caused my suffering?

Additional Resources

  • Click here for the Everyday Zen podcast with Norman Fischer on Thich Nhat Hanh’s Basic Teachings – Part 6 – “Heart of the Buddhas Teachings”

Whole Brain Living

This month I’m recommending the book Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.

I’m sharing Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s work because it supports the skill of showing up with leadership presence, a skill that matters in our personal, professional, and community lives, and a skill which many executives are concerned with cultivating. With just a little understanding of Bolte Taylor’s whole brain living concept and self-reflection, the power of choice is placed in our own hands and under our own terms of how we want to show up in the world.

Specifically, Whole Brain Thinking

  • Helps leaders understand the anatomy of the brain in terms of right and left hemispheres, thinking versus feeling emotions, and the four brain characters.
  • Helps leaders become more self-aware of their moment-to-moment emotional/mind state.
  • Offers leaders the freedom of choice and agency in terms of how to turn emotional circuitry on and off and how they want to show up. A power move for anyone!
  • Questions include:
    • What emotional/mind state am I in right now?
    • Which part of my brain is activated?
    • Who do I want to be?
    • How do I want to be?
    • What can I do to activate different parts of my brain?

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor recommends understanding the four brain characters and using a practice she calls “the B-R-A-I-N huddle” when you are in a state of emotional reactivity and want to show up in a better way. It’s important to keep in mind each of the characters have an important function, represent an authentic part of who you are at a cellular level, and should be treated with dignity, respect, and honor.

Below I outline Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s Four Brain Characters and the B-R-A-I-N Huddle.

The Four Brain Characters: How Your Four Characters Think and Feel

Character One: Left-Brain Thinking

  • The rational character in your brain: gifted at creating order, has language, and focused on past and future; likes to organize, be the boss, and get things done; defines right from wrong and good from bad based upon its moral compass; defines physical boundaries in terms of where you begin and end; and is the perfectionist part of the brain which can trigger a stress response.
  • Descriptors: verbal, thinks in language, thinks linearly, past/future-based, analytical, focuses on details, seeks differences, judgmental, punctual, individual, concise/precise, fixed, busy, conscious, structure/order-based, and focus is on ME.
  • Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor named her brain character one Helen, for “hell on wheels, she gets it done!”

Character Two: Left-Brain Emotional

  • The most vulnerable character in your brain:: tends to fear the unknown because it holds all of your emotions and traumas from the past; takes present moment information in from your sensory experience and compares it to your past; perceives life through a lens of “lack of” rather than through a filter of “abundance of”; always looking for a reason to push an unsafe experience away; its mantra is ALARM, ALARM, ALARM, ALERT, ALERT, ALERT.
  • Descriptors: constricted, rigid, cautious, fear-based, stern, loves conditionally, doubts, bullies, righteous, manipulates, tried and true, independent, selfish, critical, superior/inferior, right/wrong, and good/bad.
  • Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor named her brain character two Abby, shortened for “abandoned,” a left-over feeling from her childhood.

Character Three: Right-Brain Emotional

  • The emotional experiential self in your brain: seeks similarities rather than differences with other people because it wants to connect, explore, and go on adventures with others; creative, judgment-free, exciting, fun, and wants to come out and play; chaos at its finest; asks … what does it FEEL like to be right here, right now, in the present moment?
  • Descriptors: expansive, open, risk–taking, fearless, friendly, loves unconditionally, trusts, supports, grateful, goes with the flow, creative/innovative, collective, sharing, kind, and equality contextual.
  • Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor named her brain character three Pigpen for the Peanuts character in Charlie Brown who is curious, consistently making a mess, and whose chaos follows him wherever he goes.

Character Four: Right-Brain Thinking

  • The most peaceful, open, and loving self in your brain: it is right here, right now, and completely invested in the gift of life with immense gratitude, acceptance, openness, and love; when present, there is nothing to worry about from the past nor fear about the future; you feel connected to a higher consciousness, without boundaries, and connected to everything; can be accessed through prayer, meditation, and being with nature.
  • Descriptors: nonverbal, thinks in pictures, thinks experientially, present during moment–based kinesthetic/body awareness, looks holistically at the big picture, seeks similarities, compassionate, lost in the flow of time, collective, flexible/resilient, open to possibilities, available, unconscious fluid/flow, and focus is on WE.
  • Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor named her brain character four Queen Toad because she is as big as the universe, is a bit of a goofball, and lives on a lily pad boat named “BrainWaves.”

The B-R-A-I-N Huddle

  • To BREATHE is the most powerful way to hit the pause button, interrupt your emotional reactivity, and bring your mind into the present moment. Breathing and hitting the pause button for 90 seconds allows noradrenaline, the stress chemical running through your bloodstream, to flood through and then flush out of you.
  • RECOGNIZE which of the Four Characters are running YOUR life right now?
  • APPRECIATE whichever character you find yourself exhibiting and appreciate you still have all Four Characters available to you at any moment.
  • INQUIRE within and invite all Four Characters into the huddle so they can collectively and consciously strategize your next move.
  • NAVIGATE the experience by choosing which of the Four Characters you want to focus on at the particular moment.

Additional Leadership Resources

  • Click here to learn more about the book Whole Brain Living: the Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
  • Click here to listen to Understand Your Brain, Upgrade Your Life with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor on Ten Percent Happier with Dan Harris. This podcast is useful in understanding the marvels of the human brain, the brain’s “four characters,” and how to work with these characters through a practice she calls “The B-R-A-I-N Huddle” (one hour, 28 minutes).
  • Click here to watch the TED talk My Stroke of Insight with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Taylor received a research opportunity few brain scientists could only wish for: she had a massive stroke and watched as her brain functions — motion, speech, self-awareness — shut down one by one. An astonishing story (18 minutes).