OWP Day 2 - IMD Business School
Sustainability - Digital - Top Team - Leadership

Draw on emotional data to build better connected teams - OWP Day Two

On day two of IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance liVe program, leaders were urged to listen to their “emotional data” to better connect with their teams, and to consider how a shift of focus from products and industries to data and digital ecosystems will impact their competitive strategy.

The power of emotion in leadership

Executives are often challenged by the prospect of including their emotions in a professional context, and yet, if they do it right, it can provide very powerful inspiration within a team. So said Dr. Silke Mischke, leadership lecturer and senior executive coach at IMD, in her OWP liVe session entitled Leading with Emotions.

“Whatever emotion we experience conveys data. It is information and there’s a reason why you feel what you feel. In a professional setting, the more you can listen to these emotions and the story they’re telling you, the more effective you will be,” said Mischke.

Learning to acknowledge one’s “emotional data”, and learning to respond to it skillfully, can create better connected teams in which psychological safety and trust are higher. This, said Mischke, has a positive cascade effect in teams, leading to interpersonal comfort, a more genuine interaction and therefore effective communication overall.

Mischke suggested leaders start by keeping a daily journal, in which they note three different situations that have arisen during the day and log their own reactions, feelings, and behaviors during the scenario.

“Ask yourself ‘what were my behaviors and actions?’. ‘How did colleagues experience from those behaviors and what was their impact on others?’. After three of four weeks of such noting, try and bring the insights you have had into your work. Use them to guide you through new situations and assess the difference in your journal,” she said.

The next stage is to express your emotional responses in a professional context. In meetings, for example, said Mischke, share how you feel about a situation, ask others how they feel about it, establish team ground rules that support and encourage empathy, and continue to listen to your feelings and work with them.

Google’s AI research project revealed the number one criterion that led to high performance teams across 150 teams was psychological safety. Therefore, learning to connect to our own emotions and using that data to better connect our teams is critical to building a highly effective team,” said Mischke.

Avoiding the digital myopia traps

Professor Mohan Subramaniam spoke during his session on the benefits of data-driven features as revenue generators for companies.

Firms tend to focus so much on their existing products, value chains and industry structures, that they lose sight of broad trends in their industry, he said during his session on The Five Traps of Digital Myopia. This “short sightedness” prevents firms from realizing how to use their existing product base to generate different kinds of data and to come up with new features.

Subramaniam identified five main traps: product, value chain, operating efficiencies, customers and competitors.

To overcome the product trap, companies should think about ways of getting interactive data and envisage potential revenue streams from this data. They should also consider how to identify new digital complements to their existing products, he said. Take the example of cars: traditional complements would be roads and gas stations but today these can be connected and generate data on traffic and pollution.

True sustainability demands inclusion

In an uncertain world, how can companies view sustainability as an opportunity topic rather than one related solely to damage and risk? This was the question posed by Francisco Szekely, Adjunct Professor of Leadership and Sustainability at IMD, in a session on The Just Energy Transition – Sustainable Growth and Inclusion.

From energy to transport, as governments and industries prepare for a significant shift to align with climate targets, a “just transition” becomes increasingly important.

“The transition is inevitable; however, justice is not. Addressing only carbon emissions without challenging the ‘growth-at-all-costs’ economy does not resolve the real crisis. We must engage those stakeholders who would otherwise not have a voice in the dialogue; those whose livelihoods are at risk,” said Szekely.

By engaging those whose jobs will be lost and creating new training and employment opportunities for them, governments and businesses will place regenerative interests on the table alongside extractive interests, he said.

The three-point Just Transition Initiative is aimed at assisting organizations and governments to expand their stakeholder view on industry change and ensure the broadest engagement in dialogues. Distributional Justice refers to the distribution of burdens and benefits across the stakeholder ecosystem. Procedural Justice considers which individuals and institutions have influence over decision making. Finally, Recognition considers whose interests and values are acknowledged and taken into account in decision making.

Szekely emphasized the importance for business to focus on the “Social” in ESG. Through this lens, organizations can co-create change that builds resilience and adaptation into the energy transition. Further, he said, by considering the long-term effects of any business strategy and by considering the environment and the planet’s future as silent stakeholders, businesses can ensure that they deploy strategies aimed at the greater good.

“Without the environment and the future being viewed as a stakeholder, we will not act in the interests of our children and our children’s children. That is what inclusion really means in sustainability,” he said.