The Emotional Footprint of a Leader Sets the Precedent for the Entire Culture
A couple of years ago I coached a client who worked at a high-end fashion company.
He knew he made a mistake taking the job on his first day.
The onboarding process consisted solely of being shown where his desk and chair was. Nobody came around to say hello or offer their help if he needed it. There was no training, no welcoming, no nothing.
He sat in his chair wondering what exactly he was supposed to do.
“Okay,” he realized, “I have to figure this out on my own.” And so began a trial-by-fire process to learn the ropes. Every time he made a mistake, his boss would come out from her office to scold him publicly. In fact, the only reason she ever emerged from her office was to scold him.
That was how he learned the job: by training himself, making an innocent mistake, and then being told he did it all wrong.
When his boss sat down with him for his first performance review she told him, “We’ve never had someone make this many mistakes before.”
This was actually a line she had used on each person who held his position before him. He later learned that his boss was getting the same hostile treatment from her own boss, the president of the company. The president treated everyone under him the same way, and an atmosphere of fear and shame pervaded the entire company.
[There was even spyware on every computer in case the president decided to arbitrarily see what any person was doing at any particular time.]
The reason I’m sharing this story is to show how deeply a leader’s behavior can propagate throughout an organization. How a leader relates to the people around them can set a precedent for the entire culture.
The Emotional Footprint
Most of us are familiar with the idea of our carbon footprint, and we try to take steps to reduce the negative impact of our lifestyle on the Earth.
We understand that if we throw garbage on the ground, drive a car that gets 5 miles per gallon, and never recycle, those choices will have a real impact on the environment that only compounds over time.
Most of us take steps to make sure we’re not unnecessarily destroying the Earth with our carbon footprint, but we might not realize we are leaving an emotional footprint too:
The effect that a person or company has on the work environment of an organization and its people.
An emotional footprint is the result of emotional contagion, be it positive or negative. As a leader, your emotions and the way you relate to the people around you affects the organizational environment, oftentimes in ways you might not anticipate.
It’s when the emotional footprint is negative that is cause for concern. Like an oil spill in a coral reef, toxic emotions or interpersonal practices from a leader can cause drastic damages to the balance of an organization.
Emotional contagion spreads like wildfire.
So many factors contribute to the emotional footprint impressed upon a people and an organization. Just like there is a variety of different ways to pollute the earth, there is a plethora of ways a leader can sour the emotional environment of an organization.
It can be small, ongoing things.
It could be a bad mood or a short temper. It could be nitpicking, micromanaging, and mistrust. It could be ego or an unwillingness to admit mistakes. It could simply be a harsh and unappreciative communication style.
Or it could be something extreme, like Jackie Bucia, who was the emotional equivalent of the BP oil spill for the automotive group she worked for. In 2011, Jackie asked her employee, Debbie, to give her a kidney. After Debbie underwent surgery and gave away her kidney, Jackie (allegedly) fired Debbie for not recovering quick enough from the surgery leaving Debbie without health insurance.
It pollutes the minds of the people in the organization, which causes unproductive group dynamics, a lack of trust, and a decline in creativity and collaboration.
For example, if the CEO treats all employees - regardless of status - with respect and appreciation, then that sense of equality and respect will diffuse throughout the organization.
If, on the other hand, the CEO acts like she is a queen and every other employee is her servant, the emotional atmosphere will be tense; the struggle for power will hinder people working together towards the common, organizational goals.
For a leader, it’s always a good idea to conduct an emotional footprint test, to gauge the overarching emotional vibe running through the organization.
Emotions spread like wildfire, and if you have an outbreak of negativity polluting the air you want to contain it before it destroys productivity and morale.
Keep an open door policy
The easiest and quickest way to feel the pulse of your organization is to promote a culture where people feel comfortable to speak their mind, and share their feelings.
Promote psychological safety. Create a comfortable environment where speaking your mind is accepted, and expected. Feeling safe to be vulnerable, to take risks, to just be, can be powerfully motivating. Google conducted 200+ interviews over the course of 2 years looking at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. They found the teams that had achieved psychological safety were the most successful.
Create a space where leaders accept feedback from employees, anyone can ask for help, and employees are allowed to make mistakes, especially when they are taking a risk or developing a new skill.
Check yourself before your wreck yourself
Leaders must maintain a healthy daily dose of self-awareness. Before you enter the workspace conduct a self-examination:
- What kinds of thoughts are floating through your head?
- Do you feel happy or sad?
- Are you feeling introverted or extroverted?
- Are you inspired, indifferent, or unenthusiastic about work?
Rest assured whatever is going on in your head is going to create a chain reaction. If you are stressed, frustrated, and angry at the world, those emotions will play out in the workplace and they will spread throughout your team.
Create a positive onboarding experience
Make the first impression the right one. When a new hire starts make them feel welcome. Get the team together and give your new member a chance to get to know everyone.
Sounds simple and yet it is overlooked more often than you’d think. Many leaders simply do not take the time to incorporate a positive onboarding experience, which in turn sets the tone for that new hire’s experience at said company.
Submit yourself to a 360-Degree Assessment
A 360-Degree assessment is a chance for your supervisors, direct reports, and peers to anonymously give you feedback about your strengths and weaknesses.
This is a very quick and easy – though not necessarily painless – way to get a snapshot of how your coworkers think of you.
Have the 360-Degree assessment be conducted by an executive coach or leadership development team to help analyze your feedback and develop a plan to improve upon the negative aspects of your personality or leadership style.
When it comes down to it, we’re talking about self-awareness, and widening the scope of your self-awareness isn’t always easy. It’s emotional, it’s personal, and directly confronts your ego. In the long run, however, you’ll be thankful you did it.
Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily
What a week it was.
First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.
The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.
I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.
CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.
Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies
Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.
Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.
Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!
It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.
For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.
To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.
Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.
But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.
Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.
Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.
I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.
Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.
Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News
The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.
The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.
There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.
These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.
One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.
It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.
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