Will Salyards
Leadership Coaching and Mentoring

Will Salyards, PhD Blog

Life, Career, Leadership

Getting Head and Heart to Agree

I talked with a leader who was in the quandary of feeling she wanted to do one thing but thinking she should do something else. In essence, her head and heart weren’t in agreement. She knew what convention expected of her, even what the demands were that she placed upon herself but meeting those expectations wasn’t satisfying her emotionally. I asked, “What makes your heart sing?” and after the briefest pause she answered with the thing she loved doing above all. That was her heart; what remained was for her to reconcile her expectations with what brought her satisfaction.

In reality our head and heart are already linked as emotions are formed from chemical reactions within our brain. Whether the ancients knew it as such, still they understood that head and heart must agree saying, "as we think, in our heart so are we." The difficulty the leader above experienced wasn't the source of her emotions but what she was doing with them or more to the point, what they were doing with her.

Emotions can make us feel like a stuffed toy in a clothes dryer.

These things have implications for leaders and those who follow us. Here’s why: Our emotions can be coded responses to earlier events in life and may not reflect the reality before us.  This means that what we feel can be different from what we see.

Put another way, it could mean that what we want to do may not always be the same as what we should do. One reason for this is that our emotions are linked to memories. Caroline Leaf explained,

If you had a math teacher who shouted at you and said you would never be able to do math, you would have stored that memory... Thereafter, every time you do math or anything related to the subject, you will re-experience the negative feelings of shame, hurt and fear...

If you’ve ever had feelings that were out of proportion to the matter at hand then you’ve likely encountered the linkage of memory and emotion.

In recognition that emotions do impact our decisions Richard Stott said, “We frequently rely on partial information and convenient heuristics in making judgments. Our knowledge and beliefs thus originate and continue to be shaped by a complex mix of perceptions, deductions, guesses, memories, hazy inferences, and gut feelings.”

The resulting distraction for those who trust our leadership can be deafening. Its cure is to achieve an internal agreement within ourselves, to reconcile memory and feeling so that work reflects our core values and our decisions the awareness of what has formed them.

Professional coaching can help and is an essential tool in the leaders toolbox. Schedule your free sampler now.