Why Emotions, Mindfulness, and Personality Diversity Matter Together

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Jul 10, 2024

More than you may imagine...

Imagine a situation where chaos abounds, tensions are high, and things are not going to plan. You have to make a choice:

  • Do you get caught up in the frenzy and react? Or,
  • Do you press 'Pause', be fully present and aware of what is happening and respond with intention?

Your reaction in such a situation can significantly influence the environment. 

We recall a tense moment in the 'dog house' (drillers' cabin on an offshore drill ship) when the plan was not working and tensions were rising. Instead of adding to the rising tension, the Company Man asked everyone to stop.

Stop talking, stop focusing on the problem, get a tea or coffee, go for a smoke break and take a breath.

The whole room went quiet. Someone asked if he was joking, and when they realised he wasn't, people started moving, shifting the entire dynamic in the room.

That 10-minute break allowed everyone to be calmer and more focused. When the team came back together, solutions were evident, and the operation continued more smoothly.

What was different about this situation?

  1. Recognising the emotions in the room.
  2. Being fully present and mindful of what is happening.
  3. Understanding self and others and how to work with the teams' strengths.

Let's dive into these in a bit more detail.

Emotional Literacy - Recognising the emotions in the room

We explored this topic in detail in last week's podcast with Dan Newby. If you have yet to have an opportunity to listen, make sure to carve time into your day; you will not be disappointed.

You can listen here:  E068_How does emotional literacy make a difference to everyday safety leadership?

Emotions are one of the most overlooked areas in human factors.

Emotions are the source of action, and every decision a person makes is driven by one or more emotions. Recognising, naming, and understanding what our emotions are trying to tell us can be life-changing! 

Emotional literacy is the ability to recognise, understand, express, and manage one's emotions and those of others. It's a critical component of emotional intelligence, enabling effective communication, strong relationships, and a positive work environment. 

How do we do this?

Recognising Emotions:

The first step is to become aware of your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. Recognising emotions involves paying attention to physical sensations, thoughts, and behaviours that signal an emotional response.

Understanding Emotions:

It involves knowing why you're feeling a certain way and understanding the potential triggers. It's also about understanding the emotions of others, which can often be influenced by context and individual experiences.

Expressing Emotions:

It is essential to articulate your emotions clearly and constructively. Expressing emotions means not only saying how you feel but doing so in a way that others can understand and respond to appropriately.

Managing Emotions:

Regulating one's emotional responses and behaviours, especially in challenging situations, involves skills like stress management, problem-solving, and maintaining a positive outlook.

In the above example, it was critical to recognise the emotions in the room and be aware of how this could negatively impact the ongoing operation. Pausing and getting the team to take a break encouraged a psychologically safe environment where team members felt valued and understood.

Used effectively in this situation, enhanced communication, reduced conflicts, and promoted a culture of trust and respect. 

For leaders, being emotionally literate means they can better connect with their teams, understand their needs, and guide them effectively through challenges. Understanding emotions supports leaders in creating safe and efficient operations.

Mindfulness - Being fully present and mindful of what is happening

Mindfulness is the essential human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not to be reactive or overwhelmed by what is happening around us.

It's a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Here are the key aspects of mindfulness:

Present-Moment Awareness:

Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is happening now rather than getting lost in thoughts about the past or future.

Non-Judgmental Observation:

It's about observing your thoughts and feelings without labelling them as good or bad. This helps reduce reactivity and promotes a more balanced perspective.

Acceptance:

Accepting whatever you are experiencing without trying to change it immediately allows you to experience your emotions and thoughts fully, leading to better emotional regulation.

Intentional Focus:

Mindfulness is a deliberate practice. It requires time to focus on the present moment through meditation, mindful breathing, or simply paying attention to daily activities.

Enhanced Awareness:

Through mindfulness, you become more aware of your habitual reactions and thought patterns, which gives you greater control over your responses and helps you make more intentional choices.

Mindfulness has numerous benefits, particularly in high-stress environments like those in high-risk industries. It can reduce stress, improve focus and concentration, enhance emotional regulation, and promote well-being. 

Viewing the situation in the 'dog house' with a degree of separation and non-judgement allowed the Company Man to diffuse a potentially damaging situation, which led to:

  • better decision-making,
  • enhanced relationships with team members, and
  • a more resilient and adaptive approach to the challenges.

In a safety culture context, mindfulness helps create a more attentive and responsive workforce, reducing the likelihood of accidents and promoting a culture of continuous improvement.

Personality Diversity - Understanding self, and others, and how to work with the teams' strengths

Personality diversity is the range of personality types within a group, team, or organisation.

It encompasses the various traits, characteristics, and behavioural tendencies that individuals bring to the table. Understanding and valuing personality diversity is crucial for cultivating an inclusive and effective workplace.

Here’s why it matters and how it plays out:

Variety of Perspectives:

Different personality types contribute unique viewpoints and problem-solving approaches, leading to more innovative and well-rounded solutions.

Enhanced Team Dynamics:

A mix of personalities can complement each other. 

Improved Conflict Resolution:

Understanding personality diversity helps recognise how people handle conflict, leading to more effective resolution strategies and a more harmonious work environment.

Better Decision-Making:

Diverse personalities can challenge each other’s assumptions and biases, resulting in more thorough and balanced decision-making processes.

Inclusive Culture:

Valuing personality diversity creates an environment where all team members feel appreciated for their unique contributions, boosting morale and engagement.

Adaptability:

Teams with a range of personalities may be more adaptable to change, as they can draw on various strengths and perspectives to navigate new challenges.

In high-risk industries, where safety and efficiency are paramount, leveraging personality diversity can significantly enhance team performance.

Leaders can create a more cohesive and resilient team by recognising and valuing that people see the world differently and understanding strengths and potential limiters. When leaders, such as the Company Man in the above example, are aware of the dynamics around personality diversity, they can promote psychologically safe teams.

This is another layer of complexity supporting a culture of safety.

E-Colours is our preferred personality diversity tool to help understand these differences and strategically manage them to enhance team dynamics and overall performance.

To know more about how E-Colours can help you, read our blog:E-Colours and You: A Pathway to Improved Communication and Relationships”.

How do these combine in the field?

Viewing situations in the moment without judgement or sliding into our potential limiters is challenging.

Consider a safety behaviour often flagged as a 'bad' behaviour - complacency. 

Researching complacency as an emotion and how it affects safe operations is fascinating. This is especially true when we understand that there are no 'good' or 'bad' emotions; that is an assessment we make and a barrier to learning.

When we learn to set aside assessments, we can decide how the emotion can be helpful or how it can get in the way.

Behind every emotion is a story, an impulse and a purpose.

What is this with the emotion of complacency?

  • The story behind complacency is that "It is good enough".
  • The impulse is "to do it as I've always done it".
  • The purpose is "to save our energy for more important tasks".

In safety, when people are complacent, they believe they know enough or are doing things well enough. However, people don't consider that complacency is a barrier to learning and a threat to safety.

Being mindful can help leaders view the situation for what it is.

Sometimes, good is good enough and investing time and energy is not helpful. In these situations, complacency is valid and may best serve the moment. 

Understanding oneself and others can help leaders interpret whether someone is working to their strengths or displaying a potential limiter. Complacency is often used to describe when something has gone wrong.

Perhaps there are aspects of personality diversity that influence the situation, for example:

  • Thinking I know best.
  • Not listening to details or gaining clarity of the task.
  • Taking on more than can be handled.
  • Not involving others when they are needed.

How do we move out of complacency? It can help by shifting people to curiosity.

  • The story behind curiosity is "There is something interesting or of benefit to me here".
  • The impulse is "to seek information".
  • The purpose is "to learn".

Curiosity is the emotion that drives learning and can be highly beneficial in the context of safety.

  • How could this hurt us?
  • What would you change to improve the way we do things?
  • Who needs to be included or informed?
  • How should this procedure be updated to reflect work as done, not work as imagined?

We may need to explore the emotions of compliance and commitment if people are not ready to be curious. 

Compliance is essential for safety and keeps us following procedures and regulations. Commitment drives the belief that these procedures and expectations are valid and will keep us safe.

Do you remember the lyrics from Higher Ground, a song by UB40?

Every hour of every day, I'm learning more
The more I learn, the less I know about before
The less I know, the more I wanna look around
Digging deep for clues on higher ground

The more mindful we are about emotional literacy and personality diversity, the more we know we need to learn. We hope you are as excited about how learning more can serve us as individuals, cultivate psychologically safe teams, and promote safe and efficient operations. 

Questions to consider when observing a moment in time:

  • What am I observing?
  • What is the reality of what is happening?
  • Am I bringing my judgements, assessments and interpretations?
  • What emotion am I experiencing, and is this emotion best serving me, the situation, and the team now?

In Summary

Incorporating emotional literacy, mindfulness, and personality diversity into our daily practices isn't just a nice-to-have; it's a game-changer.

By recognising our own emotions and those of others, staying present and mindful, and valuing each team member's unique strengths, we can create a safer, more efficient, and more harmonious workplace.

Imagine the potential we unlock when we lead with curiosity, prioritise psychological safety, and foster an environment where everyone feels valued and understood.

Take the first step towards enhancing your team's dynamics and safety culture today.

Reflect on your emotional literacy, practice mindfulness, and explore the benefits of personality diversity within your team.

Want to dive deeper?


Book a call to discuss integrating these principles into your leadership approach
and discover practical tools to make a real difference.

Let's elevate your safety culture together.

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