In between paddleboarding, playing volleyball and walking her dog on the beaches of Swansea, South Wales, Melissa Curran runs Modern Mind Group – a business she founded in 2019 after many years working at a high level in the service industry.
She is a podcaster, a speaker and author of Bestselling Book, Emotioneering Business Results.
Melissa’s business works with various organisations, providing consultation across human resources, operations and management. As an accredited counsellor and coach, she uses her knowledge of psychology and human behaviour to help businesses drive results by applying a more emotionally intelligent mindset. A mindset that Melissa has christened ‘emotioneering’.
We sat down to chat about all things emotioneering on my People&Digital podcast. From Melissa’s own journey of self-discovery, to how this new way of thinking can bring about huge positive power, in both the workplace and beyond…
What exactly is emotioneering?
Many businesses – especially big businesses – are results focussed. Whether it be through sales, performance criteria, objectives, stats or KPIs… It all comes down to the bottom line.
And to an extent that’s fine – that’s business. But during Melissa’s time in industry, she could see this one-track thinking was seeping into the workplace culture. Especially when those workplaces were big, busy and fast-paced.
The result was a cultural mindset obsessed with driving performance simply using logic and rationality. Melissa describes this “old mentality” as one where personal issues had to be left at the door – because, apparently, that side of peoples’ lives didn’t belong at work.
Emotion didn’t belong at work.
But, as Melissa goes on to explain, “as human beings, we’re not built that way. The way our limbic system works is that we have the emotional response first and then the secondary, much more calm and considered response happens.”
(The limbic system, by the way, is part of the brain involved in our behavioural and emotional responses). 😉
Melissa’s response to this is the framework that guides her business – emotioneering. The natural state of being driven, first and foremost, by our emotions. She reasons that by placing much higher value in not just our own emotional needs, but the needs of those around us, we will create a far more positive collective impact – that benefits both profits and people.
She says, “ultimately if we can align with our purpose, our thoughts, our feelings… We can understand ourselves and we can understand other people more. Then we can have much better outcomes. And if we do the right things by the team and the people around us, we can have much better results.”
Melissa’s personal self-discovery goes back to her teenage years, when she felt isolated from her friends. She admits that this caused her to distrust people and to build up emotional barriers. “I started to put on a hard shell”, Melissa explains, “I started to hide my emotions or attempt to hide my emotions and keep people back a little bit. I kept a distance.”
Years later, Melissa was given some workplace feedback. Her results-based performance was great, but she was too objective. Too goal-driven. Not aware enough of those around her. Because of her hard shell – her emotional barriers – she hadn’t let people in.
She laughs describing it now, because the exact words her colleague used were “you’re just not very fluffy.” But it was a wake-up call. She needed to soften. She needed to let people talk about what mattered to them, outside of the results-driven world of work. Melissa realised she had to empathise, to be there in the moment for people – to let them in.
Once she accepted the emotions, the vulnerability, things clicked into place.
“Now”, Melissa chuckles, “there is no way you could put my fluffiness back in the box!”
She continues: “I just can’t do it. I’m now this very heart-centred, compassionate leader… Because I’ve learnt to understand myself more. I’m okay with being vulnerable because I now validate myself and I understand people a lot better. I understand myself a lot more.”
That’s proper emotioneering.
Okay, so how do we do it?
Melissa admits that people can have doubts at first. She tells me that this tends to come from two things: a lack of education, and fear.
Because ultimately, we often fear what we do not understand.
So she implores us to embrace knowledge. But she’s also shared some handy tips… 😉
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. This way, you create a safe and trusting environment in which to give and receive feedback. To a lot of people, this looks like friends and family, but Melissa advises against this, reasoning that “they’re too involved.”
Ideally choose a mentor, coach or a leader at work. But it has to be someone who is willing to support your personal growth. She continues:
“It’s seeking counsel and not opinion. Everyone has an opinion, but if someone’s been where you have been and they can mentor you and support you to start to understand yourself, as well as help you to understand others, that’s when you start to grow your emotional intelligence.”
A good leader will take time to understand individual motivations and drivers. Melissa stresses how important due care and attention is: “When you’re a leader, that is your ultimate responsibility… Knowing that your relationships come first.”
One of the training exercises Melissa does with clients is to have them identify the five team-mates closest to them. She then asks questions about their personal lives – families, pets, homes, hobbies… To discover how much they actually know about each other.
Because ultimately, if we don’t know what peoples’ motivations are, what their values are and what they care about, then we have no chance of helping them.
Melissa sums it up so well: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
This is where Melissa shares her ultimate advice: “There’s a level of respect that comes with leadership, but that level changes dramatically when you have the care to stop and pause and spend time with your people.”
Melissa goes on to describe the longest adult developmental study ever conducted, which followed peoples’ lives over the course of 75 years. Obviously these lives changed dramatically, but the conclusion on what really mattered was unanimous: meaningful relationships.
Creating and nurturing real, meaningful connections with the people around you requires openness and vulnerability – yes, that’s scary. I know that because it’s what I do all the time with my podcast and blog – in fact basically all of my content.
But have courage. Because the more we see each other opening up and embracing our vulnerabilities, the more it inspires others to find their courage.
When taking our first steps towards emotioneering, Melissa says the question we must ask ourselves is: Do I want to get better at this?
Because only if we care enough and see how it will take us forwards can we truly enable ourselves.
And that enablement may look different for everyone. One option Melissa describes is the technology route – so podcasts, online courses and digital communities.
Then there are the offline options – books, real-life communities, mentors and coaches.
Whatever you choose, make sure there’s accountability to keep you striving forwards towards your emotional intelligence goals.
Great – I’m following these steps, but how do I know I’m doing a good job?
That’s quite simple, according to Melissa.
“When you know that you would do anything for the people around you, and you feel this sense of fulfilment, and you feel energised by the conversation you’ve just had with someone. And you think about what their next steps are, or you think more about how you can help them more than you worry about yourself… Because it’s a selfless thing to do.”
The other clear indicator is that the people you’re helping will start to make more courageous decisions – because of the environment you’ve created.
She adds, “They’ll feel empowered to make decisions.”
And that’s a really great feeling.
One final question – a personal one – what do you wish you’d always known about emotional intelligence Melissa?
Her answer comes quickly: “I wish that I’d known how to communicate in a way that helped people to believe in themselves better… And to be able to influence people positively.”
Because ultimately leaders need passion. And they need powers of persuasion, yes. But a leader who uses their position to do good – that’s real power.
Voilà! To hear more from Melissa on emotional intelligence, have a listen to our podcast episode.
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