Are you a manager needing to have a performance conversation with a member of staff? A financial services adviser dealing with the new requirements of RDR and needing to make up front fee agreements? Running a cross site team where emotions are heightened? All these scenarios provoke your inner chimp!
A guilty pleasure I must confess to is The Celebrity Apprentice from the US on television at the moment. You can see the emotions dripping from almost everything they do and the tensions around these tasks — and yet they pretend nothing is really going on.
Now to be fair to them, these people are rich and successful, but not necessarily due to their people skills. To me, they are a great example of how many of us pretend emotions do not permeate everything we do — and the inner chimp does not exist!
The inner chimp is Dr Stephen Peters language for our emotional brain which constantly scans for signs of danger and tries of course to protect us. It’s crucial to our survival, yet if we allow it to run amok can completely sabotage what we do. Join me in watching the Apprentice if you don’t believe this. The chimp will always be there — the question is how we manage it. The British cycling team worked on this as part of their programme of incremental gains — and look at their results. They were taught to recognise what was going on so that they can cope with this and deliver the result they need to despite their natural wiring.
Imagine the salesperson who is anxious about raising the issue of fees, gets caught up with his inner chimp telling him that the client doesn’t like what she is hearing, and ignores his emotions. The most common response is to carry on talking at the client, justifying it to themselves in the hope that the next piece of information they impart will be the ‘magic piece’ that clinches the sale, and solves any problems. Sadly, they carry on talking, trying to find that elusive missing piece. Many never find it and as a result end up switching off the client.
Picture the apprehension and hesitancy in the manager who is trying to bring up an area of underperformance to a member of staff, expecting an eruption. The ‘chimp’ will be sending messages of danger and how you are messing up and what the consequences maybe.
A quick note on two strategies you can use to manage your chimp. Label the emotion you are feeling — just doing that calms things for you. Another option is talking things through with a trusted colleague — who isn’t then going to turn the sound up on your chimp by taking sides and egging you on!
For more helpful and in depth tips, Colin and his colleagues continue to work with leaders at all levels at dealing with exchanges which arose emotions, whilst Paul Young builds ever more robust approaches for those selling services to clients whatever their sector.