Learning to manage your emotions in business is a challenge for everyone, but especially for artists. In life we all strive to balance our decision making process using just the right amount of emotion and just the right amount of logic to come to a decision we feel is justified, worthy and that we feel good about making as a result. But in business, we must learn to do this in front of and with others- namely our customers, patrons, donors, board members and anyone else we engage with regularly who holds a financial key to our success.
As artists, we are taught that a full showing of expression is something to strive for in our art form. As a result, rarely are we taught how to take that expression and use it purposefully in a business context.
However, don’t think that what I am saying is that business is completely devoid of emotions. Even the most controlled business types recognize that emotion certainly plays a role in running a business. Imagine running a company without receiving any of the thrill of closing a big sale, or the high of releasing a new product you have worked hard to develop, or having your work featured or reviewed in an important publication. If running a business means putting in 12 hours a day, along with all your savings, to check your passions at the door, you would never have enough energy to keep them burning through all the ups and downs of your ventures development.
Yet, as an artist myself, I am the first to tell you that it takes a lot of work to understand the nuance of when to show emotion and when to use your logic to produce a productive result. Artists are wonderful at being compelling and convincing. The artistic temperament is one that can persuade and entice even the most reticent into listening to their message, story or sales pitch. Our passions can uplift and change the mood of all we touch, and yet I know myself how I have struggled and worked hard to recognize and learn when and how to use my emotions purposefully in business situations. I tend to lead with my heart and have had to work hard at learning when to emote and when to set my intensity of expression aside, because it will not help the situation I am being presented with.
Unfortunately emotion at the wrong time in a business situation, if insufficiently checked by logical reasoning, can be incredibly destructive. In the beginning of a venture it often leads to the most costly errors. It’s a fact that most start-ups make their most costly and deadly mistakes right at the beginning. Excited by the prospects of starting, our emotions rule (multiply that by 10 if your an artist) and we have the potential to spend way too much money on that fancy brochure, website or a piece of equipment for our venture. Had our more logical head prevailed, it would have helped us instead decide to start with less, save the cash, and diminish the risk of potentially going out of business quickly.
Emotions can also result in offering a customer an unprofitable price in desperation to close a sale when cash is too tight and panic replaces our ability to remain logical and calm. It can also cause us to create tension, distance or misunderstandings in key relationships that advise us, provide customers to us and can help our venture grow because of our own insecurities and fears. Emotions, I hope you are beginning to see, can be the enemy- the tornado- the cyclone- that can mark a path of destruction instead of success.
This applies to pretty much everything in business. But the goal isnâ€™t to get rid of emotion and become a cool calculating machine either. Instead, you need to learn, while navigating unchartered water, to recognize when fear, anger, impatience or desperation might prevent you from making a good decision because your head is clouded with these kinds of negative influences.
Think instead of business as a strategy game. A game of risk with the short-term outcome being a complicated mix of hard work, timing, luck and skill. So if things are not going as smoothly as planned, don’t make a future decision based on your emotional reaction at the time. Sit back and wait a bit until your emotional reaction is no longer as intense so you have the opportunity to skillfully make a good decision. And make sure to communicate to those waiting on your decision or who have been of help to you that you need a few hours, days or weeks to come to the right conclusion. It is as important to communicate your lack of clarity and need to think as it is to compellingly or logically reach an outcome. Trust is built when you communicate to others your uncertainty and need to reflect.
But don’t think that these destructive emotions only surface in artists. It happens all the time with every kind of business owner. We all experience these kinds of emotions in business. It’s simply as artists that we are blessed and cursed with a greater abundance of them.
Controlling our emotions in business takes practice- Practice in elevating your consciousness to recognize when your decisions are about to be made based on irrational emotions so that you have the opportunity to stop and re-evaluate whether your decision will produce a positive outcome or a self-destructive one.