Startup Survival Podcast

Episode 3.8 - Managing Emotions in a Crisis

May 02, 2022 Peter Harrington Season 3 Episode 8
Startup Survival Podcast
Episode 3.8 - Managing Emotions in a Crisis
Show Notes Transcript

Human behaviour changes when the pressure is on. And for business owners, nothing generates pressure quite like a crisis.

In this compelling episode all about entrepreneurship emotion, seasoned academic Dr Rachel Doern explores and explains how startups behave in really challenging situations. Importantly, she goes onto talk about issues such as emotional intelligence as well as strategies that any startup can learn about and apply so they are better able to manage their emotions in a crisis.

By tuning into this episode, anyone who has had practical experience of working through the pandemic (or any other crisis) will be able to develop their knowledge and apply theoretical principles. Understanding these principles will allow you to better control emotions, make more informed decisions and thus help your business to survive and prosper in the future.

Learn more about our special guest

Dr Rachel Doern is a Reader in Entrepreneurship in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. Much of her research examines the cognitions, emotions and behaviours of entrepreneurs in adverse conditions, including times of crisis. Her research is inter-disciplinary in nature and draws on micro-sociological and psychological approaches to understanding resilience and vulnerability. She is especially interested in how entrepreneurs navigate difficult situations, contexts and emotions. Her recent research projects also look at entrepreneurial diversity, and different entrepreneurial identities and communities.

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A bit of podcast author background...

UK-based Peter Harrington set up his first business following graduation in York in 1989. He has since started and grown several companies in various sectors including research, marketing, design, print, educational software and consultancy. Over the last 30+ years, Peter has employed over 1,000 people and experienced many highs and a few lows including burglaries, floods, fire and of course the most recent pandemic.

As well as being the CEO with the SimVenture team, Peter is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at London South Bank University.

Big thanks to LSE Generate, the SimVenture Team and Seajam Moths for supporting the Startup Survival Podcast.

Find Guest details and all Reference Sources

The full podcast series together with additional materials, guest details and hyperlinks to all episode reference sources is available on Peter Harrington's Blog 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to Entrepreneurship'

Startup Survival Podcast

Series 3 – Episode 8 - Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:11):

Hello. Welcome once more to the Startup Survival Podcast with me, your host, Peter Harrington. Hot on the empathetic heels of episode seven with Derek Utley this show with my special guest, Dr. Rachel Doern examines, how startups manage emotions in a crisis. Now, unlike previous episodes where guests have examined singular emotions, this show seeks to explore the highly complex world of feelings and sets out to explain behaviour and how startups make decisions and respond to events when the pressure is on. As well as explaining what feelings are, Rachel will be talking to me about emotional intelligence and sharing strategies that any startup can adopt when seeking to manage their emotions in a crisis. In many ways, this show is the perfect partner to episode six. If you are yet to catch that serial entrepreneur, John Peebles talked to me about how startup life affected his mental health and how that experience triggered innovative strategies for providing company wide support. And just like my interview with John Peebles in this show, Rachel Doern, doesn't just focus on the difficult and dark side of a crisis. By tuning into this episode, you'll discover how effective management of our emotions can provide the keys to new creative ideas and the seizing of fresh business opportunities.

Speaker 1 (01:45):

Now, before connecting with Rachel through the medium and magic of the online airwaves, I should mention that as a seasoned academic, Rachel brings with her a wealth of research and background experience to this interview as such, I won't be weaving in my normal references to an accompanying textbook. I just think that would be a distraction, but if your reason for listening is driven in part, at least by the shows book recommendations, don't be dismay because I have a little cracker for you, which I'll talk about after Rachel has shared her wisdom for reference Dr. Rachel Doern is a reader in entrepreneurship at the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmith's university of London, much of her research examines, the cognitions emotions and behaviours of entrepreneurs in adverse conditions, including times of crisis. As an example, you'll be hearing later, Rachel completed a lot of research with startups following the London riots in 2011. Her research is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on micro sociological and psychological approaches to understanding resilience and vulnerability. She is especially interested in how entrepreneurs navigate difficult situations, contexts, and emotions. Her recent research projects also look at entrepreneurial diversity and different entrepreneurial identities and communities. So here we go, Dr. Rachel Doern, welcome to the Startup Survival Podcast.

Speaker 2 (03:16):

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1 (03:18):

Rachel. You've spent many years researching emotional behaviour in the entrepreneurship and startup world. Can you provide an overview of the kind of work you've been doing?

Speaker 2 (03:29):

So, in a nutshell, my research examines the cognitions emotions and behaviours of entrepreneurs, and much of this research has been conducted within challenging context, including crisis situations. So, my earliest research has focused on or focused on entrepreneurs in emerging and transition market economies in Eastern Europe. So, places where institutions legal, regulatory and financial in nature were underdeveloped corruption was rife and entrepreneurs faced chronic attacks on their businesses. As inspections from state regulators were frequent and intended to extort money from those businesses. So as you can imagine, Peter, in this context, negative emotions were high and influenced weather. And to what extent entrepreneurs felt able to develop their businesses and to draw attention to themselves in the process. And later my research really evolved to look at more acute challenges facing businesses or attacks on businesses, such as the London riots, which occurred in the UK in the summer of 2011.

Speaker 2 (04:32):

And this allowed me to study more closely the features relating to crisis management and resilience and not only the individual level, but also the business and community levels. And during this time, emotions were also high and affected once again, whether how, and to what extent entrepreneurs responded. And more recently, I'm looking at how different groups of entrepreneurs have been impacted by the COVID 19 crisis. So, we all know that those working in the hospitality industry were most negatively affected. And also, I'm looking at creative and cultural entrepreneurs, many of which are freelance or run new and small businesses.

Speaker 1 (05:10):

Ah-Ha, so you clearly have real in-depth experience. So how many years, Rachel, would you say you've been researching the field of emotions and entrepreneurship?

Speaker 2 (05:20):

Well, if I include my PhD, I think about 20 years, essentially. So quite a long time.

Speaker 1 (05:28):

Well, it's great to have someone with so much knowledge and subject understanding here on the show. I'm going to do my very best to unpack the nuggets of your 20 years of knowledge within an hour. So, Rachel, I think an appropriate place to start is to ask you to explain emotions, can you provide some insight?

Speaker 2 (05:48):

So, emotions are short term, often intense reactions to situations we find meaningful. So, this means that an emotional reaction has a cognitive or evaluative component emotions have other components as well. So, emotions might be accompanied by an internal reaction. So, your heart rate might go up when you're experiencing anger or fear or even excitement. Emotions can also be accompanied by an avert behaviour. So, we approach something in anger. We avoid something in the face of fear. Emotions can also be accompanied by a facial expression. So, a smile in the event of happiness, a frown in the case of sadness and even a gold structure. So, signifying the loss or gain of a particular goal. So, in the latter case, it means that emotions can provide feedback on goal attainment. So, the loss of a particular goal, the further we move away from a particular goal.

Speaker 2 (06:42):

And if that goal is to be at the top of your class to get a particular internship or job generally, or to be a market leader as an entrepreneur, the further we get away from those goals, the more likely it is to coincide with feelings like frustration or sadness, sadness, whereas the gain or achievement of a certain goal. The closer we are to that particular goal may coincide with feelings of happiness. So basically, emotions arise in relation to where we are as individuals and where we're trying to get to. They also arise in relation to occupational and organizational influences in relation to our personality. So some people are just more predisposed to experiencing certain emotions than others. Emotions might also arise in relation to specific events and early childhood experiences. So an example I like to give in the latter case is the Pixar film, Ratatouille. Have you seen it?

Speaker 1 (07:36):

Ratatouille? Yes. I think I watched that film when the kids were much younger. I have a vague recollection of us on the sofa glued to the telly one wet Sunday afternoon.

Speaker 2 (07:47):

Right? So, you might remember then that Ratatouille is about a rat named Remy and Remy loves food and Remy loves to cook and he joins forces with his fellow Linguini. Who's not such a good cook and throughout the film, there's this kind of nasty food critic that that criticizes or very is very critical of the restaurant where they're, where they're residing and near to the end of the film, that critic comes into the restaurant, and they prepare a dish for him. They prepare ratatouille and in eating this dish, it all of a sudden overwhelms this food critic with feelings of positivity with, with joy and a sense of warmth because it reminds this individual of when he was back in his home, growing up and his mom used to comfort him with food. So, emotions arise in relation to, to all of these things.

Speaker 2 (08:39):

And we can also think of emotions in relation to their strength, their intensity, and whether or not they're positive or negative. So joy and happiness are examples of positive emotions, of course, and anger and fear are examples of negative emotions. And within this broader distinction of positive and negative emotions, there are differences between specific, positive emotions and specific negative emotions in terms of their triggers, how they make us feel when we're experiencing them, their association to behaviours, facial and vocal signals, but also in terms of how people are likely to respond to us when we express them. So for example, anger, fear and sadness, all have different triggers are all experienced differently, evoke different behaviours and are different in terms of how they make us and others feel and different emotions are also associated with different action tendencies. So when experiencing a negative emotion, for instance, we might approach the source of our anger. Whereas with fear, we might retreat. So bringing to mind the notions of fight or flight.

Speaker 1 (09:47):

When you lay it out like this, it becomes quite clear how deep and complex the subject is. I imagine this has given rise to a lot of research work in the startup world. Can you share any relevant examples? Rachel

Speaker 2 (09:59):

People have studied emotions in relation to startup intentions, opportunity, identification, and risk taking accessing resources. So such as pitching for funds and creativity.

Speaker 1 (10:12):

And, and through all your 20 years of research into emotions, do you feel, would you say you've mastered the subject?

Speaker 2 (10:19):

No, not at all. I think in part, because we're always loo learning, there's always, so I think in part, because we're always learning, there's always new sources of evidence. So for instance, there was a, a big focus historically on basic emotions and the notion that these basic emotions are experienced universally in the same way, there's more recent evidence to suggest that that's not necessarily the case. So I think our understanding of emotions is changing. And as you suggest, they're very complicated. So they're entwined with other things like our cognition and our behaviours. So some people have looked into whether or not emotions coincide with our thinking, whether or not our thinking dominates our emotions, whether or not our emotions dominate our thinking. So it is very difficult and complex to, to, to break apart and to try to try to understand. But I think emotions, as far as entrepreneurship is concerned is also a fairly new area of study. So something that we've been looking at over the last decade or so, so we have a lot of catching up to do. We rely of course, on studies in psychology to inform our learning. But I think the entrepreneurial context is a unique one and, and that entrepreneurship researchers can make strides in this area as well.

Speaker 1 (11:47):

Rachel, you mentioned a moment ago that the study of emotions and entrepreneurship is a fairly new area of work. Why for you is the study of emotional behaviour within the entrepreneurial world, so important and relevant right now.

Speaker 2 (12:03):

Right? So it's a really good question. So I think that emotions are really important because they tell us the way that people think and behave in general, but also in a crisis. So, you know, we're still kind of moving through this pandemic, recovering from this pandemic and all of its effects. So emotions, for instance, can signal to us what information we attend to allowing us to discriminate between different pieces of information. So as human beings, we're constantly inundated by different sources of information through our senses. So we take in information through what we see through what we hear through what we taste through, what we touch through, what we smell and at any given point in time, it's too much information, more information that we can possibly process. So our emotions can help us to be discerning, to attend to certain pieces of information over others.

Speaker 2 (12:58):

Emotions can also direct our attention and our thinking to solving problems, but at the same time, they can interrupt our thoughts and redirect our attention on the emotion itself. So emotions can actually give us the push. We need to take decisions to implement them. They can propel us to action. And actually the origin of the term emotion comes from the Latin word promotion to move forward, which actually reflects this evolutionary role for emotion to respond to survival challenges with action. So to fight in the case of anger and to run away in the case of fear. So emotions, the emotions we experience and how to manage them are particularly important in times of crisis, such as the pandemic.

Speaker 1 (13:42):

Uhhuh. This makes a lot of sense, Rachel, and I'm sure there are many like me out there who simply rely on their emotions to automatically tell or guide them what to do without thinking about how the brain is functioning, your explanation of what's going on inside our heads, opens the door, so to speak and helps us to understand how to think about managing our emotional behavior. So important in a crisis, of course, as opposed to relying on automated responses, Rachel, can you shed some light on what people do well, how people behave resilient or word startups often here when managing their emotions in a crisis?

Speaker 2 (14:21):

In times of crisis, emotional flexibility and positive emotions are actually features of resilience. So let me give you an example of each. So in the case of emotional flexibility, so this means that in the midst of both positive and negative experiences that resilience people, resilient people rather are not characterized by unconditional positive emotions, but by their ability to flexibly switch their emotional responses to meet the demands of the environment. So resilience is more accurately characterized by emotional flexibility than it is by any single emotional response.

Speaker 1 (15:00):

Okay. So emotional flexibility in being able to tune into and respond to the environment and situation is important. You know, that, that makes good sense. Can I ask why else might positive emotions help us in a crisis?

Speaker 2 (15:13):

Because they can help to reduce levels of distress following such events by both silencing those negative emotions. And by in some cases undoing those negative emotions. Also when we're in a positive emotional state, we are more likely to reach out to others, to continue contact with those individuals, to ask for and receive support from those individuals. So positive emotions do tend to work in tandem with resilience, whereas negative emotions when we're experiencing anger or fear or sadness, we're more likely to we're more likely or less likely to reach out to people for support, especially in the case of sadness. If we're feeling depressed, we're more likely to isolate ourselves.

Speaker 1 (16:03):

For the entrepreneur who tunes into and understands their emotional selves and behavior. Can I ask Rachel, what are the benefits to them in a crisis situation?

Speaker 2 (16:15):

So I think we're, we're jumping into the area of emotional intelligence now, which is, which is really important, especially in times of crisis, but also, I guess you could say more generally, but especially important for the entrepreneur. So emotional intelligence is really all about having this kind of emotional awareness. So it's an ability to monitor our emotions and our feelings and to use this information, to guide our thinking and our actions. So it involves identifying those emotions, understanding those emotions and regulating those emotions.

Speaker 1 (16:58):

I'll come back to the fascinating subject of emotional intelligence a bit later, but since Rachel has conducted extensive research into entrepreneurial behavior in more than one crisis, I'm keen for her to share her key findings. Following the London riots back in 2011, Rachel, what, what did your research reveal?

Speaker 2 (17:19):

Just very briefly just to provide a little bit of context for your listeners? The riots were instigated by the shooting and killing of mark Duggan, a 29 year old black man and resident in Tottenham, which is in North London. He was pursued and shot and killed by police on Thursday, August 4th, in 2011. And two days later, the riots began when there was a peaceful protest outside of the main police station in Tottenham and members of mark family, Mark's family and friends and members of the community were demanding answers to try to understand how the life of this young man was taken. And the police were not necessarily forthcoming at that time. Over the hours. The crowd grew, people from other areas came to the protest, Mark's family and friends left, but the crowd grew and people became antagonized and they started to throw things at the police and police vehicles to shout abuse at them.

Speaker 2 (18:16):

And eventually the police broke up the protest and people began running up and down the main high street in north London and looting and smashing up and destroying, burning down buildings in their path. And the riots spread to other parts of London over the next few days. And to other parts of the UK as well, and police forces were stretched at the time. So it wasn't until a few days later, Tuesday, the 9th of August that an additional 10,000 police officers were put onto the streets because in some cases, in certain areas where there were two or 300 riots standing in high streets, looting businesses, there were only seven or eight riot officers. So really the police were very unprepared for that event. So there were many casualties, as you can imagine a few thousand businesses were affected, especially small businesses, and there were some, some deaths injuries in cases of homelessness as well.

Speaker 2 (19:17):

And the riot damages act was intended It was intended through the right damages act that businesses could claim money through that. And also the government set up the high street fund and there was a charitable version of that as well. So this is what happened during that time. And as you can imagine, there were a lot of negative emotions. So everyone experienced negative emotions that I spoke to. So I spoke to business owners, small business owners, two months following that event. So negative emotions like anger and frustration were very high. So people feeling like how could this happen to me, why me feelings of fear were also apparent. People were concerned about their businesses, will my business survive and also sadness as well. So the sense that all I've worked for is ruined. So these, before I sort of explain some of those reactions a little more deeply, I just wanna also say that negative emotions do have some utility.

Speaker 2 (20:13):

So it's not the case that negative emotions are always negative or that positive emotions are always positive. So negative emotions can actually signal that, Hey, there's a problem and draw our attention and energy towards such. At the same time, positive emotions can signal. Everything is fine and breed complacency. And actually as human beings, we are designed in a way to want to protect those positive emotions and to on occasion ignore information that might bring us out of those positive emotions. So going back to the Riots in the short term, the anger, the frustration and the fear that people experienced were actually quite useful and motivated them to look at where they were most vulnerable and to take action. So the anger of people felt towards the riots, the police, or the government encouraged them to prove that they hadn't been beaten, that they could not only survive, but thrive despite the actions of these other groups and in the former case, or find alternative support in the latter.

Speaker 2 (21:14):

So, to give you some more concrete examples during the riots one business owner, I spoke to the owner of a pub in north London said he felt abandoned by the police during the riots. He said, he phoned the police and the police and said to the police, look, my premises have been ransacked. There is nothing left. And the police responded by saying, where are you? Are you safe? And he said, yes, I'm safe, but there must be something going on. So, this was at the very beginning of the riots. He didn't know what was happening. The police said, there's nothing we can do. Just stay there. And he kept using this word voiceless. I feel voiceless. And in the heat of the riots, when the police didn't respond to his police shortly thereafter, he went to them directly in person. And he told them not, not only had his business been ransacked, but that his wife was still there. So, he lied. She wasn't actually still in the pub, but he wanted some kind of reaction from the police, and they accompanied him back to his pub. And he was hoping that it would deter people from further looting. And he also used his anger later on as well to keep his business and the damages he incurred in the media attracting more attention and support. So negative emotions can be quite helpful, quite positive, especially in the short term.

Speaker 1 (22:28):

This is, this is really intriguing. So, summarizing your point, it's perfectly possible for positive emotions to be unhelpful because they contribute to things like self-deception. For example, startups, kidding themselves. Things are all rosy in the business garden because feeling good rather than facing reality is easier. Meanwhile, negative emotions can actually be helpful. Being angry. As Alan Donegan said in episode one can be a catalyst for getting things done, which is exactly what your pub landlord did too. Rachel, could you also say a little bit more about how our feelings can change or change us over time?

Speaker 2 (23:07):

When these emotions are prolonged, especially feelings of sadness, they can lead to unconstructed thoughts in action and isolation and in turn, not resilience, but vulnerability, whereas constructive thinking active problem solving and seeking out support are all features of resilience. So, in the short term, these emotions and the temporary withdrawal, they might incur even sadness might be a way for entrepreneurs to regroup. So, withdrawal along with these other behaviours become more problematic in the longer term. So, in the short term, one business owner, another business owner I spoke to who was operating in the retail sector, told me that during the riots, the sprinkler system was actually triggered by an attempt of the rioters to burn down his business. And he and his son, as they first entered his shop, his premises, when they were waiting through the flooding, his son turned and said to him, daddy you're finished. And he also felt this to be true. And he said, he'd spent the next week or two at home, not wanting to speak to anyone, not wanting to take on any advice, not wanting to take on any support, not wanting to do anything, but eventually he made the decision to act. And he told me that once he said his mind to something, that was it.

Speaker 1 (24:20):

Yeah. Yeah. That withdrawal, that time away really resonates. Rachel. I remember my whole business being ransacked by burglars and for me the first, oh few weeks after that happened were a real struggle. Other entrepreneurs have also talked to me about how they moved forward by taking a step backwards and thus taking time to regroup and recover by doing this. It seems we find the energy and a better mental state to reengage with our businesses. And as you mentioned, Rachel, it's often a, a fresh plan of action. That is the catalyst, the motivation out of interest. Do you have any other examples as to how people responded to being overwhelmed by the crisis?

Speaker 2 (25:04):

Yeah. So, another business owner working in an electronics shop told me that he was overwhelmed after the riots, by chasing insurers and the government. So, to try to get them to reimburse his damage, the damages to his business, that this was all consuming and to use his own words, that he almost cracked up as a result of it. So, he just stopped. And he said, eventually I hope things will work out, but there's nothing more I can do at this time. So essentially these feelings of these feelings of sadness, depression, frustration, and the inaction that follow can make individuals and businesses. Once again, more vulnerable and less resilient, especially where it prolonged. And another business owner running a convenience store told me that in the short term, the riots were the worst thing to ever happen to him. And I'm viewing his da, the damages to his business the next day. He said he cried the whole day and two years on when speaking to this individual, he said he had recovered in part, his business had recovered in part, they weren't quite at full capacity, but nearly there, but he still felt a sense of anger and depression over those events. And this led to a more psychological withdrawal from his business, where he had opted to work less and focus on other things. So over time he had actually become more disengaged from his business than previously.

Speaker 1 (26:35):

Rachel, you you've kindly shared some of the key moments and findings from your enlightening research, but when it comes to managing effectively in a crisis, what strategies have you found work for startups?

Speaker 2 (26:49):

So, my research suggests that emotion regulation is not only necessary, but common during a crisis. So, emotion regulation is about controlling our emotions, the emotions we have when we have them and how we experience and express them. So, for example, it might involve controlling anger in certain situations, or even positive feelings of happiness or pride when it's not appropriate. So, in the latter case, for instance, let's say you've received some good news, but you actually choose to keep it to yourself. When speaking to a friend who has recently experienced a loss, or is seriously ill, an emotion regulation can be a conscious process. So, in the ways or even routines, we use to control our emotions and we all do this. So, let's say in the evening, we choose to watch a comedy. If we feel tired, if we feel flat, if we feel down or we might, during the day at work, avoid a difficult conversation, but emotion regulation can also be unconscious in the way these routines become automated.

Speaker 2 (27:51):

So, let's say if you're feeling down, you decide to watch a cat video on YouTube. That brings you a little bit of joy. And over time you find every once in a while, every day or periodically you revert to that after a while, it becomes more automatic, but you're actually doing it to regulate your emotions. And James Gross, a psychologist who has studied emotion regulations suggests that emotion regulation has certain goals. We might diminish certain emotions. For instance, when these emotions create behaviours that are no longer useful to us or when emotions, conflict with other important goals. So, for instance, during the recent pandemic, many business owners have felt angry, fearful, frustrated, sad, but at the same time, their goal is to bring the company through the crisis to save the company. So, while they feel all of these negative emotions, they put those emotions to one side, they diminish those negative emotions.

Speaker 1 (28:54):

So, I understand Rachel emotion regulation in a startup business situation might involve someone receiving an email that contains bad news from a client. The recipient is frustrated or angry and feels the need to do something. And so, replies quite quickly, but later realizes they should have waited until they were calmer, because they've said the wrong thing, which has made a bad situation, worse. This experience teaches them to change future behaviour. Is that an example of emotion regulation?

Speaker 2 (29:24):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So, there are different strategies for regulating or emotions, and I'm gonna focus on four situation, selection, attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation. And I'll give you some examples of each. So, situation selection is when we approach or avoid certain people or situations on the basis of their likely emotional impact. So, say for a startup entrepreneur, putting yourself in a situation that's likely to evoke positive emotions or behaviours. So, in the early days, going to a co-working space with other business startups where you might be inspired or feel supported meeting a client in person, following the pandemic for the first time, giving a talk, a pep, talk to your employees or attending one to increase positive emotions. So, all these are strategies that might increase positive emotions, or it could have involve avoiding certain people, certain situations to diminish the likelihood of negative emotions.

Speaker 2 (30:25):

So, for instance, one business owner I spoke to during the pandemic mentioned to me that he chose which meetings and conversations he would have during the day in when, in order to manage his energy levels. So that's situation selection. Another emotion regulation strategy is attentional deployment. Attentional deployment refers to how individuals direct their attention within a given situation in order to influence those emotions. So, this includes strategies like distraction and rumination. So, distraction is about focusing on non-emotion, relevant aspects of the situation or shifting our attention away from the immediate situation altogether rumination on the other hand is about focusing our attention on the situation and its emotional implication. So, for example, distraction for a startup business might include celebrating the successes of staff or parts of the business that are doing well despite a crisis or your abilities as an entrepreneur to acquire financial support despite being new to the market.

Speaker 2 (31:36):

So, to give you an example for my own research, during the riots, one owner of a furniture store that had been in the same family for five generations, but very tearfully to me about watching the business, he had grown up in not only being burned down but demolished as well. And he said that he couldn't look at that at what was happening directly that he had to do so through his phone, by looking through his phone and filming it in a more dispassionate fashion. So, he looked at it objectively in order to diminish and distract from those negative emotions.

Speaker 1 (32:16):

Uhhuh yeah. Fascinating stuff. Rachel, do you, do you have an obvious diminish or distraction example that has played out in business during the pandemic?

Speaker 2 (32:25):

Yeah, so I think the examples could include you know, again, some of the people I spoke to talked about having a social event, you know, meeting up with their staff on a Friday night for drinks, virtual drinks. And even though it was very difficult, staff were anxious. People were considering leaving that, you know, these little moments to connect and feel less isolated were actually very helpful. And again, focused away on from the negative emotions to the positive emotions, which were incurred by being together by remembering, you know, what it was to, to be a community, to be part of that business

Speaker 1 (33:11):

Uhhuh. Okay. And on that note, the pandemic has denied a social contact in terms of startup wellbeing. I'm, I'm fairly sure people feel better when connected, rather than a part. Do you have anything to, you know, to add on, on that, Rachel.

Speaker 2 (33:27):

I think there's a, a lot of evidence to suggest that being around others, helping others receiving support from others is essential. You know, it's an important part of our mental health. It's an important part of being a human being. So yes, when people were suddenly forced to be isolated, it was, you know, very difficult. And I think again in again, sort of I wouldn't say encouraged, but when people were experiencing those negative emotions you know, they had less opportunity to diminish such finish such

Speaker 1 (34:15):

Rachel apologies my interest in your work and the realm of human behaviour has taken us away from my original question about the strategies startups can use to manage their emotions effectively. Can you just share, you know, what else can people do?

Speaker 2 (34:31):

So cognitive change is another example of an emotion regulation strategy, and it refers to evaluating the situation. One is in. So as to alter its emotional significance, either by changing how we think about the situation or our capacity to manage the demands that it poses. So, for a startup, this might include looking for the positives in a difficult situation. So, reflecting on the different individuals and resources that might be drawn upon to support the business. So, during the pandemic, this might include focusing on the support that family members provided or friends, customers, and the broader community in business. As usual times, if a company hasn't fulfilled its quarterly goals. For example, this might include thinking about the advances it has made in the process of attempting to do so, attempting to achieve its goals such as the new clients it has at obtained or the new processes it has devised or reconfigured in pursuit of those goals or cognitive change might include the opposite. It might involve looking for the negatives and reflecting on the limitations, around meeting the demands, which might pave the way to acquiring more resources or readjusting our aims and plans.

Speaker 1 (35:45):

Uhhuh. And can you provide an example?

Speaker 2 (35:48):

So, for instance, during the London riots, one business owner, I spoke to the owner of a children's clothing store was looking for the positives when she compared her experiences to others. So, she said that when she was driving to her business, after being alerted that someone had broken in, she got out of her car and she was, you know, trying to find a way to the business, even though the streets had been corded off. And she was surrounded by some of the riots at one point, she said, even though she felt a little bit threatened on the night that actually in retrospect, she was okay, she was healthy. So were her family members, her business hadn't burned down, and this wasn't the case for other businesses. So that made her feel better.

Speaker 1 (36:33):

Okay, well that makes complete sense, Rachel, and reminds me, especially, you know, with world events as they are right now, how important it is to keep a sense of perspective. And also, I forget how many times I've told myself as an entrepreneur, things are not as bad as they might appear, but back to you, Rachel a as I know you have a final point on emotion, regulation strategy.

Speaker 2 (36:58):

So, response modulation is the fourth emotion regulation strategy that I wanted to talk about. Response modulation refers to influencing emotion responses, response tendencies, once they arise. So, our everyday experiences are of course, filled with opportunities and efforts to manipulate our behaviours, our emotion, expressive behaviours. So, we hide our anger at an offensive remark made by our life partner or our business partner or a colleague or a member of the public, or during an interaction as a consumer. We can also modulate our responses through our physiological self so we can slow our breathing rate down in the case of fear or anger or even excitement. So, for a startup entrepreneur meeting with the demanding group of advisors or board members or a member of staff, or even customer that might be difficult, this might include hiding their annoyance that might come from requests of those individuals. So, these are examples of emotion, regulation strategies.

Speaker 1 (38:07):

Rachel central, to your analysis and explanation of emotional regulation strategies is the connection human beings make with each other throughout the pandemic. Startups have typically been able to connect, but rather than in person through the likes of Zoom and Teams, do you have any sort of impact observations you can share?

Speaker 2 (38:29):

Absolutely. I mean, I think we've all been part of Lukewarm or mildly dissatisfying meetings online because there's a sense that we're not connecting with people as before. There's also some research to suggest that we feel more exhausted, which in these interactions, which comes not only from staring at a screen, but because we're spending a lot of time and effort trying to figure out and navigate the emotions of those other individuals. So yes, I think when we're, when we're feeling positive, when we're feeling happy, we want to gravitate towards others. That is a natural state for human beings. What, at the same time, when we're feeling down and we want to lift ourselves up, it's important to make connections with others. So, there's a lot of evidence to suggest that making connections with others, being around others, helping others, receiving support from others, all of these things are good for our mental health and wellbeing.

Speaker 1 (39:39):

Ah, that's great. And your answer allows me to circle back to the two words you mentioned earlier, emotional intelligence thanks to the work by people like Daniel Goldman, these two words have become far more commonplace. Can you explain briefly what emotional intelligence is and shed light as to how entrepreneurs can develop their, their AI? So they are better equipped to handle their, their next crisis.

Speaker 2 (40:05):

So yes, emotional intelligence, just to give you a bit of background, emotional intelligence refers to an ability to monitor our emotions and to use this information, to guide our thinking and our actions. So, breaking this down a little bit further, it involves identifying our emotions, understanding our emotions and regulating our emotions. So, before we can regulate our emotions, it's important to identify and understand them. And this can help us to navigate situations in the workplace. So, we can start by keeping note of the kinds of emotions we are experiencing at work and when, what our responses are and what we could have done. Instead, for example, we can become more socially aware of the feelings of others. So, this is an important part of emotional intelligence. So, in the workplace, thinking about the emotions of business partners, staff, customers, other stakeholders, sharing those feelings, being more empathic to those feelings, putting ourselves in the shoes of others and they should facilitate those interactions and also enable us to provide feedback, even if it's negative feedback to those individuals.

Speaker 2 (41:15):

And an example of emotional intelligence that I like to use with my students is let's say a sales manager for instance, has come up with an amazing idea that will increase corporate revenues by up to 200%. But this sales manager knows that her boss tends to be irritable and short tempered in the morning, especially in the first part of the week when they're more likely to have had a meeting with the board and the senior management team. So having emotional intelligence means that this sales manager will first recognize and consider this emotional effect about her boss and that despite the stunning nature of her idea and her own excitement, she will regulate her own emotions, curb her enthusiasm and wait until later in the week and in the afternoon, even to approach her boss. So, becoming more aware of how you're feeling, what triggers those feelings, how you might channel or manage those feelings more productively by helping to direct your thoughts and actions is essential.

Speaker 2 (42:11):

So, let's say in the case of the pandemic, for instance, what prompted negative emotions. So, if entrepreneurs revisit that time, was it uncertainty when uncertainty increased as a result of the lockdowns or talk of impending lockdowns? Was it in terms of looking at the books and finding that sales had diminished by X percent? Was it when support wasn't forthcoming? Was it when staff were particularly anxious or threatening to exit and reflecting also on how these issues might be addressed? So, ascertaining how stakeholders are feeling, for example, regulating negative emotions by eliciting positive ones, or again, using strategies like situation, selection, intentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation. And we can do these things for instance, by putting ourself in front of certain people or situations that might be able to support you in the case of situation selection, we might be able to you know, think about intentional deployment in terms of being aware of rumination and seeking to minimize such using distraction strategies intentionally not to take you away from the issues at hand that need to be addressed, but by focusing your attention as an entrepreneur on the bigger picture, looking at the positive, as well as the negative, also reflecting on how you're evaluating the situation.

Speaker 2 (43:38):

So not only on what has been lost, but what has been gained or what might change invoking cognitive reappraisal and change as an emotion regulation strategy and being aware of when you might need to modulate your responses, being careful, how you express concern, how you express anger or frustration to different stakeholders, including staff and clients.

Speaker 1 (44:00):

Yeah, I really like the structure you share Rachel, because it provides a framework for every entrepreneur. In fact, anyone to learn about themselves, my takeaway is this. We need to identify, understand and regulate our emotional responses and also be aware of how others behave, respond, and react to us in, in different situations. But to do this work on our own is very difficult. So, to what extent, Rachel, do you think startups should seek feedback and help on this issue from say a mentor?

Speaker 2 (44:31):

Yes. I, I agree that a mentor can be extremely valuable in times of crisis. And actually, I found that with the pandemic in speaking to people in the hospitality industry, that that was, you know, very important to them, this having the opportunity to speak to more experienced people, more experienced rest tours, for instance, in the, in the case of those operating those kinds of businesses. Yeah, it provided a huge amount of emotional support.

Speaker 1 (45:07):

Rachel, we are nearing the end of our time together, but I do have a couple more questions to put to you and I would love your thoughts. People typically think only bad things come from a crisis, but how might a crisis act as a springboard for creativity and opportunity?

Speaker 2 (45:25):

So, a few of the business owners that I spoke to during the pandemic talked about the kinds of opportunities that were created for instance, by increasing localization. So, this tendency to workshop and dine in one's own area, rather than traveling further afield to the centre, et cetera. So, the owner of an office design and consultancy told me that despite the challenges. So, this is a business that actually designs physical workspaces for companies. So, one that was very much affected by the pandemic. So, this individual, this entrepreneur said to me that he felt the enforced social distancing and working from home work from home measures, created a big opportunity for them to become thought leaders in this space. So, he kind of flipped it on its head. The owner of a coffee shop said, told me that he felt while on the one hand, it seemed a little bit crazy to be talking about trying to save his business. While on the other contemplating opening more shops said, he felt that in the short to medium term, people were going to stay localized, and this could have a positive effect on his business. And so, he did just that he opened another coffee shop and a bakery over the pandemic. So, seeing opportunity in times of crisis is common. Not everyone notes, these opportunities, but it is common, and it is useful. And be, can be quite promising and profitable as well.

Speaker 1 (46:57):

It's interesting, Rachel, a crisis can completely change the way we look at things before a crisis comes along. We typically do what we did yesterday or follow what the plan says, but a crisis rips up the plan and kind of gives us permission to do something new as a catalyst to do things. Permission can be a very powerful force. Have you any insight you can share?

Speaker 2 (47:21):

Yes, I think you're right. I think a crisis is a forced pause and opportunity to grow, even if one's uncomfortable doing so. And of course it very much does depend on the kind of crisis we're talking about. There, there are personal crises as well, which might be very difficult, but even in those instances, there might be opportunity for what researchers refer to as post traumatic growth. So, changing the way we think and the way we behave. And I think for entrepreneurs, what it does is it's an opportunity to remind us of some of the benefits of why we started a business in the first instance some of the perks around working for oneself, but some as well as some of the difficulties, but why you sort of set out to do that in the first place, because it was an opportunity to make something, to create something, to help others or to receive help from others. And I think that also it can be an opportunity to you know, see the negative effects in a positive light, so it can change the way we work. It can change the kind of work we undertake and how we develop the business. So, I think sometimes these forced pauses can be very useful and a way in which we change, reflect and grow.

Speaker 1 (48:53):

Rachel, thank you. You've given so much of yourself in this interview for which I am very grateful and I'm sure listeners will draw huge benefit. But before we say our goodbyes, I always ask guests whether they have a, a recommended resource book or tip, they would like to share?

Speaker 2 (49:12):

Aside from becoming more emotionally intelligent and as part of this, managing your emotions, I think accepting that we are emotional beings and that our emotions and the emotions of others are important, they have value and that they can guide our thoughts and behaviours. And in addition, I would recommend that during a crisis focusing on and prioritizing self-care. So, this is something that was spoken about a lot during the pandemic, but it remains true. This means eating well, taking breaks, exercising, cooking, playing music, reading, setting boundaries, all of these things, all these things can give us the time and the space, not only to recharge and to add richness to our lives, but to reflect in the way he's mentioned. And it's also important to manage our expectations during a crisis. So, this involves reflecting on the possibilities available, given the circumstances and diminishing feelings of disappointment in the process. So, during the pandemic, for instance, some of the entrepreneurs that I spoke to were managing expectations of business performance and viability by acknowledging continuing uncertainty in the external environment. So, the idea that they would have to transition to less profitable business models, including which meant reduced capacity in sales and the possibility of another or an extended lockdown.

Speaker 1 (50:36):

Ah, yeah. Great advice, Rachel, and all in keeping with everything else you have brought to the show. I feel you have offered an emotional toolkit, an invaluable survival bag of insight, and must have resource for any startup entrepreneur who finds themselves in a crisis. Dr. Rachel Doern, thank you so much for joining me here on the Startup Survival Podcast.

Speaker 2 (50:59):

Thank you so much for having me,

Speaker 1 (51:08):

Hopefully as a result of listening to Rachel, you have a better understanding of ways to connect with your feelings and appreciate how your emotions are guiding you and how you should respond. Understanding emotions, as we've learned from Rachel is a hugely complex subject but given the thousands of decisions we make as entrepreneurs, just think how much better things could be. If you are able to develop a more coherent understanding of yourself, some personal reflection and training could make all the difference when it comes to navigating any difficult decision or tricky situation. And of course, if you are building a startup team, think what difference this kind of knowledge could make to the people around you. Now, if this interview wasn't enough to help you develop a better understanding of managing emotions, you may recall. I referenced a cracking read at the start of this episode.

Speaker 1 (52:02):

Well, here it is No Hard Feelings by Liz Fosslien and Molly West Duffy is a guide to understanding, expressing and managing emotions in our working lives. This recommended read recognizes that our working lives are full of emotion, but it's the leaders who set the culture and thus determine the nature and level of how emotions are managed and importantly, how they are shared in the workplace. The book also tackles some false notions, not least the belief that leaders are supposed to always be strong, but it's impossible to always be strong. And anyway, is that the best strategy amongst many other invaluable lessons and insights offered by the text? No Hard Feelings references the importance of leaders being vulnerable. Not only is that healthy, but also very topical because vulnerability is the subject of the next interview. In this series

Speaker 1 (53:03):

In episode nine, the next episode, I'm going to be talking with serial entrepreneur and author Kyle Hegarty currently based in Singapore, Kyle will be discussing his experience within the roller coaster world of high growth startup. More importantly, Kyle will be opening up and sharing his thoughts on the subject of vulnerability and being vulnerable. This not to be missed episode is due to be published on Thursday, the 19th of May. But before then, it's time we ended and rolled the credits for this eighth episode in the series. Once more. Duncan and Silla, thank you for all production and editorial support. And of course, thank you to our special guest, Dr. Rachel Doern for sharing your experience, research and insight on the world of managing emotions in a crisis. But before we close, don't forget your podcast feedback. It's not just welcomed, it's needed, share what you really like and let me know what needs to be improved and whatever your listening channel of preference. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe until next time. My name's Peter Harrington, and this has been your start survival podcast. Go well, stay safe. And thank you.