The most important factor behind my success was acknowledging the importance of human emotion in business.
Throughout the years of being mentored by my father, Dennis Hoefer, I learned how he managed the company by solely focusing on the bottom-line, rather than the people that surrounded him. While I learned an immense amount of business strategy and sales techniques from him, I also saw that my Dad was a very hard, logical, cold, by-the-numbers guy. He became hyper-focused on the bottom-line. I do believe he had the best of intentions running the business in this manner. He and my mother, Cheryl, had many stressful years of keeping the doors open.
To him, he was caring for his employees, company and family by leading this way. He knew that if the company lacked in performance, it very well could mean everyone’s jobs and livelihood would come to an end.
The way he showed he cared was by providing the job that would earn them income on a consistent basis. This way of running Rocky Mountain Forest Products worked for him up to a certain point, but it quickly became evident that more and more people were not enjoying the work environment. They oftentimes felt under-valued and under-appreciated. Rather than acknowledging this, my father continued in this fashion.
I don’t think he knew any other way of running a group of people. While good performance was acknowledged, he always drove harder for an even better performance. I saw how it drove good people away. I saw how burned out people were getting.
This highlighted to me that the lack of acknowledging the role human emotions played- both his own, and those of the people he interacted with- was somewhat sabotaging his efforts. I saw at times, when my Dad was in a highly emotional state, how it influenced his decisions. They weren’t always great decisions. I also saw how he responded to people who were in highly emotional states, from his own state of high emotions. This was never a good outcome either.
At that time, I sat back, I watched, but I didn’t know what the solution was. I knew that high emotion wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it needed to be taken into account while interacting with someone. Whether it’s you that’s in a worked up state, or someone else.
This prompted me to dive more into the psychology of business. The understanding of where people were at on the emotional scale* (see emotional scale reference below) and realizing that where they were at was going to cause them to behave in a certain way.
I learned that if I was in a super-high emotional state, whether I was feeling super high in an invincible sort of way, or if I was in a super low emotional state- such as burned out, stressed or depressed- I was not going to make very good decisions, nor is the person across from me. This also taught me how to have empathy in business. It taught me how to be able to put myself in other people’s shoes.
Generally speaking, people believe emotion in business to be a bad thing, when in reality- it is part of human existence.
It was a major turning point for me as I learned how to gauge my own emotions, and the emotions of those around me. Once I put this into practice, it changed everything. There were times that I felt very passionate about a decision, but I didn’t follow through with it, because I saw it was coming from an emotional place. Understanding why someone may be approaching me in a particular fashion (due to their emotional state) helped me to better interact with them.
Gauging emotional states and leading with empathy by putting myself in others’ shoes allowed me to cut through all of the B.S.
It’s apparent how everyone is motivated by the same thing, first and foremost- they want to take care of themselves and their families. Whenever they are highly emotional, it’s usually because they are feeling like there is a threat to themselves or their family. Same for me. Once we realize that we all have the same common goal- we get up to come in and improve the lives of our families- we start off on more of a common ground.
I believe that being able to have empathy towards the individuals who work for you, ensures a great company-wide culture that everyone appreciates being part of.