11 | Camilla Tuominen: Emotions in workplace

Our second guest this season is Camilla Tuominen, who probably needs no further introduction (at least here in Finland). Camilla is a surprising combination of many things: a popular keynote speaker, author, illustrator, startup founder and business influencer. She is employing her versatile skills to help people in understanding and leading their emotions, as emotional intelligence is key to both personal and business success. 

In this episode Camilla explains how both organizations and individuals can benefit from bringing emotions to the workplace. She also shares many great tips on how to be more productive by balancing out work tasks according to your current mood and mindset. 

Frustration for the lack of emotions at work led to entrepreneurship

Camilla has been an entrepreneur for the past eight years. Before that, at the beginning of her career, she worked as a consultant in customer relations and as a project leader in a marketing company. During these years, Camilla began to notice that the lack of emotions at work was a great problem. Camilla felt she couldn’t perform her best, was embarrassed to say her ideas out loud, and didn’t feel comfortable telling about the problems she noticed. Even after returning from parental leave and feeling motivated to work again, she soon started to feel less excited, less creative and less courageous.

Camilla began to think whether she would be able to keep working in such a grey mood for the next 30 to 40 years. She also wondered whether she was giving a good example of work-life to her children. She then thought about the situation from a broader perspective. If everyone in a company are doing only what is needed and never giving anything extra, how would the company be able to compete? The frustration for the situation led Camilla wanting to make a change in how organizations see emotions. 

Isn’t business supposed to be all about money and numbers? Why pay attention to emotions?

According to Camilla, the benefit of practicing emotional intelligence cannot always be measured with numbers and data. However, there is science behind how the human mind works under stress and what it does to cognitive skills, creativity and motivation. 

Practicing emotional intelligence – treating others nicely that is – also helps us recognize and handle our own and others’ emotions. As Camilla states, we people are social animals that crave for connection, and we are at our best when we trust. And when we trust and feel safe, we open ourselves for great possibilities. Understanding emotions and feeling safe to express them also releases stress and frees up energy to feeling the best versions of ourselves. 

Encountering and truly listening to your clients and colleagues, and truly saying positive things can make them even more courageous and trustworthy. And all these things are available at each moment for all of us. We benefit from this in a performance way, but it’s also a humane thing to do, to act nicely. I might ask who dares not to do this.

Using more emotional words is the easiest way for organizations to utilize emotions

This is a tip Camilla keeps on giving. Making intangible emotions visible by using words is one of the easiest ways to utilize emotions. Enrichening the vocabulary by expressing whether we are excited, confused, feeling out of control or frustrated, helps to free up energy. Research shows that once we have a name for an emotion, the emotional areas of the brain calm down. Instead of hiding the elephant in the room, we should bravely state our emotions and the problems we notice out loud, which also helps normalizing emotions at the workplace. 

“If we don’t say the problems out loud, how do we know what to fix? How could a doctor help us if we don’t tell where we are hurting? Emotions are the same thing. They bring us information about the situations where we are, they are there for a reason. And once we start to be curious about that, they become interesting information that can help us make wiser decisions on what to do next.”

Camilla’s tips for work-life balance and happiness at work

According to Camilla, educating employees and giving them tools and the freedom to find the most suitable a way of working for them makes people a lot more productive and helps them be the best versions of themselves. 

As an entrepreneur and as someone who does her dream job, Camilla doesn’t feel the need to separate her work life from personal life. “It’s completely the same Camilla all the time, and my brain is doing the work when it wants to”. However, she has some rules she strictly holds on to. For example, she keeps separate workdays for speaking, doing creative work and having meetings, as staying in a certain mindset all day keeps her much more productive. 

Happiness act: being vulnerable in front of others

To Camilla’s mind, especially leaders should show an example of how to be human by revealing their imperfections, as it is a sign of strength, not weakness.

I think that this kind of showing example on how to be just human, it would be like honey. The word would spread that people are treated nicely and you can be yourself, and I’m sure that there would be a line on the door as people would want to work there. We want true connection, and if we don’t get that connection, we get anxious and lonely”.