ESG Gets Emotional


esg | governance | leadership | stakeholder capitalism | stakeholder engagement

I recently returned from a week of travel. I was speaking at two high-level leader’s conferences. These were multi-day events, and the topics were: resilience in the workplace; workplace wellness; how to manage change; and, how to capture and retain top-level talent within companies and organizations. The underlying themes for these events were all focused on people, providing the heart of the “S” in Environment, Social and Governance (ESG).

Many leaders, entrepreneurs, and companies are realizing that employees at all levels within the organization are dealing with extreme stress, pressure, overwhelm, and even burnout.  Great leaders are leaving to pursue other paths. Companies are reporting a lack of employee motivation and cultural unrest. This has become the real crisis that leaders are facing.

For a quick turnaround, and to prevent future crises within organizations and the lives of the people within those companies, implementing the “Social” component of the ESG framework, is key.

Unmanaged Uncertainty and Change Causes Chaos

So, what is at the root of all the anxiety, worry, fear, and stress of key leaders, management, and employees?

Due to the unprecedented uncertainty during these past few years, and the vast amount of change that has occurred, most of us were caught off guard. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the disruption that was already taking place, creating a state of near-meltdown and in some extreme cases, a complete meltdown and crisis moment for employees and leadership.

The brilliance and sheer capacity of people was stretched to the point of emotional overload. After all, each human can only endure so much!

So let us take a deep dive into the emotional components of change that have brought us to this point. When we examine this notion, we realize that ESG indeed has an emotional side. We are dealing with people and human beings who have limits to their emotional capacity.

As a certified assessor in emotional intelligence and reporting for 180 and 360 Reviews, I have found this to be a key tool for assessing the health of people and of organizations in general. The Emotional Intelligence assessment process and detailed reports offer data-driven results that point to the most pressing cultural and people challenges that are at the root as hidden reasons behind staff disengagements and, even more impactful, leadership resignations. For many companies, these 180 and 360 reviews have become the top assessment since the results speak to performance, culture and emotional wellness as a whole while also providing key areas to focus.

What can leaders do to raise their efforts and create a culture that will allow for healing and support within the cultural landscape of a company?

The following three steps represent key points of where to start and outlines the areas that companies could focus on to create a supportive culture.

Step One: Acknowledge and Honor Emotions

The first step is to acknowledge and honor what people are truly experiencing.

It is critical for leaders to realize that grief, anxiety, overwhelm, and fear resides in nearly all people. We have endured severe levels of uncertainty over the past few years, caused by changes in the workplace, as well as the changing landscape of business in general. This step requires an understanding of the reasons why our people, including the leaders themselves, are struggling.

We need to recognize that we are a grieving society.  We miss life as it was. We long for the predictable, pre-pandemic days and the time before all the massive changes occurred.

Leaders need to be intentional in acknowledging the importance, of workplace well-being, and honoring the human within the organization.

Step Two: Use a Trusted Tool to Achieve the Turnaround

The second step is to use a tool that will assess where our key staff and leadership are at. I find the 180 and 360 Emotional Intelligence Assessments to be instrumental in this process. These assessments are an engaging and non-threatening method for gaining the feedback and information about the root causes of leadership challenges.

We have all seen the effects of staff and/or leadership burnout, aggravated by the multiple resignations that are blindsiding companies daily. By assessing the emotional intelligence and emotional health of staff and leaders, you are taking another key step in achieving the turnaround of your company culture and workplace satisfaction.

Step Three: Provide Resources to Build Resilience

The third step is to provide resources that will strengthen the capacity of everyone on the team to deal with their challenges. The “S” in the ESG framework provides an essential set of priorities with many guiding principles that can assist in managing the underlying causes of your leadership challenges. Innovative companies are adapting these principles to increase resources for employee health and wellness and emotional stability of leaders and teams. Additionally, companies at the forefront are also creating flexible benefit packages, as well as adjusting to flexible working schedules, hybrid work models and up leveling standards of all working conditions.

Many businesses are also implementing internal master-mind coaching or peer luncheon conversations, facilitated by an external business coach or advisor. Another opportunity is to offer access to consulting, executive and leadership coaching and even counseling, to provide even the best and most resilient amongst us to speak their truth to a trusted professional.

Prioritize Goals to Thrive

Many of us have been taught to put on a brave front and show up as leaders. If we are honest, the potential is there for the underlying pain, stress, anxiety, and grief to sabotage even the best of us.

The three key steps in this article are starting points for companies and leaders to address the emotional impact of the unprecedented challenges they face.

I encourage every leader to implement an urgent platform for prioritizing goals of how to recover within our organizational structures.

Nurture the fragile component of our humanness so that all leaders and all companies can go back to a state of flourishing. It is time to deal with the high stress, the grief, the anxiety, the concerns, and the fear that are currently derailing many.

For those who are adapting the principles and nurturing the people within company structure these are exciting times. You will see real change and make quantum leaps toward a more brilliant model of doing business worldwide.

Let us all aspire to nurture the people who will create the most impactful change we have ever seen in our world.

Is your business or leadership team experiencing dire challenges in these uncertain times? Struggling with the “S” in ESG? Connect for a free consultation.

About the author

Sandy Hansen-Wolff has spent her entire career as a business leader and entrepreneur. Sandy started her speaking, coaching and consulting business – nearly two decades ago.  In this role, she works across industries to partner with leaders and business owners to create and execute high level strategy and aligned actions. She was thrust into entrepreneurship when widowed at a young age.  Although always an entrepreneur at heart, Sandy assumed ownership of her late husband’s company in 2003 upon his death and began sharing her story of crisis leadership and overcoming tragedy.  She has worked for nearly two decades in agribusiness ownership as well as launched a new agribusiness e-commerce company recently and successfully transitioned her company to new ownership.

Sandy now spends her time helping other leaders and companies scale through her leadership coaching, speaking and consulting business. She is a certified International Coaching Federation executive and leadership coach as well as a certified Emotional Intelligence Assessor. She partners with many brilliant business leaders, owners and teams and facilitates monthly mastermind peer groups of business leaders. Sandy speaks to groups large and small on topics of pricing, negotiation, business success/scaling strategies, emotional intelligence, employee engagement and culture, launching new ventures as well as personal strategies for aligning heart-based leadership to profits. She also serves on several boards, is a volunteer wish granter for MakeAWish as well as many other community initiatives.

Sandy and her husband Terry live in the Richmond, MN area with their cat Lily. She is a stepmom to her two grown twin stepdaughters Holly & Hannah. She is most passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and leaders elevate their success to reach profits and scale in quicker fashion than she experienced learning on her own.




Author: Sandy Hansen-Wolff

Sandy is a business visionary, leadership & executive advisor & coach, speaker, mastermind group leader, consultant and business owner. A true entrepreneur at heart, Sandy currently owns and operates her business consulting and speaking business in addition to her agribusiness company which is lead by a virtual team.