Written by Kate Billing, Founder & Creative Director, Blacksmith

A 3-minute read and 1-hour watch


Humans are emotional beings and yet many people feel pressure to hide their feelings at work. In the midst of a global pandemic that is impacting every area of life and filling our newsfeed and watercooler chats from dawn till dusk, it may not be feasible or even preferable to force ourselves to “keep it together” or to expect other people to do so.

For all the talk about bringing our whole selves to work, how many of us feel that this is really what is wanted? We put untold amounts of energy and attention into managing impressions, keeping up appearances, and suppressing emotions we’ve been told are unacceptable.

Creating an emotionally inclusive culture, where people know that it’s not just okay but desirable to talk about and express healthy emotion, might just be a game-changer as we endeavour to navigate through the complex change and tough times of the coming months and years.

But do leaders and teams have the mindsets, confidence, and capability to do it?

Kate Billing and Jeremy Dean

Kate Billing:

Kate is the Founder & Creative Director of Blacksmith and she is on a mission to put the tricky business of being FULLY HUMAN at the centre of how we live, lead and work.

Kate believes it’s time for a new kind of leader. Human-centred leaders who together will create the world we need for our shared future. Leaders who are examples of what’s possible when we commit to the deepest levels of humanity and responsibility in the ways that we live, lead and do business.

For nearly 25 years she has worked in the people, culture and leadership space, building a reputation for sharp insights, compassionate challenge, warmth and energy. Always connected to her diverse global community, Kate brings the best of what’s happening out there to New Zealand and takes the best of our home-grown wisdom to the world.

Jeremy Dean:

Jeremy is the founder of riders&elephants, a Wellington-based company designing simple, human games to help leaders reimagine the way people connect and grow. A lot of this involves using beautifully simple tools that unlock emotion-led communication about workplace culture and customer experiences. He believes that “F-word conversations” about how people truly feel in their workplaces are the key to helping people thrive, lift the culture of teams, and increase overall performance.

In 2018, after four years of development, riders&elephants successfully launched The Emotional Culture Deck, their first card-based game. The ECD is used in 36 countries by over 30,000 people in organisations including IBM, Netflix, IAG, Xero, Starbucks, Westpac, Air New Zealand, Panasonic, Daimler, and New Zealand Rugby. In 2019, the company launched a new game called The Customer Experience Deck and they’re currently designing The Wellbeing Deck.

In a previous life, Jeremy was a professional cricketer but his dream career came to a screeching halt in 2009. He struggles daily with anxiety and imposter syndrome and has also been part of highly dysfunctional cultures and teams. Fortunately, he ‘eats his own cooking’ and is the self-proclaimed biggest user of his company’s games, developing ways to manage and now share his experiences in order to help others.

In this one hour webinar, Jeremy and I discuss:

  • how The Emotional Culture Deck came into being
  • emotion as the missing link in organisational culture
  • using unpleasant emotions as a tool for self-awareness and personal growth
  • fearing our own emotions and those of others, like a bomb that could go off at any moment
  • the importance of developing a deep and wide emotional vocabulary
  • the cathartic and connecting power of emotionally-centred conversations
  • reciprocity, vulnerability, and emotional courage
  • group affect, emotional contagion, and leadership responsibility
  • the power of using ‘a game’ to facilitate emotionally-centred conversations: vocabulary, transference, the familiarity of using cards, and holding things lightly; and
  • how little nudges and micro-moments create trust and psychological safety.

As promised in the recording, here is a list of some of the articles, podcasts, TED talks and books that Jeremy and I reference in our conversation, should you be curious to explore more on this topic:


Enjoyed our webinar and want to take the next step?

  • VISIT Jeremy’s website The Emotional Culture Deck to learn more about ‘the game’, masterclasses (real world and on-line), and to access FREE resources so you can get started right away.
  • JOIN Fully Human to get Jeremy’s follow up Guest Blog, where he answers the Q&A questions we didn’t get to touch on live – sign up HERE
  • CONNECT with Jeremy and me to stay connected as part of our professional communities on LinkedIn.