Emotional Intelligence

How to Maintain Emotional Balance When Things Go Bad

In every organization, there are sometimes big changes and it can be hard to maintain emotional balance through each situation.You may be thinking, “Sure, it is easy to use the tools you mention when things are going well, but what happens when things go bad?” Just because there are changes that may affect your position, it does NOT require that it affects your emotions in a negative way.

Several situations could be categorized as difficult for leaders to work through: downsizing, merging, restructuring, relocating, new leadership, project failure, ethical and moral failure, just to name a few. Basically, any situation involving a change that does not give you a positive feeling. These situations don't have to be awful, but they encompass any kind of change that takes you out of your normal routine, which can make them difficult.

When there has been a breakdown in your company, it doesn’t feel good. Tensions are high and people are on edge emotionally. Realizing the emotion exists and not allowing the negativity to drag you down is the skill. This is emotional resilience. Bad things are going to happen.

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How can you as a leader work on your own resilience to be able to lead others to see a brighter day ahead?

The first step in being a resilient leader in times of tension and complexity is to be aware of and manage your emotion. In an issue of Leadership Quarterly, Laura Little, Janaki Gooty, and Michelle Williams take on the topic of "the role of leader emotional management." The authors studied 163 leaders and their followers and concluded that when followers perceive that the leader was managing emotion, focusing on meeting expectations, and creating a future, followers felt better about the leadership being provided. Conversely, when followers perceive that leaders modulate or suppress their emotion, there is a lack of leadership and job satisfaction on the part of the follower.

What can you do as a leader to create better leadership in times of tension and complexity? How can you focus on meeting expectations while creating hope and a future for your followers when times are tough?

Here is a simple acronym that can help you stay in CHECK during difficult situations:

Consider the Situation

Take note of what's going on and how it is affecting you, your relationships, and your team. Can you describe the situation clearly and objectively, then identify the emotion it brings up and why? Are your emotions creating false expectations that need to be managed?

Hear from Others

Who are two or three people you trust that can speak into the situation? Identify individuals inside and outside of what's going on that can help you think and act productively as you figure out what to do. Don't spend too much time doing this, or else you become subject to the opinions of too many people and fall into a pit of gossip and negativity, which brings us to our “E."

Eliminate Negativity

This is easier said than done but necessary. Pessimism indicates that there's absolutely no hope or no solution to what's going on, and that's just simply not true. Whether it's coming from yourself or from others, be sure that what you are hearing and thinking will be constructive and productive. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association tells us we need to develop a “positive explanatory style." This is not “The Power of Positive Thinking” we all have heard about. It is much deeper than this. Seligman says, “What you think when you fail is crucial.“ How you explain things to yourself when they don’t go your way is the difference between helplessness and being energized.

Create a Plan - Organize and Carry Out

You've thought about it and talked about it, now it's time to decide what you will do about it. Start with the outcome you hope to have and work backward, documenting the steps you need to take to reach that outcome. The key here is to describe what success looks like to you before you implement the plan.

Keep Your Head Up - Stay Consistent, Present, and Motivated

We know it's not going to be easy, but no matter what happens you have the ability to take a deep breath, stay positive, and keep going. What are some things you can do to remove yourself from what's going on, clear your head, and rejuvenate yourself to stay in the game?

HOMEWORK

Think about this acronym and how you can apply to a difficult situation you are facing. Write CHECK on a note and stick it somewhere you can see it as a reminder of this process. When you see it, think about how you can apply it to the things causing tension for you and your organization.

4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be a victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.

  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?

  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or you become a victim of your circumstance.

  • There is an end game: A successful existence. This is your life, and you only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional

  • Occupational

  • Physical

  • Social

  • Intellectual

  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your emotional wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.

  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect

  • Different depths of spirituality

  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these criteria in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of happiness or wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.

  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.

  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.

  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life, it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?

Homework

Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

7 Steps To Effective Coaching

There are times when I want to start new things but hesitate because I am afraid I won’t know what to do. I felt this way for a long time with Facebook and LinkedIn. Everyone was doing it, it seemed simple and fun, but I didn’t want to look silly if I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know what to do, so I sat on the sideline and watched rather than jumping in and learning. I felt with same way with this blog. For over a year, I wrestled with the idea. Should I start blogging? What would I say? What would other people think about what I had to say? All this negativity swirled around in my mind.

Then one day I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. I remember Michael saying something like, “Stop thinking about it and start doing it." He gave 5 simple steps that I followed to start my blog. And shazam! Here we are today. Those steps gave me the confidence I needed to start something I wanted to do.

This got me thinking; There are probably people out there that have this similar problem. Maybe there are people hesitant to coach others simply because they don’t know where to start. Maybe this is you! If only you had an outline of steps to take that would give you the confidence you need to do it.

This led me to reflect on what I do when I get a coaching client for the first time and outline the major ingredients that go into every coaching engagement that I do. Please enjoy my recipe for a successful coaching engagement in 7 simple steps below and try putting them to practice.

(I think this model is transferable. So if you are a professional coach, a supervisor of employees, or a Mom or Dad coaching a youth soccer team, following these 7 steps can mean the difference for your outcome being successful!)

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

  • Begin With an Open Mind Coaching never begins in a vacuum. We all come into coaching relationships with biases. Coaches must come to clients with an open mind. The client must be seen as being a whole and healthy person. While there are times when you will have received information from others, focus on what the client is saying to you.

  • Get to Know Your Client It is hard to coach without knowing more information about your client. Find out more about who they are, what they do, their life story, and what they hope to accomplish. Consider putting together a series of questions that could apply to any client you serve. Personally, I use multiple types of assessments with my clients.

  • Confirm With the Client It is always important that you validate the collected data with the client. You want the client to be confident that you understand their perspective on what is happening, why the did what they did, or what is the genesis of how they are thinking or feeling.

  • Compare the Data to a Standard Once the client agrees with the collected data, you'll compare it to an acceptable standard. The client must agree that the standard is acceptable. If they do not, then the data may become meaningless because the objective of what the data revealed could become irrelevant. For example, I had a client who gave the appearance of being arrogant. The data we collected from others in the organization said this person’s primary objective was to get their own way all the time. This behavior is the polar opposite of what is expected in the organization: being collaborative. Before I can coach the person to a more collaborative style, they have to agree that collaboration is the right standard. Once this happens we can begin work on the arrogance. If collaboration isn’t the mutually agreed upon goal then it is tough to improve the behavior.

  • Identify Gaps Gaps are the space that exist between the client's current behavior and the agreed upon standard. They are the difference between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.It is useful to talk these gaps out and to get examples of where they have taken place. Coaches should always be looking for gaps between current and expected performance.

  • Set a Plan to Close the Gaps When planning with your clients, develop a simple plan that is laser focused on one or two items. When we give people too much we lose focus and the person runs the risk of being overwhelmed. When examining the performance standard I use the Stop/Start/Continue model. Here's how it works:

    • What behaviors do they need to stop?

    • What behaviors do they need to start?

    • What behaviors need to continue?

      • Do not short change the "continue" aspect. Often by stopping and starting a few simple things, people will see dramatic change. Most of the time they are doing a lot of things right, which you want to encourage to continue.

      • Establish a Date to Follow-Up It is my opinion that this step is where most coaching fails. There is no date set to follow-up, no check-in’s to see how the person is doing, and little to no interaction at all once a plan is put in place. Follow-up with those you coach is the most important part of the coaching relationship! I recommend scheduling all follow-up meetings with your client at the end of your sessions together. This will enforce some accountability on their end and help you maintain the relationship.

Coaching is a valuable skill for helping others become the best person they desire to become. Coaching skills are important tools that anyone in a leadership position needs to possess. Whether you have employees on your team or you are responsible for a group of 8-year-old girls on a soccer field, coaching is the transportation vehicle you use to help an idea become a behavior.

Homework

Identify a person in your life who needs your coaching, or better yet someone who is already getting your coaching. Think about whether you have followed all 7 steps to successful coaching within that relationship. Is there any step that you have missed? How can you use these 7 steps to coach yourself to improve your own coaching outcomes? We would love to hear from you regarding what you think about this process. Leave us a comment below!

Emotional Agility

I ran an interesting experiment last week with a group. I was training them on being emotionally intelligent leaders. Before I tell you about the experiment, a little context might be in order.

The organization, a group of twenty folks, has been working while undergoing massive change. By massive, I mean not only the quantity of change processes going on at once but the entire cultural core of leadership requirements as well. For example, managers are being asked to shift from a “command and control” culture, where directives are pushed down the chain of command, to one of solving issues as they present by the people closest to the event.

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This type of change has as a reorganization component. Teams are being dissolved and new teams are forming that did not exist three months ago. People are being herded into unclear roles that have no guidelines or strategies for success.

This kind of change is hard on people. As humans, we naturally seek safety and comfort. Even if things are not ideal if we feel comfortable and safe and like the way we have it, why would we ever want to change?

It is like trying to get your parents to move into assisted living and out of the house they have been in for over forty years. Even though everyone knows it is best, they just feel better in their environment. Change from the known to the unknown can be deeply challenging.

Period.

So back to my training experiment.

When the group of twenty came in for the 9:00 AM program, the first question I asked them, is the question I ask every group at the beginning of a session, “What do you need to know about me to feel safe in your learning?”

I know the more safe people feel, the more likely they are to absorb content, listen, and hence hopefully learn something that benefits them as future leaders.

I received typical questions like, “Tell us your education and work background,” and, “Tell us where you are from.” Even from time to time people want to know about my family. Once I have built psychological trust, I usually ask them what they want to learn during our time together. Even though I have an agenda, I always want to know what they need. This helps me to empathize throughout the day and link my content to their needs.

The Experimental Question

The group of twenty are all sitting in pods of five people at four different sets of rectangular tables. I then ask the experimental question to the group stating, “I just got some information from senior management that they feel this group is not sitting in a position that is conducive to learning, and they would like them to learn as much as they can from the day.”

Silence. Seriously, like for ninety seconds. Then someone said, “So, are you asking us to move around?”

I said, “I am not asking you to do anything. Is there anything you would like to do with the information you received?”

Then someone said, “You are the expert, tell us how you want us to sit.”

I said, “Thank you for the compliment but that is not my job here. You received information and I need to know if you are going to do anything with it. If not, I will just move on.”

Finally, some discussion started.

“Maybe we should change seats.”

“I think we should sit in a ‘U’ shape.”

“Then we would have to move tables.”

“I am comfortable right here where I am. I like my seat and really don’t want to move.”

This went on for about three minutes and I interjected, “You all are spending a lot of time talking but what I am observing is no one is moving to meet the expectation.”

After about six minutes, or so, the group got up, moved tables and formed a ‘U’ shape. Once they got into position, I asked if this was more conducive to learning, and they came up with some good reasons as to why it might be.

Then I asked, “So, why did it take you so long to respond to the feedback you received?”

One of the group members sat back and said, “Okay, I see what you just did here. You put us in a place we were comfortable and settled in and then presented us with an opportunity to do better and we hesitated and dragged our feet. That is exactly what a lot of very talented people are doing here at our company. We all know we have to change, but even those who say they are excited about the change are experiencing some emotion around the loss of the way things used to be. So we are just sitting and talking about it without much movement.”

Emotional Agility

As we continued to debrief the experiment, and what was happening in the organization, the discussion quickly centered around the change events they were experiencing and their individual responses to those changes. They came up with many reasons for the change: new leadership, market dynamics, product changes, and cultural inefficiencies. All relevant reasons, and from my perspective, accurate.

My mission for the day then became clear, from an emotional intelligence perspective, to help them develop actions and responses to become emotional agile.

“No matter the circumstance, I am responsible for my reaction”, became the mantra of the group.

For example, when people get angry or upset they almost always blame the person, the object, or God for being responsible for the change. This group came to the realization that when they are faced with change, it is up to them to recognize the emotion, label it, and then ask what it is really telling them.

The reality is, life situations happen. It is not debating “if” change is going to happen but “when,” and the question becomes how are you going to respond.

This is emotional agility. How you choose to respond in your life when change is thrust upon you.

This is Too funny

So, I am sitting on an airplane flying home writing this post and the flight attendant has the snack box. The choices are: Belvita Breakfast Bar, Pretzels, Plane Cookies, and Fritos. Now I always, I mean always ask for, and get, Plane Cookies and Fritos.

The flight attendant says to me, “Which one?”

And I say, “I always get the Fritos and the Plane Cookies.”

He says, “I can give you one, which one would you like?”

My knee-jerk thought is, what a jerk! What is his problem? They always have extras of this stuff. Why is he being such a stickler? I want my snack and I want it my way!”

Then I realized I was not acting with much emotional agility.

So, I reread what I just wrote about being emotionally agile and decided to apply my thoughts to my own behavior.

I sat back and thought, he just wants to make sure everyone gets a snack. This is actually a pretty noble gesture on his part. What a nice guy. If I was sitting in the back I would appreciate getting to have a snack choice like the people up front.

The teacher is always a student.

Becoming Agile with Your Emotion

When change is thrust upon us as humans, we have a tendency to look for blame outside of ourselves for how the action has landed on us.

The central thought behind emotional agility is; no matter the circumstance, you are responsible for your reaction.

According to Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, "You cannot always choose what happens to you. But you can choose how you respond to what happens to you.”  

What emotion do you have to manage to be able to be open to think about something outside of yourself?

Can you catch yourself today having some change thrust upon you, and rather than justify with blame, seek contribution on how you can be responsible for your actions?

4 Additional Considerations for Giving and Receiving Tough Feedback

Last week we talked about a case study between Toni and Mia. Toni had some tough feedback for Mia and unfortunately, their conversation did not go well. Click here if you missed the blog post, but in summary, the one thing to remember in giving and receiving feedback is recognizing who is in the power seat during the conversation.

To add to our dialogue, here are 4 Additional Considerations for Giving and Receiving Tough Feedback.

  1. Expect Defensiveness - People are people and when we feel attacked one of our natural responses is to defend ourselves. We do this by justifying our actions, discounting the process, and questioning the procedures.

    • If you find yourself on either side of the feedback process. Recognize when you are being defensive and say, “I am feeling a bit defensive right now and that is not how I want to be perceived. Can we reconvene tomorrow so I am more open to what you are saying?”

  2. The Speaking Reveals the Speaker - Those providing feedback are in the hot seat. Even if you are just playing the role of the reporter who is bringing objective facts to the conversation, you are choosing the subset of facts you think matter most.

    • When you are receiving feedback, assume positive intent from the giver. Assume they have information that is going to be helpful for you to perform better.

  3. The Rule of 3 Conversations - Anytime we are delivering feedback there are 3 conversations happening. First, the conversation between the speaker and the listener; second, the conversation the listener is having with herself, and third, the conversation the speaker is having with herself. The job of the speaker is to understand the conversation that the listener is having with herself.

    • As the listener, your job is to comprehend what is being said. The quieter you can make the conversation within yourself will enable you to appreciate and receive what is being communicated.

  4. It’s All About The Relationship - Never, ever underestimate the power of relationship.  As the giver of feedback, the more mutually satisfying the relationship, the better your feedback will land. This is not just about having common interests but has to do with the level of shared commitments you make to each other. The only way to do this is to spend both quality and quantity of time together. The stronger the mutual commitments that people have the better the relationships. I have noticed in my coaching work that many people do not have anyone to call and share struggles with when they feel like they are in emotional confusion. There is no substitute for genuine time and compassion to strengthen relationships.

    • As the receiver of feedback, you have to take the relationship where it is at the moment, so here are some tips for you to absorb the feedback:

      • Stay present and attentive in the conversation. Resist the temptation to explain “why” you did something.

      • Find commonality in what is being said. It is critical to find something in the feedback you can own and act on.

      • Don’t shoot the messenger. Refrain from becoming judgmental of the person who is giving you feedback. Focus on the content of the message and not who is saying it.

Reflect on the Case

Go back over the case study from last week (read here) and see where you think Mia and Toni could have gotten a better outcome by applying these 5 total suggestions (from this week and last week’s blog) to their feedback conversation.

Better yet, why not study these 5 items before you go into your next feedback session.

I would love to hear from you as to how these 5 items resonate with you. Drop me an email at scott@drscottlivingston.com and I would be happy to connect.

Would you be willing to give ME some feedback? If so, I have a few questions I would like to ask you.

 
Would you be comfortable if Scott or someone from his team contacted you to interview you on the subject of receiving feedback? *
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Are You Happy With Your Level of Well-Being?

One time, a client said to me, "Scott, I realize I need to take care of myself. When I do that,  I am at my best. I have decided to do yoga when I get up in the morning and exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued.

"Recently, there has been a lot of negativity in my life and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am choosing to be the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

His decision prompts me to ask this question to you; how are you, as a leader, focusing on your Emotional Well-being?

 

There’s a great story of 2 of 180 nuns who are the subjects of a noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book  Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman, but here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns were alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.

  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar lives. They eat basic food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and have similar routines. Of course, there differences such as intellect, depths of spirituality and outlook on the future that could account for the varied results in the nuns.

However, none of these aspects made any difference in the research. In his book, Seligman points out that the largest contributor to their longevity was the amount of positive feelings.

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.

  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?

  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment or say “screw it” and become a victim of your circumstance.

  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

One of the attributes we measure in the Emotional Intelligence training is Happiness or Well-being. In our model there are four factors that comprise Well-being:

  1. Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.

  2. Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your beliefs.

  3. Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.

  4. Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

Two Considerations for Evaluating Your Own Level of Well-Being

The first is attempting to display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends that reciprocate. Realize things in life are not always going to go your way. What counts is how you respond when setbacks happen.

The second is to have a balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around. It’s all about balance.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health? What changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

Does Your Culture of Origin Affect Your Leadership?

A while ago, I was at a conference speaking about leadership and how our Emotional Intelligence impacts performance. In the group discussion, questions surfaced regarding the clash of cultures. One participant observed the culture of her company did not align with her cultural background. Her company valued expression of emotion as a way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but this created tension as it was the opposite of her family culture which valued performance without emotion. “Just the facts," the young lady said. No empathy was expressed with difficult classes as she was growing up. “Just deliver the ‘A’ grade.”

This young woman felt trapped between the performance model she was taught as a youth and the new professional culture of empathy and connectedness. I have to tell you, the tension in the room was palpable and the struggle for learning to navigate this dynamic seemed unyielding.

The culture we grew up in is a foundational part of who we are and provides much of our leadership frame. The culture we are exposed to as infants, children, and young adults forms the values, beliefs, and social norms we carry around as adults today. This cultural development is so integral to who we are that it can cause us to behave in ways that we see as entirely normal, but others may look at and say, “What planet did you come from?“ How can one deal with the stress of valuing their culture of origin, yet pressing into a different culture that requires an increase in Emotional Intelligence?

As a group, we discussed how the impact of our formative culture has on our professional behavior. This is not something easily changed without full awareness and willing intention. In fact, it may not be a full-on change that is needed, but skill in navigating between the two cultural dynamics. This is a real value for the discipline of Emotional Intelligence.

According to Michael Polanyi (my favorite science philosopher), “…as human beings, we must inevitably see the universe from a center lying within ourselves and speak about it in terms of a human language shaped by the exigencies of human intercourse.” Everything we do as leaders is culturally situated by our entire human experience: race, sex, economic class, family of origin, family dynamics, teachers, coaches, and friends. It all has an impact on how you see the world and how you lead. Culture is influential and inevitable in shaping every single person in this world.

Emotional Intelligence encompasses your ability to create space in a situation and make a behavioral choice rather than acting impulsively. Being Emotionally Intelligent equips you to assess the cultural tension, adapt to an unfamiliar way of life, and even affect an environment with good leadership and team cooperation.

Much can be learned from Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural adaptation theory of "stress-adapt-grow." For example, the higher a leader's Emotional Intelligence, the more equipped they are to recognize the impact that the cultural stress is having on them. Self-awareness to understand the difference allows the leader to be able to feel the stress and deal with it rather than ignore it and let it mount.

If stress mounts to a point that cannot be tolerated, all sorts of negative consequences are possible. If stress is managed, then adaptation to the new culture is possible. Learning the Emotional Intelligence skill of healthy emotional expression will empower this young leader to value both her culture of origin and her culture of destiny. When she adapts, she can grow to a place where she can feel less stress about the cultural differences. She will grow as a leader without having to give up core elements of who she is as a person.

What would help you see the tension between your culture of origin and culture of destiny in a different light? Look for places of friction in your work and see if it might have something to do with the clash of cultures. If there is potential for improvement in Emotional Intelligence take some healthy strides toward understanding the differences between the cultures and grow as a leader.

5 Questions to Assess Your Social Responsibility

The competency of social responsibility asks if there is anything emotionally holding you back from serving others. Social responsibility is a desire, an ability, and a volition. When I bring this topic up with clients the response I usually get is that I am giving them a “guilt trip."

Is it healthy to be the focus of your own life and the center of your universe? My guess is that none of us want to feel this way. However, the busier we become, the more self-absorbed we seem to get and the flow of our leadership lives suffers.

My point here is not to make you feel bad about your level of social responsibility, but rather to get you thinking about how are you balancing your selfish ambition. Most of us as leaders are trying to find a flow between work, family, recreation, and faith. Where does service fit in for you? If you dedicate too much to any one of these areas, the flow becomes restricted in other places.

Will you take action as a leader even though you might not benefit personally? Do you have a sense of accepting others and using your talents as a leader for the good of society and not only yourself? I don’t know how that hits you, but it actually stings a little for me. Of course, we have the skill. Yes, most of us in our hearts want to. The question is, what is holding us back from acting?

Because we are not the center of the universe, competencies such as social responsibility are vital in any model for leadership. If you read this blog on any regular basis you know that one of the best leadership models, uses emotional intelligence.

One such model for emotional intelligence that incorporates this idea of social responsibility is the EQ-i 2.0 by Reuven Bar-On. According to the EQ-i 2.0, emotional intelligence is defined in the user’s manual as, “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way.”

Most of the time when I speak to folks about emotional intelligence, their thoughts immediately turn inward to our personal emotion. Or perhaps they turn to a difficult relationship, a place where we are struggling relationally in our lives. Very few of us relate our emotional intelligence to our social consciousness.

Steve Stein and Howard Book, in their book on emotional intelligence called The EQ Edge, describe social responsibility as "A desire and ability to willingly contribute to society, your social group, and generally to the welfare of others."

Are you willing to test your desire and ability to willingly contribute to society?

If so, here are five questions you can ask yourself to assess your own level of social responsibility:

1. What community organizations am I currently involved in outside of my paid vocation? (Involved means regularly serving, not that your name is merely on a list).

2. What active role am I currently playing to make the organization better?

3. What did I do this week to lend a hand to someone who could use it?

4. How many examples can I cite in the last month where I was sensitive to the needs of friends, co-workers, or my boss?

5. Do I participate in charitable events?

We are never successful on our own. Real success comes from our work as a contributing member of a team or society. Having a caring and compassionate heart is a great balance for high levels of self-regard, that if left unchecked, could fall into arrogance.

After you take the assessment, talk to your spouse, significant other, coach, or a complete stranger about how you are doing. Do you have any changes you need to make to become more socially conscious? Your leadership depends on it.

Open with Caution...Do You Trust Me?

“I just don’t know where they are coming from” lamented Julie. “Of course I am trustworthy. How could they think I am not?” The tension in the room was rising as she was reading the summary of her leadership 360 feedback report.  

“I take good care of all of the people on the team, walking around asking about how they are doing. I ask about their kids and what they did fun over the weekend. I mean I work hard at showing genuine concern for them.”

Julie continued with simmering anger underneath her words. “I mean I don’t question them at all when they have to leave in the middle of the afternoon when the school calls and one of the kids are in the principal’s office sick and needs to be picked up immediately. In fact, I am actually proactive and tell them, ‘Go we will cover whatever you have to do, just go and take care of your family.’’’

As I listened to Julie struggle with the feedback, I sat back and said to myself, you know she does sound like she has care and compassion and a genuine concern.  But the 360 is saying that there are those on her team that do not trust her.

Where is the disconnect?

I reflected back on previous clients who also received feedback revealing trust as a potential issue in their leadership.

My thoughts turned to Tim whose team said that he was the most dependable manager anyone could ever have. If you ever needed anything all you had to do was ask Tim and he was there for you. Tim got great accolades for being reliable, whether you were in crisis or just needed to talk something out. Tim struggled when he was reading his 360 feedback and trying to process the disconnect between being dependable and reliable, yet being seen as not being fully trustworthy.

How is it that two leaders, one who is seen as showing concern, care, and compassion and the other who clearly demonstrates reliability and dependability both be seen as not being able to be trusted?

Well, it turns out that trust, or what those in our organizations perceive as trust, are rooted in two parts of our brain; our cognitive thinking, and our emotional feeling abilities.

Trust has, as a component of its formation, something called psychological safety. In order for your team to trust you, they need to both KNOW and FEEL that they are safe. Psychological safety is the portion of our being that says all is well. You can be free to be yourself. No harm is going to come to you, this is an open and judgment-free zone.

Experts have found this psychological safety is built on a couple of important foundations. The first is that the leader is able to develop cognition-based trust. This is the type of trust that Tim was giving himself such high marks for demonstrating. Tim indeed received excellent marks for being dependable and reliable. But something was missing.

And the second type, like Julie, who was perceived as not fully trustworthy by her team even though she was demonstrating strong affect-based trust abilities. These strengths are based on emotional bonds of care, compassion, and concern between people. Even though she demonstrated affect-based trust, Julie was missing something.

Well by now you have guessed it.

Julie was missing that cognitive-based trust from her team. While she was great at caring and demonstrating compassion, she was unreliable. She was often triple booked on her calendar and members of her team would need her support in meetings or presentations and Julie was nowhere to be found. Julie could not be trusted to show up.

And while Tim was a dependable manager who had an open door policy, walking into his office was another matter entirely. Tim, being an intellectual and (literally) the smartest guy in the room, would give people on his team the feeling they were insignificant by intimidating them, never asking questions, or showing empathy, just quick with an opinion on what should be done. Tim could not be trusted to care.

So what about you as a leader? Are you able to display both aspects of trust, cognitive and affective? Do you find yourself relying more on one and apologizing for the other?

Trust is a really big deal in leadership (blinding glimpse of the obvious here). Most leaders I meet would never say they are not trustworthy and they often will cite one aspect or the other of the psychological safety equation.

Which side do you lean toward? Cognitive or affective? Is it time you gave full consideration to what goes into driving trust with your team?

Have You Ever Made this Emotionally UNINTELLIGENT Response?

Last week I wrote an open letter to a “friend” in Clarksville Tennessee. If you missed that post you can see it by clicking here.  In that post, I wrote about a guy I came across recently who totally lacked self-awareness.

I have a confession to make. 

In less than a week, I became like that same guy. Not at all proud of it.  But it did happen. Here is the story:

My wife and I were flying home from a wonderful Memorial Day weekend in Columbus Ohio. We were able to spend the weekend with our granddaughter, who, just for the record, is perfect in every way. My son dropped us off at the airport, we checked our bags and headed to the TSA screening area. I often say in the classes that I teach that the best place to observe what poor emotional intelligence looks like is in an airport.

I put my backpack on the conveyor belt to be screened like I do several times a week, almost every week. In my pack, I have a couple of books, my laptop, business cards--nothing unusual. 

The agent at the computer looks into my bag, shouting, "Whose black bag is this?” I look over and my backpack has been rerouted for physical inspection. I hear the agent tell one of his partners, “There is liquid in that bag." I thought to myself, “There is no liquid in that bag. I don’t carry liquids.”

A bit puzzled, I walk over with the agent to his station. He takes a black stick and rubs it over the outside of my bag and then on the inside. I am thinking, oh, this is just a routine screen for gunpowder or drugs or whatever it is that TSA uses that little black stick for. The agent asks me, “Do you have anything sharp in this bag?”  Again, pretty routine. I say, “no."

So he opens the bag, reaches in and pulls out a jar of peanut butter. I remembered that as we were on our way out the door this morning my wife asked me to put the jar in our suitcase. I stuck it in my backpack, thinking, no big deal people take peanut butter on planes all the time.  Since 50% of my flights are to Orlando, I see kids at the airport quite often; they eat PB&J all the time.

The agent then said to me, “This is a liquid and you will have to take it out and either check it or throw it away.”  

This is the point when I became like my friend in Clarksville.

I instantly reacted to the TSA agent by saying, “Peanut butter is not a liquid, it's a solid!" I feel pretty confident I am right about this. My reasoning is:

  1. Mr. Volosio, my 8th-grade chemistry teacher, was excellent and taught us the difference between solids, liquids, and gasses. I paid really close attention in that class and am reasonably sure I grasped the concept.
  2. My Inorganic Chemistry class took Mr. Volosio’s lesson even further and I passed that class too.

And if those aren’t enough then I ask you this: when is the last time you sat down to have an ice cold, refreshing glass of peanut butter?

The next thing I hear is, “Peanut butter is considered a liquid and you can check it or throw it away." So my statement and all of my logic are being challenged and I can feel myself triggering, which is where this story differs from the one about my friend in Clarksville.

I recognized my trigger. I stop, take a deep breath, and ask the agent just to go ahead and dispose of the peanut butter. I guess some of my training in emotional intelligence kicked in, and my mind told me to not let my emotion get the best of me. There is no way I am going to win an argument with a TSA agent who is convinced that peanut butter is a liquid. Not because he is right, but because he has the power. 

In that moment I had to decide if it was more important for me to be right than to end up on a no-fly list.  I decided it was much more important to fly again and so the peanut butter went into the trash and my wife and I went and had a bite to eat at the Chili’s restaurant in the airport....where I sat down and ordered a tall glass of peanut butter on the rocks with extra ice.

The waitress just looked at me with a puzzled look. I said,“Didn’t you know that peanut butter is a liquid, and so could you pour me a glass?"

My wife said to the poor girl, who was just there trying to make a living, “Just ignore him, he just got his feelings hurt. We will both have water with lemon.” The waitress left with our drink order, and my wife said, “I thought you taught emotional intelligence, you're  not showing any right now.” The truth hurts!

Embarrassed, I looked at her and said, “You're right. That waitress probably didn’t have Mr. Volosio for Chemistry so she might not know the difference between a liquid and a solid.” 

I can’t tell you my wife's response to that. Sometimes what happens in a marriage, stays in a marriage.

So, a trigger for me is when I know I am right and what I perceive to be an injustice occurs.  

How about you? Do you know your triggers? Are you aware of what sets you off? Can you control your emotion, or does your emotion get the best of you and you end up making poor decisions because of some strong need you have to be right, or be heard, or be seen?

Having good emotional intelligence requires both self-awareness and self-management. 

Having good character is knowing when you are wrong and being able to apologize. I did. To my wife, the waitress, and the TSA agent.

PS. The next time you are in Orlando, send me an email because my wife and I would love to have you over to our house for an ice cold glass of…. your favorite liquid beverage.

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

To Thine Own Self Be...Authentic?

Self-expression is an element of emotional intelligence that is often misunderstood.

Try Giving Less of This to Improve Team Performance

Maybe it is the Christmas season? Maybe it is the end of the year? Maybe folks I communicate with are just feeling burned out? Whatever the reason, I sure have noticed a lot of people this year saying things like:

“Let's take that up next year, I just don’t have any more capacity this year.”

“Our people are really feeling stressed with everything going on right now.”

“There are just a lot of priorities on people's plates at this point in time.”

“I am feeling a little under-valued with everything going on right now, there just is not a lot of recognition for the simple things, like no one says thank you anymore.”

I am not sure how the people under your leadership are feeling right now as you read this, but are you? Are they feeling:

  • Overwhelmed?
  • Under-appreciated?
  • Stressed (for whatever reason)?

New Term/Old Concept

A relatively new area to hit the leadership literature is the concept of job crafting. In addition to top-down, hierarchical job expectations, many organizations are leaning more on the individual worker to “craft” their job by changing everything from the tasks they accomplish to mapping the important relationships they need to accomplish the goals they need to meet to be successful. This idea of “job crafting” actually has been cited in leadership studies as being aspirational, motivational, and allowing the individual to self-actualize and find meaning and purpose in work.

Job crafting has been cited as increasing work productivity, employee engagement, effective problem solving, and overall employee performance.

Before I even knew it was called “job crafting” I always thought of it as “just do what you need to do to get the job done." Be responsible. Be accountable. The folks at Nike would say, “just do it.”

The Research

An article in the most recent publication of The Leadership Quarterly (the Bible of Leadership Studies) by Elizabeth Solberg and Sut Wong took on the question of what employees perceived as their ability to craft their job in the context of work overload.

In English: If I have work overload, do I feel I can do what I need to do to get my job done?

Turns out, job crafting is often classified as a proactive behavior and reflects traits such as self-initiation to bring about any needed change. However, it also turns out that job crafting is not necessarily anticipative. Most scholars view job crafting as a behavioral response to one's current work situation. Rather than being future oriented and strategic about what work we have, most of us will just react to the load we currently face. It really is the “tyranny of the moment” that is a key factor in our ability to be able to craft the job into what we need it to be.

The Findings

There are two really important points that come out of this study as it relates to job demand and role crafting. When employees are feeling the overload of work, their perception of the chances for a positive resolution and their leader’s need for structure are two very important factors.

As always in leadership studies, there is more than one variable that must be considered. When studying the leader it usually goes without saying that studying the follower is critical. When thinking about employee performance and work overload, the literature will support this idea.

The Employee

If your organization is going to face work overload from time to time it is a good idea to ensure you have people on your team who can both adapt to and initiate change. It turns out that proactivity in times of work overload requires both adapting to and initiating change that is needed to relieve the work overload.

The follower does have to have some skill or trait in their overall ability to be able to manage change. There is an accountability and expectation that rests on the shoulder of the follower that when work overload is occurring they can cope with it, manage it, and change what needs to be changed.

Point taken. Followers need to be accountable.

The Leader

Turns out that follower accountability is only half of the story. The other half of the story is how much control the leader exudes.

According to Dragoni and Kuenzi (2012), leaders engage in leadership behavior consistent with their own goal orientations, producing a work climate that influences their employees to adopt aligned goal perceptions. The research by Solberg and Wong shows that the more controlling the leader is, the less willing the follower will be to exhibit autonomy and make changes that are needed to alleviate work overload.

The Lesson

If folks in your organization are overworked and feeling stressed, maybe it isn’t the holidays to blame. Maybe it isn’t all of the end of the year tasks. Perhaps it is your need to control as a leader. If our need for structure across all time and circumstance is consistent, then in times of heavy workload, your workload is going to increase even more. Why? Because in order to get things right, the followers are going to need you to think for them. If as leaders we want to feel less stress or have more time to think and create, then perhaps letting go of control might be just the gift to give yourself and those on your team this holiday season.

Homework

What can you as a leader do to loosen your control reigns? What value would giving your team more autonomy have on the overall effectiveness of your team?

My Public Declaration

Earlier this week I was feeling a bit stuck. I felt like there was something I wanted to articulate this week, but I was having a really hard time pulling it together. It felt like I was procrastinating. I had something that I needed to get done and I knew I needed to work on it, but it just wasn’t coming to me.

As I described the situation to my friend Joanne she said, “Are you sure you are procrastinating? Could it be that you are incubating?”

Now there was an interesting idea and perspective!

Joanne’s thought was that I had an idea that was just stewing around in my head but it wasn’t quite ready to come out yet. She suggested that I try a gratitude journal to see if that would help me break through.

Old typewriter with text gratitude

So I did, and here is what I wrote:

Top Ten Things I Am Thankful For In this Season of Life

  • I had an amazing week this week!
    • On Saturday I spent the day facilitating a training with 50 leaders who examined their own emotional intelligence.
    • Monday I spent time with some amazing coaching clients.
    • Tuesday I facilitated a new workshop we are doing called “What You Know About Stress Is Killing You.”
    • Wednesday and Thursday I worked with some amazing young leaders, helping them process an emotional intelligence 360.
    • Friday I spent the day with my wife, Kim.
    • Saturday Kim and I ran in the Everglades Half Marathon.
    • Sunday we had an amazing day of worship at Grace River Church.
  • A body that allows me to still run and exercise.
  • Spending time in the morning with God.
  • Writing this blog.
  • A home without discord.
  • Kids who call me during the week to check in.
  • The picture I got from my Granddaughter this week that was drawn just for me.
  • Airplanes so I can work with cool people and see my boys & their families in Columbus and my daughter and her husband in Madrid.
  • My Team: Brandi, Gretchen, Amy, Rick, Tom, Joanne, & Tim.
  • My beautiful wife who is the most amazing, faithful woman I know.

What Gratitude Did for Me

After I finished my list, which took me less than 5 minutes to do and just flowed off the end of my pen, I had an amazing insight.

What had been incubating in my head were the great relationships I have! My family, my clients, my team, and all of you who take the time to read these words.

I am so thankful for all of you. It is you who make my life joyous and complete.

My thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support in 2016. May God richly bless you and your family this holiday season.

Homework:

Since this is Thanksgiving week, you don’t have any homework from me. Enjoy your week with your family and friends.  If you're feeling ambitious this week, try creating your own Top 10 list of what you are thankful for. If you do this I encourage you to capture the emotion at the end of creating your list. How did expressing thanks make you feel? Now share this emotion with others. You will be glad you did!

5 Tricks That Are Real Treats for Leader Development

Last week I had the opportunity to give a webinar to a group of highly talented coaches who are members of the Georgia International Coach Federation. The topic of our discussion was The Secret of Developing Emotional Intelligence. As webinars go, it was a fascinating hour of exploration on what leaders can do TODAY to become more emotionally intelligent. As we went through the topic there was one slide that really caught the attention of the coaches. There were more questions and comments about this one idea than any other we discussed.

Developing the Whole Leader

If you have followed these ramblings for any length of time, you know I am a big believer in the development of the entire person: body, mind, soul, and strength. The entire leader needs to show up every day. If we miss developing any part of our humanity then we become out of balance. If you ever have driven a car with a flat tire you know what it feels like when 3 of the tires are full of air and running fine, but one of them is lifeless and flat. You can’t go as far and you can’t go as fast. The same is true with leader development. If we don’t balance our development, we will struggle in the long-run with effectiveness in our leadership lives.

Developing your body entails paying attention to what you put in it, how you use it, and how you rest it.  Developing your mind involves intellectual stimulation, creativity, and includes things like serious play.

Developing your mind involves intellectual stimulation, creativity, and includes things like serious play.

Developing your strength to me means your attitude. How are you showing up? Do you provide energy and enthusiasm to those you lead or do you “suck the life” out of the room? Strength entails attitude, passion, commitment, perseverance.

Developing your soul. This is what I want to engage you in today. The soul is the essence of who you are. This is often a scary place for some folks because it feels religious and spiritual on one hand, or conceptual and theoretical on the other. I want to acknowledge this fear and say that yes, there is an element of spirituality and theory in this idea of the soul. But it is not one we should run from or ignore, as it is one that for sure can affect our balance as a leader.

The soul is often thought of in terms of the human psyche. The etymology of the word psyche refers to the animating spirit of the individual. Those who are experts in the spiritual disciplines tell us this is the part of our humanity that is eternal and lives forever. If you believe this premise, then paying attention to what makes it up and developing it has real value to all of us, especially those called into leadership.

5 Realms of the Human Psyche

The graphic used in this post represents how I am looking at the human psyche these days. While this graphic is not a complete picture of the soul, I do think it begins to capture major components when it comes to leader development. (i.e. an example of what is not pictured would be a memory. I believe one aspect of the human soul is the capacity to recall history, even though our recollection at times can be dim.) The graphic is best read from the inside out, so that if some type of stimulus happens in our outside world, the first filter that stimulus goes through is your values and beliefs and then the reaction moves out toward a behavior you elicit.

Values/Beliefs

At the very core of the leader are our values and beliefs. Some scholars will take these constructs and call this the leader's worldview. While every leader has a worldview, most of these structures that support the core of who we are, we don’t think much about. Your worldview is how you rationalize and explain everything that exists and that matters to you. A simple tool to understand your values is a values card sort.

Leadership Question: Do your values/beliefs/worldview align with your leadership principles and actions?

Affective Emotion

These emotions are your basic feelings and perceptions that shape your world. The feelings that are elicited by events, the recognition of those feelings, and the experience you have with the emotion are all part of the affective realm. Things like fear, disgust, happiness, surprise are all responses leaders elicit, recognize, and experience. I think the MSCEIT is an excellent development tool for understanding this level of emotion.

Leadership Question: Are you aware of the impact of your affective responses that you are not proud of?

Personality

The next realm is that of our preferences or personality. When you get a stimulus from outside, do you prefer to react via the outer realm of people and things or the inner world of ideas and impressions? There is no right or wrong in this domain, only what the individual finds most comfortable for them. Some of the more popular models for describing personality are DISC, MBTI, and a newer tool, the Pearman Personality Integrator.

Leadership Question: Do you know your personality type along with its strengths and inherent weaknesses?

Trait Emotional Intelligence

This level describes a leader's awareness of their emotional ability. While there are several models for describing trait emotional intelligence, my personal favorite is the Bar-On EQi 2.0. The model considers the emotional ability around 5 distinct domains such as self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision making, and stress management.

Leadership Question: Do you know how balanced emotionally you are as a leader?

Skills & Talents & Behaviors

Finally, we reach the outermost layer. It is actually the layer that is seen by the most casual of observers. Unless others know us well, rarely do they know our worldview or our emotional triggers. What they see are the skills and talents we display. Tools such as Strengthfinders, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Inventory, or 360-degree feedback are valuable at helping leaders understand their behaviors and the impacts they can have on others.

As a leader, when you are thinking about developing this innermost part of who you are, I want to encourage you to develop the whole you. For example, you may be an excellent politician with great negotiating skills, but without a value structure to support your skill, we all know too well what we get when this happens. Before we are too hard on the politicians, you may be a minister who is very good at public speaking, but if you do not value people you may end up hurting those you say you care most about.

Leader, don’t leave any one of these domains to chance in your development. I encourage you to consider all of them as you think through what development needs you are planning for the next year. What I see too much of in my executive coaching practice is leaders wanting to focus on skill, rather than doing the deeper but more valuable work.

Best hopes as you traverse your own personal development.

Don't Miss This Shift in Leading Your Team

A new trend in performance management is changing the landscape in the relationship between leaders and followers. In a recent article (At Kimberly-Clark, ‘Dead Wood’ Workers Have Nowhere to Hide) the Wall Street Journal reported on how organizations like Coca-Cola, GE, and Accenture are moving away from traditional yearly performance reviews to more real-time coaching and feedback. Top performers in all the generations, from millennials to baby boomers, are applauding this shift. Those who desire feedback to grow and improve are ready to get more frequent, relevant, and actionable input on their performance.

Portrait of young business man and woman sitting in cafe and discussing contract. Diverse businesspeople meeting in hotel lobby reading documents.

The Story: A Tale Of Two Perspectives

Remmy had worked with Shelia as a market analyst for 18 months. While Shelia considered Remmy a solid performer, her perspective is that he is not anywhere near ready for the promotion he asked for at his year-end review 6 months ago.

Shelia's Perspective Remmy has a solid development plan that was put in place 6 months ago. We reviewed the plan at our monthly one-on-one meeting, and for every two steps forward Remmy takes another one backward. He has done a much better job of partnering with his marketing and training colleagues. Remmy just doesn't seem to hear the coaching and feedback I am giving him on being more assertive in sharing the data he collects.

Remmy's Perspective I have learned everything I need to take the next step in my career. I have done all of the items on my development plan but I don't know how Shelia would know. When we meet it is always her agenda and some new fire that needs put out. "Be more assertive," she says. But really what she wants is for me to just be more like her. We never seem to have time to review how projects have gone or even use 10 minutes of our monthly one-on one time for me to get any feedback besides be more assertive. Shelia is so busy and I feel like if I am proactive with her about my development she will just give me some line about millennials all being alike. "Impatient" is the label she uses most. I heard a podcast recently that said if you want to get ahead you had to switch companies. I like it here, but maybe the reality is I need to move on.

What Shelia is Missing

Emotional Intelligence is being aware of your emotions and those around you. Self Awareness is where this discipline begins. Part of this self-awareness is recognizing your perspectives and biases as a leader. Another important part is being able to express them.

I want to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in the case study above. There are many twists and turns it could take.

The aspect I want to focus on is Shelia's perspective. This is what needs to change. I would argue that Shelia has all the skill she needs. She is most likely transfixed on a perspective that has served her well in the past. The question is, does this perspective still serve her today?

Shelia observed at some point that Remmy could be more assertive. Point taken. Is she self-aware enough to know her investment in Remmy has been less than adequate? Is she aware that Remmy has developed, but that what is stuck is her perspective?

There are three dimensions she needs to consider improving in executing her role as the leader of her team and individuals like Remmy. Using a leadership model like emotional intelligence can give Shelia the real-time implementable change she needs to coach Remmy to higher levels of performance.

Interaction Frequency

The days of leaders being able to interact infrequently and provide feedback on irregular intervals are in the past. Shelia could consider her:

  • Emotional Self-Awareness - Is she aware of the impact her emotion is having on the situation? Are her emotions clouding her thinking?
  • Interpersonal Relationships - Has she taken the time for the relationship to be mutually satisfying? Does she realize she is reaping the reward of her investment ?

Interaction Relevance

Relevant coaching and feedback means that you have the other person's best interest in mind and that what is being coached can actually be observed and has context for the improvement.

  • Self-Regard - Having enough confidence in herself and her expectations. Not only stating what can change but why this change gets the person being coached where they want to be.
  • Reality Testing - Ensuring she has all of the assumptions she needs to make accurate decisions. What data could she be missing? Is she seeing everything as it really is?

Actionable Feedback

  • Emotional Expression - Is she being honest with Remmy about how she is feeling or is she defaulting to biases and generalizations?
  • Assertiveness - Can she be assertive and compassionate at the same time?

Emotional Intelligence is a powerful lens for leaders to reflect, examine, and develop their leadership abilities. As expectations for leaders continue to change, what preferences and perspectives are you using that need to be reexamined? Could emotional intelligence be a valuable lens for your self-examination?

Homework

What one change do you need to make in your approach to development discussions? Perhaps you see individual development as a long-term process and you are thinking about repositioning this into short-term events. Thinking about development as taking bites of a meal rather than dinner itself. How could focusing on developing your emotional intelligence help you make this change that is rooted in preference?

7 Steps to Effective Coaching

There are times when I want to start new things but hesitate because I am afraid I won’t know what to do. I felt this way for a long time with Facebook and LinkedIn. Everyone was doing it, it seemed simple and fun, but I didn’t want to look silly if I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know what to do, so I sat on the sideline and watched rather than jumping in and learning. I felt with same way with this blog. For over a year, I wrestled with the idea. Should I start blogging? What would I say? What would other people think about what I had to say? All this negativity swirled around in my mind.

Then one day I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. I remember Michael saying something like, “Stop thinking about it and start doing it." He gave 5 simple steps that I followed to start my blog. And shazam! Here we are today. Those steps gave me the confidence I needed to start something I wanted to do.

This got me thinking; There are probably people out there that have this similar problem. Maybe there are people hesitant to coach others simply because they don’t know where to start. Maybe this is you! If only you had an outline of steps to take that would give you the confidence you need to do it.

This led me to reflect on what I do when I get a coaching client for the first time and outline the major ingredients that go into every coaching engagement that I do. Please enjoy my recipe for a successful coaching engagement in 7 simple steps below and try putting them to practice.

(I think this model is transferable. So if you are a professional coach, a supervisor of employees, or a Mom or Dad coaching a youth soccer team, following these 7 steps can mean the difference for your outcome being successful!)

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

  • Begin With an Open Mind Coaching never begins in a vacuum. We all come into coaching relationships with biases. Coaches must come to clients with an open mind. The client must be seen as being a whole and healthy person. While there are times when you will have received information from others, focus on what the client is saying to you.
  • Get to Know Your Client It is hard to coach without knowing more information about your client. Find out more about who they are, what they do, their life story, and what they hope to accomplish. Consider putting together a series of questions that could apply to any client you serve. Personally, I use multiple types of assessments with my clients.
  • Confirm With the Client It is always important that you validate the collected data with the client. You want the client to be confident that you understand their perspective on what is happening, why the did what they did, or what is the genesis of how they are thinking or feeling.
  • Compare the Data to a Standard Once the client agrees with the collected data, you'll compare it to an acceptable standard. The client must agree that the standard is acceptable. If they do not, then the data may become meaningless because the objective of what the data revealed could become irrelevant. For example, I had a client who gave the appearance of being arrogant. The data we collected from others in the organization said this person’s primary objective was to get their own way all the time. This behavior is the polar opposite of what is expected in the organization: being collaborative. Before I can coach the person to a more collaborative style, they have to agree that collaboration is the right standard. Once this happens we can begin work on the arrogance. If collaboration isn’t the mutually agreed upon goal then it is tough to improve the behavior.
  • Identify Gaps Gaps are the space that exist between the client's current behavior and the agreed upon standard. They are the difference between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.It is useful to talk these gaps out and to get examples of where they have taken place. Coaches should always be looking for gaps between current and expected performance.
  • Set a Plan to Close the Gaps When planning with your clients, develop a simple plan that is laser focused on one or two items. When we give people too much we lose focus and the person runs the risk of being overwhelmed. When examining the performance standard I use the Stop/Start/Continue model. Here's how it works:

    • What behaviors do they need to stop?
    • What behaviors do they need to start?
    • What behaviors need to continue?
      • Do not short change the "continue" aspect. Often by stopping and starting a few simple things, people will see dramatic change. Most of the time they are doing a lot of things right, which you want to encourage to continue.
  • Establish a Date to Follow-Up It is my opinion that this step is where most coaching fails. There is no date set to follow-up, no check-in’s to see how the person is doing, and little to no interaction at all once a plan is put in place. Follow-up with those you coach is the most important part of the coaching relationship! I recommend scheduling all follow-up meetings with your client at the end of your sessions together. This will enforce some accountability on their end and help you maintain the relationship.

Coaching is a valuable skill for helping others become the best person they desire to become. Coaching skills are important tools that anyone in a leadership position needs to possess. Whether you have employees on your team or you are responsible for a group of 8-year-old girls on a soccer field, coaching is the transportation vehicle you use to help an idea become a behavior.

Homework

Identify a person in your life who needs your coaching, or better yet someone who is already getting your coaching. Think about whether you have followed all 7 steps to successful coaching within that relationship. Is there any step that you have missed? How can you use these 7 steps to coach yourself to improve your own coaching outcomes? We would love to hear from you regarding what you think about this process. Leave us a comment below!

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Cari Nicholson! Cari won a copy of Jan Tilley’s new book, “Eat Well to Be Well,” from last week's blog contest.

Hey, Cari, check out the Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken on p. 103! I made it last night on my smoker. Only 170 calories; 7 gms of fat, and 24 gms of protein. It was KILLER good!

If you want to order a copy of Jan’s book you can find it by clicking here.

If you are saying, “Hey, I didn’t know there was a contest last week!”...

First, here is the link to last week's guest blog from Jan Tilley herself! It's a really good one you don’t want to miss it.

Second, don’t fret. We are going to give away another copy of Jan’s book this week! Just leave us your favorite healthy eating tip, either when you travel or when you are home, and we will draw another winner next week!

The Leadership Paradox

Speaking of the winner.

Do you remember the famous paradox story from Greek mythology of Achilles and the tortoise?

Achilles was a warrior character of great strength and speed. If you want a modern day equivalent, think of Usain Bolt who currently holds the title as the fastest man in the world. The tortoise is, well, you know what a tortoise is: slow, steady, and sure.

Imagine a race between Achilles (or Usain) and the tortoise, a sprint like the 100-yard dash. And to make it interesting, we are going to give the tortoise a 50-yard head start.

Who do you think would cross the 100-yard finish line first? Most of you would say that Achilles would easily catch the tortoise and beat him soundly.

Not so fast, says Parmenides, a pre-Socratic scholar, who philosophized that one's senses can lead to results which are false and deceitful.

Parmenides (and his student Zeno) make the claim that for Achilles to beat the tortoise, he first has to catch up to the animal. These ancient philosophers say this can never happen, and here is why:

Suppose when Achilles starts running, the tortoise is at spot X. When Achilles gets to spot X, then the tortoise is at X2. When Achilles gets to X2 then the tortoise is at X3….hence the ancients say that Achilles will never catch the tortoise and the tortoise wins the race.

The Leadership Lesson

What is wrong with the above paradox? Well, there might be several things wrong (there are some quantum physicists who say there might be more truth to the paradox than we give credit, but their thinking goes beyond my feeble brain).

If we only think about one dimension such as distance, then the logic used by Parmenides and Zeno might be true. But we know that a race is more than distance. We have to consider things like strength, speed, motivation, and mental preparation just to name a few. You can not just use one dimension to determine who is going to win a race.

As we think about what goes into leadership, too many of us pick one dimension and focus only on that one item. But just like the race between Achilles and the tortoise, we have to consider more than distance in order to determine a winner.

For example, many folks I work with equate certain leadership styles to leader effectiveness. Leadership is much more than personality; being an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs or a high “D” on the DiSK. Leadership is so much more than being able to articulate a vision, or being influential, or even having a servants heart.

Maybe it is time for us to get a much broader view of what it takes to be a leader!

Connection to Wellness

Over the past few weeks, we have dedicated these electrons (we used to call them pages, but that just doesn’t feel right anymore) to the idea of wellness.

How might wellness inform our ideas on leadership? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately:

  • Perhaps spurred on by what is going on in the US political arena.
  • Perhaps aroused by some experiences in my past.
  • Instigated potentially by some reading I have been doing.
  • Propelled by some enlightened conversations I have been having.

Likely a combination of these.

WELLNESS the process you go through as a leader to live a meaningful, purposeful, and intentional existence.

WELLNESS as a metric for leadership in addition to personality, vision, integrity, performance.

The next time you have to select a leader in your organization, why not frame your interview around a wellness framework? Stop asking them about past achievements, or at least expand the horizon of your discussion to topics of:

  • How positive and affirming the person is.
  • How they view their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • How does achieving their potential help others achieve what they want out of life?

One of the problems we have in our society is that we think only on one dimension. We use the winning and losing arguments of performance to gauge success. This is not a metric that is going to serve us well in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-competitive, far from it. But focusing only on performance for performances sake can leave us longing as humans.

We still have as a classic example of this phenomena, “The Stock Market Crash of 1929."  In a nut shell, people thought the performance of the market would always go up. To the average investor, stocks were a sure thing. Performance was all that mattered. As we all know, fraudulent companies were formed and money poured into them. Then on October 24, 1929, panic selling ensued as the realization came that the market was nothing more than an overly speculative and inflated bubble.

Performance is only one metric to be studied.

Even if you do not want to change your paradigm, perhaps we might at least consider things in addition to performance. Perhaps we should look beyond results and start looking at what goes into those results. Focus on quality inputs instead of solely looking at outcomes.

Leadership is a holistic discipline. Don’t get caught living in just one dimension where a tortoise could beat Usain Bolt in a 100-yard dash. This logic is doomed to leave you wanting and spending too much time diagnosing what went wrong in your leadership.

Homework: Reflect for yourself on how you are doing on your wellness journey. Use the questions above to ask yourself what you are doing to live a more successful existence. Grade yourself on your emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. How are you doing?

4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

"One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

Choosing positive self-care over a negative circumstantial life perspective. Thanks to the courage of this story, this month I am dedicating the blog to the idea of wellness. We will discuss ways that you as a leader can take a positive self-care position, rather than be a victim of any negative circumstance.

Businessman holding two papers with happy and angry face each on them

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.
  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?
  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or say screw it and become a victim of your circumstance.
  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your Emotional Wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.
  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect
  • Different depths of spirituality
  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training that I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of Happiness or Wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise Wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.
  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.
  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?

Homework:

Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

5 Ways to Positively Impact Your Organization’s Culture

There is a lot of conversation in the “blogosphere” these days about the types of cultures leaders can create in organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Culture
  • Performance Culture
  • Service Culture
  • Command & Control Culture
  • Customer Centric Culture
  • Employee’s First Culture
  • Shareholder’s First Culture

Frankly, there are probably thousands of cultures and subcultures that organizations can identify with. Leaders can be left in a state of ambiguity about what is really acceptable in a culture unless organization-wide consensus can be found.

Confusion can lead to inconsistency in strategy implementation or even complete chaos, which can result in paralysis. This fragmentation in organizational culture can leave the strongest subcultures defined by those with the loudest voices, which may not actually be representative of the culture at all.

Perhaps a story can clarify:

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in a lot of very positive ways throughout the organization, such as caring and compassion with a death in an employee's family, paternity and maternity leaves, even pay based on performance was weaved into this respectful culture.

In one department, there swooped in a leader who had an agenda. A change in performance standards would take place but only a select few favorites would be told of these new rules in the culture. Low performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The organization became chaotic and fragmented as no one knew what the cultural norms were in order to perform at high levels. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Fast forward 6 months and the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your emotional intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are 5 things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization to give you great results:

Be Self Aware Know and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions, and how they impress your company. Everyone is watching you to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition for empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended), “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I believe strongly that we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value for your teammates.

Be in Control Not wavering, or changing things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that invokes an emotional response, remind yourself of the companies mission, and your principles, to be sure that the decisions being made align with your mission. This way your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic People who are positive are magnetic. We want to be around them and we can be inspired by them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is being able to see the best in yourself, see setbacks as learning opportunities, and see obstacles as unique, temporary events that you'll get through. Learn more about this by downloading my eBook, Optimistic Thinking.

Homework

Think about the 5 "Be's" above. Choose one you would want to work on.

To help organize your thoughts, grab a piece of paper, then write and complete the following sentence:

I want to be more ______________, so that my team can feel ______________ and we'll create a culture that is ___________________.

Here are three ways I will be more ____________ this week: 1. 2. 3.

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

Here is a method for helping leaders reduce organizational tension.

Have you ever heard the phrase “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country about of the boy?” You probably have, or at least a variation of it. It's a common saying, because of the truth behind it: We all have a cultural upbringing and background that cannot be easily ignored or changed.

iStock_000012920878_Large

The culture we grew up in is a foundational part of who we are and provides much of our leadership frame. The culture we are exposed to as infants, children, and young adults forms the values, beliefs, and social norms we carry around as adults today. This cultural development is so integral to who we are that it can cause us to behave in ways that we see as entirely normal, but others may look at and say, “what planet did you come from?“

Culture is influential and inevitable in shaping every single person in this world.

According to Michael Polanyi (my favorite science philosopher), “…as human beings, we must inevitably see the universe from a center lying within ourselves and speak about it in terms of a human language shaped by the exigencies of human intercourse.” Everything we do as leaders is culturally situated by our entire human experience: race, sex, economic class, family of origin, family dynamics, teachers, coaches, friends. It all has an impact on how you see the world and how you lead.

Last week, I was at a conference speaking about leadership and the impact our emotional intelligence has on performance. Questions about the clash of cultures came up in our group discussions. Some of the participants observed that the culture of their company didn't completely align with their cultural background. The company, for example, values expression of emotion as a way to show vulnerability and authenticity. This created tension as the individual who raised the issue grew up in a family culture that valued performance without emotion, “just the facts." The young lady said when she was a teenager there was no empathizing with how hard a class was, just deliver the “A."

This young lady felt trapped between the successful model she was taught as a young person and the new culture of empathy and connectedness. I have to tell you, the tension in the room was palpable and the struggle for learning to navigate this dynamic seemed unyielding.

What we talked about as a group is the fact that the impact our formative culture has on our behavior is not something can easily change without full awareness and willing intention. In fact, it may not be a full-on change that is needed, but more skill in navigating between the two cultural dynamics. This is a real value for the discipline of Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence encompasses your ability to create space in a situation and make a behavioral choice rather than acting impulsively. Being emotionally intelligent equips you to assess the cultural tension, adapt to a culture, and even affect a culture with good leadership and team cooperation.

There is a lot that can be learned here from Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural adaptation theory of "stress-adapt-grow." For example, the higher a leader's emotional intelligence, the more equipped they are to recognize the impact that the cultural stress is having on them. Self-awareness to understand there is a difference allows the leader to be able to feel the stress and deal with it rather than ignore it and let it mount.

If stress mounts to a point that can not be tolerated, all sorts of negative consequences are possible. If the stress is managed, then adaptation to the new culture is possible. Learning the emotional intelligence skill of emotional expression, for example, will allow this young leader to value both her culture of origin and her culture of destiny. When she adapts, she can grow to a place where she can feel less stress about the cultural differences. She will have grown as a leader without having to give up core aspects of who she is as a person.

Our theme for this month is going to focus on organizational culture issues. We look forward to a deeper conversation about the positive outcomes that may be achieved when you use emotional intelligence in any cultural situation.

Homework

Is there some place where you are feeling stress in your organizational leadership? Examine your culture of origin and compare it to your culture of destiny. Is there a place where growing your emotional intelligence could help you see the stress in a different light? Could you gain skills to help you adapt and grow? Look for places of friction in your work and see if it might have something to do with the clash of cultures.