How Leaders Can Thrive Through Change

Thriving on Change Podcast Episode

S1E11 How Leaders Can Thrive Through Change

September 7, 2021

Constant change can lead to overwhelm, which in turn impacts our ability to make strategic decisions. The final episode in our Summer Leadership series, this episode features an excerpt from our Thriving on Change video course toolkit, featuring Elad Levinson and Daniel Goleman as they discuss how leaders can protect their focus and attention and help them adapt through change.

Our Guests

Elad Levinson

For over 40 years, Elad has coached leaders, consulted to small to large companies, and led teams of organizational and learning development professionals. He was the Director of Learning and Development at Agilent Technologies as well as a senior Human Resource leader at several technology companies. Elad has written and delivered dozens of courses that address the challenges of senior leaders and executives in time-starved, fast- paced companies and industries. As one of the leading writers and thought leaders on Mindfulness in Organizations, Elad has consulted and coached hundreds of leaders in the application of mindfulness to leadership. Elad has been described as “the one you turn to when you want help solving a thorny company-wide or people problem and want the solution to stick.” The Association for Talent Development published his article for Chief Talent Development Officers, “Change is Not the Problem, Our Approach Is” in their magazine.

Elad Levinson


The following resources were referenced in today’s episode:

  • Thriving on Change audio toolkit, includes a series of conversations with experts that prepare leaders to expertly respond to uncertainty, conflict, and inevitable distraction.
  • Adapt: Audio Exercises for Essential Leadership Skills  created and recorded by Elad Levinson.
  • Teamwork: A Primer is a quick but thorough read on the basic structures of teams and the rich emotional landscapes within them.
  • Warehouse Sale: Key Step Media is having a Warehouse Sale for up to 75% off select physical multimedia products including CD’s, DVDs and USB audio products featuring some of the most brilliant experts in Mindfulness, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. Take advantage of our sale through end of September.
  • Support our podcast by becoming a monthly Patron.

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Episode Credits:

This show is brought to you by our co-hosts Daniel Goleman, and Hanuman Goleman and is sponsored by Key Step Media, your source for personal and professional development materials focused on mindfulness leadership and emotional intelligence.

  • Special thanks to Maya, whose voices you heard at the top of the show.
  • This episode was written and produced by Elizabeth Solomon and Gabriela Acosta.
  • Episode art and production support by Bryant Johnson.
  • Music includes Spring by Metre and theme music by Amber Ojeda.


View Transcript

Unknown Speaker 0:00
So what happens when you wanted something to go one way? And then it goes another, do something else? Or try again? What happens when you fall down?

Unknown Speaker 0:15
Crying get a blues bleeding, go home again.

Unknown Speaker 0:22
Can you tell me a story about something in your life that changed that

Unknown Speaker 0:27
Josie was born and that was a big change. It was a big change. Actually, one more than that I started non mapping and tells you to change. How did that feel?

Unknown Speaker 0:49
Yeah. How do you feel when things change?

Unknown Speaker 0:55
Well, when we get my way, and I get another chance, I feel happy. It’s exactly true. That some things you like, can they change? Some things you don’t like that they changed?

Hanuman Goleman 1:36
That was great. Let’s do it again, people. Roll back. Welcome to first person plural emotional intelligence and beyond. I’m Hanuman Goleman. And I’m joined by EI correspondent Elizabeth Solomon. Hey, Liz.

Elizabeth Solomon 1:55
Hey, Hanuman.

I’m really glad to be with you here for this final episode in our summer leadership series before we launch into what will be our second season this fall, which is very exciting, huh? whoop, whoop. This episode includes an excerpt from thriving on change a series of conversations about the proven skills, tools and practices that ensure leaders expertly respond to uncertainty, conflict, and inevitable distraction. Today’s interview is a little bit different because we’re featuring a conversation between Dan and Elad Levinson, an expert in applying neuroscience and cognitive sciences to leadership effectiveness. But unlike most of our interviews, in which Dan is the interviewer today, Dan is the interviewee. And so this is just a really nice way to wrap up our first season here by hearing Dan do a little bit of a recap on his work and motional intelligence. He touches on his book focus. He talks a lot about mindfulness in this episode. And so it’s again a little bit different than what we’ve normally done, but a great way to end our first season.

Hanuman Goleman 3:05
I agree, it’s so nice to hear Dan’s thoughts directly about a lot of these things that we’ve heard him ask other people about listening this interview, I’m reminded because this is an interview that we recorded several years ago, but the stuff that they talk about is always true for for people in leadership and anywhere in an organization.

Elizabeth Solomon 3:25
I love that you said that this was recorded a while ago, and as you know, remains relevant because one of the things that they talk about in this interview is buka, which is a term I’m sure a lot of our listeners will be familiar with. And vuca is an acronym that stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And I actually looked back and thought when when was it that vuca first became a term? And it was in 1987, which I found to be really interesting, because, you know, here we are sitting in an incredibly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time. And yet, it’s always been that way to some degree, right?

Hanuman Goleman 4:05
uncertainty change, these are these are the things that everybody in history have had stress in their life. And, okay, I guess it’s not such a it’s not a surprise. It’s not like a big mystery why these last five years have felt such that the term vuca has come to prominence, it feels like and they actually talk about this in the interview with all of the information that we’re getting now. It feels so much like more is happening, and we’re there’s less of us to take all of that in. And and I think that helps with that vuca feeling.

Elizabeth Solomon 4:49
Yeah, I think that’s true. And I also think, you know, the problems have gotten larger and more complex. I mean, I just reading the headlines this morning, you know, the wildfires and just I mean, what’s happening with the climate That’s just one example. Right? Another example that we can think of is a great reckoning that we’re really doing here in the US with systemic racism, right, which certainly isn’t new, but is something that people are grappling with in a more direct and hopefully proactive way. And And just to clarify, you know, I think one of the hard things about living in this climate of volatility and uncertainty and complexity is that it really makes it hard to make strategic decisions, right? It’s like the climate is constantly changing, we can’t necessarily look to the past and say, Okay, well, that worked X amount of times, because what worked before may not actually work in the future. And so it really does, you know, position leaders, and really all of us to really have to think about what are the competencies that that we need an order to move forward without being able to make a really clear, long range plan all the time?

Hanuman Goleman 6:02
Yeah, in that situation, the concretes aren’t reliable anymore. And so what what becomes reliable are the the tools and inner resources that we have that could address any given moment. And the degree to which we are able to do that with balance, and with some conscious decision making is the degree to which we are effective.

Elizabeth Solomon 6:26
Yeah. It’s interesting. I wrote about this earlier in the year, but in the first weeks of the pandemic, Google searches for the term resilience more than doubled, which I just think is a reflection of, you know, where we’ve all been of thinking, how do we tolerate ambiguity? How do we cultivate resilience?

Hanuman Goleman 6:45
That makes sense. What is that thing that might be able to help me right now? And I feel like the world’s caving in resilience, resilience, actually mean anyways, we’ll talk about it like it’s great.

Elizabeth Solomon 7:00
Yeah. And Dan’s work of emotional intelligence, resilience is related to the competence of adaptability, right. And so when we’re adaptable, we’re really able to meet challenges as they arise. We can greet new situations with innovative ideas, we can juggle multiple demands, and we can really just stay laser focused on our goals while staying open to how they’re achieved. And that’s a lot of what Ilan and Dan are talking about in this interview when they’re talking about how do we cultivate focus, like you said, How do we have some level of emotional balance? So we don’t get totally thrown off by anxiety, but we’re able to actually access the part of us that can get creative about solutions. Let’s launch into Elad Levinson, talking with Dan Goleman.

Elad Levinson 8:02
Thank you for joining us. And today we’re going to be interviewing Daniel Goleman. And it would be easy for me to spend about the next 10 minutes telling you all about Dan’s accomplishments because they’re many. But rather than do that, let me say something personal. In the 90s, I found myself in organizations as a consultant, really wanting to be able to explain to leaders, why it was important for them to have emotional awareness. And I found myself really lacking in the ability to communicate that effectively. And then along came Dan’s book, emotional intelligence. And I remember grabbing I think it was in an airport, and I grabbed it off the shelf, and I was reading it on the plane. And as I was going through it, I kept on saying, This is exactly what I was looking for. This is exactly what I was looking for. We’re really lucky to have Dan with us today. Welcome.

Daniel Goleman 9:03
Well, I’d like to thank you, we lied, because I’ve watched the burgeoning interest in mindfulness in the business community and how people are bringing that in. And I’ve always felt there was the need for someone like yourself, who’s very well grounded in HR, in organizational realities, you’ve lived in that world most of your career, but also well grounded in terms of attentional training, and how the two intersect, and how they can help each other.

Elad Levinson 9:31
You know, you’ve spoken eloquently about these three focus of attention, internal, relational, or external and outer pride. And I’m really curious about can you give us examples of what happens when people don’t have that kind of focus?

Daniel Goleman 9:48
Sure. So so my argument is that every leader needs a triple focus I I’ve written about it in Harvard Business Review, it was one of the theses of my book focus the hidden ingredient, an excellent I really think it is the hidden ingredient, a leader needs to be able to tune in and manage themselves, they need to tune into other people and handle that relationship effectively. They also need an awareness of the larger systems in which they operate, their business sector, that technologies and how they’re changing. You know, you don’t want to be blindsided by change the economy, generally the society, all of these, those are systemic changes. So good leaders, effective leaders, Star leaders need all three, let me give you some examples of people who didn’t have it. I was talking to the CEO of a national nationwide real estate company. They do commercial real estate. And he said, you know, once I started using this mindfulness tool, the self observation tool, I realized something about myself, and that is, I blow up at people who bring bad news who don’t meet my expectations, and it ruins the relationship. It’s terrible. And he said, and what I was able to understand through that self monitoring, was it was my own fear of failure. You I was in a state where I got scared, and that made me lash out at people. So I’ve stopped doing that. So this is a guy who’s in a very powerful position, there’s that leadership ripple effect, you know, when the CEO is doing this to the direct reports, it ripples out through the organization, and it was having very bad impact on the company. And he was able to manage it better, because he was using the kind of tools you’re offering. The second example has to do with tuning into the people. You’re impacting the people you’re leading. And this is empathy, of course. And I was speaking to a woman just this weekend, who is at a workshop that I was giving with my wife, and she said, You know, I worked directly for the head of marketing for major pharma. And I’m about to leave, I’ll be the ninth. He doesn’t understand why. But he has the habit of focusing only on quarterly sales. He doesn’t care how you get it. He’ll know he’s abusive. He focuses only on what you didn’t do, doesn’t praise people. There was an HBr article about this, which was done by some colleagues of mine at The Hague group was called leadership run amok. And it’s someone who is a pacesetter, who themselves is a real go getter are perfectionist, they’re very self critical. But they see other people through that lens of criticism. That’s a distortion in empathy. We’ll talk about what good empathy looks like. But that’s bad empathy. And it has a disastrous effect on on an organization because talent flees that kind of a leader. And then the third example, I’ve just seen it twice. Now I know some people who used to be very high at Research In Motion, those were the BlackBerry people. And they had a real flaw in their systems awareness, they didn’t see the new technology, they thought that what had made them so successful, going in, which was their their phones had superb engineering, their network was completely secure, and so on, they thought that that would capture the market, they didn’t realize that companies had started letting people bring their own phones, my iPhone inside and hooked up with a company network, and they didn’t see it coming. They saw it way too late to change. And you know, rim has now lost that huge market share they had. And I also was talking recently to someone at a tech company, one of the biggest tech companies and he said, we’re having problems with that systems awareness, too. We’re too focused on just doing the things that work for us all along. And we’re not innovating. We’re not exploring, we’re not looking for what’s the next big product, the next big breakthrough, we have to buy our way out of those misses, it’s very expensive. And what they do is, so far, what they’ve done is, you know, something new will come along cloud computing. Well, some companies Miss cloud computing, so they had to buy a company that was there when that broke, and it’s not a good way. What you want to do is be the innovator, and now they’re trying to switch from being a company that just exploits to what works to also exploring, to looking around catching the new trend as it’s about to hit.

Elad Levinson 14:45
You know, I think these are terrific examples, Dan. And, you know, I know that part of the audience are probably somewhat skeptical about this area called Mindfulness and self awareness. What would you say to them

Daniel Goleman 15:00
Well, first of all, I’d say I understand the skepticism because you didn’t learn about this in getting your MBA. You haven’t heard about this before in the business world, this is something new that’s come along. How do you know it’s worth trying out. And my background is, in part in science journalism, I’ve been following the science of this, tracking it for decades, actually. And in recent years, the new scientific findings are really convincing, that the ability to self monitor the ability to observe yourself, and have a choice point that you didn’t have before, is absolutely crucial. I was in a school where they teach these skills to kids, which I’m really in favor of. And one of the ways they do it is that on the wall of every classroom, there’s a stoplight. It says, when you’re about to get upset, or when you’re upset, and you notice it. Remember the red light, stop, calm down and think before you act, yellow light, pick a range of things you could do and think what the consequence would be greenlight, pick the best one and try it out. That is so much better than just doing the first impulse, that thing that you think of, particularly when you’re upset when you’re scared when you’re angry, that part of the brain makes bad decisions. So every manager, everyone in any position in the company needs to be able to have this capacity to notice how am I feeling now? And if you’re operating from the worst part of yourself, stop, calm down. Think before you act. And that’s one of the key skills that you’ll learn.

Elad Levinson 16:40
Yeah, I love and the way that Rick Hansen talks about this, he calls it using your best brain.

Daniel Goleman 16:46
That’s very nice. Yeah. Why does authenticity matter to leaders, you want to be able to trust the person that you’re working for. And trust means that there’s not a discrepancy between this person and what they say and do and what they actually believe who they are. So authenticity means you’re aligned, that what you do, what you say, comes marred, the authentic leader can, you know, describe a mission we all are inspired by that motivates us, because he or she believes in it. And not only that, that leader can articulate it in a way that resonates within us. So that, you know, it sparks us in the same way. That kind of leadership, that Authentic Leadership allows a leader to guide people in a way where they’re motivated, where they care where they’re engaged, where they can be patched it. And that alignment also allows a leader to give a very effective, clear kind of feedback. When you did this, your performance led us down and getting to that goal we all buy into, I’d prefer you do this hanging up, maybe I can help you acquire those skills, whatever it may be, it opens a conversation that people can be, can feel good about, even when they’re getting corrective performance feedback. And every leader asked to do that to,

Elad Levinson 18:12
you know, leads me to want to ask you a little bit about some of the earlier work that you did around emotional intelligence. And I’m curious, is there a connection in your mind between mindful awareness and emotional intelligence? And if so, what is it?

Daniel Goleman 18:28
You know, when I wrote the book focus, I immersed myself in the new research, as I said, on, on mindfulness on attention generally, then I realized something as big aha, for me. attention has been implicit in the emotional intelligence model from the beginning, I just never noticed, I was attentive to attention itself. So what I’ve done in my more recent work is to highlight the way attention to ourselves. Self monitoring, is the basis of self awareness. It’s also the basis of self management. You can’t manage yourself, if you don’t tune into yourself, people who are good at keeping their eye on the target, ignoring distractions, knowing what matters now and what’s irrelevant and directing other people’s toward what matters. People who can keep their eye on the goal, even when it gets tough, even when their obstacles keep coming back. People who are resilient, who have grit, these are the most effective leaders in long term. All of that depends on self awareness. And then there’s empathy, which is that self awareness but applied outward, its attention to the other person really tuning into them, what are they thinking, what are they feeling, this lets you really resonate, you have the most effective interactions, if you have that full empathy. So attention is key.

Elad Levinson 19:50
And one of the things that I’ve heard from leaders is that empathy can also be derailing. Meaning that you From their perspective, that if I have too much empathy, then I won’t correct the behavior. Yeah,

Daniel Goleman 20:05
yeah, there is basic confusion about what we mean by empathy. The science shows us very clearly, there are three kinds of empathy. One is cognitive empathy. That means I understand how you think about this, I get your perspective, I can take your point of view, this is highly important for good communication, you know, the mental models a person uses, you know what, how to put something to them in a way they’ll understand, every leader needs to be good at cognitive empathy. The second type of empathy draws to a different part of the brain. It’s also very important, it’s emotional empathy. I feel what you’re feeling, I feel it in my body. This is done by social circuits, certain rather circuits in what’s called the social brain, which is newly discovered, but very, it’s very powerful part of the brain, it automatically tunes into the other person picks up, what they’re doing, what they’re intending what they’re feeling, and duplicates that in our body. If we’re good at this, that gives us added data, every leader needs to know how, what they’re doing, how what they’re saying, affects the other person, you know, does it, make them feel good, make them feel bad and make a board you want, you need to know that. And you need to know it also, because people work best when they’re in their positive zone, that’s when they get into flow. That’s when they have, you know, optimal performance. And in a way the leaders fundamental task is to help people get in stay in that positive zone. Well, how you gonna know if they’re there. One way is through this kind of emotional empathy. The third kind, is what you might call goodwill, it’s empathic concern. It’s caring about the other person that makes you the kind of leader that people want to work for. If you don’t care about your direct reports about the people who under you, or you know, whether you’re a manager on up, it alienates people, you can’t lead effectively, when people feel you don’t care about them. So empathic concern or goodwill is another part of every leaders toolkit. So when people say, Well, you know, can empathy backfire? What I think they mean is this, that there’s some people for whom emotional empathy is too strong, that, for example, if the dealing with negative customers, or people are complaining are people who are stressed out, upset, they pick that up, and they don’t metabolize it, what I mean is they don’t recover from it. They’re not resilient. So they end up actually getting emotionally exhausted. And they can burn out, this is a huge problem, by the way, in the healing professions, and medical sector, and so on, I’ve talked to, I’ve given talks to medical groups about this, because they have to keep these people going. But it’s true in any organization. So you want to be able to have all, you know, operate on all four cylinders have emotional intelligence, self awareness, self management, that helps you with empathy. Because if you get this wash of negativity, it’s your self management that’s going to help you handle it.

Elad Levinson 23:09
Can you help us make the connection between the management of stress and these tools,

Daniel Goleman 23:16
one of the things that the science tells us is the better people are at mindfulness and monitoring themselves, the more quickly they recover, when they get upset when they’re stressed out. And this has to do with set points in the brain that change as you learn how to calm yourself, as you learn how to just observe what you’re thinking and feeling without getting caught up and captured by those thoughts. But just noting that they’re they’re so very important skill internally, and it helps you recover from stress.

Elad Levinson 23:49
And so the term that you’re using this self awareness, one of the tools that we that I’m teaching in the class is noticing and naming,

Daniel Goleman 23:59
good noticing. And naming is fundamental. And it does something, let me tell you about some brain research that’s very relevant to that. This was done at UCLA. And what they found was that when you are upset, and you name, I’m angry, I’m scared, I’m frustrated. You shift the energy from the emotional circuitry to the part of the brain that has what’s called cognitive control, the executive function, the part of the brain that is more rational that decides what to do that plans that learns, and you literally disempower the emotional circuitry. So you lower the energy. It’s it’s an extremely powerful internal act,

Elad Levinson 24:42
that naming. So is there someplace that you’ve learned where leaders should not focus? I mean, you talked about some of the ways in which leaders should focus are there places where the attention of leaders shouldn’t go because if they go there, it just doesn’t help you.

Daniel Goleman 25:00
Know, today leaders are so over pressured by back to back meetings, incoming information of all kinds, phone calls, emails, texts, meetings, text, it all happens at once. It’s very confusing. And the big challenge for attention and leaders today is sorting out what’s urgent and important from what’s a distraction right now. And not only that, putting it all aside, for some time during the day, when I can just be with myself, reflect and get stuff done, that I have to get done. Every time you pay attention to an email, a text a phone call, you’re turning over your attention to someone else’s agenda. That means you’ve lost that time for yourself. Well, is it always that important? Can I wait? Can you know? Can you put it aside? The answer is almost always. Yes. So I think what leaders need to do, in terms of managing their own attention, is to decide what matters now and have the strength of will to integrate in a way that has goodwill, tell people, you know, I’ll get to that artist, not just now and put it aside so they can protect their own attentional space.

Elad Levinson 26:19
So you’re speaking to an issue that I’ve heard so often from the leaders that I work with, which is a feeling of time starvation. That’s right. And it seems to be that you’re suggesting that time starvation is a perceptual matter. I mean, is that is that something that I could draw, you know, time starvation

Daniel Goleman 26:41
is both founded in reality, and a function of how we look at it in our frame on it. The reality is that people on average today take in five times more information than 15 or 20 years ago, that does shrink time available, takes time to take in information. There was an observation made 20 or 30 years ago, that what information consumes his attention. So a wealth of information means a poverty, of attention. That’s, that’s the fact of life today. That’s why I feel it’s so important for any manager, any leader, anybody to be strong about and forceful about, these are the boundaries of my attention. Now, I am not going to let myself be seduced by the wealth of information, I am going to get done now what I need to get done, and only pay attention to what’s relevant to that.

Elad Levinson 27:45
So I’d like to take mindful awareness, focus and attention and generating and cultivating goodwill. And I’d like to ask you specifically about each one. Great. So one of the things that I think is important in this area of mindful awareness is to actually understand what it is and how one begins to train in that.

Daniel Goleman 28:08
Well, I think it’s important to understand what mindless awareness is first. So mindlessness is really typical of our everyday state, where our mind wanders freely, whatever feelings take us over take us over and we act from them. That’s called ordinary awareness. It’s also from a certain point of view, a little mindless, and it’s mindless in this way. It means that what happens to us in in us, and what we do, is directed by forces outside us, or random forces within us. But if you want to be focused, if you want to be effective, you can’t just let any old whim or whatever that comes along, run you, we need to make some choices, and the choices are internal. And in order to make that choice, you need to know what’s going on inside me now. Is this where I want to be? Or can I be somewhere better? That act is called Mindfulness, noticing what’s going on within you? and using that information to manage yourself better? Because self management starts with self awareness. And mindfulness is the toolkit for that.

Elad Levinson 29:21
Well, it raises a question that I heard several times, which is, is mindfulness a common human characteristic? Or do we have to kind of learn it from scratch?

Daniel Goleman 29:32
You know, mindfulness is both a common human characteristic and something that can be improved by learning. Everybody has the capacity to notice what’s going on within them. We typically don’t but we can. mindfulness training, however, means that we’re improving a natural ability, everybody can throw a ball, but you know, the best pitcher in the in the major leagues has practiced it. 10,000 hours So more with an expert coach. And we in the same way we can improve our mindfulness skills by practicing, and particularly getting feedback from someone who’s more experienced in it,

Elad Levinson 30:13
I may come back in a moment to a little bit more about that. But I want to ask you a little bit about focus and attention. When I think of the those words, I think of really more kind of laser honing in really sharp for but isn’t part of focus and attention, also learning how to relax. And what’s the importance of that? Well, in the book focus, I

Daniel Goleman 30:37
make it clear that there are different kinds of attention, there are different ways to focus each has its value. And each has its downsides. So for example, when you talk about a focused leader, you typically think about someone who’s got his or her eye on the goal, who’s doing what’s needed to get the job done today, to meet the target, whatever it is, that’s one kind of focus, it’s a concentrated focus, and it means that other things are ruled out. They’re distractions. On the other hand, if you want to be creative, if you want to innovate, you need a completely different kind of focus, you need what’s called Open focus, where you randomly let things come up in a very free, uncontrolled way. Because at some point in that process, you’re going to find two elements that have never been combined before. Put them before in a novel way that’s useful. That’s called creativity. That’s a creative act. And that won’t happen when you’re focused in that concentrated focus. Because it’s a different part of the brain. It’s the part of the brain that ignores all of the things that might have been come up and put together. So you right there, but both of those are important for business, but each in its own place. Each in its own time,

Elad Levinson 31:48
there are trainings that people can go through the teach relaxation skills, is that the kind of tools that one could use to be able to put themselves in a more creative state.

Daniel Goleman 32:01
The creative state, I think, is associated with relaxation. They know the annals of creativity and math and science are full of stories where someone struggled to solve a complex equation for three years, and got the answer while he was walking his dog along the beach, in a relaxed state, because it’s in that relaxed state, when we’re naturally more most open and aware. So you can learn methods for relaxing, that will get you into that state, there are a lot of things that will, however, methods for relaxation, don’t train attention. Those are two different things. If you train your mind, in mindfulness, for example, turn your attention on mindfulness, you get both, it calms you, that’s the relaxation. But it also improves the attentional circuitry of the brain. So that you can pay attention in a in a more effective way, even when you’re not practicing the method during a session.

Elad Levinson 33:00
So let’s move on to the third pillar, generating and cultivating goodwill. You talked about empathy. And some of the words that come to my mind are warmth, friendliness. And seems like some environments have that some corporations have those kind of characteristics. You think that one person can make a difference if they’re warm and friendly, but the culture that they work in isn’t?

Daniel Goleman 33:28
Everybody makes a difference. And everybody’s state makes a difference, because states are contagious from person to person. Leaders are more effective in spreading states generally, because people naturally put most importance on the most powerful person in the group. And this kind of positivity that you describe, is really important for group performance. There’s some objective data on this is a woman at the University of New Hampshire Vanessa dress cat, who studied teams, and productivity. And she’s found in many different studies, that the most highly productive teams have the greatest harmony. They have the most positivity, they like each other, they enjoy doing things with each other. They have fun. It’s it’s, you know, work is play in a sense. But also they can be tough with each other. They can be honest, they can say, you know, Joe’s not performing up to his usual today, we’re going to have to have su take his place. But you need to be realistic at the same time. They also don’t let issues simmer. So it’s not kind of a la la harmony. It’s a harmony based on the fact that, yeah, we know that Jose and one over here really are having a problem with each other. Let’s talk about it. Let’s get it out in the open, let’s solve it. We don’t want to let that hang us up. So they do all of these things which overall create a huge force a positive tivity and harmony, because they’re not pretending to be harmonious, they’re dealing with the problems. So it’s a genuine solid harmony.

Elad Levinson 35:10
I really want to underscore what you just said, one of the basic assumptions in the course, is that you can’t generate and cultivate goodwill, if you’re not willing to deal with conflict. Is that what you’re saying?

Daniel Goleman 35:23
I would say that the goodwill that you generate may be fragile if you don’t deal with conflict, okay.

Elad Levinson 35:30
leaders today are facing what one person in Harvard Business Review called vuca. volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. All of those to me suggests that the kind of change that leaders are dealing with is way more difficult than it might have been, let’s say 10 years ago. What do you know about that? What would you like to tell our audience about how leaders deal with that? Well,

Daniel Goleman 35:57
there are two ways to deal with change, broadly speaking, one is to see it coming. And one is to manage it when you didn’t see it coming. Seeing it coming means that you have a kind of systemic awareness, this outdoor awareness of focus on the largest systems within which you operate. And you can see where the trends are, where they’re going social trends, changes in technology, and so on, and position yourself to take advantage of the shift that’s about to happen. The other ways to be blindsided and have to put the pieces back together to be in crisis. So remember, the CEO of Intel, who wrote that wonderful book, only the Paranoid survive. Andy Grove, Andy Grove, talked about a couple of times in the history of their Corporation when they might have died when they were blindsided by change. And he said, what made the difference was how the top management team handled their own emotions. If we had panicked, if we had froze, if we had overreacted, we wouldn’t be here today. And what that says to me is that the job of a leader in change, particularly when it’s a crisis level change is to first and yourself, because everyone else is looking to you to see is this more than we can handle? Are we overwhelmed? Is it safe? Are we going to be okay? So, you handle yourself, you call yourself You see, clearly you see what to do that lets people around, you know, we’re going to be okay, they can function at their best, they don’t have to panic. The other thing just generally, forget the crisis level change every day changes, we’re always adjusting to something new. The question is, what’s your emotional reaction? How are you taking that? How are you managing that change internally? Are you recovering quickly and staying effective? Are you still, you know, jittery or whatever, because of the change. So every manager, every leader, if they’re going to be effective during change, needs to be able to adapt well, out activity is one of the competencies that our own research has shown. Makes leaders star performers.

Elad Levinson 38:20
Okay, so I’m sitting here, and I’m one of the audience. And I’ve been listening to this. And I’ve heard you mentioned, what seems like an overwhelming number of new skills that I have to learn, like, Oh my God, I’ve got to remember mindful awareness, I’ve got to remember focus. And if there was one, that would be a really good place for a leader to start that might be a linchpin in developing others.

Daniel Goleman 38:48
Sherm, please. Well, in the emotional intelligence research, we find that there are four general domains for leadership competencies. And by the way, you don’t have to be great at all of them. The best leaders have their own skill set. And they lead well in unique ways, depending on where their strengths are across the spectrum. But there’s self awareness, self management, empathy, social skill, and leaders can be better or worse across that skill set. But what we find is fundamental is a little bit of a surprise. It’s self awareness. So I’d start there. I’d say that being able to tune into yourself, which is the key to managing yourself. So also the key to empathizing, tuning into yourself monitoring yourself. Mindfulness, it’s being called now is the single most useful key.

Elad Levinson 39:40
Is there a question? Again, I’m sitting I’m in the audience. I’m listening to you say that. Is there a quiet like an inquiry? A question that could really help me start on that path of self awareness? Like if there was one single question that I as a leader could be asking myself kind of in the background

Daniel Goleman 40:01
It would be something like what am i operating from right now? Is it from good feeling and goodwill? Is it from anxiety? And fear? Is it from anger and frustration? That’s extremely important question and a fundamental question for all of us.

Elad Levinson 40:19
So just to reiterate something that you said earlier, Dan, that I think is coming back right now, which is that there’s this process, because it’s really kind of like a two or three step. One step that you’ve mentioned, is noticing. So you’re gonna have this awareness, sure of what your internal state is, right? And then you’re somehow you’re naming that to yourself,

Daniel Goleman 40:43
Well, yeah. And it’s noticing without judgment, you don’t want to notice and react, Oh, damn, my man. It’s not like that, noticing. It’s just observing neutrally. And then that, as I said before, that simple act of noticing, if you’re in a distressing state and upset state disempowers the state you start to recover the moment you notice it. But also, then you can decide what to do in the stoplight that they use in schools. It’s stop Calm down, think before you act, it gives you the time internally to think before you

Elad Levinson 41:18
act. Is there is a term that I that I use in the course, which is inclining your mind? Is this similar to what you’re talking about that, that there’s some shifts that you may notice that you go somewhere else mentally? Is that true?

Daniel Goleman 41:34
I think I like that phrase inclining your mind and it, I think of it in two senses. One is that you can incline your mind toward a more effective response to the situation. And the other is that the more you practice this, the more the mind inclines in that direction.

Elad Levinson 41:56
So Dan, one of the things that I’m I could surmise from what you’re saying, is that these skills that you’ve been talking about require practice.

Daniel Goleman 42:06
Is that true? Yeah, every domain of ability needs practice to achieve the level of expert. We know that 10,000 hours that magic number, little bit of a fiction, but it’s true in general, the more you practice, the better you get at anything, you know, whether it’s your golf stroke, or whether it’s empathy. And so the practice, however, needs to be what’s called Smart practice. It needs to be designed to develop, particularly that skill. Sometimes people do not so smart practice, if you practice a really bad golf stroke for 10,000 hours, you’ll be you know, a duffer, he’s not going to make you a pro. So you need feedback, it helps to have an expert helps to have someone who you can turn to with a question, for instance, and it helps to do it consistently. So with mental practice, and we’re talking about mental practice, what’s important is to make it a priority, to put it in your day in your daily routine, so that you get to it every day. Otherwise, it’s very easy not to do, and you get no practice. And the other thing is to be sure you’re practicing in the right way, too, if you can get some feedback somewhere and see how you’re doing. And if you do that, you’re bound to get better.

Elad Levinson 43:23
I want to thank you, Dan, one of the great things about being around people like you is that I get to learn. I want to joke with my wife, that this kind of interview is like seeing the movie my dinner with Andre that this kind of lively dialogue really is so enhancing. Well, me.

Daniel Goleman 43:45
Thank you. It’s been delicious for me too.

Elizabeth Solomon 44:03
This conversation around adaptability and self awareness is reminding me of this Chinese proverb and I’m sure some of our listeners have heard this before. And it goes something like this when the wind of change is blowing, some build walls, and others build windmills. This story dovetails really well with what we’re talking about in this episode, which is having to pivot and change as the context changes, and having to have that larger focus of what’s happening outside in the world, what’s happening in the larger system, so that we can adjust and adapt. of the companies listed on the fortune 500 list in 1955 88% of them were gone by 2014. They went bankrupt, they merge or they fell from the list due to a decline in revenue. And when you look more deeply into the reasons for this, a lot of it has to do with not being able to adapt, not being able to innovate, not being able to understand where society is headed, where culture is headed, where the market is headed. And this is a large part of kind of the case that Dan makes for having a triple focus, triple focus being that inner inter and sort of outer lens on things. And I’m curious if you want to say anything Hanuman about your own business and how, as a business owner, you’ve had to maintain that triple focus in order to, to really pivot and move forward in a way that is sustainable.

Hanuman Goleman 45:36
So when I started in 2006, or five or something, digital downloads, were just coming on the scene. I don’t believe that the iPhone had been introduced. I think the iPod was around a little bit. And so it was a, it was a really interesting time, because the old school publishers, while they were addressing this, nobody understood quite how much resources it was worth putting into digital downloads. When I started more than sound, it was literally my closet, it was a small operation. But because it was so small, I was fairly nimble. And so even though it was just three or four of us, there was enough stability in that, that we were able to direct all of our attention. So when we had a goal, like, we had the ebook that we put out our first ebook, and they were less than 100, enhanced ebooks, which means it has media interspersed throughout it, that was just happening. But because we were so small, even though we weren’t a big company, and we had to like, do a bunch of hacks with the technology to get the links in properly, we were able to, to put out one of those first 100 enhanced e books because we were fully adaptable.

Elizabeth Solomon 46:56
Yeah, you’re speaking to a couple interesting things, which is like the agility of smaller teams. And also that every time that we get really good at something, or we create a sort of routinized way of being, the harder it is to get out of it. And so there’s something actually really wonderful about being a small team and also not having a lot to lose. So being able to take risks, and just innovate and direct your focus with less friction,

Hanuman Goleman 47:22
that not being ingrained, I think, is it’s a beautiful perspective to have. Because it’s true for organizations, no matter the size of the organization. But it’s true for the way that we organize internally, as well. And so I guess it’s just an opportunity to point that out, they are habits inside also need that sort of attention and addressing if we are going to have the freedom that you’re talking about that is truly liberating.

Elizabeth Solomon 47:52
You know, one of the things I was thinking about when Dan was talking about adaptability, I often with my clients approach adaptability from trying to understand what is the fear? Is there something that they’re afraid of letting go of? And I was thinking a lot about how this plays out on a larger systemic level. And so I was thinking, for example, about systemic racism, right? Where there’s a lot of people right now in the business world saying, okay, we have to adapt to this versioning and awareness that we are truly living in a deeply racist and an equitable system, here in the United States, particularly. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of efforts that organizations are making. But I always have this question when doing diversity, equity inclusion work, what are people afraid of letting go of and just aware that particularly white people, particularly white men, particularly white, upper classmen, right, we can think about all the ways we divvy up power? I think there can be a bit of a tension sometimes of both, like wanting to move in a new direction, and being deeply afraid of letting go of one’s own power, right. So if I level the playing field, then what becomes of me, right is kind of the question. And so I even think in a very large scale, when we’re dealing with large issues, this question of what are we willing to let go of is ever present? You know, I mean, in a climate change sense, I think like am I willing to let go of having an Amazon Prime package dropped at my door every day because it was easier for me to order something online than it was to get it at the store. But it’s always so much of ambiguity is the willingness to

Hanuman Goleman 49:39
let go. Absolutely. And I love that you’re, you’re talking about white supremacy, because it’s such a direct example of holding on to power. I’m going to just offer this idea here. Greed, hatred and delusion are called the three poisons in Buddhism and they are considered the drives a sort of underlying drives for a lot of our behaviors that lead to suffering. And greed is powerful. And I think that it’s not. It’s not seen enough, we it’s not identified in our day to day interactions so much. But in our life, the greed of ourselves, the greed that we feel in the world is largely unseen. And so it, it is a drive for a lot of our actions that don’t necessarily lead to happiness. When we talk about white supremacy, and the system of racial oppression that this country has been founded on, it’s no wonder that the people in power are holding on to that power, because it is scary for people to go into an unknown situation. And I’ve seen it inside small organizations which power sharing is, is scary. As you’re talking, I’m making ties between what you’re saying and the three types of empathy that Dan talks about, often in his work. And in this episode, right? So thinking about cognitive empathy, which is the ability to sort of say, I can understand what you’re thinking, right? I can, like relate to your mindset or your thought process in some way, emotional empathy, which is I can understand what you’re feeling. And then the third type of empathy, which I think Dan is usually the first to say, is kind of the most missing in our society at large and the hardest for people to cultivate and practice, which is empathic concern, which is I actually want to do something about it, right? There’s a sense of

Elizabeth Solomon 51:39
inherent goodness or or even altruism, right? And I’m thinking about is we’re talking about this vuca world and, you know, organizations transitioning, one of the things I was thinking about is like purpose washing or greenwashing or any of these practices, right? Where you could say that there’s a level of cognitive empathy, right? These companies are like, okay, we know what’s on the mind of the people, right? There’s a level of emotional empathy, okay, like, we understand how this could be impacting people on an emotional level. And so you know, even from a branding and marketing perspective, we can communicate right around that. But at the end of the day, this piece of like, Do people really care if someone else is harmed in the long run? Are they willing to give something up, in order to make sure that other people are cared for are attended to have access to resources, equity, whatever it is, and as you’re talking about greed, I’m thinking, wow, greed, you know, from especially from a Buddhist perspective, seems like one of the biggest inhibitors to empathic concern, right, that that’s kind of where the rubber meets the road. In many ways. I was also thinking, you know, as we’re talking about making the adaptation that is required, in order to make large scale change, I was thinking a lot about the role of mindfulness in that and noticing without judgment, because inevitably, as we’re trying to make large scale change, we are going to do it wrong. And we are going to fail. And I think like there’s a real habituated pattern we have of ruminating and the failure, versus being able to just say, Okay, I failed, and I’m going to move on and sort of not getting stuck in a moment of negative self talk or guilt.

Hanuman Goleman 53:29
It’s so easy to be mired in identifying with things that didn’t work out that we do, it’s so easy to take that on and to have it weigh us down. People often use the language of non judgement around mindful awareness. My understanding is that awareness itself is not judgmental. But it doesn’t mean that judgment doesn’t arise. It just when judgment arises, awareness can be aware of that as well. Hmm. Judgment can be awareness can be aware of anything. And and so it because it’s easy to like, shoot, I had a judgment, I’m clearly not doing this. Right. But that’s not that’s not it. It’s just when the judgment is there. Also that day, so pay attention to that.

Elizabeth Solomon 54:18
It’s like a judgment begets judgment, kind of that word. Yeah, I’ve been I’ve been really working that one a lot this year. And just like noticing, really noticing, I mean, in all transparency, places where I’m like, why? Oh, I have a value around, you know, non judgment. And if I really look at my internal thought processes, and see judgmental thoughts arise, right. It’s like, I’ve had to really work this year of just being like, Okay, that was a thought. And what I do with that thought, is actually much more important than getting too stuck on judging the thought itself or staying in that place of kind of guilt or shame.

Hanuman Goleman 54:55
Yeah, we just got to be cool with judging me. We all judge. We are judging it. Go around. Judgy judgy, judgy.

We love hearing from our listeners, and we’d love to hear about your leadership. Have you stepped into your own leadership and an organization or in some other way in your life? How do you cultivate trust with your colleagues? How do you practice authenticity? And does authenticity have a feeling? Let us know what you’re thinking? You can use the speakpipe app to record a question or comment for us at first person

If you’re interested in honing leadership skills to become more adaptable, and to help with renewal to balance burnout, the thriving on change video course can be purchased in full from the keystep media website at key step Slash shop.

Gaby Acosta 56:22
Thanks for listening to first person plural, EI and beyond. Subscribe now and sign up for our newsletter to get notified as new episodes are released. This show is brought to you by our co hosts Daniel Goleman and Hanuman Goleman and is sponsored by key Step Media, your source for personal and professional development materials focused on mindfulness, leadership and emotional intelligence. Special thanks to Maya, whose voice you heard at the top of the show, and today’s guest Elad Levinson. For guest BIOS transcripts and resources mentioned in today’s episode, check out our episode notes on our website This episode was written and produced by Elizabeth Solomon and me Gabriela Acosta, episode art and production support by Bryant Johnson. Music In this episode includes Spring by Meter and Theme Music by Amber Ojeda. Until next time, be well.