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Emotional Intelligence in Times of Political Crisis

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I was born in Puerto Cabello, an idyllic seaside city in beautiful Venezuela. I am the daughter of Portuguese immigrants, who like so many others, came from Europe to build a better future in a rapidly developing and modernizing country.

Venezuela received my beloved parents with warmth and joy and a willingness to share prosperity with people who work hard and wanted to become one with their adopted country. My family found their longed for future, and although we were not millionaires, we never missed anything.

Human connection in Venezuela is very close, and it was always easy to find any excuse to meet with friends to celebrate, watch a game or movie together, or simply just enjoy life.

Today, the reality for an immense majority in Venezuela is quite different. Our promising Venezuela crumbled; things we once took for granted are no more. Even basic foodstuffs are scarce, and our citizens are forced to look for them in the trash, taking turns to scavenge for scraps to share.

The streets have lost joy, fear has taken its place, and insecurity has grown by leaps and bounds. Corruption of our political classes is sweeping, and conscious or not, it causes disparity and alienation. Only those who have the resources to pay someone for a passport can dream of a different destiny; maybe a destiny like my parents dreamed of when they left Europe all those years ago.

Those who still find reason to remain in Venezuela, or simply do not have the resources to leave, have accepted that we have water only at unforeseen times, unstable electricity and internet service (when we have it at all), and a diet dependent upon what is available. We receive with certain normalcy the news of a loved one murdered at the hand of an offender (in uniform or not).

Despite the beauty of our landscape and its abundant natural resources, we live in this situation today. This collapse of civilization as I knew and I experienced it caused me to reflect on how my training in Emotional Intelligence might help me and my family through these dark and dangerous days.

In my experience, having Emotional Intelligence made the difference between barely surviving and living courageously during the recent shutdown in Venezuela.

How can Emotional Intelligence be useful when our basic needs are at stake?

Emotional Self-Awareness

The first thing is to be aware of are your emotions. In my case, I am fortunate enough to be a participant in the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, and without hesitation I utilized all the tools I’ve learned to detect each of my emotions and their triggers.

For a few minutes every morning and every night I practiced meditation to calm my breathing. During the day, I consciously made the decision to listen to my body and to associate its changes with my emotions. That gave me the opportunity to intervene before my emotions escalated. When my heartbeat accelerated and I felt a certain knot in my chest and throat, I became aware of the presence of fear or anguish, which accompanied me during those days.

I made an effort to identify the trigger of those emotions and reactions in my body. I realized the triggers occurred when I mentally reviewed my plan to face the day without water, without electricity, with uncooked food, and with limited options to acquire basic necessities. During this time the throbbing in my chest was accompanied by the chaos of my thoughts, which gave rise to anguish and fear. Becoming aware of my trigger allowed me to exercise greater control over my reactions while planning my day.

Emotional Balance

Once I utilized emotional self-awareness, which is the foundation of Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (EI) model, I took advantage of the skills related to the management of my emotions. Emotional balance helped me check my emotions and my reactions to them. This was particularly useful to me, because despite so much pressure, I was able to maintain my own emotional balance and help my family do so as well. I shared with them the importance of observing ourselves during those difficult days, and anticipating the inevitable negative emotions in order to keep ourselves upright. Emotional balance meant that we could pause at the first signs of anguish, fear, or anger, and intervene with a question, a smile, a moment of calm, a talk, and a prayer.

Adaptability

Adaptability enabled me to adjust to our daily struggle and keep my family afloat. Without this competence I would have been unable to recognize that I have the internal resources to deal with these daily challenges.

I try to remember that the conditions are temporarily different, and look for ways to minimize the impact of the whole situation. This allowed me to take off my heels and executive hat and collect water, look for charcoal or firewood, reorganize the housework, and re-plan significant activities.

My intention was not to adapt to being without electricity forever. Adaptability is not conformism; this ability allowed me to adjust to the situation, awakening the possibility to learn from it.

Positive Outlook

In the less stressful moments, I took advantage of positive outlook. In particular, I used a visualization micro-technique which I repeated whenever I considered it necessary. Very intentionally, I focused on the situation I wanted to be in; I imagined it, I gave it color and feeling. I knew that my brain would not know whether this was imaginary or real. This sense of focus gave me more time to talk with my daughters, to sit around a candlelit table game, and pick up books I had begun reading.

Achievement Orientation

I also put together a plan to stick to my current goals. For example, to keep up my learning commitment for the EI Coaching Certification, I found a way to charge my phone, and in the moments in which I had telephone service, to update my learning team about my situation, schedule meetings, and anticipate alternatives in case the situation was repeated or extended.

I know that I am fortunate and in a privileged situation. While I focus on my certification, others made use of these skills to find medicine and medical care, or just feed their families and stay hydrated.

Empathy

And among these foundational competencies of Emotional Intelligence, the one that most comforted me and gave me the opportunity to help others was empathy.

By listening without interrupting, without judging, and without anticipating their answers, I was better able to understand what my daughters were thinking and feeling. Empathy allowed me to stay connected and compassionate amid the difficult situation.

Despite competition for basic resources, many of us shared food, water, a generator to charge some appliances, and kitchens at the homes of those who had gas stoves. We also understood that negative reactions often weren’t personal; they were reactions to the whole situation. This understanding in a crisis situation is borne of walking in the shoes of the other and from having the tolerance to be compassionate. In my experience, none of that is possible without empathy.

EI Competencies in Practice

Here’s how you can translate these Emotional Intelligence competencies into concrete actions during a situation like the one we continue to live in Venezuela:

  • Develop awareness of your emotions. When you feel fear, anger, happiness, love or another emotion, recognize it. Then stop a moment and ask yourself how you feel, where you feel, and how it manifests in your body. Recognizing your emotions is essential to a strong foundation of Emotional Intelligence.
  • Take a break, ideally at the beginning of the day, to practice meditation or an activity that calms you. If you’re new to meditation, try taking at least ten deep and slow breaths.
  • Become aware of how you react to each emotion and what your trigger is. For example, if you think about the day’s uncertainties and notice that your breathing starts to accelerate, stop; you just found a trigger. Prepare for how you’ll react the next time you detect that trigger.
  • When you detect a strong emotion, don’t react immediately. By taking time to pause, the response to your emotion will be a reaction from your brain’s neocortex, which can override emotional reactions, and not your amygdala, which is automatic and often irrational.
  • Adapt to the new conditions. This will allow you the calm needed to build develop a plan. Visualize yourself achieving your plan; your brain will not make distinctions between this happening in reality or in your imagination, take advantage of it.
  • When you incorporate new routines, remember to treat yourself with kindness, calculate risks, and allow yourself the time to adjust to the new routine.
  • Remember that this situation does not define your life–turn this into a mantra and do not give more power to the situation.
  • Practice tolerance and compassion. If you have knowledge of Emotional Intelligence, put it at the service of your connection with others, and lead your interactions with the harmony that only Emotional Intelligence can give us.

Above all, Emotional Intelligence is about recognizing our emotions in order to navigate them and effectively connect with others. EI is not about not feeling our emotions or repressing or controlling them, it is about managing our reactions to our emotions.

One day I found myself with tears in my eyes and I gave myself permission to mourn, to feel my fear, sadness, and anger. I cried for a while until I fell asleep, overcome by the fatigue of that day’s struggle. The next day it dawned on me; by remaining aware of my emotions and my reactions, I had the opportunity to help lead in an emotionally intelligent way, and share my story with my country and the world.

Thanks to my Venezuela for the lessons, I would definitely prefer they were gentler, but I still appreciate them. Thanks Daniel Goleman and Goleman EI Training for education in Emotional Intelligence, thanks to my Coaching Certification colleagues who have sent me their good wishes, offers of help, and even their frustration with the situation in my country. And a special thanks to my learning team, Patricia Figueroa and Nora Infante, with whom I always found a way to continue.

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Inteligencia Emocional en tiempos de Crisis Política

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Nací en Puerto Cabello, una idílica ciudad costera, en la bella Venezuela. Soy hija de inmigrantes portugueses, mis padres como tantos otros, vinieron de Europa para construir un mejor futuro en un país en rápido crecimiento.

Venezuela recibió a mis queridos padres con la templanza de sus paisajes, la calidez y alegría de su gente y con toda su disposición a compartir su prosperidad con aquellos que con trabajo arduo decidieron ser parte de este, su país adoptivo.

La conexión humana en Venezuela es muy estrecha, y siempre fue fácil encontrar una excusa para reunirnos con amigos para celebrar, ver un juego o una película juntos, o simplemente brindar por la vida.

Hoy en día, la realidad para una inmensa mayoría en Venezuela es diferente. Nuestra prometedora Venezuela se derrumbó; las cosas que alguna vez dimos por sentadas ya no existen. Incluso los alimentos básicos son escasos, y muchas personas se ven obligadas a buscarlos en la basura, tomando turnos para buscar restos que compartir.

Las calles han perdido alegría, el miedo ha ocupado su lugar y la inseguridad ha crecido a pasos agigantados. La corrupción de nuestras clases políticas es abismal, causando disparidad y alienación. Solo aquellos que tienen los recursos para pagarle a alguien por un pasaporte pueden soñar con un destino diferente; tal vez un destino como el que soñaron mis padres cuando salieron de Europa hace tantos años.

Quienes aún encuentran motivos para permanecer en Venezuela, o simplemente no tienen los recursos para irse, han aceptado tener agua algunos días, electricidad e internet (cuando se tiene) inestable y una dieta que depende de lo que este disponible. Recibimos con cierta normalidad las noticias de un ser querido asesinado a manos de un delincuente (con uniforme o no).

A pesar de la belleza de nuestro paisaje y sus abundantes recursos naturales, hoy vivimos en esta crisis. Durante la reciente situación del apagón en Venezuela, me permití reflexionar sobre como el conocimiento adquirido en mi entrenamiento en Inteligencia Emocional podría ayudarnos a mí ya mi familia durante esos oscuros días.

En mi experiencia, tener Inteligencia Emocional marcó la diferencia entre sobrevivir la experiencia y vivirla con propósito.

¿Cómo puede ser útil la inteligencia emocional cuando nuestras necesidades básicas están en juego?

Autoconciencia emocional

Lo primero que debes tener en cuenta son tus emociones. En mi caso, tengo la suerte de participar en la Certificación de Inteligencia Emocional de Daniel Goleman y, sin dudarlo, utilicé todas las herramientas que he aprendido para detectar cada una de mis emociones y sus desencadenantes.

Por unos minutos cada mañana y todas las noches practiqué meditación para calmar mi respiración. Durante el día, tomé conscientemente la decisión de escuchar mi cuerpo y asociar sus cambios con mis emociones. Eso me dió la oportunidad de intervenir antes de que mis emociones aumentaran. Cuando los latidos de mi corazón se aceleraban y sentía un cierto nudo en el pecho y la garganta, sabia que estaba en presencia del miedo o la angustia, que me acompañaron durante esos días.

Hice un esfuerzo por identificar el desencadenante de esas emociones y reacciones en mi cuerpo. Me di cuenta de que los factores desencadenantes ocurrían cuando revisaba mentalmente mi plan para enfrentar el día sin agua, sin electricidad, con alimentos sin refrigerar y con opciones limitadas para cubrir mis necesidades básicas. Durante estos momentos, los latidos desordenados en mi pecho fueron acompañados por el caos de mis pensamientos, que daban lugar a la angustia y el miedo. Tomar conciencia de mi desencadenante me permitió luego, ejercer un mayor control sobre mis reacciones mientras planificaba mi día.

Balance Emocional

Una vez que utilicé la autoconciencia emocional, que es la base del modelo de Inteligencia Emocional (IE) de Daniel Goleman, aproveché las habilidades relacionadas con el manejo de mis emociones. El balance emocional me ayudó a gestionar mis emociones y controlar mis reacciones ante ellas. Esto fue particularmente útil para mí, porque a pesar de toda la presión, pude mantener mi propio equilibrio emocional y ayudar a mi familia a hacerlo también. Compartí con ellos la importancia de observarnos durante esos días difíciles y anticipar las inevitables emociones negativas para no doblegarnos ante ellas. Esto nos permitió poder detenernos ante los primeros signos de angustia, miedo o enojo, e intervenir con una pregunta, una sonrisa, un momento de calma, una conversación o una oración.

Adaptabilidad

La adaptabilidad me permitió ajustarme a mi lucha diaria y mantener a mi familia a flote. Sin esta competencia, no habría podido reconocer que tenia los recursos internos para enfrentar los desafíos de esos días.

Intencionalmente me hice consciente de la temporalidad de esta situación y busqué formas de minimizar su impacto. Esto me permitió quitarme los tacones y el sombrero ejecutivo y recolectar agua, buscar carbón o leña, reorganizar las tareas domésticas y replanificar actividades significativas.

Mi intención no era adaptarme a estar sin electricidad para siempre. La adaptabilidad no es conformismo; esta habilidad me permitió ajustarme a la situación, despertando la posibilidad de aprender de ella.

Perspectiva Positiva

En los momentos menos estresantes, encontré un espacio para tomar ventaja de la competencia de perspectiva positiva. En particular, utilicé una micro técnica de visualización que repetí cada vez que lo consideré necesario. Intencionalmente, me centré en la situación en la que quería estar; la imaginé, le di color y sentimiento. Sabía que mi cerebro no haría diferencia entre si esto era imaginario o real.

Abrigada bajo esta competencia, encontré que el apagón también me dio más tiempo para hablar con mis hijas, sentarme alrededor de un juego de mesa a la luz de las velas y retomar libros que había comenzado a leer.

Orientación al logro

También armé un plan para mantener mis objetivos del momento. Por ejemplo, para cumplir con mi compromiso de aprendizaje para la Certificación de Entrenamiento en Inteligencia Emocional, encontré la forma de cargar mi teléfono de manera que en  los momentos en que tuve el servicio telefónico, pude informar a mi equipo de aprendizaje sobre mi situación, programar reuniones y anticipar alternativas, previniendo que la situación se extendiera en el tiempo

Sé que soy afortunada y que estoy en una situación privilegiada. Mientras yo estaba enfocada en mi certificación, otros usaron estas habilidades para encontrar medicamentos y atención médica, o simplemente alimentar a sus familias y mantenerse hidratados.

Empatía

Y entre estas competencias fundamentales de la Inteligencia Emocional, la que más me consoló y me dio la oportunidad de ayudar a los demás fue la empatía.

Al escuchar sin interrumpir, sin juzgar y sin anticipar sus respuestas, pude entender mejor lo que mis hijas estaban pensando y sintiendo. La empatía me permitió estar conectada y ser compasiva en medio de la difícil situación.

A pesar de la necesidad de todos  por los recursos básicos, muchos de nosotros compartimos alimentos, agua, un generador para cargar algunos electrodomésticos y cocinas en las casas de las personas que tenían estufas de gas. También entendimos que las reacciones negativas a menudo no eran personales; eran reacciones a toda la situación. Comprender esto, es solo posible cuando te pones en los zapatos del otro y cultivas la compasión y la tolerancia. En mi experiencia, nada de eso es posible sin empatía. 

Competencias de la IE en la práctica

Aquí encontraras como puedes traducir estas competencias de Inteligencia Emocional en acciones concretas durante una situación como la que vivimos en Venezuela:

  • Desarrolla la conciencia de tus emociones. Cuando sientas miedo, ira, felicidad, amor u otra emoción, reconócela. Luego detente un momento y pregúntate cómo se siente, dónde se siente y cómo se manifiesta en tu cuerpo. Reconocer tus emociones es esencial para contar con una base sólida de Inteligencia Emocional.
  • Tómate un descanso, idealmente al comienzo del día, para practicar la meditación o una actividad que te calme. Si eres nuevo en la meditación, empieza haciendo al menos diez respiraciones profundas y lentas.
  • Toma conciencia de cómo reaccionas ante cada emoción y cuál es su desencadenante. Por ejemplo, si te levantas con la lista de todos tus pendientes y notas que u respiración comienza a acelerarse, deténte; acabas de encontrar un disparador. Prepárate para la forma en que reaccionará la próxima vez que detectes ese disparador.
  • Cuando detectes una emoción fuerte, no reacciones de inmediato. Al tomarte el tiempo para hacer una pausa, la respuesta a tu emoción será una reacción del neocortex de tu cerebro, que puede anular las reacciones emocionales, y no de tu amígdala, que es automática y, a menudo, irracional.
  • Adáptate a las nuevas condiciones. Esto te permitirá la calma necesaria para construir un plan. Visualízate logrando tu plan; tu cerebro no hará distinciones entre si el logro de tu plan sucede en la realidad o en tu imaginación, aprovéchalo.
  • Cuando incorpores nuevas rutinas, recuerda tratarte con amabilidad, calcula los riesgos y tómete el tiempo para adaptarte.
  • Recuerda que esta situación no define tu vida; convierte esto en un mantra y no le otorgues más poder a la situación.
  • Practica la tolerancia y la compasión. Si tienes conocimiento de Inteligencia Emocional, ponlo al servicio de tu conexión con los demás y gestiona tus interacciones con la armonía que solo la Inteligencia Emocional puede brindarnos.

Por encima de todo, la Inteligencia Emocional consiste en reconocer nuestras emociones para navegarlas y conectarnos efectivamente con los demás. La IE no se trata de no sentir nuestras emociones ni de reprimirlas o controlarlas, se trata de controlar nuestras reacciones ante nuestras emociones.

En mi caso, una madrugada me encontré con mis lagrimas y me di el permiso de llorar, de sentir mi quiebre tejido de miedo, tristeza y rabia, lloré un rato hasta quedarme dormida vencida por el cansancio de la lucha de ese día.. y luego amaneció. Y consciente de mi emoción y de mi reacción, ese amanecer también me dió la oportunidad de elegir conducirme de manera emocionalmente inteligente, dejando mi granito de arena a mi país  y al mundo.

Gracias mi Venezuela por las lecciones, sin duda las preferiría mas gentiles e igual las agradezco. Gracias Daniel Goleman y Key Step Media por el aprendizaje en Inteligencia Emocional, gracias a mis compañeros de certificación de coaching que a la distancia me han enviado sus buenos deseos, ofertas de ayuda e incluso su frustración ante la situación vivida en mi país y gracias especiales a mi equipo de aprendizaje Patricia Figueroa y Nora Infante con quienes siempre encontré una manera de continuar.

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Yes, and… Improv & Emotional Intelligence

If you’ve ever seen episodes of Whose Line is it Anyways?, a popular U.S. improv show adapted from a British TV show, you might have found yourself in stitches and thinking, I could NEVER be that spontaneous! Yet the truth is that you improvise every single day.

In the show, four improv actors get on stage without any script and are given prompts by the show’s host. Out of seemingly nothing comes a complete scene that elicits laughter. Yet it isn’t out of nothing. The actors craft a story from gifts they give each other. These gifts may seem subtle to the observer, but in fact, they include nuggets of information, trust, and of course, “yes, and…” Rather than rejecting what the other is saying, no matter how absurd (Rita! There is a pink rhinoceros brushing your hair!), improv actors accept the statement as reality and go with it.

In Dr. John Gottman’s words, they “turn towards” each other. Gottman has spent decades researching what predicts marital stability versus divorce: whether couples turn towards, or against or away from each other. For example, if one says, “I made dinner tonight,” turning toward might sound like, “it smells wonderful, thank you;” turning against might sound like, “you know I’m trying to cut carbs;” and turning away might sound like, “let me tell you about my day.” Sound familiar?

For a successful improv scene to work, not unlike a marriage, the two actors must turn towards each other. And the greater their Emotional Intelligence (EI), the greater likelihood of the scene’s success. When improv actors have high emotional self-awareness, they are better able to tap into their emotions and authentically respond to the gift of dialogue that their partner has given them. When they have high emotional balance, they are better able to keep their responses in check and move the scene forward rather than co-opt it or freeze in the moment. When they have high adaptability, they are better able to adjust to anything that gets thrown at them in the moment (including pink rhinoceroses).

Beyond being aware of and managing their emotions, improv actors also need EI to build trust and give their partners nuggets of information that they can build upon. This requires empathy, actively listening to and picking up cues about their partner; organizational awareness, reading the scene’s underlying relationships and dynamics; and teamwork, sharing the responsibility of building the scene.

Much of the work on an improv stage happens off stage. Not every scene works, and the constant adaptation, affirmation, and constructive feedback during rehearsals enable improv actors to build trust and safety with one another. Improv actors do not go out of their way to be funny. In fact, trying to be too funny may fall flat. Rather, being authentic to the given “reality” may elicit far greater laughter and a scene that is absurdly funny and completely human.

Every single day, you have conversations that are improv. You might not be on stage figuring out what to do with a pink rhinoceros, but you might need to figure out why your two-year old decided that spaghetti would make a good sofa cushion or wonder why your boss thought erupting into anger at a staff meeting would be productive. Other people are constantly giving you gifts, nuggets of information that you can actively respond to. Emotional Intelligence supports your capacity to turn towards, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant the situation. When we accept and build on these gifts, we can set ourselves and the other person towards a better result.

Are you interested in leading Emotional Intelligence transformations? Apply today for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. Whether you’re an established coach or new to the field, this intensive program offers the tools and first hand experience you need to coach for transformational growth.

We have only a few spots remaining for our personalized EI coaching and training package. You’ll receive year-long access to our online EI training courses, a range of EI assessments, one-on-one coaching sessions, and more. You can learn how it works and register here.

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Emotional Intelligence Makes Resolutions Stick

It’s January, and you have a new set of weights which will finally keep you on track for a six-pack by this time next year. January is named after the Roman God Janus, god of transitions, beginnings, and endings, who is typically depicted with two faces. One looks to the past, one to the future. The past was the unused gym pass; the future is the chiseled abs. Somewhere in the middle is the hard work, the app you downloaded, and the kettlebell.

Regardless of whether your resolution is physical fitness or healthier relationships, the first day of the year is a universally accepted signal to stop living in the past and to break useless habits. It serves as a permission slip to be more present, take more chances, and live our best lives in the new year.

But how many of us actually do?

According to the U.S. News, 80% of people who set a resolution on January 1 break it by the second week of February. In other words, within six weeks of a well-intentioned change, we question, hesitate, and revert back to what is comfortable and known, even if it doesn’t work for us. Like Janus, our two faces constantly look backwards and forwards, but never focus on the present moment.

While there are wonderfully useful tips for how to stick to New Year’s resolutions–keep it simple, be specific, tell a friend–our brains tend to revert into our default mode in which we ruminate and dwell on what we coulda, shoulda, woulda. Or we worry about the future such that we forget to live in the moment. So instead of a quick, 10-minute set with our shiny new weights, we feel remorse at the third brownie we ate or worry about how to carve out time to do sit-ups for the next thirty.

The term “default mode” was first used by Marcus Raichle to describe our brain when it is “resting.” However, studies suggest that our brain isn’t just idling when “resting.” For many of us, our brains default to self-referential thinking (thinking about ourselves), rumination, or preoccupation. We want to go the gym, but our brain’s default system may override its good intentions with fears: What if other people laugh at me; what if this is a waste of energy; what if I don’t have time? To motivate ourselves to put in the hard work, we must shift our mindsets. We need to rejigger our brain’s default mode to one from which we can learn from the past without grasping, be mindful of what may come without anxiety, and live in the uncertainty of every day without avoidance.

Working towards a six-pack is not simply a physical exercise, but also a mental one.

Our brains play a large part in how successfully we will achieve a declared goal–or any habit change. One key domain of Emotional Intelligence that is essential to shifting mindsets and habits is Self-Management, our ability to balance our emotions to make progress towards our goals.

The first Self-Management competency is Emotional Self-Control, or Emotional Balance, the “ability to manage disturbing emotions and remain effective, even in stressful situations,” according to Daniel Goleman. Change is scary, no matter how small it might be. Something as seemingly innocuous as, say, deciding to eat more vegetables, may uncover a deeper emotion or underlying issue. Perhaps eating more vegetables brings back unpleasant memories of a parent forcing you to eat something you didn’t want, and that memory evokes a sense that you are losing your agency to say, “no.” With Emotional Self-Control, we don’t ignore our emotions, rather, we don’t let them hold us hostage. When obstacles arise between us and our goal, we become less susceptible to the whims of our impulsivity and strong emotions.

Second, Adaptability allows us to see change as positive. Let’s say you want to end an unhealthy relationship. It can be scary to let that connection go, no matter how little benefit the relationship offers you or the other person. There is comfort in the known, albeit the dysfunctional known. To move towards the unknown is a transition, and whenever we transition from what was to what will be, we experience change. When we become more adaptable to the uncertainties of life–including the ultimate outcome of our desired goal–we can effectively respond to challenges and transform fear of loss into possibilities for development.

Third, Achievement Orientation is our capacity to meet or exceed a standard of excellence and continually improve. Without this competency, we wouldn’t have the same motivation to effect change and persist when we encounter roadblocks. Strengthening this competency allows us not only to better manage ourselves, but also the context around us so that we can adjust and adapt accordingly to meet our desired goals.

Lastly, the Positive Outlook competency isn’t just about hoping for the best or putting on a happy face. It is an inclination towards the positive. It’s not just an attitude; our brains betray whether we have a tendency towards a Positive Outlook. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson found that people with frequent activation in the left prefrontal cortex tend to be more positive in their emotional outlook. They also may get frustrated when something gets in the way of their goals–and that frustration turns into motivation. On the other hand, those with more activation in the right prefrontal cortex are more likely to give up when the going gets tough.

We can build our Positive Outlook by increasing our “stickability” when obstacles get in our way, and by finding goals that give us meaning and purpose. As Daniel Goleman notes, when we do so, our left prefrontal cortex lights up like a Christmas tree. It is what moves, or motivates, us to keep working towards that goal.

Building our Emotional Intelligence in these competencies helps us become more aware of our default explanatory style about how the world works. Martin Seligman, known as the “father of Positive Psychology,” posed that humans generally have two default explanatory beliefs about the way the world works and their own agency. The first is a pessimistic explanatory style whereby we tend think that our situations are set in stone and that what is wrong will always be wrong. The second is an optimistic explanatory style whereby we think that the opposite.

When it comes to habit formation, either style can be inhibiting if not managed appropriately. The former may be a Debbie Downer who gives up prematurely, and the latter a Polly Anna who ignores reality. While practical realism can prove beneficial, studies suggest that people more disposed to an optimistic explanatory style remain less likely to give up when the going gets tough. In other words, seeing the world with only rose-colored lenses obscures what is really in front of you, and may lead you to make more rash or impulsive decisions. But when we face reality as it is, yet view it with a sense of hope and positivity, we can better recognize how to make the most of whatever challenges life presents.

Want that six-pack by next Christmas? Consider supplementing your new weights with a dose of Self-Management and its four competencies for an inside-out approach.

 

Interested in working with Belinda and helping others develop their Emotional Intelligence? Apply for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification–an in-depth program designed for experienced and aspiring coaches. Space is limited, so we encourage you to apply today.

 

 

 

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Adaptability: Where Mindfulness Training Impacts Leadership

adaptability mindfulness leadership

In my previous article, I mentioned a senior leader with a global accounting firm who credited mindfulness for helping improve her capacity for emotional self-control.

During our discussion, she also explained in detail how this change contributed to greater adaptability. These are both competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence, and mindfulness training can help with their development.

In this case, emotional self-control increased the capacity for managing unexpected events, which relied in part on an enhanced awareness of how her personal bias, interpretations of past experiences, and subconscious reactions were interfering with the effectiveness of her responses.

The other 41 leaders I interviewed as part of my study also linked mindfulness to the development of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency of Adaptability. Adaptability falls under the domain of Emotional Self-Management and is exemplified by a leader being able to work effectively in rapidly changing environments and with diverse groups or individuals. I found additional evidence of this competency during my transcript analysis using the Emotional and Social Competency Indicator (ESCI) model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Adaptability has been empirically linked to increased leadership performance and is typically present in leaders who can manage shifting priorities and are capable of adjusting their perceptions and beliefs.

Why Adaptability is important to leadership

In addition to being emphasized by a number of Emotional Intelligence researchers, Adaptability is linked to a variety of key leadership abilities including:

  • Improved ability to lead in challenging environments.
  • More effective and rapid responses to unexpected changes.
  • Effectiveness in multiple roles, functions, and/or different organizations.

Here’s an example of what this looks like. A senior video game producer shared with me how mindfulness contributed to her ability to successfully adapt to disruptive experiences during her career, “…there’s a calmness about it that allows for new innovation…You can still achieve the goal… you just have to be able to change your plans and your actions.”

During our conversation, she shared examples including needing to meet a major deadline following a significant reduction in budget, and managing employee disengagement and attrition following a merger. In these and other examples, she explained how adaptability increased her ability to successfully navigate unpleasant workplace events and interact more effectively with disruptive coworkers. She added that truly being adaptable required her to stay focused on key objectives in the face of unpredictable and sometimes highly volatile situations.

She also echoed what other leaders shared about adaptability; that it is a vital component of both planned and improvisational leadership behaviors.

For example, another participant noted the importance of being adaptable when she developed a plan to address a gap in employee development after assuming a C-level position, “…there was no talent program in place…so I worked with my counterpart in HR and we put something together that the team responded very favorably to.” Adaptability in the form of improvisational leadership behaviors was also described frequently. One leader shared how adaptability played a key role in resolving a significant crisis that threatened project success at a critical moment; “we had a run-in and she had a breakdown…I was able to work through that….and get her back on track…we ended up getting great results.”

Similarly, adaptability can be important in letting go of past accomplishments in order to address the challenges that come with new roles, or shifts in leadership identity.

How Developing Mindfulness can lead to increased Adaptability

Neuroimaging research, like what is summarized in the 2014 HBR article Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain, indicates that mindfulness alters regions of the brain and changes the manner in which neural networks connect with each other. These types of changes may also improve cognitive flexibility, which contributes to improved adaptability.

Similar to the process of athletic training, neuroplasticity is what accounts for the circuitry of our brains being shaped by our experience. In this context developing leadership behaviors such as adaptability is like mental conditioning. It is a conscious approach that allows us to:

  • Identify areas where we need improvement and implement a daily plan of action to address gaps.
  • Regularly assess the alignment of our beliefs and actions.
  • Deliberately refine our ability to identify and develop the best strategies for effectively engaging with different types of individuals in the workplace. As one participant described it, “…I need to flex my style just to be able to adapt to different characters.”

In addition to cultivating adaptability, mindfulness is also linked to the development of Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Management. Adaptability is enhanced by these two competencies, since greater emotional awareness enables you to more effectively manage your reactions to situational demands.

In my next article I will discuss the relationship between mindful leadership and the fourth competency in the Emotional Self-Management domain, Achievement Orientation.

Recommended Reading:

AdaptabilityOur new series of primers was created by bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, along with fellow thought leaders in EI, research, and leadership development.

The primers focus on the competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence in leadership. You can find the first 3 in the series available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, and Adaptability.

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How to Coach for Adaptability in Leadership

Adaptability in leadership

Coaching new school principals, I have come to appreciate the hidden emotional costs to leadership promotion. If I don’t support my leaders to adapt emotionally to their new roles, they are more likely to hit a wall when adapting to the skills of their new job.

Consider Janet. As an assistant principal, she turns every task into gold because of her work ethic, intelligence, instructional expertise, and organizational skills. She earns considerable credibility with her team, and so is a no-brainer successor when her principal decides to move on.

Six months later, Janet is struggling. She works extremely hard and everyone appreciates her level of commitment, but the school is not humming. She is both angered and confused by a growing resistance to the student culture system among the upper grade teachers, and blames the teachers when student discipline begins to slip. There is dissension among the leadership team on how to manage these challenges. She is surprised by what she sees as the weakness of many of her team members, and so finds it easier to take on student challenges herself. And yet, for the first time, she is missing deadlines and dropping balls. How can she get to the adult issues when student challenges take up so much of her time?

I see multiple entry points to coaching Janet, but most will treat the symptoms rather than the disease. If I choose to attack technical skills such as meeting facilitation, difficult conversations or even personal organization, I miss the fact that Janet has failed to adapt to her new position at an emotional level.

Adapting Starts with Self-Awareness

Because leaders like Janet begin a perpetual sprint from the moment they are offered their new job, few take the time to ground themselves emotionally in what is happening to them. William Bridge’s Transitions (1980) is an excellent place to start building Emotional Self-Awareness because it emphasizes that all change processes””no matter how positive””begin with endings and loss. Janet and I begin our work by reading chapter one and talking about endings. I ask her some combination of these questions:

Even when transitions are positive ones, there’s loss. How does Bridge’s theory of endings help you make sense of your principal transition experience so far? What have you lost or had to let go of already? How do you think this has affected you emotionally? To what extent have you been able to let go? What do you think is getting in your way?

Once Janet gets the idea about letting go, she needs help identifying the kinds of things that will get in her way if she doesn’t let go. Charan’s The Leadership Pipeline (2000) is a great place to start. I connect our endings conversation to exploring what’s getting in the way with this quote:

The highest-performing people, especially, are reluctant to change; they want to keep doing the activities that made them successful. As a result, people make the job transition from individual contributor to manager without making a behavioral or value-based transition. In effect, they become managers without accepting the requirements.

Chapter one offers concrete behaviors and values that get in the way of leaders adapting to new stages of leadership. Janet begins to see how her strength as a “doer” is holding her back from leading through others. My job at this point is to help Janet become aware of the values connected to her work up to this point, and then support her to make a conscious choice to shift them. Even when the choice is made, it takes time to unpack the habits, relationships, loyalties, and even character traits that are all pieces of Janet’s former strength.

Self Managing Through the Micro-Moments

Janet will confront countless micro-moments of challenge that are in fact opportunities to shift her deeply ingrained behaviors. Tomorrow she will be drawn to a challenging teacher-student interaction as she walks down the hallway. She can choose to jump in and solve the problem, call the behavioral support staff whose job it is to support teachers, or let the teacher manage his own challenge. Being aware””of the choice and of the emotions and values at play””is the first step. Then, Janet needs some strategies to help her choose new behaviors.

At this point, Janet and I do some aspirational thinking. I learned from Boyatzis’s Intentional Change Model (2006) that exploring the ideal opens Janet’s mind to possibilities that will likely yield effective self-management strategies. As we focus on a specific micro-moment””reactively or proactively””I say to her:

Imagine at this moment that you are able to lead masterfully through others. How would you get yourself to do it? You see that teacher struggling with that student! What do you do with your emotions and desire to jump in? What do you think or do that keeps you from engaging?

Deeply exploring this moment of opportunity allows Janet to identify some things she can do to manage her emotions and her old values and habits, and leverage new ones. She articulates a reminder that her inner coach will chant (“Remember, you are the only person that can lead this school. How many other people can do this work right now?”). She practices taking two deep breaths to ground herself in the moment. She makes a plan to engage her trusted assistant principal as an accountability partner. Janet keeps these strategies on a note-card that she tapes to the back of her iPad. We reflect on application over time, revising strategies as we learn what works, until Janet is consistently making strong choices about the work that she takes on or delegates to other staff.

Slowing your new leader down to reflect on endings, loss and surrendering strengths that no longer serve them is worth it. This coaching will save you weeks or months in new skill acquisition.

Recommended reading:

Our new series of primers was created by bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, along with fellow thought leaders in EI, research, and leadership development.

The primers focus on the competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence in leadership. You can find the first 3 in the series available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, and Adaptability.

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Two Key Skills for High-Performance Leadership

high performing leader presenting to colleagues at a work meeting

What does it take to be a high-performing leader? Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman explored this question with George Kohlrieser, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD, while they discussed emotional intelligence and leadership.

Their conversation centered on the twelve emotional intelligence competencies many organizations recognize as being essential for effective leadership. Each competency focuses on a specific aspect of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, or relationship management.

Positive Outlook is a competency in the self-management domain. During their conversation, Professor Kohlrieser stressed the importance of positivity, saying leaders must be able to find and convey to others what is positive in any situation. Dr. Goleman described research that highlights ways leaders can learn to be more positive. Here is a brief section of that conversation:

If there is one constant in life and the work world, it is change. Along with being positive, effective leaders must be able to adjust to the changes they face each day. In this brief video clip, George Kohlrieser talks about positivity as an essential precursor to another emotional intelligence competency, Adaptability.

Positive Outlook and Adaptability are just two of the twelve emotional intelligence competencies of leaders who perform better than their peers. Research shows that leaders who score high in six or more of the emotional intelligence competencies are better able to create the conditions needed to improve performance in the groups they lead.

Oftentimes the result isn’t just better performance, but happier and less stressed teams. And who doesn’t want that?

Want to learn more about leadership and emotional intelligence?

Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership is a series of video conversations between Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, including Richard Boyatzis, Richard Davidson, Vanessa Druskat, and George Kohlrieser.

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence is a collection of Daniel Goleman’s writings filled with advice for leaders on using emotional intelligence to enhance their performance.