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Emotional Intelligence in Action: Team Transformation Begins

Do you despair when you read about the importance of Emotional Intelligence because you know you and your team lack it and you can’t see how to improve it?

You are not alone.

A leader who engaged me to transform her performance and that of her team told me that when she finished reading Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, she cried.

“As the importance of Emotional Intelligence dawned on me, so did the humbling realization that I didn’t have much of it. Worse yet, I had no idea how to improve. Positive outlook and inspirational leadership felt out of reach for me. I felt despair–destined to keep experiencing the stressful consequences of negative thinking, reactive communication, and working long hours to try and compensate for my poor collaboration and leadership skills.”

Today, this leader and her team have transformed.

They have gone from not wanting to go to work, not seeing eye-to-eye, disappointed in their performance, and embarrassed about being perceived by others as a dysfunctional team to feeling happy to go to work, collaborating harmoniously, and achieving better business outcomes. This transformation has been so profound others have noticed. Previously skeptical managers from neighboring teams are now seeking out Mindfulness training and Emotional Intelligence coaching to help their teams too.

In this and forthcoming articles in my series, “Emotional Intelligence in Action,” I’m going to take you on a journey in which I share the approaches that worked. In this article, I recount an activity from the initial training day that instigated immediate and inspiring increases in emotionally intelligent behaviors and that created the foundation for high levels of engagement in coaching and training over the next six months. By adopting (or adapting) the approaches I share, you can become an agent for positive change wherever you are, in whatever setting, right now.

An initial step to building Emotional Intelligence

I started by introducing the team to Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence framework. I did this playfully by having the team rate themselves from 1-10 for how capable they felt in each competency. I read aloud polarized and entertaining examples for the behavioral indicators of low and high skills in each of the twelve competencies (e.g., “If you have no idea what motivates your staff and no interest or idea in how to find out, then you currently have low competency in Coach & Mentor). During a 10-second pause between competencies, the team rated their capacity from 1 (low) to 10 (high) on a worksheet and then scored their current baseline level of Emotional Intelligence (out of 120).

Limitations of this approach

While the self-assessment approach has limitations and is not meant to replace the complete picture offered by a 360-style assessment, it can help teams become motivated to improve, build self-efficacy, and support collaboration. It is an approach that can be readily adopted by any consultant or leader.

Strengths of this approach

To articulate the value of this exercise, I highlight the literature that inspired it and the positive impact it made, below:

Connecting with the personal meaning of information fuels motivation.

Using relatable behavioral descriptors in the self-assessment of each competency helped individuals to connect with the personal relevance of Emotional Intelligence. Research tells us that when activities have personal meaning, we’re more motivated to get engaged. Making the descriptions of the competencies easily understandable and relatable drove high-level engagement on the first day and generated appetite to learn more in coming months.

Creating a fun environment diffuses tension and optimizes learning.

Making this activity fun was intentional and beneficial. This team entered the room stressed out, highly sensitive to negative feedback, and wary of the session. Emotions influence dopamine and impact the neural networks responsible for learning. Beginning playfully created a relaxed atmosphere that optimized the learning environment and visibly established great rapport for the upcoming coaching journey.

Setting up early opportunities for success builds self-efficacy.

Self-Awareness is the foundation of Emotional Intelligence. By highlighting how a simple 10-minute activity had already positively impacted their Self-Awareness (and therefore their Emotional Intelligence) the team experienced self-efficacy in developing Emotional Intelligence. This early win served as a source of inspiration for more positive change.

Emotional Intelligence literacy supports communication & collaboration.

The exercise established entry-level Emotional Intelligence literacy, enabling the team to communicate about the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes influencing their work. Having a framework to discuss struggles and aspirations opened up courageous communication and creative problem solving amongst the team.

Group-level awareness of our common humanity creates Empathy.

When everyone raised their hands to signal they had identified both strengths and areas for improvement across the suite of competencies, it changed the mood in the room. Many team members commented on what a relief it was to see how everyone, not just them, recognized that they have “things to work on.” Through this simple step, a greater sense of connectivity, comradery, and Empathy emerged. It was beautiful to witness, and it signaled the beginning of the individual and group-level transformation that was to continue.

Transformation takes places progressively, one step at a time.

There is much more that we did on that initial day and over the following months to progressively transform this team’s culture from toxicity to empowered productivity. I will share more with you in the next article to further equip and inspire you with simple yet powerful ideas to boost your own Emotional Intelligence and performance as well as that of your team.

Emotional Intelligence makes a difference in people’s lives.

The leader who cried after first reading about Emotional Intelligence emailed me after the training day to say it was the best training she had experienced. When I asked her why she said: “Because I left the day feeling empowered that I could change and that the team could change too. I started to think positively about our possibilities for the first time in a long time, and that is of great value to me.”

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.

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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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How to Shift Team Mindset for Effective Collaboration

Collaborating for collective success expands our understanding of ourselves and others. We are enabled to co-create the world we want to see. In this series of articles, you will learn from inspiring stories of individuals, teams, and organizations committed to creating more sustainable team norms. These experiences can help us identify critical variables and Emotional Intelligence competencies that are vital for successful collaboration.

 

There is good reason why collaboration has become so important in the workplace. Organizations need to build their capacity for adaptability and agility in order to remain successful in an increasingly dynamic economy. Collaboration in humanitarian action has also emerged as a more effective response to global challenges. Research indicates that “working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and outcomes.” Finding commonality among such varied perspectives also offers new complexity and difficulty. By understanding how to harness tensions in a constructive manner, we can guide teams and organizations toward effective collaboration.

What is at the heart of collaboration?

 

Emotional complexity multiplies in a team environment. Vanessa Druskat, an expert on group Emotional Intelligence, says that teams are “emotional incubators” and acknowledges the importance of emotions as the contagious energy that can propel the progress of a group. This contagious influence spreads rapidly, making emotions the lynchpin of successful collaboration and shared understanding. Of course difficult emotions, like frustration, can also work against groups and negatively impact collaboration and results. We observe these dynamics in all types of teams and organizations navigating change: mergers between companies, the consolidation of departments or functions, relocation, etc. Harnessing these tensions in a constructive way is at the heart of effective collaboration for teams and organizations.

LIFE: A collaboration in need of its own emergency response

 

Emotions were strong, and tension was in the air. Several team members were not talking to one another. Relationships had soured due to a climate of reduced resources, leadership changes, and new research findings that had major implications for their strategy.

LIFE was a group of organizations working together to assist a global emergency response initiative affecting millions of people, but the overall mood in the 30-member team was not conducive to effective collaboration. Individually, each member had a strong sense of commitment to the initiative, however, as a group they felt stuck and had lost their momentum. LIFE was polarized in two camps: Those who wished to address trust issues and feelings of exclusion, and those who wanted to avoid discussing emotions altogether.

The collaborative network was on the brink of collapse. “This is a critical moment. We have lost trust. It used to be different, but this time we’re going to make or break this initiative if we can’t figure out how to collaborate,” one executive confided. The first objective was to have open and frank discussions to find new ways to communicate and work together.  

LIFE’s way forward started with developing a Growth Mindset and Positive Outlook

 

The team decided to engage in a learning process that included a face-to-face team session. This meeting was the first pivotal point in a process that embraces what Stanford researcher Carol Dweck describes as a “Growth Mindset.” With a Growth Mindset, change and conflict become opportunities for positive transformation. With the help of their organizational coach, the group engaged in reflective dialogue. Together, they created a set of group norms to navigate difficult conversations. Their guiding principles were a non-judgmental approach characterized by kindness, openness, and a willingness to understand the perspectives of others.

 

Sometimes, it is in the empty spaces during conversations that progress emerges within a team. “Has the world moved on and are we getting stuck in our own illusion?” a group member exclaimed during one of our meetings. Profound silence followed by deep breaths of relief were heard all around. Addressing the elephant in the room affects everyone involved and acknowledging a difficult truth accelerates change. Now, able to address their situation with clear eyes, positive emotions arose and created a climate in which new possibilities for learning and forward motion began to emerge.   

 

Try this exercise to help your team reflect and more fully embrace a Growth Mindset:

  • Share a video called “Stuck on the Escalator.” It will bring some laughs to the room and create a light-hearted opportunity for the group to examine how they might carry stuck mindsets with them.

 

  • Ask them to reflect on the following questions in pairs and then to share with the whole group:
  • Do we have a feeling that we are stuck (“triggered”) on the team?
  • What are the thoughts (or stories) associated with this feeling?
  • What are the opportunities for learning and growth given this situation?
  • From where we are now, what is the first step we need to take to move forward?

 

Going through these exercises, the team realized that unspoken disagreements and a lack of transparency had created feelings of exclusion and distrust. As LIFE put their new group norms into practice, glimpses of Self and Social Awareness started to emerge in their group discussions. “Now I understand the situation you are going through given the cut in resources. We can help you to overcome this,” responded a participant to another colleague in front of the group. Everybody listened to this authentic acknowledgement and it was one of the first positive moments that resonated with the whole team. Slowly, discouragement was replaced with optimism. This perspective brought a new energy into the room and helped team members to reconnect immediately.

 

As psychologist and author Daniel Goleman describes, Positive Outlook is the ability to see the best in people, situations, and events, despite setbacks or obstacles. Research shows that in a team setting, Positive Outlook contributes to a positive emotional climate that spreads throughout a group. This climate leads to improved cooperation, less conflict, and better performance. The LIFE team created the conditions to improve the emotional and social norms required to foster high levels of energy and motivation in their group dynamics. Ultimately, a Growth Mindset, in conjunction with Positive Outlook, allows teams to develop a new understanding of what’s possible, instead of trudging on with unaddressed frustration. Collaboration is not the absence of conflict. It is learning to deal with it in a compassionate way and growing together in the process.

 

Next up in our series on EI & Collaboration, we will explore how teams can develop norms based on trust and empathy to communicate effectively.

 


Leaders who take time to understand different perspectives work toward finding a common ground on which everyone can agree.

But how does one develop this competency? What does it look like in different contexts?

In Conflict Management: A Primer, Daniel Goleman and colleagues introduce Emotional Intelligence and dive deep into the Conflict Management competency. In this quick read, the authors illustrate the valuable skills needed to manage conflict in a range of settings.

 

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How Mindfulness Helps Leaders Manage Conflict

In my study of the relationship between mindfulness and leader effectiveness, understanding the role of conflict was a career-altering realization for the forty-two leaders I interviewed. These leaders provided in-depth descriptions of Conflict Management, which is one of the twelve competencies in the Emotional Intelligence model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis. Strength in Conflict Management involves the ability to navigate emotionally charged situations in a diplomatic manner, which often requires open discussion and skillful de-escalation. Individuals with strength in this competency will also be:

  •      Comfortable discussing disagreements
  •      Effective communicators of the positions of all parties involved in a conflict
  •      Skilled in resolving disputes by discussing mutually beneficial goals
  •      Capable of openly talking about disagreements

Conflict Management relies on an individual’s ability to recognize their role in disagreements, either as a participant or a mediator. This necessitates Self-Awareness, since leaders must be aware of how people receive their behaviors if they hope to create an environment where others can safely express themselves. Development of this level of awareness requires active (real-time) self-observation and time spent reflecting on how conflicts could have had a better outcome for all involved.

Become Aware of Opportunities Lost to Conflict

Many of the leaders I interviewed credited mindfulness with helping them wake up to the relationship between conflict and poor-quality workplace interactions. Examples included understanding why coworkers were unwilling to help them, and why their teams lacked creativity and engagement. Exploration of their own role in these relationships led to a realization that their need to feel in control prompted conflict-inducing behaviors.

Leaders described gradually becoming able to see that they didn’t need to feel that they were leading every meeting or making every decision. For instance, the head of an interdisciplinary treatment program at a leading cancer center reported becoming aware of others’ unwillingness to cooperate with him. With the help of mindfulness he was able to recognize the risk to his own success created by focusing too heavily on his own personal agenda. As a result, he began investing more time in developing his ability to identify and address the needs of others, which led to not only a reduction in conflict, but also more supportive and collaborative relationships.

Participants specifically mentioned a reduction in emotional reactivity resulting from mindfulness, which they directly linked to less conflict in the workplace. The founder of a leading global consulting firm summarized these changes in the following statement: “It’s made me less reactive to my judgments and more thoughtful and compassionate, both with myself and other people. It’s made me more mindful not only of what I’m reacting to, but because I have that insight about myself, I’m also more able to notice when other people are being reactive.”

Leaders also credited mindfulness with an improved capacity for identifying and managing stress, which they considered a primary cause of workplace conflict. For instance, a senior leader with a major US hospital network described his increased strength in Conflict Management as: ”… the ability to be able to pause and not react in the heat of the moment. And instead, to be able to look underneath the feeling of anger, irritability … to see what is that really tapping into … that enables me to respond in way that’s more effective.” Many other participants also described an improved ability to minimize conflict once they became better at regulating stress. They specifically attributed these changes to positive outcomes such as successful departmental management during massive layoffs, preventing the loss of angry key clients, and maintaining production during highly volatile circumstances.

How to More Effectively Manage Conflict

Insights from this study into how leaders can strengthen their ability to manage conflict focused on two aspects of awareness: First, identify what triggers your conflict response by analyzing specific experiences. Second, develop the ability to identify what beliefs, fears, or potentially unmet needs may cause negative reactions in others.

You can further improve your ability to manage conflict by taking the following steps:

  1.     Learn to detect the early signs of conflict arising in yourself, both emotional and physical.
  2.     Refine your ability to regulate internal reactions that may lead to conflict.
  3.     Identify and work to understand the causal beliefs behind these reactions.
  4.     Invite others to express opinions that don’t align with yours and listen attentively.
  5.     Help those with opposing views find common ground and develop mutual respect.

Above all, the leaders I interviewed learned to view effectively managed conflict as an opportunity to surface potentially significant problems, strengthen relationships, and boost engagement. They were only able to realize this value once they invested in recognizing, and then giving up their need to feel important or in control. Finally, leaders reported that strengths in Conflict Management resulted in more respect from co-workers, which directly contributed to professional advancement.

 

 

In just 10-20 minutes per day, your organization can receive evidence-based training in Emotional Intelligence designed by the world’s foremost thought leaders. Learn more about our facilitated virtual training courses here.

 

 

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How Sleep Primes The Brain For Emotional Intelligence

When I first started dating my now husband, he asked me what he should know about me. The first thing I told him was that if he notices that I’m ever a bit “grumpy,” it’s likely an easy fix. I realized after a decade of sleep deprivation raising my three kids, who are now teenagers, that I need eight hours of sleep. Little did I know, it’s not just me…we all need our sleep. And, according to Matthew Walker, PhD’s new book, Why We Sleep, Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, getting eight hours of sleep not only makes us feel great, but measurably improves our performance. Sleep is also key to building Emotional Intelligence. It can affect our Emotional Self-Control, Empathy, and Adaptability, which are three of the twelve competencies that Daniel Goleman’s research has determined comprise Emotional Intelligence.

Getting eight hours of sleep is essential–not six or seven, but eight hours. Why? According to the research, those last two hours are filled with 60-90% of the important dream state REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. It is during this time that our brains get a sort of emotional tune-up. As humans, we have the ability to deeply experience and regulate our emotions. We can recognize and influence the emotions of others. We also have more REM sleep than any other species. According to Walker, REM sleep “enhances emotional and social sophistication.”  

Here are three ways that sleep helps build Emotional Intelligence:

1.  Sleep helps us manage our emotions  

I described how I sometimes become “grumpy” when I don’t get enough sleep. Parents of young children experience this all the time. Both in the sleep deprived parent and in the toddler who was possibly up all through the night. We see it in the workplace when an “angry” leader might snap at and lose patience with a subordinate. A sleep deprived doctor can come across as impatient and have poor bedside manners. These “inappropriate emotions” are often the result of sleep deprived individuals. This is not an effective way to build strong relationships and improve connections. Managing ourselves and having Emotional Self-Control (also referred to as Emotional Balance) is a key competency for building Emotional Intelligence.  

So how does sleep help us manage our emotions? A part of the brain called the amygdala is responsible for triggering strong emotions such and anger and rage, and is linked to our fight or flight response. Walker describes a sleep study in which two groups were shown images that ranged from neutral in content (a basket, a piece of driftwood) to negative in content (a burning house, a venomous snake) to a group of individuals who stayed up all night and another group who got a full night of sleep. It turns out, the sleep deprived individuals showed well over a 60% increase in emotional reactivity in the amygdala. The well rested group showed only a modest degree of reactivity.

Without adequate sleep, we produce inappropriate emotional reactions and are unable to put things and situations in the appropriate contexts. To make matters worse, the part of our brain that is responsible for managing the emotions of the amygdala is compromised by sleep deprivation. This area, called the prefrontal cortex, is responsible for rational, logical decision making. Getting adequate rest is essential to maintaining Emotional Balance.  

2. Sleep builds Empathy  

Empathy is another important competency of Emotional Intelligence. Empathy means having the ability to sense other people’s feelings and understand what they are experiencing and thinking. It means having an interest in what matters to the other person. Our ability to recognize different emotions through facial expressions is one way that we can develop Empathy. Facial expressions communicate the emotions and intent of another person. Our response can be influenced by the expressions of another.   

There are regions of the brain whose job is to read and decode the meaning of emotional signals, especially in faces. It is these regions of the brain that REM sleep recalibrates at night. Matthew Walker makes the analogy, “we can think of REM sleep like a master piano tuner, one that readjusts the brain’s emotional instrumentation at night to pitch perfect precision, so that when you wake up the next morning, you can discern overt and subtly covert micro-expressions with exactitude.” When we deprive ourselves of this dream state REM sleep, facial expressions become distorted. This is where we might confuse a friendly expression with anger or frustration.   

I remember meeting my friend, Charles, for coffee one early morning. I had a late dinner meeting the night before and I felt exhausted. Shortly into our conversation, I shared a thought about an idea we were brainstorming. I could see his mouth close tight. He looked up. And I could feel my heart start to race. I thought to myself, “Here it comes.” I could feel my body tighten as I prepared for the coming argument and possible harsh critique of what I had just said. Just as I was about to prematurely defend myself and my idea out loud, Charles broke into a smile, his eyes softened and he said, “I agree.”

I had mistaken his “thinking” look with what I thought was an “angry” look. What started off as a friendly conversation could have easily turned into a negative experience. Thankfully, I didn’t react to my sleep deprived misinterpretation.

3. Sleep sparks creativity

Being able to handle change and adapt to new situations with fresh ideas or innovative approaches is another key competency in building Emotional Intelligence.  

How does this show up in the brain after a good night of sleep? Walker shows through several studies the increased creativity of his participants compared to the sleep deprived individuals. It is especially true after a full night of rich dream state REM sleep. One study showed problem solving abilities increased by 15-35%. A full night of dream-induced REM sleep also revealed an ease in problem solving. When we are in our dream state, our mind can process a wide range of stored information and come up with multiple solutions for complicated problems.  

In the workplace, a creative leader can adapt more easily to a changing environment. They can think of multiple ways to achieve their goals. They don’t get stuck in the same old ways of doing things. They are open to new ideas and perspectives. And they are therefore able to grow and innovate. These are all important aspects of Emotional Intelligence.  

It is clear that getting eight hours of sleep, especially the dream state REM sleep, is essential to well-being, optimal performance at work, and building our Emotional Intelligence. So how do we actually get better sleep? Walker offers several ideas. Here are my top three favorites:

  • Exercise! But not within 2-3 hours of sleep. Exercise helps your brain and body to relax, but working out too close to bedtime can be counterproductive. Your body temperature can remain high after exercise, making it difficult to drop your core temperature sufficiently to initiate sleep.
  • Allow yourself adequate time to prepare for bed. Reading, using dim lights or candles, and listening to soft music are soothing activities to prime yourself for rest.  
  • Create a tidy, gadget-free bedroom environment that is conducive to sleep. Tidy up your bedroom and remove your gadgets so that distractions are minimized. Open the windows to cool down the room; this helps drop core body temperature which is also needed to initiate sleep.

Recommended Resources:

 

 

Want to cultivate your Emotional Intelligence or bring EI training to your organization? Reserve your spot for the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence. You’ll explore twelve learning paths based on Daniel Goleman’s books and research through facilitated, group learning. You’ll discover the science behind each competency, why they matter, and how to apply them to positively differentiate yourself.

For a taste of the Foundational Skills, join our two-week Emotional Balance experience. In this portion of the Foundational Skills of EI, you’ll build your resilience, self-awareness, and focus.

 

 

 

 

For further reading, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Control, Adaptability, and Empathy.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Vulnerability in Leadership

Sarah is a young, talented leader who rose quickly to an executive role. As a part of her professional development, she went through a 360 assessment and worked with a coach. In her feedback, she was surprised to discover that her colleagues and direct reports perceived her as distant and aloof. They struggled to connect with her, and consequently didn’t trust her. This feedback was shocking and upsetting for Sarah. She resisted it as “just not true.”

However, within her coaching relationship, Sarah uncovered a mindset which didn’t serve her well, and had, until now, been a blind spot. The mindset: being more authentic and vulnerable is bad. It developed long ago in response to a string of childhood tragedies, including her Dad’s death when she was in second grade and her Mom’s breast cancer diagnosis around the same time. Since Sarah’s mom was consumed by her husband’s death and facing her own mortality, she was not emotionally available to Sarah and her siblings. Being the oldest, Sarah became the surrogate parent to her siblings. And as she believed she needed to hold it together for the family, she never shared the depth of her grief and loss with anyone. This set her on a course to become the stoic, high achieving leader she is today. Sadly though, by walling off a part of herself, she struggled to build trusting relationships and was reluctant to let others into her world. Indeed, this mindset and its impact surfaced when she was forced to consider how her self-perception vastly differed from how others perceived her.  

While she believed being objective, unemotional, and aloof made her appear as a more competent leader, just the opposite was true. Her unwillingness to be real and connect with others held her back from becoming the relatable, engaging leader others would be inspired to work with and for. And unsurprisingly, the teams she led all struggled with interpersonal trust.

Sarah’s story illustrates a commonly held mindset not discussed enough in leadership circles (and in life)–that we should avoid being vulnerable. Like Sarah, many of us think we need to maintain the veneer of “having it all together.” If you share this mindset, consider these two points.

First, a willingness to open up about our humanity and imperfections with colleagues, direct reports, and even our bosses, humanizes us and attracts respect. And this learnable skill often correlates with exceptional teamwork and results. If jumping into this seems way too daunting, consider sharing with a trusted colleague first. Pushing through the initial anxiety of having the first few conversations pays off for most. By letting others in on both your imperfections and your discomfort with sharing them, you will experience a decompressing effect whereby you feel lighter and more confident.  

Second, by sharing your real self with someone, you can connect more easily with others. Brené Brown, noted researcher in social connection, has increased understanding of the role of vulnerability in relationship-building. Vulnerability doesn’t mean being weak. The best leaders have learned it indicates the courage to be your real self. It means replacing “professional aloofness and an air of having it all together” with the ability to experience ambiguity and model Emotional Self-Awareness. Opportunities for vulnerability present themselves to leaders all the time. For example, admitting you don’t know the answer to a question, asking for help, and offering stories of times you made mistakes. Openness builds trust and deepens relationships, which makes for great performance, both individually and organizationally. Research shows that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.

After Sarah recognized her fear of vulnerability, and acted to challenge this mindset, her progress and motivation to become a better leader exploded. As she discovered first-hand, there’s power in expressing our struggles and accepting that we all have blind spots. Sarah’s new behavior was contagious. She observed her colleagues on the executive team starting to openly acknowledge others’ good ideas and perspectives in meetings rather than staying entrenched in their original positions. Sarah had, in fact, started her own movement!

Try this:

Teams need to connect and collaborate to become high-performing and successful. However, when your team includes a diverse mix of cultures and generations, achieving this level of cohesion can be challenging.

How can you bring people together? Try this exercise to help your team build deeper relationships.  

  1. At your next team meeting, ask everyone to find one partner and answer the following three questions in just 60 seconds each.
    • Where did you grow up?
    • How many kids are in your family and where do you fall in the order?
    • What current challenge are you facing?
  2. Have people share with the larger group what the experience was like for them–both as the listener and speaker.
  3. If you want to take it a step further, you can exemplify openness and vulnerability by sharing your responses to the questions with the entire team.  

The takeaway: Openness builds trust and deepens relationships, which makes for great performance, both individually and organizationally. Research shows that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.

Recommended Resources:

 

 

Want to cultivate your Emotional Intelligence? Reserve your spot for the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence. During twelve, two-week online experiences, you’ll explore the Foundational Skills of Emotional Intelligence through facilitated, group learning. You’ll discover the science behind each competency, why they matter, and how to apply them to positively differentiate yourself.

For a taste of the Foundational Skills, join our two-week Emotional Balance experience. In this portion of the Foundational Skills of EI, you’ll build your resilience, self-awareness, and focus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For further reading, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, and Empathy.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

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Give Negative Feedback with Empathy

Seth, the regional manager of an insurance agency, had a reputation for enforcing the rigid guidelines sent down from upper management, while doing the bare minimum himself. When one of his newest employees, Jason, failed to record customer information in accordance with guidelines, Seth arranged a meeting to set him straight. After talking Jason’s ear off about the importance of playing by the book, Seth handed him a few examples of correct customer reports and told him to study up or find work somewhere else.

Jason, who had never received detailed training on the customer reports, became instantly and thoroughly discouraged. While he still made an effort to get by, he felt increasingly apathetic about his job. He was not alone: Other members of the team felt the same disengagement. They avoided Seth and kept their heads down, trying to do their work without having to deal with him. No surprise that Seth’s reputation for intractability also prevented people from sharing their ideas with him. Result: sales plummeted.

Last I heard, Seth had been replaced by a new regional manager, tasked with revitalizing a floundering business. It’s no surprise – Seth was not just difficult to work with, but an ineffective leader as well. Looked at through the emotional intelligence lens, what Seth lacked was empathic concern.

Empathic concern is one of three types of empathy. The first type, cognitive empathy, lets us understand others’ perspectives. The second, emotional empathy, allows us to experience others’ emotions in our own body, giving us an immediate sense of what they feel. And the third, empathic concern, moves us to action. We care about other people’s well-being and feel motivated to help them. This is where empathy extends into compassion.

Consider results from a study of how empathic concern matters when we give negative feedback. Researchers found that leaders who gave negative feedback with empathetic concern got better responses from their employees, who also rated them as more effective. And this caused higher-ups to view these leaders as more promotable.

People respond more positively to criticism and are more likely to take feedback to heart when they feel their leader cares about their well-being and wants them to improve. Empathic concern makes feedback more effective, kickstarting positive change in employees and rippling throughout organizations.

Instead of grilling a new hire like Jason over an understandable mistake, Seth could have empathized with Jason’s need to learn how to perform his new job, and maybe also nodded to the tediousness of the task. Most important, he could have expressed his desire for Jason to succeed and offered to give him further guidance if needed. But by resorting to scripted lectures and unwarranted threats, Seth prevented a new employee from becoming engaged and motivated to do his best.

A leader’s emotional intelligence (or lack thereof) can make or break an employee’s performance for an organization. The benefits (or toll) can be seen in indicators like employee engagement, creativity, and turnover. EI – being intelligent about emotions – includes ways to manage our own emotions and help shape emotions in others. This includes the ability to give feedback effectively, to inspire and motivate, and to consider employees’ feelings when making decisions.

So, a lack of empathy in a manager or executive creates dissonance. Leaders who don’t consider their employees’ perspectives when delivering feedback foster a tense environment in which trust and collaboration cannot flourish.

EI training can help leaders get better at the range of people skills they need, such as recognizing their employees’ emotional reactions and communicating their understanding and concern. By attuning ourselves to others’ emotions, performance feedback becomes an opportunity to create positive change and cultivate engagement. And when employees experience this positive resonance, leaders – and their organization – can gain a range of value-added benefits.

 

Recommended Reading:

 

 

For further reading, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Empathy, and Coach and Mentor.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

 

For more in-depth reading on leadership and EI, What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters presents Daniel Goleman’s ground-breaking, highly sought-after articles from the Harvard Business Review and other business journals in one volume. It features more than half a dozen articles, including “Reawakening Your Passion for Work.”