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Begin Your Emotional Intelligence Journey

Proficiency in Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the single greatest differentiator in leadership today. We’re all leaders in our own lives. Even if you aren’t familiar with the specifics of EI, you have undoubtedly experienced the difference between interacting with someone who is consistently aware of their emotions and how they impact others and someone who is not.

Yet it is difficult to develop our Emotional Intelligence in a lasting way. Often, we understand Emotional Intelligence on an intellectual level, but have trouble implementing it in our lives. We remain stuck in the habits we’ve already developed.

Practice paired with objective feedback makes all the difference in our ability to effectively strengthen our EI. That’s why Daniel Goleman believes that “having an EI coach gives you the best path to upgrading your EI skill set.”

In this endeavor, we’ve created a personalized Emotional Intelligence development package. We’ve envisioned this offering for years, and are pleased to make it part of the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Training Programs.

What You’ll Experience

Assessments & Intake Discussion

You’ll begin your journey with a series of Emotional Intelligence assessments. These include the Emotional and Social Competence Inventory (ESCI)–a robust 360 assessment–as well as assessments that gauge what motivates you and how well you sustain your energy.

When you first meet with your coach–typically via video call–they’ll debrief your results on each of these assessments. This is an opportunity to gauge your current Emotional Intelligence, as well as your purpose and values. By focusing on your overall well-being and the alignment of your values with your daily life, a coach can help you clarify your goals.

For many clients, the debrief is the beginning of a transformational experience. Archana Shetty, Founder of Nextgenleadership, said: “The debrief experience was an eye opener in many ways. The debrief session helped me understand my default patterns, strengths, and my natural tendencies. I have taken many assessments for development in the past, but this experience was different because spotted patterns I’d habituated, yet didn’t notice.”

Online courses

The online courses that go along with your coaching feature three key components designed to help you form more emotionally intelligent habits.

  • Learn: Practical explanations and examples of EI in the form of short articles and videos (about 5 minutes).
  • Apply: Immediate applications (about 15 minutes) of what you learned in the day’s lesson that provide you with a suite of tools to apply to your daily life, both at work and at home.
  • Reflect: Building Self-Awareness is the cornerstone of our model. Following each application, you’ll write a few sentences to reflect on how it went and any insights that arose (5-10 minutes). Your coach will respond to these reflections and note points to bring up in your coaching calls.

If you choose a 12-week coaching engagement, you’ll go through the Foundational Skills online courses, which focus on Self-Awareness and Self-Management. If you opt for 24-weeks of coaching, you’ll experience these Foundational Skills as well as the Relationship Skills, which explore Social Awareness and Relationship Management. You’ll also receive year-long access to the courses, so you can return to the exercises even after your coaching engagement has ended.

Executive Coach Alison Zecha was initially skeptical of the online courses: “However, I committed to making the most of the process and staying on track. Big payoff! I’m very pleased with and excited about my results and have been applying the learning personally and with my clients from the first week.”

Journaling

Journaling creates an archive of your thinking and mindset. This allows you and your coach to spot counterproductive habits and develop practical strategies to overcome any blocks to your success.  

As you journal, your coach will offer real-time feedback to help you uncover the often-hidden chain of cause and effect. If you continually experience resistance to new ideas or changes, for example, your coach will help you spot and work through the various levels of resistance and help you to replace ineffective habits with ones that serve you well.

Taking the time to incorporate journaling into our lives can have great payoffs. Dr. James Chua, an IBM Consultant, reflects on his journaling, this “very basic and simple exercise will clear the cobwebs from the mind. Writing makes our thinking more exact. It builds mental clarity and strength of mind. Daily simple actions form into habits that can benefit us for life. Journaling is one of these habits. It helps one to reflect, unwind, sharpen our thinking and learn from one’s experiences.”

Coaching Calls

Alongside the online courses and journaling, you’ll speak with your coach–typically via video call–every other week. Your coach will share their observations from your reflections and journals, including any patterns or blind spots they notice, and will keep you connected to your purpose and values.

As you go through the online courses, your coach provides a feedback-loop to help you continually progress. This keeps you from getting stuck, and helps you experiment with new ways of showing up. A strong working alliance with your coach creates a highly personalized experience, amplifying your progress beyond what you could achieve through online learning alone.

Reta Coburn, a Leadership Coach, found getting coached herself transformative: “I had not been coached before and I found that my coach was a great support in helping me reach further inside myself, creating the space to non-judgmentally explore challenging issues. My coaching experiences are like a beautiful lighthouse coming into view when navigating choppy waters.”

Above all, developing your Emotional Intelligence in a lasting way requires time, effort, and practice. If you get coached through the 12 weeks of Foundational Skills, you will receive the designation of EI Specialist. And if you complete all 24 weeks of both the Foundational and additional Relationship Skills with coaching, you’ll become an EI Ambassador. These designations have accompanying badges that you can display on your resume, in your email signature, and across social media. You can meet our coaches here and register here.

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Hesitant to Get Coached? The Benefits Might Surprise You

Joy Fulton is the Chief Operating Officer at Clearsense, a technology company based in Jacksonville, Florida. She has extensive experience within healthcare. As she rose through the ranks, Joy sought the guidance of a coach to effectively communicate as a woman in the male-dominated Health Information Technology (HIT) industry.

While Joy was initially skeptical about the benefits of coaching, she and Kelly Mannel, a participant in the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification, fostered a collaborative coaching relationship that has had a tremendously positive impact on Joy, both personally and professionally. Read on to learn more about her experience as a coaching client.

What were your expectations and goals when you first began working with a coach?

I’m going to be very honest; I didn’t have high hopes. Having been involved in leadership development throughout my career, I experienced many didactic programs. I was told, “read this book,” “fill out these worksheets,” or “do x, y, and z,” but it never resonated with me.

As a result, when I was approached about getting a coach, I was very transparent in my hesitation. While I appreciated the opportunity, my experience as a basketball player throughout my life taught me that coaching needs to happen in the moment for me to connect with it. Having an extra homework packet to do isn’t going to effectively help me grow.

I wanted a coach who understood the fast-paced environment in which I work and someone to bounce ideas off of. Someone who could help me prepare for important meetings or do a dry-run before a large presentation.

My employer was open to that feedback; that’s how I came into contact with Kelly. We went to lunch before the organization contracted her and we instantly hit it off. I shared with her what I wanted in a coach and those were the same qualities on which she has built her practice.

Kelly understood the mindset I wanted to develop–which requires tuning in to people on the frontlines while also thinking in terms of big picture strategy. And she understood my need for real-time feedback. That initial meeting made me very excited about the opportunity for personal and professional growth and enhanced my belief in myself.

Were you already aware of Emotional Intelligence and its role in leadership? How did EI assessments and a focus on competency development enhance or shift that understanding?

I was aware of it, but coaching brought the practical applications of Emotional Intelligence to my attention, both personally and professionally. As a career-oriented single mom and the caretaker for my parents, I mistakenly believed I had to separate personal from professional. Through coaching, I began to realize that we’re all the same at work and in our personal lives. The Emotional Intelligence skills I was learning were a foundational self-discovery to navigating all these aspects of my life.  

Assessing my EI gave me an opportunity to pause and reflect on the roles of Self-Awareness and Emotional Balance in my communications and reactions to others.  Kelly’s coaching style was strengths-based. She helped me see my growing edges as opportunities.

In what ways has being coached impacted your career?

I have to say, I draw on it every day. Particularly in my current role as COO, I use so many of the tools I learned to coach my own staff. It’s been a foundational opportunity for growth in my career as well as for personal growth.

Could you share some of the benefits of Emotional Intelligence coaching beyond your professional life?

Yes, so at the time I met Kelly, I was about six months post-divorce. The goal was to establish an effective co-parenting relationship for myself, my ex-husband, and our son. Coaching helped me utilize Emotional Intelligence to become a more effective communicator. I took those skill sets and applied them to my personal situation, to better navigate those uncharted waters.

Coaching taught me the value of mindfully pausing, so I could see the situation for what it was and not get swept up in negative commentary often associated with a life event such as divorce. I could remind myself we had a shared love for our son. Focusing on the fact we both wanted what was best for our son enabled me to have greater empathy, even in the midst of the rough patches. I learned I can control, or at least begin to modulate, the mindset I bring to situations. Honing a more positive mindset is a core benefit of EI coaching.

Did anything about your coaching experience surprise you?

I enjoyed it; that was a surprise. I went into it thinking, “Oh Lord, I don’t have time for this,” but I looked forward to it. To this day I keep an active relationship with Kelly; I consider her a good friend of mine. I know if I ever need to run an idea by her I can just call and we’ll have a productive conversation.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Recommended Resources:

Get Coached!

Want get coached in Emotional Intelligence? For a limited time, we’re offering a personalized EI development 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.

Become a Coach!

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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Compassion Takes Guts

When we think about the word, “compassion,” images of Mother Teresa and other angelic personas may come to mind–images of figures who have sacrificed something, be it cozy comforts or their lives. Compassion is also sometimes misconstrued as being soft and squishy: people who are nice, affectionate, and sweet all the time.

In reality, compassion does not require us to throw ourselves in front of a truck to save someone’s life, or that we give up our hopes and dreams for another. It doesn’t even require a national catastrophe for us to demonstrate compassion. Rather, we are faced daily with decision points that allow us to practice compassion on an individual level.

Compassion extends beyond feeling sorry for the suffering of others, and while it’s grounded in empathy, it is actually not the same. Empathy is often characterized as feeling “with,” whereas compassion fuels our desire to alleviate suffering. In this way, compassion is empathy combined with the impetus to act. In fact, different parts of our brain get activated by compassion than by empathy. Studies by neuroscientist Tania Singer, at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, show that when we practice empathy, our mirror neurons are in tune with the emotions of the other person: When that person feels pain, the area of our brain for pain also activates. We feel what they feel.

However, this doesn’t always mean we act. In fact, we may become too paralyzed to help when we are struck by empathy–so that we turn away from helping because what we feel is too painful. On the other hand, when we practice compassion, we activate the part of our brain associated with maternal and prosocial behavior; we are concerned and we become motivated to help.

So why are we sometimes moved to help, and other times not? Daniel Goleman references the famous study of Princeton Theological Seminary students to explain. Divinity students were given a sermon topic to practice. Some of them were given the Parable of the Good Samaritan. They were asked to walk to another building to deliver the sermon. During that walk they each encountered a man clearly in need. Some students stopped; others didn’t. The researchers found that the gap didn’t have to do with the sermon topic, but with how much of a hurry they were in. In other words, when they were rushed, they focused on their own needs. While practicing their sermons on being Good Samaritans, they forgot to be Good Samaritans.

This is the paradox, Goleman says, of living in the Anthropocene Age (the geological age in which one species–humans–impact every other species), while our brains were formed during the Pleistocene Age (Ice Age). During the Ice Age we were (and still often are) ruled by our amygdala, our brain’s 9-1-1 alarm system. This part of the brain is oblivious to the impact of our individual, micro-actions on others.

Still, our brains are actually primed for compassion. It is in our nature to want to help. As Dr. Goleman points out, the minute we “attend to the other person, we automatically empathize, we automatically feel with them.” If we remain preoccupied with ourselves, however, we can’t be present enough to even notice that someone else needs help, let alone get past our own personal pain to a point from which we can take action.

The good news is that compassion can be cultivated. The more Self-Aware we are–the more attuned we become to what is happening internally–the better we can engage with the world beyond ourselves. The greater attention we pay to Self-Management–our ability to manage any emotional triggers or reactions–the better we can navigate these emotions in order to help others. The more we recognize our motivation–what drives us–the more we can stay true to our core values. Moreover, those who nurture the Relationship Management competencies of Emotional Intelligence, “have a genuine interest in helping people, especially those who could benefit from their experience.”

But it’s not so easy.

Sure, we can picture ourselves as compassionate beings donating money to help a worthy cause 3,000 miles away. Yet when it comes to our own interactions, showing compassion may be a lot harder. Imagine you have witnessed inappropriate or off-color behaviors and comments from your boss and have noticed how that has created a toxic work environment. You recognize that there have been some ethical, if not legal, transgressions, but at the same time, you care about your teammates, your relationship with your boss, and your job security.

What might be a compassionate response?

LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, who has been at the forefront of promoting compassionate leadership, would suggest that a compassionate response is neither to let such behaviors slide nor to launch an all-out assault on the transgressor. Instead, compassionate responses require us to recognize our own triggers, try to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, and to have the courage to take a stand.

Perhaps your boss’s inappropriate comments were borne out of insecurity or a complete lack of awareness. While that doesn’t abdicate them of responsibility, putting ourselves in their shoes allows us to witness the situation without being swept away by our own emotional triggers. Doing so may also help us understand how the boss’s actions impact the team. It also allows us to reflect on how our actions may be in service of a greater good. Are we confronting our boss or reporting them out of pettiness, or are we doing so in service of the team and for the boss’s own professional growth and development?

As Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s translator, noted, compassion requires a heck of a lot courage. It isn’t about blind forgiveness, ignorance, or revenge, but about stepping into challenging situations in the service of something greater. In times of great uncertainty, whether at the global or local level, compassion is vital to the well-being of ourselves and others.

Recommended Resources:

Become an EI Coach

Want to make the world a more compassionate place? Become an Emotional Intelligence Coach. Apply today for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. You’ll work with Belinda and other talented faculty members as you gain the tools and first hand experience you need to coach for a more compassionate future. 


Get Coached in EI

If you’d like to upgrade your Emotional Intelligence, including your competence in Emotional Self-Awareness and Empathy, register to get coached in EI. In addition to a series of personalized coaching sessions, you’ll receive year-long access to our online EI training courses, a range of EI assessments, and more.


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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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Room for Growth: Overcoming Our Fixed Mental Habits

Underlying beliefs play an important role in how we learn and grow. When you believe you can grow, you understand that effort will improve your performance and lead to increased happiness and well-being. Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck, coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to describe underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.  

 

  • With a Fixed Mindset, you believe whatever talents or capabilities you have, including intelligence or creativity, are static, “you’re either born with it or you’re not.” You believe striving to improve will only get you so far–and there is an inherent inability to excel in something you aren’t “gifted” in. This fixed mindset also holds true for your belief about what others can or cannot achieve.
  • With a Growth Mindset, you believe your capabilities are a baseline and improvement can occur with intentional effort, persistence, and practice. You understand abilities can be developed.

 

Dweck’s research identifies how the beliefs you adopt about your ability to change and grow deeply impact how you live your life. The truth is we all vacillate between the two extremes of fixed and growth mindset, depending on our mood, our confidence, and the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Maureen’s Story

Take the story of Maureen, a manager in a tech company, who routinely felt sidelined in meetings despite her subject matter expertise. She struggled to move her projects forward because she was quiet, and her colleagues tended to talk over her. Maureen knew she was smart. She graduated at the top of her class from an Ivy league school and loved her field of work (no problem with a growth mindset, here). However, she believed her shyness was a personal deficit. She thought being a persuasive communicator was just not in her wheelhouse and never would be. Consequently, she resigned herself to remaining in the shadows of more extroverted peers.

Here, Maureen’s self-limiting beliefs (SLBs), a type of fixed mindset, were demotivating her from trying to improve. They were thoughts that became mental habits, leading her down a behavioral path that kept her from realizing her goals and potential.

Calling Out Self-Limiting Beliefs

There are times when our beliefs about ourselves get in our way. Often, SLBs are unconsciously-held beliefs. Increasing our Self-Awareness can enable us to recognize SLBs. But even then, sometimes we don’t see that which is closest to us. This is where working with a coach can be beneficial. A good coach can help us spot our SLBs before we spot them on our own. We can also actively retrain our brains to think with a growth, rather than fixed mindset. 

Cultivate a Growth Mindset, Try This:

Over the next month, notice when you have negative or self-critical thoughts about yourself. Pay attention to what triggers self-critical thoughts and how you feel when you experience these thoughts. Then, replace the self-limiting belief with a growth mindset response. Download our Growth Mindset Tracking Tool to help you along the way.

 

Everyone falls into SLBs sometimes. We just need to notice when our brains are stuck and remind ourselves that our brains are built to grow, change, and learn. What can you say instead?

  1. The power of yet: Add yet at the end of your fixed mindset statements.
    Example: “I can’t do this.” → “I can’t do this YET!”
  2.  Say stop: When your SLB voice is getting out of hand, tell yourself to stop and clear your mind before continuing.
  3. Start using the word you instead of I. Example: “I got this.” → “YOU got this!”

 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to mindsets is this: the thoughts and beliefs we hold have the potential to empower or defeat us. Our narratives are a significant part of our lives we CAN control. Growth mindset is the belief that skills can be nurtured through learning and effort. By reframing our self-limiting thoughts as they occur, we can train our brains for positive growth and open ourselves up new opportunities.  

Recommended Reading:

 

 

Want to learn about the competencies that comprise Emotional Intelligence? 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!

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

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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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Brain’s Blind Spots

When we hear the words “Diversity & Inclusion,” some of us cringe or roll our eyes, not because we don’t care, but because we feel uncomfortable, guilty, or feel we don’t need any training in it because “we’re not racist.” Yet every day, we read a news story where someone’s hidden biases trigger a potentially harmful action, from calling 911 on a congresswoman visiting her constituents to using racial slurs on political opponents. “Diversity & Inclusion” is necessary but insufficient; as Coaching Certification Faculty member Michelle Maldonado notes, we need to move from “Diversity & Inclusion” to “Belonging & Unity.”

One first step we can take is to recognize our lack of awareness of what influences our decisions, actions, and perceptions of other people. According to Leonard Mlodinow, scientists estimate that 95% of what happens in our brains is beyond our conscious awareness. In other words, we’re only 5% aware of why we think and act and feel the way we do. The majority of what dominates our mental activity is unconscious.

Our world is filled with differences. We are naturally drawn towards what is familiar and deemed “safe,” like family members who, for the most part, look and smell like us, and we move away from what is unfamiliar. Our brains use heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to help us navigate a complex world. We unconsciously build beliefs about different groups of people outside of “our tribe,” based on various socially constructed or identity markers, to help us organize our social world.

Similarity bias is our preference for others who are similar to us. Our brain’s natural inclination to categorize our world starts at a young age. David Kelly found that babies as young as three months show a preference for those with a similar race to them. The chances are that these babies are not “racist,” but unconsciously, they realize that their main caregivers are their sources of comfort, food, safety, and diaper changes. More often than not, these caregivers are related and therefore, “look” like them. Such biases may persistent in adulthood unconsciously in how we act. University of Michigan researcher Jesse Chandler found that people were 260% more likely to donate to hurricane relief efforts if the hurricane’s name began with the same letter as their first initial.

Our brains are also subject to implicit egotism, the notion that we think more favorably about others like ourselves. We are more likely to respond to a stranger’s email if they share our name, and we’re more likely to help someone out if they went to the same university. The opposite occurs unconsciously as well. Have you ever met someone new that you irrationally didn’t like or felt animosity towards them simply because they share a name with a childhood bully? That’s our unconscious brain at work.

Our hidden biases also are influenced by visual bias. Our optic nerves attach to our retinas in a way that means we have actual blind spots, and so our brains fill in the visual gap we can’t see. Similarly, when it comes to how we view and evaluate other people, if we have missing data about another person, we tend to take the little bit we know about the social categorization of that person and fill in the rest of the information. For example, if you meet someone of Nepalese descent for the first time, and the only bit of information you have about Nepal is that it is a Buddhist nation, you might assume that they are Buddhist and hesitate to include them in your Passover Seder.

Even though we think we evaluate others based on their individual qualities in rational and deliberate ways, our brain’s automatic processing is influenced by cultural and social messages around stereotypes and the “Other.” Groupthink can lead to “Othering,” whereby we discourage individual disagreements or thoughts for the sake of wanting to belong to the “in-group.” Daniel Goleman offers important insights into how groupthink may manifest in the workplace and what to do about it. While we have seen historical incidences of how groupthink can cause irreparable harm, from the Holocaust to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, “Othering” in the workplace can lead to lower performance, well-being, and engagement. UCLA psychologist Naomi Eisenberger found that the area of our brain associated with physical pain is also associated with feeling left out. When we overlook the administrative assistant during lunchtime as we sit with our cubemates daily to eat, we may be impacting their feeling of belonging, even though our intentions are not to exclude.

It is therefore important that we consider how to build psychological safety into our environments, whereby people feel safe to express their true and whole selves without judgment or reprisal. When we do, people feel confident to express opinions, have disagreements, and show up. In fact, Google researched hundreds of its own teams to find out why some thrived and others wilted and discovered that psychological safety was the number one factor. In short, if we want high-performing teams that bring diversity of perspective and a sense of inclusion and belonging, we must build trust, raise our awareness, and reach out to others.

By using our brain’s natural structural functions, we can hack our minds to bring greater curiosity of the “Other,” Self-Awareness of our own unconscious thinking, and Empathy to find similarities with others who may appear different than us. Emotional Balance can help us raise our awareness and ability to move from unconscious to conscious. As Daniel Goleman notes, “when it comes to diversity, you’re seeing people who have a range of backgrounds, of understandings, and of abilities. And the more diverse team is going to be the one with the largest array of talents, and so it will be the one with the potential best performance.”

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