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What is Emotional Balance? (And How to Cultivate It)

Emotional Balance, also referred to as Emotional Self-Control, is a competency under the Self-Management domain. People with strengths in Emotional Balance find ways to manage their impulses and emotions, even in stressful situations. To begin cultivating your own Emotional Balance, the new Emotional Balance Learning Path is available here.

Developing Emotional Balance begins with a solid foundation of Self-Awareness, the heart of Emotional Intelligence. Self-Awareness enables us to recognize our emotions as they occur and the ways in which our emotions impact all aspects of our lives. Without Self-Awareness, we remain on autopilot and fall back on unquestioned behavioral responses and routines. In order to affect behavioral change, we must first become attuned to our emotions, and the ways in which they positively and negatively inform our lives.

Focus, a foundational skill for Emotional Intelligence, is intrinsic to a range of competencies, including Self-Awareness and Emotional Balance. In the workplace, leaders with strengths in Emotional Self-Awareness cultivate focused teams that are engaged and motivated. While there are several types of focus, including the ability to focus on others, which requires Empathy, and big picture focus, which is related to Organizational Awareness, inner focus is the most essential to the development of Emotional Balance.

Mindfulness or presence of mind, like inner focus, is condition of Emotional Balance. Mindfulness is that aspect of mind that acts as an inner rudder, alerting us to when we’ve deviated from our path in the moment. For example, if we are aware of a bad habit we have, like interrupting others, it is our presence of mind that catches us on the spot before we interrupt someone, sending us a subtle reminder or cue not to interrupt. Practices like meditation with focus, body scan, and self-reflection enable us to strengthen our concentration and awareness. By routinely tuning-in to our emotions and utilizing practices that familiarize ourselves with patterns in our reactions, we can cultivate Emotional Balance.

In this way, self-awareness, focus, and mindfulness serve as the three, interconnected skills that enable us to exercise Emotional Balance. While it may seem intimidating to develop each of these skills, their interdependence makes it easier to turn progress in one area into positive development across all three. Similarly, just as Self-Awareness and Emotional Balance are foundational to Emotional Intelligence, they can open doors to strengthening our Emotional Intelligence across the suite of twelve EI competencies.

Recommended Resources:

 

Ready to develop your competencies in 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.

 

 

 

 

Interested in helping others develop Emotional Balance? Our new Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification is now accepting applications. This in-depth program, akin to a professional degree, draws upon a range of evidence-based concepts and practices, including the Emotional & Social Intelligence framework. Coaches will gain meaningful new insights to impact their personal and professional lives while elevating their expertise.

 

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence, our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, 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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Focus: Your Greatest Ally in Managing Conflict

Focus is an important skill for leaders.  Yet, it is extremely difficult to remain focused at times when emotions are high. For example, who hasn’t experienced feeling disregarded, discounted, dismissed, or just plain dissed by a boss or co-worker?  Even if no words are exchanged, emotions like anger and hurt flare up.  Whether the threat comes from a real or imagined interaction hardly matters. The primitive part of the brain developed specifically for survival reacts. Known as the amygdala, this almond-shape set of neurons plays a key role in the processing of emotions, especially fear responses.

Threats of any kind including feeling disregarded or discounted cause us to quickly lose focus. Yet, focus is our biggest ally when it comes to responding wisely to conflict. You may think of focus as directing your attention to one thing while filtering out other things. However, research shows that focus is more complex than that. In fact, we focus in different ways for different purposes. Each of these types of focus is critical when it comes to conflict management.

Different Types of Focus

The various types of focus fall into three broad categories. The first two—focusing on self and focusing on others—help you develop emotional intelligence. The third, focusing on the wider world, can improve your ability to devise strategy, innovate, and manage organizations. These ways of paying attention are vital to navigating individual and team interactions. Happily, you can become a more focused leader with the right kinds of practices[1].

Being able to train your attention inward on yourself is the first type of focus, and it’s at the heart of self-awareness.  In fact, it is considered a foundational practice for development of emotional intelligence. Inner focus helps you understand the weather patterns of your own mind, and choose how to respond in any given moment – especially amidst turbulence.

Focusing on others, the second type, correlates with empathy. The ability to consider another person’s point of view is a critical skill in all relationships. It is central to our ability to connect with others.

Global or systems thinking is the third type of focus. It is especially important in the development of social awareness. This requires deliberate cognitive effort to disengage from default mental habits in order to focus more broadly and with fresh eyes.

Focus in Action

Consider the story of a colleague. Jack presented his project to a group of senior executives and, when one of them dismissed his data as “all wrong,” he was flooded with anxiety.  His heart was racing, and his mind was playing out worse case scenarios… even imagining being kicked off the project.  Yet, he had enough practice in mindfully tuning into his thoughts, feelings and physical reactions, that he noticed the anxiety quickly. Crazy as it sounds, simply noticing his own anxiety lessened it.  He intentionally chose not to let fear of failure take over. Painful as it was, he leaned into his anxiety and stayed focused on the person challenging him. He asked for more information and agreed to revisit his data.

This wouldn’t have been the case just a year prior.  Indeed, Jack was prone to outbursts, especially when he felt someone was questioning his work.  His default was an expletive laden response.  His objective: overwhelm and overpower naysayers with verbal aggression.

An executive coach was brought in to work with his team because there was a lot of conflict. She was an aikido master, and a psychologist. The team completed Emotional and Social Competency 360’s and as you might imagine, Jack was described by peers as angry, unpleasant, and difficult to work with.  He didn’t deny it.  The coach’s question was simple: “How is that working for you?”  He concluded, not all that well.

With that realization, he set out a plan to deal with his anger. No easy task given he had a lifetime of practice in flying off the handle.  He would now be learning three new habits grounded in focus.

  1. Inner Focus: mindful awareness. He used a smart phone app for daily guided breath and body practices to strengthen concentration and awareness.
  2. Other Focus: He learned about interpersonal focus practices. This required intentionally listening with curiosity. He worked on taking in the perspective of others.
  3. Focus on the wider world or more open awareness. He learned there often wasn’t one right answer, especially given the complexity of his organization. He realized he didn’t need to always have the right answer, either. This freed him up to focus more broadly and as a result he became more creative and could think outside the box.

It took weeks of daily exercises along with personal reflection to build his ability to focus. However, he described seeing results within the first few weeks of initiating the plan.

Basically, he began to feel in control – like he had better options. He recognized he didn’t have to be at the mercy of his emotions.  Being able to direct his attention where he wanted it and keep it there despite difficult conversations or stressful projects was empowering. Even discovering that humans are wired for survival and that we need to override basic reactions to false threats was hugely eye opening for Jack – it became less personal and more about using all the tools he had at his disposal.

By making focus an ally, leaders can more gracefully navigate turmoil. No matter what the source of the turmoil, whether it is internal, like two competing priorities, or external such as a disagreement with a client or co-worker, it pays to be able to choose where to put your focus.  With practice, you can direct your attention for your own and others benefit.

Recommended Reading:
Conflict Management: A Primer

In Conflict Management: A Primer, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and colleagues introduce Emotional Intelligence and explore the many facets of approaching conflict management with skill and positivity.

In a relatively short read, the authors illustrate how to frame conflict as an opportunity rather than a burden, how to maintain bonds despite differing perspectives, and how to blend mindfulness and thoughtful analysis into professional relationships that work.

 

 

 

 

[1] Daniel Goleman, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, 2013; Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge, Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education, 2013.

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How Students Can Develop Their Mental Muscle

Most of our internal narrative is fictitious, repetitive and negative. The internal narrative of children can be all of that – heightened. They don’t have the skills of experience to recognize the thought/emotion connection. How can educators help students become more aware – and in control – of their internal world?

Physical movement, including basic yoga postures, is a fun, practical way to help students strengthen not only their physical muscles, but their mental muscles. The goal is to cultivate a multitude of traits:

  1. Awareness
  2. Embodied attending
  3. Emotional intelligence
  4. Self-regulation
  5. Recognition

Here’s how it works. Take a break for physical activity, perhaps when you notice they’re getting restless. Try something very simple such as tortoise pose, to camel, to triangle, to warrior, to mountain, and back down again. Or walking slowly around the room.

Ask the children occasionally throughout and after the sequence: what do you feel in your body? Then you can ask them to name an emotion they might be feeling: tired, happy, angry, bored, etc. This will help them to start recognizing emotions such as impulses of anger when they arise. When children learn to handle their anger (or any emotion) as an impersonal entity, they’ll be less inclined to deal with it violently either to themselves or others.

“So we’re on the upward facing dog. Now what? Nothing!” said Jon Kabat-Zinn at his keynote speech at the 2013 Bridging Hearts and Minds of Youth conference. “This is a curriculum already: being. Just be here! We’re learning how to inhabit being – in school. All of a sudden it wakes something up.”

The basic practices of mindfulness and yoga are a great way to show students how to free themselves from paying too much attention to the movie in their minds – and focus on the task at hand.

Jon’s full speech is available for purchase in an exclusive streaming video here, and the entirety of the 2013 BHMY conference is available here.

Additional resources

Back-to-School Focus Bundle

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference DVD Set

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

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Our 14 Favorite Podcasts in 2014

2014 podcasts

This year we reached a record number of downloads of our podcasts. Thank you! We’re glad you find the content useful. We went back to re-listen to some of our most popular posts. It looks like the concept of focus and attention training were of most interest to listeners. Here’s a recap of the 14 Favorite More Than Sound Podcasts of 2014.

#14 Daniel Goleman talks about Focus on Bloomberg.edu

Dr. Goleman spoke with Jane Williams about the importance of teaching kids cognitive control, the pros and cons of mind wandering, and how to effectively manage distractions.

Listen to the podcast or the complete interview here.

#13 George Kohlrieser’s TedTalk on Negotiation

In this episode, we heard an excerpt from a TEDx talk given by hostage negotiator and IMD professor of leadership George Kohlrieser. As he tells it, successful negotiation, no matter how high the stakes, comes down to bonding. And it’s not only others who have the ability to take us hostage – sometimes we can do that to ourselves.

Listen to the podcast or the complete presentation here.

#12 Common Hiring Mistakes

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz spoke with Daniel Goleman for the video series Leadership: A Master Class. This excerpt of the conversation focuses on some common mistakes employers make while searching for the right candidate.

Listen to the podcast or watch the full discussion here.

#11 The Teenaged Brain

This is an excerpt from Dr. Daniel Siegel’s appearance on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River. He spoke with host Ben Kieffer about the misinformation around “bizarre teenage behavior.”

Listen to the podcast or the complete interview here.

#10 Why The Rich Care Less

Daniel Goleman spoke with Michael Brooks from the Majority Report on why inequality hurts empathy, the emotional impact of wealth and poverty and what we can do to create a more attentive and empathic society.

Listen to the podcast or the full discussion here.

#9 Teach Systems Awareness in Schools

Daniel Goleman spoke with Peter Senge, who pioneered bringing systems thinking into organizations, about its introduction to schools. You can read more about this concept in their book The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education.

Listen to the podcast.

#8 Failure is Essential for Success

Many of these episodes explore concepts and tools that are important ingredients of success. So you might be surprised to hear that this one is devoted almost entirely to failure. But to Bill George, failure is an essential ingredient itself, as you’ll hear in this excerpt from Daniel Goleman’s series Leadership: A Master Class.

Listen to the podcast or watch the full discussion here.

#7 Master the Leadership Styles

Daniel Goleman has introduced 6 different leadership styles that can be used to get results. In this episode, he talks about how leaders can’t rely on just one or even two, but must become proficient in as many as they can. Together, the styles become a set of tools the most effective leaders can use in any situation.

Listen to the podcast.

#6 Creativity in the Workplace

Daniel Goleman and Teresa Amabile discuss some aspects of work life that are necessities for a company that depends on creativity.

Listen to the podcast or watch their entire discussion here.

#5 High Performance Leadership

Daniel Goleman spoke with George Kohlrieser for IMD’s Wednesday Webcast. The two discussed the role of attention in high performance leadership.

Listen to the excerpt or the complete discussion here.

#4 Don’t Write Off the Coaching Leadership Style

The coaching leadership style is the least used out of the six approaches. Yet it’s a style that can have a very positive impact on employee performance and bottom-line results.

Listen to the podcast.

#3 The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge discuss the three types of focus that should be included in classrooms: self awareness, empathy, and an understanding of our relationship with the world around us.

Listen to the podcast.

#2 Daniel Goleman Talks about Focus with Diane Rehm

Dr. Goleman spoke with Diane Rehm on what the latest science tells us and how we can sharpen our focus and thrive.

Listen to an excerpt or the full interview.

#1 Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Daniel Goleman spoke in-depth with KQED about why the ability to focus is the key factor in achieving success – more than IQ or social background. He also discussed how we can cultivate different types of attentiveness, from a narrow focus that shuts out the world to the “open awareness” that is receptive to seemingly unrelated ideas.

Listen to an excerpt or the full interview.

What is Mindfulness?

Stay tuned for details about our new podcast series launching in 2015: What is Mindfulness? More Than Sound’s Hanuman Goleman talks with a variety of mindfulness practitioners, teachers and scholars about the definition of mindfulness.

 

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Round-Up: How to Help Kids Focus

How to Help Kids Focus

What if there was a way to teach our children skills that could help them achieve better academic performance, enhance personal development, and improve relationship skills?

This past Sunday, Daniel Goleman gave a special presentation at JCC Manahattan about his latest book with Peter Senge, The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education.

More Than Sound was at the talk. We live tweeted some key points throughout the talk. Below are some highlights from the #triplefocus feed, with excerpts from a few of Daniel’s articles for supplemental reading.

A wealth of information means a poverty of attention.

Key takeaway from Pay Attention to Attention:

“…a constant stream of distraction draws attention away from what’s immediately at hand; those seemingly urgent rings and alerts may not be crucial. Working to maintain clear focus on a task – despite intrusions – consistently occupies the brain’s circuitry for attention. “Cognitive effort” is the technical expression for the mental attention demanded to process our information load. Just like the muscles in our bodies, attention can become fatigued. Common symptoms of attention fatigue are lowered effectiveness, increased distractedness, and irritability. These symptoms also indicate depletion in the energy required to sustain neural functioning.”

Read the full article

We need to take back choice when it comes to our attention.

Key takeaway from Think About the Benefits of Unplugging:

“We can be more skillful at not being hijacked by distractions. We may notice them, but there’s a big difference between noticing that something may be occurring, being aware of it, and being hijacked by it, being pulled away from one’s central focus.”

Read the full article

Concentration predicts performance.

Key takeaway from The Benefits of a Productive Cocoon

“We all need a productive cocoon, a time we protect our focus from the multitude of distractions: emails, tweets, updates, and the rest of the onslaught. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, psychologists at Harvard Business School, studied 238 members of teams engaged in creative projects, from designing new kitchen gear to complex information technology systems. The team members kept daily diaries of their work days, including how productive and satisfying they found each day. The most productive and satisfying days, hands down, came when they were able to have unbroken time to focus on their project. These productive cocoons are where they came up with small wins, like innovations, problem solving, and taking concrete steps toward their goal.”

Read the full article

The leader of a group sets the emotional mood of the group.

Key takeaway from Be Mindful of the Emotions You Leave Behind:

“Not all emotional partners are equal. A power dynamic operates in emotional contagion, determining which person’s brain will more forcefully draw the other into its emotional orbit. Mirror neurons are leadership tools: Emotions flow with special strength from the more socially dominant person to the less. Another powerful reason for leaders to be mindful of what they say to employees: people recall negative interactions with a boss with more intensity, in more detail, and more often than they do positive ones. The ease with which demotivation can be spread by a boss makes it all the more imperative for him to act in ways that make the emotions left behind uplifting ones.”

Read the full article

Emotions are contagious.

Key takeaway from How Moods Impact Results:

“While mild anxiety (such as over a looming deadline) can focus attention and energy, prolonged distress can sabotage a leader’s relationships and also hamper work performance by diminishing the brain’s ability to process information and respond effectively. A good laugh or an upbeat mood, on the other hand, more often enhances the neural abilities crucial for doing good work.”

Read the full article

Additional resources:

Raising Students Emotional IQs

PODCAST: Daniel Goleman on The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

VIDEO: Peter Senge on Teaching Systems Thinking in Schools

 

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Hone Your Focus: Learning and the Brain

learning and the brain

Daniel Goleman addressed the importance of adopting attention-training strategies in the classroom at today’s Learning and the Brain conference in Boston.

Focused, Organized Minds: Using Brain Science to Engage Attention in a Distracted World explored how today’s technology is creating more classroom distractions and disorganization. Yet, academic testing and Common Core State Standards require students to be more focused and organized in order to succeed.

We followed attendee’s enthusiastic commentary about Dr. Goleman’s presentation on Twitter. Below are some highlights from #LB39 feed, with excerpts from a few of Daniel’s articles for supplemental reading.

From @onelearner1

There are deeply rooted beliefs in education that overly favor IQ over EQ #LB39

Key takeaway from It’s Not IQ Part 2: Use The Triple Focus Approach to Education:

There’s no doubt that IQ and motivation predict good grades. But when you enter the working world, IQ plays a different role: it sorts people into the jobs they can hold. Stellar work in school pays off in getting intellectually challenging jobs.

Read the full article

From @HeatherSugrue

#lb39 @DanielGolemanEI Attention is a mental muscle – we can strengthen it.

Key takeaway from What Helps Kids Focus – and Why They Need Help:

The more a youngster can practice keeping her focus and resist distraction, the stronger and more richly connected this neural real estate becomes. By the same token, the more distracted, the less so.

This mental ability is like a muscle: it needs proper exercise to grow strong. One way to help kids: give them regular sessions of focusing time, the mental equivalent of workouts in the gym. I’ve seen this done in schools, with second-graders becoming calm and concentrated with a daily session of watching their breath – the basic training in bringing a wandering mind back to a single focus.

Read the full article

From @Demers_k8lyn

#LB39 Amygdala Highjack – We can only pay attention to what we think is threatening. @DanielGolemanEI @learningandtheb

Key takeaway from The Two Biggest Distractions – and What to do About Them:

The brain’s wiring gives preference to our emotional distractions, creating pressing thought loops about whatever’s upsetting us. Our brain wants us to pay attention to what matters to us, like a problem in our relationships.

Read the full article

From @malalande

With digital devices, we process 5 times more info than before according to @DanielGolemanEI at #LB39

Key takeaway from Think About the Benefits of Unplugging:

There is now quite a bit of evidence to indicate that the circuits in the brain that play a role in regulating our attention, and very rigorous behavioral measures of attention, change in response to mindfulness meditation practice. One of the central indices of that change is our capacity to not be hijacked by distracting events in our environment, particularly distracting emotional signals, which often pull us away from our task at hand.

Read the full article

Additional resources:

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

Focus for Kids: Enhancing Concentration, Caring and Calm

Focus for Teens: Enhancing Concentration, Caring and Calm

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth Conference Videos – 2012 and 2013

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All Atwitter About Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman TedTalk

Daniel Goleman discussed emotional intelligence in the workplace at yesterday’s The Art of Leadership conference in Toronto. We followed attendee’s enthusiastic commentary about Dr. Goleman’s presentation on Twitter. Below are some highlights from #TheArtOf feed, with excerpts from a few of Daniel’s articles for supplemental reading.

From @LoKyriacou

Quote from @DanielGolemanEI: “When we leave an interaction with someone we have the opportunity to leave them in a better place” #TheArtOf

Key takeaway from Be Mindful of the Emotions You Leave Behind:

“While a boss’s artfully couched displeasure can be an effective goad, fuming is self-defeating as a leadership tactic. When leaders habitually use displays of bad moods to motivate, more work may seem to get done – but it will not necessarily be better work. And relentlessly foul moods corrode the emotional climate, sabotaging the brain’s ability to work at its best.”

Read the full article

From @KarenJurjevich

@DanielGolemanEI #artofleadership IQ15% & EI 85% = star leadership performance

 Key takeaway from What Predicts Your Success? It’s Not Your IQ:

“To further understand what attributes actually predict success, a more satisfying answer lies in another kind of data altogether: competence models. These are studies done by companies themselves to identify the abilities of their star performers. Competence models pinpoint a constellation of abilities that include grit and cognitive control, but go beyond. The abilities that set stars apart from average at work cover the emotional intelligence spectrum: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social effectiveness.”

Read the full article

From @TrevorCarrier

#TheArtOf every time you turn to the digital screen, you let someone else take over your inner agenda ~ @DanielGolemanEI yes!!

Key takeaway from Focus on How You Connect:

“Spreading ourselves too thin across an ever-growing number of platforms of interaction can weaken our personal bonds. We shouldn’t confuse all of our social media connections with the rich personal world of real-time relationships.

But getting lost in a world of too many digital connections can be very unfulfilling and isolating. That’s why when it comes to close personal connections, try to prioritize your communication methods. When possible, make the interaction face to face – especially if you need to discuss something important.”

Read the full article

From @caweenet

The higher you go in the organization, the more emotional intelligence you need.@DanielGolemanEI.@TheArtOf #leadership #communications

Key takeaway from IQ or EQ? You Need Both:

“Claudio Fernandez-Aroaz, former head of research at Egon Zehnder International, spent decades hiring C-level executives for global companies. When he studied why some of those executives ended up being fired, he found that while they had been hired for their intelligence and business expertise – they were fired for a lack of emotional intelligence. Though they were smart, they were bullies or otherwise inept at people management.”

Read the full article

From @CaseP

IQ is a threshold ability ”” it’ll help you GET the job. Emotional intelligence will help you SUCCEED at it. — @DanielGolemanEI #TheArtOf

Key takeaway from Let’s Not Underrate Emotional Intelligence:

“A century of IQ research shows intelligence predicts what job you can get. But once you’re in that position, everyone else you work with will have passed the same IQ requirement. Other abilities actually determine outstanding performance – especially emotional intelligence.”

Read the full article

From @TrevorCarrier

#TheArtOf best boss: made me feel like I could do anything. Worst boss: made me feel like I couldn’t do anything @TheArtOf

Key takeaway from How to Overcome a Survival Mode Culture:

“Having a secure base at work is crucial for high performance. Feeling secure allows a person to focus better on her work, achieve goals, and perceive impending obstacles as challenges, not threats.

When you offer a secure base, you begin to manifest trust and safety. When a person feels safe in her environment, she can transition from basic survival mode thinking to a more complex outlook, looking for opportunities and chances to thrive.”

Read the full article

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Learn to become a more emotionally intelligent leader. Register for American Management Association’s course Leading With Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Goleman shared his decades of practical research to develop this seminar with AMA that explores the EI competencies. Attendees will be shown how to use them to go from being a good to a great emotionally intelligent leader. You’ll get tools and techniques to help you deepen your ability to lead and become more effective in helping your organization deliver the results it needs.

The courses are available onsite or online.

Image: TED