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How to Build Self-Management to Change Deeply Ingrained Behaviors

Several years ago I decided that I had enough personal baggage getting in my way to merit going to therapy.  It was a wonderful and challenging experience, therapy.  I had some major epiphanies about where some of my “less functional” behaviors come from. One of these behaviors—being over-critical of and micro-managing my kids—was one that I felt real motivation to change.  Unfortunately, despite what felt like life-changing new awareness about my parenting behavior, I struggled to self-manage when they didn’t clear their breakfast dishes or borrowed my clothes without asking.

Therapy is just one path that leads to epiphanies about ourselves in our lives, and if we are present and aware we see these moments as real gifts. Unfortunately, those gifts often fade into the background of our lives once the sessions are over.  Therein lies the hard truth about self-awareness and self-management:  building new self-awareness (even rock-your-world self-awareness) does not in itself change our behavior.

It takes deliberate focus and supported skill building, informed by self-awareness, to shift ingrained, routinized, emotionally-laden behaviors.  

This is the work of self-management: building the intellectual, emotional, and behavioral muscles to modulate our thoughts, emotions, and reactions to the triggers that lead to ingrained behaviors.   This change doesn’t happen overnight after our big epiphanies.  To truly change our behavior we must self-manage in our trigger moments, over and over and over, until we replace old, ingrained habits with new, ingrained habits.  Self-management is a long-distance race.  And the race is winnable!

Five Ways to Develop Self-Management

1. Do the pre-requisite self-awareness work

My coaching colleague Michele Nevarez wisely says that, “we arrive at where we aim.”  Before we can effectively go after our self-limiting behaviors, we have to understand where it is we are actually aiming, or what we are really trying to self-manage.  This is because emotional self-management is more about managing what causes our behaviors than the behaviors themselves.  Doing self-awareness work means uncovering the triggers, emotions, and self-limiting thoughts that lead to our behaviors.  Our target is to self manage at the point of trigger; before the behavior itself.  We want to head off our emotional chain reaction that leads to the behavior.  Some of us who are naturally self-reflective can do this work independently if we ask the right questions.  Most of us will need the help of a thoughtful friend, coach, or therapist to bring these triggers, emotions, and thoughts to the surface.

2. Plan for it

Once we know what our trigger is, we can plan for it.  If I know that my adolescent son will yell at his sister every time she is remotely critical of his outfit, I can plan for how I react.  I can plan my response, verbatim.  I can plan a logical and fair series of interventions if they escalate.  I can even plan to leave the room and put on my headphones.  If I can be aware enough in the moment and remember to follow my plan, then that may sometimes be enough to shift a pattern of unproductive behavior.

3. Access your power

I believe that we all have the power inside of us to not only manage our triggers but become resonant leaders in our own right.  This power comes from our values and our deeply-held beliefs.  We can learn how to access this power in the micro moment of our triggers to block our self-limiting emotional chain reactions and create the space for a productive path.  Questions we can ask ourselves to discover that power include:

  • Why do I care about this behavior or situation?
  • What do I believe about what is right and true about this?

Once we identify our deeply held belief that connects to our triggering context, we can articulate a phrase or a mantra that we can access in the moment—such as “my kids will build character and social skills if I let them work this out on their own.”  It will help us to practice accessing our beliefs with a partner in a simulated moment of trigger to build this muscle.

self-management emotional intelligence

 

4. Cultivate your inner coach (the angel on your shoulder)

Remember the cartoons of our youth, in which a devil and an angel would appear on a character’s shoulder at a key decision-making moment?  With our ingrained habits, we have an oversized devil and undersized angel on our shoulders.  Cultivating our inner coach is essentially building up that angel.  What can this coach say to you at your moment of trigger to remind you how you plan to manage your emotions and story?  How can that coach help you remember why you care about this behavior, and what you aspire to become?  If you can answer these questions in meaningful ways to yourself, and practice, then your angel/coach will likely be there for you in that split second of need.

5. Create structures for reflection and support to sustain practice over time

Again, changing ingrained emotional reactions, stories, and behaviors is a long-distance race.  We have to practice over and over to rewire our brains, literally growing new neural highways and building new behavioral muscles.  If we do not build structures and supports around this practice, we will likely lose focus amidst the other urgent day-to-day demands of our work and our lives.  Coaches are great supports because we not only keep your eye on the ball, but help you to continue to build new awareness and self-management strategies over time.  Peer coaches or “change partners” can be effective if you both truly commit to a long-term relationship and stick to an effective system of reflection, revision, recommitment, and practice.  Those of us who are particularly reflective and disciplined can even do this work on our own, but even this group will need some external structures (like scheduled, sacred self-meetings) to make it happen.

With the right skill-building, supports, and self-discipline, we can build new awareness and change deeply ingrained self-limiting behaviors over time.  In other words, we can become more emotionally intelligent. I can think of no better reward for a long distance race.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focuses on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Emotional Self-Control, Teamwork, and Inspirational Leadership.

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—including the author of this article, Matthew Taylor. See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

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Research: Mindfulness May Increase Mental Performance at Work

During my study of the relationship between mindfulness and leader effectiveness, 100% of the leaders I interviewed (all having months or years of prior mindfulness training and practice) linked mindfulness to improvement in their personal and professional lives. The majority described this as being significant, often using terms such as “profound,” or “life-changing.” My previous articles on EI draw from this research, exploring the way mindfulness influences each of the 12 Emotional Intelligence competencies, based on interviews with organizational leaders from around the world.

My findings ultimately reveal the following:

Mindfulness influences changes to awareness and behavior that, in turn, play key roles in producing favorable workplace outcomes.

Improved Mental Performance and More Effective Behavior

One of these changes, improved mental performance, was described by participants as having a positive, overarching effect on functions such as decision-making, susceptibility to distractions, and attention. This is not surprising since mindfulness is sometimes defined as meta-awareness, including our ability to non-judgmentally observe where our attention is and is not focused.

This capability can become a “real-time” skill set, taking the form of simultaneous observation of our interaction with others, and our internal reactions to that activity. The leaders I interviewed described this level of awareness, reporting that it provided them with a degree of “mental clarity.” Below are the specific benefits described, and the percentage of participants who reported experiencing them:

  • Ability to identify signs of potential conflict (in time to take corrective action) – 90%
  • Capacity to more effectively navigate organizational relationships – 88%
  • Improved ability to recognize emotional reactions in themselves and others – 86%
  • Increased attentiveness and patience with others – 74%
  • More productive responses to the emotional states of others – 100%
  • Recognition of the negative influence of stress and anxiety – 88%
  • Openness to new ideas and input from others – 90%

Descriptions of these benefits were provided in the context of how mindfulness helped leaders gain new information about themselves, others, and their workplace culture. This information was then incorporated into their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their interactions with others. As the graphic below illustrates, leaders described an upward spiral of improvement. New insight about self and others fed back into additional, positive changes to beliefs and awareness, which paved the way for more effective behavior.

Real World Examples of Applying Mindfulness at Work

Many of the leaders reported that improved mental performance made them better able to identify and filter out distractions such as emotional reactivity and bias. A senior manager with one of the largest research and publishing firms in the world described this experience in the following way: ” you’re able to calm yourself down and put yourself in a better position to listen to someone… it helps me to be calm and think clearly and to focus…I find I’m able to be composed and organized and clear in my communications.”

Leaders specifically mentioned that mindfulness training helped them be more present when interacting with others. This included a greater ability to monitor what their attention was focused on or being distracted by. They also mentioned becoming better at observing whether or not they were listening carefully, asking relevant questions, and picking up on interpersonal cues and organizational context.

This type of observation, and the value it provides, was well articulated by an executive specializing in global communication and strategy: “(mindfulness) enables you to read other people better and be more sensitive to what’s driving their commentary, their presentation, their behavior…their body language. That makes the connection between the two of you much more on an equal footing basis. So you’re no longer either selling to a position of power, or talking to a position of power. You are in fact exchanging information and dealing with each other on footing that is, at least emotionally, much more equal.”

A new appreciation for the importance of empathy in the workplace was also identified by leaders as a benefit arising from improved mental performance. This resulted from developing a stronger ability to identify and manage the role their own emotional reactions played in their perceptions of others.

A leader who has held executives roles at one of the largest organizations in the world elaborated on this point in the following statement: “It definitely increases your empathy by helping you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You slow down your responses, and when you sort of look at why that person is reacting in that manner it helps you be more compassionate because the moment you have empathy you start thinking from a very human perspective about the situation and trying to understand what the problem is. And the moment I take that approach I realize that I have solved the problem more effectively.”

What You Can Do to Cultivate Better Mental Performance

Look for opportunities to practice in the workplace, since this will help you develop exactly the type of capabilities needed for improved performance. The following suggestions come from details shared by leaders on this topic during interviews:

  • When interacting with others in-person or remotely, put your phone away, turn off your email, web browser, or even your monitor
  • Try and continuously monitor where your eyes are focused during interactions with others, as well as your facial expression and what it may be conveying
  • Take notes on what you are observing during interactions with others, specifically what they may be expressing through tone, body language, and choice of words
  • Regularly ask questions aimed at surfacing misinterpretations
  • Take time each day to identify emotional reactions that may have a negative influence on your mental performance

Improved mental performance can be developed through regular practice, not unlike athletic training. There are a variety of software tools and meditation practices available that help strengthen intensity and duration of attention, however, they may not improve your ability to actively observe and more fully understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For this type of development, consider formal mindfulness training, but be sure that the instructor is thoroughly qualified, and plan to make a consistent time commitment if you want results.

Recommended Reading:

Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer – The first in our series of primers on the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, with author voices including Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Richard J. Davidson, and the author of this article, Matthew Lippincott. The complete collection is also available. 

Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body (audio)  New York Times-bestselling authors Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson unveil new research showing how meditation affects the brain.

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman illuminates the state of the art on the relationship between the brain and emotional intelligence, and highlights EI’s practical applications in leadership roles, education, and creativity.

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Why Focus is a Foundational Skill for Emotional & Social Intelligence

“Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership.”  – Dan Goleman

Our ability to focus is under siege now, more than at any time in recorded history. The level of distraction through technology and social communication is unprecedented – and not just for millennials. It is imperative for leaders to grasp the fundamental importance of directing focus where it needs to go.

Focus paves the way for the development of Emotional Intelligence.

Focus is a foundational skill for emotional and social intelligence. Without it we are distracted, directionless, and disconnected from the world around us. This has deep implications for leadership. Indeed, the ability to listen, and pay attention meaningfully is critical to nearly every metric that matters in the workplace.

Cumulatively, in the U.S., we check our smartphones more than 9 billion times per day (Deloitte 2017). We reach for our phones, or look at our smart devices in meetings, while waiting in line and even in the middle of a conversation with a colleague.  Much of this behavior is automatic. Everyone understands the pull of attention with the intermittent gratification of a text or tweet – and though we may not fully realize or admit it, we struggle with this at work, and at home.  At times, it can feel hopeless, but it need not.

We can grow the muscle of attention regulation with small daily practices.

Developmental psychologists tell us that our ability to witness our own minds—our thoughts and feelings—resides in networks mainly located in the brain’s executive centers in the prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead. Strong, disruptive emotions, like anger or anxiety, flow from circuitry lower in the brain, the limbic system (the primary structures within the limbic system include the amygdala and hippocampus). The brain’s capacity for “just saying no” to these emotional impulses takes a leap in growth during ages five to seven and increases steadily from there (though it tends to lag a bit in the emotional centers during the teen years).

The ability to be mindful of impulse—to stay focused and ignore distractions—can be enhanced by the right guidance, and by consistent practice. Mindfulness meditation practices are an excellent, always accessible, and free, method to strengthen our focus.

One way to begin to hone your attention is with “micro-practices” of mindfulness, such as by taking a 3-minute breathing space. This short, yet powerful practice offers a quick way to bring our minds purposefully online and strengthen the attention muscle-sort of like doing a mental push up.  Set your timer for 3 minutes if that helps.

 

 

Mindfulness helps cultivate focus, which creates emotional ease and deeper relationships.

The ability to notice where our attention is going, for example, that to recognize we are getting anxious, and to take steps to renew our focus rests on self-awareness. Self-awareness is a key domain of emotional intelligence. Such meta-cognition lets us keep our mind in the state best suited for the task at hand.  Of the many ways of paying attention, two are especially important for self-awareness:

  1. Selective attention lets us focus on one target and ignore everything else.
  2. Open attention lets us take in information widely – in the world around us and the world within us – and pick up subtle cues we otherwise miss.

Why is this important? It matters because being aware of ourselves, others, and the wider world goes offline when we are distracted. With the onslaught of stimulation from devices we need to learn to notice when we are distracted and intentionally remind ourselves to show up and focus. Here. Now.

The full extent of the emotional and financial toll distraction is taking is still not fully understood, but we are seeing early signs that it is devastatingly high. In fact, this month, two big Apple investors came out publicly stating that iPhones and children are a toxic combination. They are asking the company to be more socially responsible by helping parents limit cell phone use with technology settings they can easily activate, to turn phones off, or limit use.

The implication for leaders is clear. It is important to create a working environment that promotes the cultivation of focus.

Leaders can actively support their employees by creating structures and processes within the workplace that encourage mindful use of devices and mindful listening. For example, having people agree to not look at cell phones during meetings, leading a brief breathing space meditation at the beginning of a huddle, or setting guidelines on work emails afterhours and on weekends.

There is clearly great value for organizations who take the lead in helping their people cultivate these skills. Research found that among leaders with multiple strengths in Emotional Self-Awareness, 92% had teams with high energy and high performance.  In sharp contrast, leaders low in Emotional Self-Awareness created negative climates 78% of the time. Great leaders create a positive emotional climate that encourages motivation and extra effort, and they’re the ones with good Emotional Self-Awareness.

References
Deloitte. 2017. 2017 Global Mobile Consumer Survey: U.S. edition. Survey, Deloitte.

Goleman, Daniel. 2013. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. NY: Harper.

Goleman, Daniel, and Richard Davidson. 2017. Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. New York: Penguin: Avery.

Goleman, Daniel, Richard Davidson , Vanessa Druskat, Richard Boyatzis, and George Kohlrieser. 2017. Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer. Northampton: Key Step Media.

 

Recommended Reading:

Daniel Goleman’s CD Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence offers a series of guided exercises to help listeners hone their concentration, stay calm and better manage emotions.

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education provides educators with a solid rationale for incorporating focus-related skill sets in the classroom to help students navigate a fast-paced world of increasing distraction, and to better understand the interconnections between people, ideas, and the planet.

Our new series of primers focuses on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Influence, Teamwork, and Inspirational Leadership.

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 – including the author of this article, Ann Flanagan Petry. See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

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Inspirational Leadership Arises from a Working Understanding of ESI

Inspirational Leaders Arise from a Working Understanding of ESI

The process of becoming an inspirational leader involves the development of multiple Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI) competencies, each contributing to new realizations about how to lead more effectively.

Emotional self-awareness and emotional self-control drive this transformation, particularly in the context of learning to apply ESI in real-time social interactions. That was revealed in part of my 2016 study on leadership, mindfulness, and emotional intelligence. The analysis included use of the ESI model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, and indicated that leaders linked strength in inspirational leadership to greater career success and satisfaction.

The Competency of Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational leadership focuses on an individual’s interest in, and capacity to lead, regardless of their formal title or position within an organization. Strength in this competency is exemplified by the ability to unify others towards a common goal, which involves other competencies such as influence and organizational awareness.

An inspirational leader will exhibit a sense of pride in his/her work, but also understand the importance of creating a sense of group ownership, and an engaging work environment. The ability to effectively present new or challenging ideas to a group is another attribute of inspirational leaders, as is the ability to lead during times of crisis.

What Inspirational Leadership Looks Like in the Workplace

The leaders I interviewed for my research spoke extensively about how they motivated and inspired their teams. However, they also revealed that these capabilities arose from development of self-awareness. This process was described as being profound, and transformational in relation to participants’ understanding of what is required to be a truly effective leader. For example, the Head of Talent Development for one of the largest hospital networks in the U.S. linked inspirational leadership to a new understanding of the way feelings influence engagement, which he summarized as “we need to really access the way we treat people, the way we treat ourselves, the way we understand emotion in the work place.” In this instance, new realizations about the role played by emotion in workplace performance significantly influenced this participant’s beliefs, and behaviors relating to inspirational leadership strategies.

Another participant, the Senior Manager for a leading global consulting firm, elaborated on the importance of inspiring employees via authentic relationships: “you develop this sort of connection with the person you’re managing…there’s this empathy that goes on when the person you’re managing respects and appreciates you for trying to understand what’s really going on.”

Other leaders shared details of how they engaged their direct reports on an emotional level. For instance, the senior legal counsel for a leading international healthcare product manufacturer talked about the importance of modeling behaviors in the context of inspirational leadership: “I’m going to try my best and do the best I can, and I think just that one little thing can be inspiring to my team.”

Participants also frequently mentioned the importance of earning trust, such as an HR leader for a major US healthcare network, who stated “I’ve always really worked to try to build trusting relationships with individuals through, not necessarily my words, but my actions.” Another participant, who has been responsible for supply chain operations at three well-known global organizations, touched on the value of demonstrating ethical behavior, saying “… if that leader is doing it with integrity, people are all in… and will join with you at the hip to do what you’re trying to do.”

Developing Yourself as an Inspirational Leader

The leaders I interviewed believed that their success depended upon their ability to effectively articulate team objectives, and actively support others in achieving them. They understood that success required them to demonstrate the behaviors needed to reach those goals on a daily basis as well. Fundamental to these realizations was an awareness that others can detect exaggerated statements, false confidence, and insincerity.

There are a number of steps you can take to develop the type of engaged and supportive workplace relationships associated with Inspirational Leadership. A good place to start is honestly assessing whether or not you are overloading yourself with tasks that could be delegated to others. This is an important step, since task-oriented workload takes away from time that can be invested in personal and team development. In addition to protecting you from burnout, properly managed delegation cultivates trust and respect between leaders and their staff as well.

Part of this assessment should also include some reflection on why you may have unrealistic expectations for yourself concerning the amount and type of work you should be able to support.

In addition, give some thought to what you believe others expect of you, and whether or not some of your workplace behavior may be motivated by trying to fulfill standards that are difficult to live up to. The objective of this activity is to begin exploration of beliefs around workplace roles with others as part of a trust-building process, contributing to the following:

  • honest dialog about performance expectations and areas for improvement
  • stronger relationships based on openness and vulnerability
  • sharing of lessons learned from failures and successes
  • opportunities to share responsibilities and recognition

Leaders told me that involving subordinates in activities such as risk assessment and decision-making also had a positive impact on team loyalty. They reported that being open about their own feelings of fear and worry relating to these and other leadership activities helped their direct reports better understand, and relate to, the difficulties of being a leader. Overall, leaders indicated that their ability to inspire performance improved as they invested more time into cultivating personal connections with others through these types of activities.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focuses on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Influence, Teamwork, and Inspirational Leadership.

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 – including the author of this article, Matthew Taylor.

See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

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Attunement: The First Step in Inspirational Leadership

Carl sits in his office in front of his computer on Sunday night, deep in thought.  Tomorrow he will introduce the strategic priority for the next year to his team, and he needs to inspire them.  He has spent more time working on this presentation than most, revising for the most compelling language and the most striking visuals. He has practiced the presentation with his partner to improve his presence and capture just the right mood.  He has and will put in many hours to prepare for this high stakes engagement.  And yet, when he arrives in the conference room, Carl will not be able to shake a nagging worry:  will this land with my team?  Will it inspire them?

While there is plenty that Carl may be doing right in this scenario, he is missing at least one key ingredient of inspiration: connection to his team.  Resonant leaders know that inspiration comes largely from connecting to what their teams care about.  It takes strong social awareness to create this kind of connection, which Daniel Goleman describes as the ability to, “breathe life into the hopes and dreams of others.” He calls this attunement—a direct connection with people’s emotional centers.1

How to Become Attuned to Others

If I were coaching Carl, our team inspiration work would have started weeks earlier, and it wouldn’t have happened in front of his computer.  Leaders who find themselves at a point of change or transition need to engage their teams early in the planning process.  Jentz and Murphy’s “Embracing Confusion,” while written for new leaders, can be an excellent resource for any leader in need of becoming more attuned to their teams in times of change or challenge.2  In this piece the authors urge leaders to “hit the ground learning.”  Jentz and Murphy lay out a process for systematically engaging stakeholders as experts in their experience of a team and a problem, forcing leaders to adopt a learner mindset and encouraging them to roll up their sleeves and engage their teams one-on-one as thought partners.   Jentz and Murphy’s process ends with leaders engaging their teams in “sense-making.”  In these conversations leaders share what they have learned and challenge their teams to grapple together with the complex, messy issues connected to their biggest challenges.

Coaching for Competencies and Attunement

Jentz and Murphy’s process is an exercise in building attunement. As Carl engages in it over time I would focus my coaching on raising his self-awareness and self-management, surfacing and managing his internal obstacles and personal strengths connected to empathic listening and collaborative problem solving.  My goals would be the following:

1) Build Carl’s appreciation for the power of connecting through listening for the needs, hopes, dreams, aspirations and values of people.

2) Build his ability to get out of his leader persona and engage his team in healthy, unfiltered collaboration as part of a strategy-building process.

As Carl listens for why his people care and engages them as partners in their collective challenge, he will be able to meet his team at a place of common belief and aspiration.  Simultaneously he will be building trust—another pre-requisite to true inspiration.

Connecting the Gaps

Engaging teams isn’t just about connecting, however.  Strong leaders also engage to diagnose gaps between their teams are currently, and where their teams need to be to reach their potential.  As Goleman writes, strong leaders “slow down to speed up” by engaging people in looking at the gaps.3   I would also be coaching Carl to explore his team’s gaps from both technical (logistics, skills and knowledge) and adaptive (relationships, emotions, and beliefs) perspectives by asking him two simple questions, over and over:

Where is your team right now, and where do they need to be to reach their potential?

Leaders are able to answer these questions accurately by adding the data that comes from person-to-person engagement to the rest of their diagnostic data.  As a result, socially aware leaders attuned to their team’s gaps are most likely to meet their team’s needs, while also reaching big picture objectives.  What is more inspiring than hearing your leader accurately name and go after your needs?

Flash forward now to Carl sitting at his desk after engaging deeply with his team. He no longer sits alone, attempting to pull his most inspiring ideas out of his head.  He now sits with the hopes, dreams, fears, and shared problem-solving of his team.  Their words surround him and inform his own hopes and dreams for the team’s new strategic priority.   He is not worried about whether his people will be inspired by what he says, because he already knows that he will be speaking the same language when he stands in front of them.  Because he is attuned, he will be able to meet the emotional needs of his team.  In fact, that work—the work of inspiring—has mostly already been done.  As he turns out the light he feels confident and calm knowing that the connection he has earned leading up to this moment is worth so much more than the very best words and sensational visuals.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focus on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Influence, Teamwork, and Inspirational Leadership.

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 – including the author of this article, Matthew Taylor.

See the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

Citation #1 and #3:  Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, (2002) Primal Leadership. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing)

Citation #2: Barry Jentz and Jerome T. Murphy. “Starting Confused:  How Leaders Start When They Don’t Know Where to Start” (Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 86, No. 10, June 2005, pps. 736-744).

 

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Research: How Teamwork Powers Mindful {and Effective} Leadership

More effective teams result from a leader’s investment in their personal development of self-awareness, emotional self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

This is one of the findings from my in-depth interviews with 42 leaders exploring the role of mindfulness in strengthening their leadership capabilities. The study also included use of the Emotional and Social Competency Indicator (ESCI) model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, and found all twelve of the leadership competencies present in the participants. Teamwork was the competency most highly referenced by the participants, who provided detailed descriptions about the value they had received from focusing on cultivating their own, and other’s capabilities to be better team members.

Teamwork is defined by cooperative rather than separate, or competitive work. It also includes working towards common objectives, and taking ownership of both positive and negative outcomes. Individuals with strength in this competency will be able to build and maintain working relationships, in addition to promoting an environment conducive to input from teammates. They will also be:

  • Supportive of other teammates or group members
  • Involved in facilitating cooperation
  • Appreciative and respectful of others’ opinions and suggestions

The leaders I interviewed linked teamwork to a variety of benefits, including greater innovation, employee autonomy, and business growth. They also reported that their improved ability to develop effective teams resulted in stronger relationships between teammates, and greater loyalty to the organization. Finally, participants credited mindfulness with helping them understand their own role in being a good team member in the context of relationships with subordinates, peers and superiors. Leaders tied these improvements to their effectiveness, directly attributing career success to the combination of greater team capabilities, and the willingness of others to help them.

How Leaders Create Cultures Conducive to Teamwork

Study participants demonstrated a working understanding of multiple leadership theories, such as Situational, Transactional, and Transformational. Their leadership behaviors, however, tended to be more reflective of the relational leadership theory and dispersed leadership approaches. Specifically, they understood the importance of being able to meet the needs of the people and groups they worked with, and realized that the definition of a good teammate may not be the same for everyone. They also knew that they, and members of their teams, may need to adapt their behaviors in order to successfully align with the frequently changing goals of the organization.

Participants reported that investing in attentiveness to others had a powerful impact on the strength of their relationships. The HR head for a leading global manufacturing firm summarized this as “…the deepness of listening and relating to a person and helping them connect on an individual level so they feel valued and connected to you as a leader,” which he directly attributed to improved team performance. A leader with a Fortune 10 Firm also touched on the importance of being open to receiving feedback from his direct reports: “I asked for feedback and insights from the people that I work with, and therefore they felt comfortable giving it to me.”

The importance of following through on commitments to coworkers was also stressed by participants. For example, the senior legal counsel for a leading healthcare product manufacturer shared the positive impact that her previous managers’ interest in her work life balance had on their relationship. As a result, she made sure to care for her direct reports in the same way, and take on additional personal workload if necessary: “…I want to make sure that people when they’re off, they’re truly off…certainly something can wait or we’ll try to get something else done.”

Making certain to not be perceived by others as paying lip service to concepts such as participation, respect, and fairness was highlighted by participants. A Department Head for a major US Hospital Network illustrated this point when describing the way he interacted with a newly promoted manager on his team: “I’ve decided to allow space for her and her team to design the new model, and giving everyone space to have their own thoughts and ideas.” His comments echoed what other leaders had to say about the relationship between team performance and the leader ensuring that each member feels valued and motivated to make continued contributions.

How to Create a Stronger Team

Leaders were consistent in expressing their belief that you need to pay careful attention to being a good teammate if you want to be a member and/or leader of a high performing team.

This includes study and refinement of team development activities, and active observation of whether or not your interactions with others make them willing to support you as a teammate. These aspects of cultivating teamwork were summarized by a participant who has held Controller and CFO roles for three leading corporations: “I’m being respectful and…really listening, really understanding where they’re coming from… and then reflecting.”

Some steps you can take to promote teamwork that were described by participants include:

  • Work with your team to agree on a formal description of a good teammate
  • Jointly design a plan to help each member become a good teammate
  • Create and maintain open feedback channels
  • Focus on a culture of improvement, aimed at learning from mistakes

It is also important to keep in mind that building trust with your teammates requires authentic and compassionate behavior on your part. This means being available to openly discuss their fears and concerns, and working with them to find ways to manage these issues. Making a sincere effort to help teammates manage stressful situations more effectively will also contribute to greater engagement, as will modelling the behaviors you expect of others in the workplace.

Recommended Reading:

Our new series of primers focus on the 12 Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, including Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, Influence, Teamwork, and others.

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.

See the full list of primers by topic, or get the full collection!

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Coaching for Conflict with Self-Awareness and Self-Management

The more I have learned about the emotionally intelligent leadership competencies, the more I am struck by how little most other conflict management trainings and literature focus on self-awareness and self-management.  Some models focus on social awareness, incorporating listening for other perspectives, but most focus almost exclusively on relationship management “moves” – i.e. how we interact productively with others in conflict.

In my experience, any approach not grounded in the self is not likely to succeed. The best conflict “moves” in the world won’t help me engage effectively in our conflict if I arrive feeling that I’m right, you intentionally hurt me, and that what I really want is “justice.”

Before we focus on strategies to manage conflict, we must raise critical self-awareness and build self-management so that we are able to bring our best selves to any relationships in our lives – personal or professional.  In my coaching of people in conflict, this rigorous self work begins with exploring the baggage and stories that might be getting in our own way.  Then it moves to self-management, exploring how we can manage our baggage and stories so that we can effectively communicate with others in conflict.

What baggage might be getting in your way?

As a leadership coach, my first goal is to help people see how their emotional reactions to conflict have triggered their “baggage’’, or the thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors that limit their ability to effectively engage others.  This happens through asking a series of questions that include some combination of the following:

  • Tell me exactly when in this conflict you were first aware of having a strong negative emotion?
  • Tell me what emotions you were feeling? (follow up with probing questions and only accept answers that are actually emotions)
  • Exactly what happened that triggered these emotions?
  • When you were feeling these emotions, what thoughts were going through your head?
  • And so what did you do?
  • How do you think your actions served you, and how do you think they might have gotten in the way of resolving your conflict?
  • If you had to name what you really wanted to happen—your real goal—what would you say?

What stories might be getting in your way?

Once people are able to see their baggage more clearly, they are ready to consider how their stories—about other people involved and about what actually happened—may also need to be reconsidered.   My next goal, then, is to help them become aware of their negative stories, focusing mostly on the person or people on the other side of the conflict.  This work happens through the following questions:

  • When you were/are feeling the strong emotions you have named, what story are you telling yourself about the person/people on the other side of the conflict?
  • What evidence do you have that supports your story?
  • How does your story about this person or people serve you, and how does it get in your way of engaging effectively in this conflict?
  • What other stories might be true about this person/people and their emotions, values and behaviors?

How can you manage your baggage and stories?

Getting to awareness about our baggage and stories tends to be pretty enlightening for most people in conflict because we are least likely to be aware when we are feeling wronged by others.   Awareness alone, however, does not mean we are prepared to effectively engage with others in a conflict.  We also need to deliberately manage our baggage and stories in the moment.

To manage the baggage, I focus people on self-management strategies they can use at the moment they feel emotionally triggered.  Coaching for emotional self-management follows this line of questioning:

  • How can you manage the emotional triggers that are getting in your way right now?
  • What do you need to do for your true goal to be working through this conflict, and what can you do in the moment to hold onto this goal?

Helping people manage their stories is usually the highest impact self-management coaching for people in conflict.  We explore what they need to believe about the other person/group in the conflict to effectively engage them.  I help them build the emotional “muscle” of replacing negative stories with “noble” ones by engaging them in the following exercise:

  • Make a list of the real challenges this person is facing, and the emotions that feel related to this conflict. What can you genuinely empathize with?
  • Write a list of at least five aspects of the other’s noble story that you respect or value. These may include: values they hold; positive shared experiences; behaviors and actions that positively reflect on their character; their real strengths and past successes; the noble intentions that drive their actions

Without fail, after making this list people notice an immediate positive shift in their emotions connected to the other person/people with whom they are in conflict.  I charge them with reading their list before their next engagement and noticing how it impacts how they show up differently to the interaction.   People usually report that they are suddenly able to engage without the negative emotions they have been bringing up to this point, and they are able to listen with real curiosity to other people’s experiences and interpretations of the conflict. This, in turn, prevents escalation, and may even prevent future conflicts from coming up.

Conclusion

When we add rigorous self work to our conflict management coaching, we make it exponentially more likely that our people will effectively access the relationship management strategies they learn in most programs and literature in the field.   When we help people become aware of their emotions and the baggage and stories they trigger, they realize the extent to which they are working from assumptions without evidence.   They become motivated to manage their baggage and revise their stories about others involved in their conflict.

When you self manage effectively, two things happen.  First,  you show up able to listen with curiosity to other perspectives.  Second, you show up reflecting other people’s noble stories back to them.   When we reflect people’s noble stories—their best selves—to them, that’s typically how they will show up. If our goal is truly to resolve conflict, then shouldn’t we be inviting our best selves to the conversation?

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.

For more in-depth understanding of emotional and social intelligence in leadership, see the full primer collection or the Crucial Competence video series.