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Equality Starts with Emotional Intelligence

For over 40 years, governments have come together under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) to discuss how to build and sustain a healthy and productive environment for all. In that time, they have made great strides; for example, the number of people living in extreme poverty (income below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day) and maternal and child mortality have declined, while primary school enrollment figures have increased since the 1990s. But the work is far from finished. In 2015, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to mobilize a global effort to end poverty by 2030. However, achieving these 17, from inclusive and quality education for all, to gender equality, to inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities, requires more than policy–it necessitates understanding how human beings make decisions and work together.

Logically, few people would dispute the values of equality, justice, and security for all. Yet many express strong emotion when it comes to how to achieve these values, what those values actually mean, and who they serve–particularly if any actions may impact our individual well-being. Achieving world peace and equality might be impossible, but that improbability hasn’t stopped many from trying.

On May 19, Daniel Goleman and Head of Leadership Programs at Goleman EI, Michele Nevarez, took the stage at the UN alongside a group of passionate individuals to speak on the role of emotions and Emotional Intelligence (EI) in achieving the UN’s 2030 SDGs. This momentous occasion marked the first time emotions were the focal point of discussion on the floor of the UN–a result of the efforts of an unsuspecting intern, Fernando Restoy Rodriguez, whose own experience working with youth in Cambodia prompted an interest in EI. (Restoy is joining the second cohort of the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification.)

While EI is not a one-stop solution to global peace (if it were only that simple), it is a critical component of leadership, relationships, and getting things done. In fact, the second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld created a Quiet Room at the UN in the 1950s because he understood the vital importance of self-reflection, a key part of EI, in the heavy work of achieving global equality. However, this room stayed relatively unknown until meditation became part of the “cool” vernacular.

The reality is that we haven’t historically heard the word “emotions” used when it comes to geopolitics and treaties–other than it serving as a barrier. The training of diplomats and mediators typically involves learning how to unpack hidden agendas and unspoken needs for shared goals, but not the training of emotional regulation and awareness. If impasse and conflict, or worse, war, is presumably a result of emotions running high, the answer must be to remove them.

Yet we know from emerging science that emotions are inextricably connected to how we make decisions, how we communicate with others, and how we make sense of the world. Nobel Laureate scientist Herbert Simon notes that our emotions can skew our decisions and play a critical role in decision making. Our brain wants to keep us alive, and so we’re constantly trying to figure out whether what is happening around–and inside–us is going to hurt us. And when we try to make decisions that impact millions of people, it becomes even tougher to “remove” emotions. As a result, our intentions may not translate into the wisest decisions or desired goals. As Daniel Goleman notes in The Brain and Emotional Intelligence, “in order to make a good decision, we need to have feelings about our thoughts.” With Emotional Intelligence we learn to understand the feelings we have and their impact on decision making.

Individuals tasked with achieving world peace and equality come with the biases and agendas of their governments, their constituents, and their personal experiences. They are human, after all. The work is not easy, however, and we cannot begin to address world concerns if we are not aware of our own power and responsibility. A key component of EI in the efforts for global peace and equity is the work one must do internally first. As Nevarez noted, “at the heart of EI is personal agency, which leads to global agency.” It is like the oft-used metaphor of the butterfly. One flutter of a tiny butterfly can have massive reverberations.

But if there is no opportunity to pause amid the cacophony of discord and disagreement, we become more susceptible to making decisions that may unintentionally harm others. That is precisely why Hammarskjöld created the Quiet Room to bring back “the stillness which we have lost in our streets, and in our conference rooms, and to bring it back to a setting in which no noise would impinge on our imagination.” If we aren’t introspective enough to know what is happening inside, it is that much harder to do good for others. The EI competencies, such as self-awareness, equip individuals to approach global challenges with greater openness and curiosity, and to make more ethical decisions.

Moreover, to achieve our goals, we have to truly connect with others. To do that, we have to offer our full attention–even when we disagree. As Goleman emphasized, “One must be able to go deep inside to be able to give back to others … There has to be a purpose that resonates with the heart.” EI enables us to deepen our connections with others.

In other words, emotions will always play a role in achieving global peace and equality. When we acknowledge emotions and are mindful of their impact, we have the ability to make better decisions as well as a greater likelihood of success. Cultivating EI helps us manage the complexity of negotiation and conflict about what equality means on a global stage. As University of Toronto professor Stéphane Côte found in her research with Wharton professor Jeremy Yip, “People who are emotionally intelligent don’t remove all emotions from their decision-making. They remove emotions that have nothing to do with the decisions.”

EI is a renewable resource we need to cultivate and nurture. If we are to truly work toward universal peace and equality–no matter how improbable–we must approach ourselves and others with greater awareness and appreciation.

Want to develop your Emotional Intelligence in a supportive, virtual community? Over twelve weeks, you can hone the skills that differentiate top-performers. Begin your learning journey on July 22, September 9, or October 7. You can learn more and register yourself or your team here.

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Time to Think: The Importance of Introspection in Leadership

I have the privilege to work with leaders from diverse sectors including government, medicine, nonprofits, and the arts. Something that constantly comes up during coaching leaders is their near constant fire-fighting and focus on the day-to-day. Like the movie, Groundhog Day, it seems like the same things happen over and over again. The clients I coach want to break the cycle of crisis and reactivity, but seem unable to. Yet they know they are capable of leading differently.

When leaders lead by crisis management, often a root cause is a lack of introspection–an absence of personal and strategic think time. This includes time to think about the future, time to plan, and time to consider what is most important. One way executives can explore this phenomenon is by reviewing their calendar. When do they think? Do they have time, their most precious commodity, blocked on their calendar for introspection?

The classic definition of introspection is a reflective looking inward, an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. A leader needs introspection time for looking inward–to consider who they are, what they value, what motivates them–to build their self-awareness. I work with leaders who know the value of this self-reflection; they show up focused and clear. I also work with leaders who lack this habit of personal introspection. These leaders tend to show up frustrated and unfocused.

Looking inward is critical for self-knowledge and building one’s self-awareness. And as we know through Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, our most effective leaders are highly self-aware. Self-awareness is the gateway to self-management and relationship building–important competencies for effective leaders.

Introspection or examination of personal values, meaning, and purpose creates clarity. It enables leaders to focus on long-term success, not simply fire-fighting. There is power in envisioning and planning for a future. If you don’t take the time, either during your totally packed week or during your precious weekend time, you miss an important leadership duty–“the lifting of a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard” (Peter Drucker).

Journaling is a simple practice leaders can adopt to strengthen introspection and self awareness. There is great power writing. Not only does it bring inner clarity, the act of writing increases our ability to achieve. The physical act of writing stimulates the base of the brain, a group of cells called the reticular activating system (RAS). In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that, “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’ Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along.” And we know writing down our goals helps in goal attainment. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studies goal setting and found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down.

Leaders need to schedule time to be introspective and increase their self-awareness. And the simple practice of writing down their insights, intentions, and goals helps them become a more intentional leader who gets the best out of themselves, their people, and their organizations.

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.”