The Brain and Emotional Intelligence — New Things I Learned

I had the good fortune of hearing Daniel Goleman and Dan Siegel speak at a recent Institute of Coaching Professional Association conference in Boston.  Mr. Goleman popularized emotional intelligence for managers and Dan Siegel, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s School of Medicine.  Both of them talked about the brain, and I wanted to tell you about some new things I learned.

  • Emotional intelligence is of even greater value among leadership positions vs. jobs of all kinds.  Compared with cognitive intelligence, which accounts for about a third of distinguishing competences among jobs of all kinds, EI acounts for 66%.  But when you segment the data on ‘leadership,’ the figures are now 15% and 85%.  Differences of this magnitude are not just significantly statistically; they remind us that base line intelligence is insufficient for career success, let alone significant accomplishment.
  • Brain activity and performance are related.  Mr. Goleman presented a graph showing that optimum performance is obtained when brain activity is midway between low and high.  At a low level, you’re bored; at a high level, you’re stressed.  He suggested that managers wanting to create an environment of optimal performance set clear goals, provide performance feedback and hand out stretch assignments.  (You might also want to see the book Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which is quite readable.)
  • The ‘Competency Framework’ is composed of four interconnect cells:  Self-Awareness; Social Awareness; Relationship Management; and Self-Management.  What binds them together is the need to give your full presence and attention and to do good work that demonstrates excellence and competence.  And when it comes to interacting with others, new research demonstrates that in conversation we, as humans, stimulate the brains of the other person we’re speaking to.  “We stimulate each other — it helps us stay on the same page and causes social coordination.  Emotions move from the most powerful person outward,” said Mr. Goleman.  It feels good, he says, to be in a state of ‘non-verbal synchronicity.’
  • Because leadership styles affect the work climate, ‘it is best when a manager uses four or more styles from among these six’:
    1. Visionary:  provides long-term direction and vision
    2. Coaching:  develops employees for the long-term
    3. Affiliative:  creates harmony in work relationships
    4. Democratic:  builds commitment through collaboration
    5. Pacesetting: pushes to accomplish tasks
    6. Commanding: demands compliance

    Which of these six do you use?  I’ve rarely used #6.

  • Mr. Goleman ended his discussion on the competences of ‘social intelligence.’   While you might have seen these before, I’m including them here because they are worth remembering:
    • Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
    • Do you sense others’ feelings?
    • Do you appreciate the organization’s culture and values?
    • Do you understand unspoken norms?
    • Do you coach and mentor others?
    • Do you provide feedback helpful for development?
    • Do you solicit input from everyone?
    • Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?
  • Dr. Siegel covered three areas entirely new to me that I’d like to tell you about.
    1. “The Healthy Mind Platter” consists of Sleep Time, Physical Time, Focus Time, Time In (reflect inwardly), Down Time, Play Time and Connecting Time.  To extract the most from these states, Dr. Siegel recommends ‘connecting with gratitude and generosity to people and the planet.  It is your responsibility to be playful.’
    2. A “Triangle of Well-Being” has at its three points:  Mind (includes ‘awareness’ and ‘subjective experience’), Relationships (‘context of our mental living’), and the ‘Embodied Brain’ (that regulates the flow of energy and information).  Inextricably linked, you cannot separate one from the other if you want to feel and be well.
    3. Being fully present and open means we can and will:
      • Thrive within uncertainty
      • Be open to possibilities
      • Cultivate human connections
      • Integrate and harmonize all these elements

What I learned reinforced my belief that the brain is not just a wonderful gift to behold; it also contains so much more potential than we can even imagine.  And that if we use it to connect with others, we’ll all be better off.

 

 

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Leadership Lessons

I came upon a new blog entirely by accident.  Normally I scan blogs and never view them again.  But this one was different.  It’s entitled Treasury Cafe and is written by David Waltz.  He has many important things to say and his style is simple and straightforward, which I think all lessons should be.

His latest is on “A Life’s Worth of Leadership Lessons,” in which he uses quotes, some well-known, to introduce leadership lessons.  Let me give you the essence of what he’s written about.  Each of these is a great lesson for both coaches and coaching clients.  And good lessons for life.

Know Thyself:  Emotional intelligence is not a fad.  Before we interact with others, before we expect people to follow us, ‘we need to understand ourselves with clarity.’  By not acknowledging our strengths, style and weaknesses, ‘we lose the ability to understand how we can impact our teams.’  While our colleagues remain fully aware of what we do well or not, if we don’t, we’ll just go about doing what we’ve always done, hoping it will work, and dismayed that it’s not.

Embrace Challenges:   Hard choices are often the wisest choice.  Rather spell out the truth, regardless of how difficult, than to disappoint later with an apology or restatement.  “In school, if we choose easy we learn little, if we choose hard we learn a lot.”  Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ is worth re-reading if this lesson doesn’t ring true.

Accomplish the Mission and Care for Your People:   Apollo 13 was about the commander caring for his crew and accomplishing the mission, in that order.  These two lessons are true for leadership, under any conditions.  Just think how more engaged our workforce would be when they know that what they worked on was going to be seen through to the end and that they were cared for by colleagues and managers – indeed, a 360 degree of caring.

It’s Sergeants Who Win the Wars:  It’s the truck drivers, the people who man the manufacturing plant, the engineers who design products and processes, and the accountants who balance the books each month that exemplify what it takes to make a business run.  While we’d all like to believe that it’s the firm’s leaders (aka ‘us’) ‘whose actions and initiatives are what impact the company the most,’ that’s not really true.  Without every worker, without people figuring out how to do their jobs better each day, we wouldn’t have a business.  Do you recall the famous picture of General Eisenhower greeting the troops prior to their departure for Normandy shores?  His message to them was clear:  it’s the troops that matter, not the generals.

Keep it Simple:  “The principle is pretty simple [said the head of a large city’s police department] to find who will make the best sergeant.  You find out what top performers do.  You train others to do what they do, and they become top performers, as well.”  Despite a stunning amount of research and analysis on leadership and training, often the best work is a result of good people doing everyday tasks extremely well, making constant minute adjustments.  “Sometimes it is wise to Keep it Simple.  There is a lot less to distract, deter and derail your efforts.”

Explore New Territory and Embrace Change:  Simply, doing the same thing over and over again (as Marshall Goldsmith writes, ‘what got you’re here won’t get you there’) is a path to obsolescence.   To find untapped opportunities that excite you, ‘explore new territories to move your team.’  Being satisfied with the status quo leads to boredom, little room for growth, and passivity.

The author sums his blog by saying that we need to seek stories, helping us understand the paths others have taken, and seeing what they’ve learned from their lessons, which can be wisdom or affirmation of our direction.

 

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