Leadership

Psychological Wellbeing, the biggest problem in the 2023 workplace?

Psychological wellbeing is a big topic right now with a lot of content being generated about the need for positive cultures, leadership, and meeting the needs for job satisfaction.

What doesn’t seem to be getting into the conversation is the damage that was done to psychological wellbeing by the covid pandemic to those returning to the workplace.

The impact of the covid pandemic on many has been highly stressful to the point that it has had an extreme effect on the mental health of many and not only in healthcare. The descriptions from so many studies describing ongoing stressors and anxiety and the decline in mental health are harrowing, particularly given that some studies were done only half-way through the pandemic and the pressure stayed on for another year at least. Depression, anxiety and PTSD are recorded in many studies with one review describing people “living within a milieu of stress, anxiety, and fear.”

One non-healthcare study from the UK reported several direct effects on mental health resulting from grief and bereavement or from the loss of social interactions and relationships due to social distancing and restrictions. Another non-healthcare study from the United States found that 64% had experienced moderate to high exposure to adverse experiences during the pandemic and were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Other recent studies of some general populations are showing very high levels of poor wellbeing, and some are showing around 30% suffering from depression. These scores are higher, on average in the yougest age groups but still very significant in all the others.

I have written before that those organisations too pressured to get back to work, too focused on spreadsheets rather than their people will be much slower to get back to full performance, losing talented people along the way. What is not clear yet is the long-term impact and what interventions may be necessary for full recovery. Certainly, there are some potential start points from the interventions for psychological wellbeing and PTSD that have been used in the past.

Compared to this problem, the impact of changing to more hybrid work may be inconsequential.

Taking time and using some resources to ensure your people are ok will also help them understand they can trust you and your organisation. Richard Branson has said look after your people and your people will look after your customers. Take care of your people folks its good for business but more importantly its the right thing to do.

Tread softly.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

Young people these days …

The wrong mindset is causing organisations to fail.


I heard a story about a discussion amongst management and senior staff in an organisation recently (a true story and i’d say more common than you might think). I know of the organisation for a while and consider their management practices as from somewhere in the 1950’s. It’s completely hierarchical, sometimes abusive and controlled by unseen stakeholders who couldn’t be less interested in the welfare of their employees. Leveraging a great brand allows them to function – but even that isn’t helping now.


If they actually took time to understand their culture (which is awful) and its impact, they would still resist change to their last manager. Even the impact on clients doesn’t seem to matter so long as the revenues keep coming in. Currently (post-covid) they are haemorrhaging staff and are unable to get replacements – so the the organisation is imploding as the strain on existing staff is intolerable and increasing the rate of the numbers leaving. Newer staff doing internships have no intention of ever working there when their time is up – preferring other organisations. Suddenly (!) those all important revenues are under threat.

Recently their management discussions start with something like “young people these days” and one or two managers that have been on google mention “Gen Z” and “Quiet Quitting.” They blame the new generations for their current travails. The transcripts of exit interviews are sneered at. Typical comments are “They fancy themselves as a bit special.” “They just don’t work as hard”. “Such an attitude”. Nobody with enough autonomy has yet turned around and suggested “maybe we are doing something wrong?”.

Three main points to understand:

1. The newer generations mindsets are different but not necessarily wrong.

2. The companies who evolve their leadership. management and their culture will attract and retain these highly trained, techno-literate, multitasking and competent people. These people have the competencies your organisation needs – they are no longer at the centre of your organisation but at the edges facing clients.

3. Those organisations that do not evolve will fail, go extinct, or disappear as the changed/changing environment puts serious evolutionary pressure on you.

The idea that people should be happy to have a job should be consigned to a theme park of 20th century thinking. Instead of whining about attitude, think about leveraging the mindset and looking for the opportunities. The more agile and flexible your approach the more likely your organisation can evolve – and for many organisations right now, it’s evolve or die.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

2022-12-05T12:14:11+00:00December 5th, 2022|Culture, Discussion, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Motivation|

Three big contributors to the Irish Rugby Team’s triumph in New Zealand.

Emotional Intelligence, Trust and Systems Thinking - Ireland v New Zealand rugbyI was overjoyed last week at the triumph of the Irish Rugby Team in New Zealand and having had a little time to think on it I see there is an opportunity to learn from it. The main elements that contributed to it are also elements needed in the organisation and the teams within it.

Looking at the size of the challenge and the enormity of the success one has to understand that this was only the fifth test series win in New Zealand in 60-something attempts in over one hundred-plus years and the first since rugby went professional. It was a huge mountain to climb for any team against the most successful international team ever and three times world cup winners. The result was akin to the Lord of the Rings (filmed in New Zealand) – it’s as if our lads went over there and managed to destroy the one ring in Mordor. New Zealand is a proud country about the same size as Ireland, and similar in a lot of ways, but everybody plays rugby (in Ireland it’s the No3 sport). The New Zealanders are not lessened by their loss on this occasion – as we shall see – the mountain remains.

Element 1 – Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is often about keeping control of emotions, sometimes under great pressure. Rugby requires the players to be “up for it”. You have to be mentally ready to put your body on the line, to run into and make hard contacts with the opposition. Its not a place for slow thinking except during restarts and when the game is full on then emotions and instincts come to the fore described by Kahneman as system one thinking. Keeping the emotional intensity at the right level without getting penalised or making errors was a huge part of the success. It’s a learned skill. As is keeping your head when you’re winning and the cognitive dissonance kicks in (“We cant be beating New Zealand!”). Ireland over the years always had the bravery and the bottle. Sometimes too much. This was cooler and calmer and playing away from home and using the pitch just as if you were playing at home – this required a very positive mindset. Think of the benefits this kind of emotional Intelligence can bring to the workplace especially in times of change.

Element 2 – Trust

Farrell is a direct and honest coach and leader. He is described as caring for his team, he leads the way and watching his media interviews he neither gets overexcited with the wins or too down with the losses. He did have a certain glint in his eyes after the New Zealand win though. I was struck by the Keith Earls story of Farrell stepping in at a team meeting when he thought Earls might be embarrassed by something. To protect his man. When a leader is authentic and you feel he or she has your back you can focus on what’s in front of you. When trust and honesty is there then it frees the mind to make choices in real time. If it works it works, if not try again next time – there is no fear of failure.

Think about getting the ball and having to make one of four decisions in 1-2 seconds. Meanwhile a 20 stone man who looks like he’s made out of granite, wants to cut you in half. If you don’t make the decision, he will. There is no time for fear of failure, thinking, or strategy. Its system one all the way. Mike Tyson once said that the plan goes out the window once you get the first punch in the mouth. Field Marshal von Moltke said similarly that “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.  Trust brings agility (quick response) and often innovation (try something different). Think how this applies in the workplace.

Element 3 – Systems thinking

Systems thinking is about the interaction of parts and this is what leads to outcomes and to success. So the Ireland team were using systems and interchanges that were precise, accurate and which led to success. One example is the formation of runners when taking the ball up. I have seen it before when Pat Lam’s Connacht won the Pro12 and runners would come together only making decisions in real time as the defence adapted. So Ireland, running up the ball don’t have a plan to give it to one player or the other – the decision maker can see where the gap is in the defence and in the last half second gives the ball to the right player on his shoulder or keeps it or spins it wider. Systems are used for rucking, set pieces, becoming available for a pass etc and different systems achieve different goals in different parts of the field, as part of the greater whole. All these little systems are focused upon, in real time, rather than the overall outcome. If something fails, they go back to the appropriate system in real time. Reset. Start again. No blame. We are all in this together. They also retain the flexibility to change systems if opportunities opened up.

So I am still delighted by the performance and the win. Incredible odds and incredible sportsmanship by New Zealand after the event. Their consensus is that Ireland were very good we need to get better. Another great mindset.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

The trouble with Marks Meta-verse

If you were hanging around in 2006 you would have come across an idea called Second Life which offered an online universe in which you could meet others, build, buy and sell and explore. Some used it as a meeting point, as you could sit around a table beside a waterfall and conduct a virtual meeting. It was the next big thing. It wasn’t though. Second Life is still going however many figured out that interacting with real people was a superior experience.

Roll around 2022 and we have Mark Zuckerberg’s “new” idea to create an alternate universe, a metaverse to interact with others. Perhaps he is assuming that the people who did well with Zoom and similar through the pandemic will take to the Metaverse.

Perhaps its Mark’s robotic persona or his brilliant but perhaps impractical mind, or maybe it’s me. I don’t get it. Sure, it’ll be fun to try out. But then? If the vision is that people want to live their lives on-line, then this is mistaken. If the vision is to hook people into spending their lives as an Avatar then this is dangerous.

Zoom fatigue is a thing. But some people prefer Zoom – those not confident with people or who are sensitive to interactions with others can prefer to be at the other end of a screen if possible. However, while Zoom and the other tech did well through the pandemic when it was necessary, it’s not ideal. It negates the power of person to person interaction and the human connection so necessary to happiness and our feeling of belonging that drives a team to be greater than the sum of its parts.

We also communicate mostly through body language and a lot of this is missing with remote interacting. From a leadership perspective, belief and passion that power purpose, trust and motivation are diluted considerably by remote connection. This is why hybrid models of working must include real connection time in the schedule for teams and groups that work together. All of the problems of remote working will be made much worse by using avatars to communicate.

I was a fan of Facebook. The original idea was to connect people and allow them to stay connected over long distance. This was a good idea. But its been skewed now by misuse, bad algorithms and intentional polarisation. It replaced “the internet” which has become a search engine but also a purveyor of porn and similar. Is Facebook saveable? I don’t know. But creating a Metaverse to replace it is doing the opposite of connecting people.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA
Leadership and Teamwork Specialist and
Founder and Director at Adeo Consulting Ltd
Author of Lead From You

2021-11-10T15:02:18+00:00November 8th, 2021|Culture, Discussion, Leadership, Motivation, Team Performance|

Leaders. Post Pandemic Stress will need time and empathy for many.

Stress is like holding a glass of water at arms length. Its ok for a little while when necessary but it gets painful over time and you will need to put the glass down and take a rest. You can pick it up later of course. This is a popular adage and quite accurate.

This last 12-18 months there are many who have been holding too much for too long. Assuming your organisations are well run your people were operating close to a stress line before the pandemic hit. The change, constant worry and media misery will have caused many to stiffen up in resistance while doing their best to carry on contributing. We have also seen workload increases and resources dropping so many are doing far more with less.

I am hearing from people that many are at the end of their rope. The last thing your people need now is pressure from you and your organisation to “catch up”. What your people need is time under less pressure, to recover, to get their bearings, to feel safe again. Some recognition too of effort and loyalty would not go amiss. The last thing they need is a leader trying to fill the hole in his or her year end figures.

Think long term and think sustainably. Get your mind into 2022 and beyond. What will happen if you think about spreadsheets and burn out what’s left of your people? On the other hand what will happen if you take care of them and show that you and your organisation genuinely care about them in the aftermath?

Your care needs to be tailored to the individual – some will have suffered more than others due to many factors – personality, financial, home life etc. Some will be dying to get back to work and some will have crawled along the street, exhausted, just to get to the office. There’s an opportunity here, don’t miss it.

The Authentic Leadership we need in times of crisis.

Leadership in a CrisisAuthenticity in troubling times like these is key to engendering trust in those that depend on your decisions and perspectives. This trust is key to keeping your people focused and positive in a crisis and to reducing stress in times of uncertainty. Post crisis this trust will be key to rebuilding and in leading the recovery.

Authentic leadership is composed of four distinct components.

Self-Awareness (“Know Thyself”). A prerequisite for being an authentic leader is knowing your own strengths, limitations, and values. Knowing what you stand for and what you value is critical. It’s important to understand that self-awareness underpins the development of the other components of authentic leadership.

Relational Transparency (“Be Genuine”). This involves being honest and straightforward in dealing with others. An authentic leader does not play games or have a hidden agenda. You know where you stand with an authentic leader. Because of this you can be trusted – if you say its going to be ok people are going to believe you.

Balanced Processing (“Be Fair-Minded”). An effective authentic leader solicits opposing viewpoints and considers all options before choosing a course of action. There is no impulsive action or “hidden agendas”—plans are well thought out and openly discussed. They are shared with and include followers. A fair leader can build consensus in the right way and bring people with him. People pulling together can make all the difference in a fight for survival.

Internalized Moral Perspective (“Do the Right Thing”). An authentic leader has an ethical core. She or he knows the right thing to do and is driven by a concern for ethics and fairness. The roots of authentic leadership come from ancient greek philosophy that focuses on the development of core, or cardinal, virtues. These virtues are prudence (fair-mindedness, wisdom, seeing all possible courses of action); temperance (being emotionally balanced and in control); justice (being fair in dealings with others); and fortitude (courage to do the right thing).

Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out your authentic self.

Becoming an authentic leader is not easy. Hopefully you established your credentials before this crisis and so your people can trust you and you in turn can get the best from them. But sometimes it takes a crisis to bring out your Authentic self. Are you like Hal Moore, the “first onto the battlefield” and “the last to leave the battlefield” sort of leader? How do you show this?

When your people are operating in anger or anxiety they are, of course, not as effective. This at a time when a survival mode mindset and maximum effort is required. It takes a calm trustworthiness in a leader with a steady hand to help people with this. Remember you may not know all the answers but you don’t pretend to – you work with others to find them and then make the best decisions you can. It is as always, about caring for and empowering your people and showing humility and compassion in everything you do. Even the hard decisions.

It takes a great deal of self-reflection (getting to know oneself), and the courage to do the right thing. It involves a degree of selflessness. We are seeing during the Pandemic many authentic leaders stepping forward. And we are also seeing the opposite.

Soon you will be leading the recovery and how you lead now will prepare for a much more successful outcome.

2020-04-27T15:59:29+00:00April 27th, 2020|Authentic Leadership, Discussion, Employee Engagement, Leadership|

Emotional Intelligence Makes You A Stronger Leader In High-Stakes Business

emotional Intelligence and LeadershipDoes high emotional intelligence make you a “soft” leader?

If you are a senior executive operating in high-stakes, fast-paced and competitive environments, you might have encountered this corporate myth.

I suspect this comes from the misconception that “emotional intelligence” is only about empathy, positivity and compassion and that it will somehow take away your critical thinking, toughness, decisiveness or leadership edge.

The reality is that emotional intelligence fuels stronger leadership in high-stakes environments. In my experience, those who have greater emotional intelligence can often better focus strategically, eliminate cognitive biases, make tough decisions, manage conflict and have difficult conversations with ease and effectiveness. From my perspective, emotionally intelligent leaders have the greatest edge, especially in high-stakes environments.

Below are four ways I’ve observed embracing emotional intelligence has helped my clients become stronger and tougher leaders and how it could help you, too:

1. Improved Resilience And Mental Toughness

The ability to show grace under fire, be mentally tough and lead effectively in uncertainty, chaos and crisis is the hallmark of a strong leader.

The primal emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness and self-management are the gateway to becoming mentally tough. To begin working on these skills, pay attention to your stress triggers and emotional blind spots. Create new habits that help you manage your capacity to be calm in a crisis, bounce back quickly from challenging events and signal strength to your people. Building a daily mindfulness practice or taking on a regular contemplative routine like journaling, for example, is very helpful in building resilience.

When executives are wary about starting a mindfulness practice, it is best to start small. Consider scheduling a few minutes daily for a visual breathing exercise, which is a great beginning point. Mindfulness is about intentionally paying attention — without judgment — to the present moment.

When you practice emotional intelligence as a leader, you learn to stop internalizing stress and reacting to incoming noise. With emotional intelligence, you minimize your feelings of frustration, anger and even mental exhaustion in your day-to-day life, and you learn to operate at your best and also let others operate at their best.

2. Sharpened Thinking

Emotional intelligence helps you to pay attention to the patterns, biases and blind spots in the way you think, form opinions and make decisions. By creating new self-awareness habits, you also learn to isolate the role your emotions are playing in your approach to decision making.

Practices such as mindfulness, taking new perspectives and emotional self-management which are a part of the emotional intelligence repertoire, help you enhance your ability to focus on what is most important. You can choose to zoom into a micro-perspective or zoom out and look at the big picture.

These are essential critical thinking skills for any leader who wants to succeed in a high stakes’ environment.

3. Greater Ability To Read External Cues

Many leaders default to leading from their areas of expertise and spend too little time synthesizing the cues from the operating environment.

As a leader in high-stakes environments, if you don’t pay greater attention to others and tune into their mindset, drivers and preferences, you will not be able to read organizational and market signals. Emotional intelligence helps you develop social awareness and become more aware of cues, patterns and influencers of the people around you, whether they are clients, stakeholders, teams, adversaries or your board.

The first key step is to intentionally spend time understanding organization dynamics in your company and engage with empathy with those around you. Both practices give you a big picture and a micro view of external factors. This insight into the external environment helps you make more effective decisions around strategy, talent, organizational transformation and execution.

4. Increased Effectiveness With People

Relationship management is a key facet of emotional intelligence. The focus on managing relationships with others by building upon self-mastery and social awareness helps you hone your relationship management ability. You learn how to influence others, have difficult conversations, manage conflict, develop and coach your talent, inspire your teams and generally become more effective with others.

Leaders in high-stakes environments are expected to be effective and create results quickly. Once they learn to seamlessly forge and navigate relationships, it makes them even stronger in their leadership.

I believe strong leadership in high-stakes environments can only be built on a foundation of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a unique and powerful gateway for both self-mastery, as well as your effectiveness with others. If you operate in a high-stakes environment, you would be remiss to not add it to your toolkit.

Written by Shefali Raina for Forbes Coaches Council  Original here 

The Value Of Emotional Intelligence For Leaders

When you advance in your career, achieving more success and fulfillment, there are areas of potential and growth that are still latent.

Plato eloquently wrote, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotions and knowledge.” In order to expand yourself, desire, emotional self-awareness and self-discovery through knowledge are three qualities that are paramount for greater success.

As an executive coach, my role is often one of guiding the inner process to reveal the potential that you are not aware of, similar to a caterpillar before it becomes a butterfly. It’s a potential that simply hasn’t been developed yet.

Here is where emotional intelligence (EI) comes into play. IQ and technical expertise are no longer sufficient to be successful as a leader or to move up in an organization. A popularly cited survey from 2011 showed that 71% of employers valued emotional intelligence in an employee over IQ. In fact, 59% of employers would not hire someone if they had a high IQ but low EI.

When you are high in emotional intelligence, you, as a leader, are able to increase employee engagement, retention and performance because you:

• Are demonstrating the ability to manage your own emotions

• Understand your effect on your team

• Are able to resolve conflict effectively and quickly

Have enhanced communication and listening skills

• Are able to stay calm in times of stress, conflict and challenges

• Understand the emotions of others

When you reach the managerial level or higher, you often rely on the same skills and strengths that brought you to the top. However, overusing your strengths can also be a weakness. Increasing EI enhances your toolbox, bringing awareness of when to dial down a strength and use a different one. Increasing one competency will increase other areas, giving you the edge to:

• Make better decisions under pressure

• Recognize when emotions are influencing your thinking

• Understand and gauge the emotions and psychological states of others

Using Assessments To Increase Emotional Intelligence

Administering an EI assessment is beneficial because you will have a full picture of the strengths you have and what will need developing. When you receive the results of your EI assessment, it reveals the competencies where you are strong and areas needing development.

Another way to use the assessment is during the hiring process or when deciding who to promote into managerial roles and higher. Here is an example.

I was working with a company that called me because it had moved a loyal, hardworking employee into a managerial position, but he was failing in his new role. When I reviewed his assessment, his interpersonal skills (3 out of 15 competencies) were extremely low. Prior to moving him into this position, it would have been more prudent to give him some managerial training to develop the skills necessary to be successful in this position. Ultimately, they ended up letting him go, when had they reviewed his assessment first, they could have prevented the bad feelings that ensued between themselves and their employee.

Assessments reveal competencies (which are learned abilities) for strong, successful leadership, such as:

1. Assertiveness

2. Optimism

3. Independence

4. Strong impulse control

5. Problem-solving and decision-making skills

6. Confidence

7. Strong interpersonal skills

8. Flexibility

These eight competencies fall under the category of self-awareness, the bedrock of high EI. Increasing your self-awareness and understanding your own emotional states, behaviors and what motivates you improves your ability to understand others. Expanding self-awareness is an ongoing process, as it is a challenge to “know thyself” fully.

Let’s take a look at impulse control, the No. 1 derailer for managers and leaders. Lack of impulse control is a result of the brain experiencing a perceived threat, prompting you to act from an emotional stance rather than maintaining control. I mentioned earlier that competency is a learned ability. Yes, you can learn to maintain control even in the face of adversity, challenges and stressful situations.

When I coach individuals who are low on impulse control, the technique to conquer this knee-jerk reaction is to first reflect back on what was said and then ask questions. Asking questions is a way to gather more information and understanding, calming down the emotional hijack and allowing you to maintain your control. Asking questions can also prevent triggering the other person, and it allows them to explore the situation and maintain emotional control as well.

Individuals come to me for coaching because they want to move up the ladder yet are often unaware of these eight skills needed to be successful in the new role. When we review their results, we focus on one area to strengthen, because when we strengthen one, others usually increase as well. Strengthening impulse control, for example, can boost assertiveness, flexibility and confidence.

Increasing emotional intelligence is the differentiator between an exemplary leader and one who is not. High EI has been proven to give one climbing the ladder a competitive edge, setting them apart from other candidates.

If you’re already in a leadership role, increasing your EI is probably one of the best investments you can make for yourself and for your organization. Being smart is not enough. If you cannot manage yourself, your technical expertise is compromised, and team morale goes down. Emotionally intelligent leaders inspire others, boosting morale and thus increasing productivity and employee performance.

Article by Melinda Fouts, Ph.D. – Original in Forbes here

2019-06-14T11:15:27+00:00June 14th, 2019|Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Leadership Development|

Emotional Intelligence Is No Soft Skill

Despite a bevy of research and best-selling books on the topic, many managers still downplay emotional intelligence as a “touchy-feely” soft skill. The importance of characteristics like empathy and self-awareness is understood, sure. But intelligence and technical capability are seen as the real drivers of professional success. After all, a bit of coaching can help you navigate difficult conversations. And isn’t interpersonal friction simply part of organizational life?

But evidence suggests quite the opposite: that high emotional intelligence (EI) is a stronger predictor of success. In fact, high EI bolsters the hard skills, helping us think more creatively about how best to leverage our technical chops.

A KEY DIFFERENTIATOR FOR YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

When I co-teach the program Strategic Leadership, I ask participants to list the characteristics of a great mentor or role model and to classify each characteristic into one of three groups: IQ/smarts, technical skills, or emotional intelligence. Almost invariably, the majority of characteristics fall into the EI bucket.

In fact, emotional intelligence—the ability to, say, understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly—accounts for nearly 90 percent of what moves people up the ladder when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar.

Although many participants are surprised by the results, scientific research has proved the point. Daniel Goleman is the author and psychologist who put emotional intelligence on the business map. He found that, beyond a certain point, there is little or no correlation between IQ and high levels of professional success.

One needs above-average intelligence—which Goleman defines as one standard deviation from the norm or an IQ of about 115—to master the technical knowledge needed to be a doctor, lawyer, or business executive. But once people enter the workforce, IQ and technical skills are often equal among those on the rise. Emotional intelligence becomes an important differentiator.

In fact, emotional intelligence—the ability to, for instance, understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly—accounts for nearly 90 percent of what moves people up the ladder when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar (see “What Makes a Leader” in the Harvard Business Review, January 2004).

Research has also demonstrated that emotional intelligence has a strong impact on organizational performance. Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, focused on the emotional intelligence skills of its sales force, which boosted annual performance by 12 percent (see the research by S. Jennings and B.R. Palmer in “Sales Performance Through Emotional Intelligence Development,” Organizations and People, 2007). After Motorola provided EI training for staff in a manufacturing plant, the productivity of more than 90 percent of those trained went up (Bruce Cryer, Rollin McCraty, and Doc Childre: “Pull the Plug on Stress,” Harvard Business Review, July 2003).

Emotional intelligence increases corporate performance for a number of reasons. But perhaps the most important is the ability of managers and leaders to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

The core of high EI is self-awareness: if you don’t understand your own motivations and behaviors, it’s nearly impossible to develop an understanding of others. A lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities.

Individuals are much more inclined to go the extra mile when asked by an empathetic person they respect and admire. Although discretionary effort isn’t endless, managers with low emotional intelligence will have much less to draw on. If an organization has a cadre of emotionally intelligent leaders, such discretionary efforts multiply.

THE BEDROCK OF Emotional Intelligence is SELF-AWARENESS

The ability to be an emotionally intelligent leader is based on 19 competencies in four areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

The core of high EI is self-awareness: if you don’t understand your own motivations and behaviors, it’s nearly impossible to develop an understanding of others. A lack of self-awareness can also thwart your ability to think rationally and apply technical capabilities.

Two parts of the brain are constantly fighting for control. The neocortex is the cognitive center, where our IQ and working memory reside. On average, in a normal emotional state, the neocortex can process a factorial of four variables, which is 24 possible interrelationships.

Adeptly handling multiple variables is central to performing important tasks such as developing a strategy, improving a complicated process, setting priorities, understanding consequences, and gleaning keen insights from data and information.

The amygdala is the feeling side of the brain, our emotional center. As the part of our brain concerned with our survival, it responds 100 times faster than the neocortex. Such responsiveness is particularly useful when confronted with a potentially threatening situation.

But because it can be triggered by both real and perceived threats, we can fall into the trap of imagining the worst before we have all the facts. How many of us, when faced with a rumor of layoffs, are quick to envision the worst-case scenario before we learn the truth?

WHEN EMOTIONS HIJACK OUR ABILITY TO REASON

When the feeling side or our brain is triggered, it hijacks our cognitive system. With the slightest provocation, our ability to apply reason and logic can drop by 75 percent. Thus, instead of handling 24 interrelationships, we may suddenly be able to cope with only two. We may start to see only in black and white, in binary frameworks like yes or no, right or wrong, and win or lose.

Using questions instead of statements can also help managers and leaders avoid triggering emotional hijacks in others. Our feeling mind wants to sense that we are included, autonomous, competent, valued, respected, and safe.

Throughout a work day, there are numerous emotional triggers: an e-mail from a superior saying “We need to talk,” a comment made by a colleague with a hidden agenda, even a funny look from someone important in the office.

It can take us nearly 20 minutes to recover from an emotional encounter. If the feelings are frequently retriggered, we can end up spending significant amounts of time with little ability to leverage our technical capability and inherent intelligence.

FOCUS ON UNDERSTANDING RATHER THAN JUDGMENT

So how can we speed up our recovery? It’s important to stop and turn our attention from the emotional to the physical. Physical activity such as taking a walk or going for a drink of water reduces the amount of adrenaline and cortisol flowing through the body.

Once the body is calmed physically, we need to seek information and determine if the threat is real and, if so, what we can do to address it. Ask yourself whether an issue will matter in six minutes, six days, six weeks, six months, or six years. Questions engage your curiosity—your neocortex. Statements, however, imply judgment, triggering the feeling side of the brain.

If someone is habitually late to meetings, for example, asking yourself why that is the case will lead to a more productive conversation about the issue than stewing on the statement: “I can’t stand the fact that he is always late.”

It is easy to consign emotional intelligence to the periphery of work life and concentrate on smarts and know-how. However, such a focus will likely hamper success.

Using questions instead of statements can also help managers avoid triggering emotional hijacks in others. Our feeling mind wants to sense that we are included, autonomous, competent, valued, respected, and safe. Something as simple as asking, “Can you tell me more about how you came to that conclusion?” or “What information would be helpful for you?” is far less likely to trigger an emotional hijack than statements such as, “I don’t completely agree” or “I’m worried about what is happening.”

It is easy to consign emotional intelligence to the periphery of work life and concentrate on smarts and know-how. But such a focus will likely hamper success. It can leave us without the most important differentiator for our personal brands. And an inability to manage ourselves severely constrains our capacity to use hard skills such as the technical competence that we have worked so hard to master.

By the same token, a command of emotional intelligence is a proven differentiator in the competitive climb up the corporate ladder. By inspiring others, emotionally intelligent leaders can ignite discretionary effort on the part of their teams to boost productivity and spur higher levels of employee engagement that comes from a strong company morale.

By Laura Wilcox at Harvard.edu

2019-06-14T11:36:13+00:00May 14th, 2019|Emotional Intelligence, Leadership|

Making workplaces truly great: How management toxicity affects employees, and what to do about it

What matters – for employee engagement and productivity and, more important, for employee health – is the work environment and the work itself.

Two recent studies reveal that nearly half of India’s private sector employees suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. Demanding work schedules, high pressure for achieving objectives, and the “always-on” mobile phone syndrome are the top three culprits.

“Management toxicity” is affecting more and more Indians just as we see it in Americans and others around the world. Of 8 lakh suicides across the world annually, about 1 lakh are Indians. India is the world capital for diabetics; and cardio ailments are affecting people in their 30s and early 40s.

We wonder whether annual lists of “great/best places to work” have any sanctity, given that many employees from such listed companies frequently complain of toxicity in management. We question the ethical and serious bias of the agencies that do such ratings, because they try to sell their products and services to the companies they are listing. We suggested health-related data as an added criterion, and a shift in orientation of the rating agencies to “non-profit” for removing serious bias.

Chronic disease, caused in part by stress, is one reason that healthcare costs are soaring around the world. Because most stress comes from work, the workplace has become a public health crisis.

But workplaces do not have to be toxic and stress-filled. Our research uncovered two crucial elements that can build healthy work environments and that don’t cost much to implement. By providing people more job autonomy and social support, enterprises can create healthier workplaces that are less stressful and eliminate the many costs related to stress.

What matters – for employee engagement and productivity and, more important, for employee health – is the work environment and the work itself. Not having a boss who heaps scorn and abuse, because the health hazards of workplace bullying and incivility have been well documented. Having a private office or at least a workplace with comfortable temperature, good lighting, and acoustical privacy, ensures that the physical work environment does not impose stress.

A study of British civil servants revealed that the higher the person’s rank, the less likely that individual was to suffer from coronary artery disease. Why? When British epidemiologist Michael Marmot and his colleagues investigated, they found that the determining factor was the level of job control. Being micromanaged is stressful, and having more control over what you do and when you do it is positively associated with health and wellbeing.

The problem of micromanagement arises because corporations often promote people based not on their ability to manage others but for skills such as their capability with budgets or project management. Because many managers can’t manage, in the sense of coaching others to do their jobs better, one of the worst “sins” many employees encounter at work is being too tightly controlled.

As for the second element – social support – evidence suggests that having family and friends, and having close relationships have a direct effect on health, and that buffers the effects of various psycho­social stresses. People who were less socially integrated had higher mortality rates and higher rates of cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.

Changing the environment to make things better is not that hard. Just stop doing the things that create toxic work environments: Get rid of forced ranking, the “grading ­on ­the ­curve” performance review process made famous by GE; don’t pit people against each other in the guise of internal competition that results in a rat race in which people work crazy hours and travel excessively; invest in management processes where senior managers can mentor juniors; stop the transactional approach to employees by not viewing them as factors of production and trading money for work.

When people have hard times, provide them with help and support – meals, babysitting, companionship, time off and a signal that their colleagues and the company cares about them. With a supportive environment, people are healthier and more tightly integrated into the company.

Holiday and birthday parties, and events that celebrate shared successes such as product launches or project completion – almost anything that brings people together in meaningful context – helps build a sense of shared identity and belonging.

Original Article Jeffrey Pfeffer and M Muneer here: Times of India

Jeff Pfeffer is a professor at Stanford Business School; M Muneer is co-founder, Medici Institute

2019-06-14T11:48:41+00:00August 13th, 2018|Culture, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Engagement, Leadership|
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