The great resignation: three leadership blindspots

2021-11-16T14:04:31+00:00November 16th, 2021|Discussion|

Four million resignations in the US in July 2021 and 10.9 million jobs unfilled. One leader of an international US business says 55% of his workers refusing to come back to work. Similar problems have appeared in Ireland and the UK.

If you’re a leader sitting there wondering about why people are resigning or leaving your organization, consider these three things. Check in with yourself.

Your issues with control

Why are so many leaders insisting people come back to the office? Why so much resistance to allowing the continuation of remote work? A leader who insists on an unnecessary office return has issues with trust. In some cases, it’s a practical requirement of getting the work done, but there are many cases where the pandemic has proved that remote work is workable and yet these people are being asked to return to the office. That’s adding back the necessity and stress for child-care and of course the horror of the commute.

When your people know that they can get their job done as well as or even better than they used to while in the office, and you continue to insist that they return full time to the office, this makes no sense to them. So it’s a control issue, with presenteeism your focus, do these people feel that you trust them? Do you?

I have worked with leaders who nearly faint at the idea of being out of control. And funnily enough it’s really only the illusion of control. Leaders who get to grip with the idea that being out of control is not the end of the world, succeed as they allow agility and flexibility and innovation to prosper in their organization. But many leaders are not aware that they need control to feel safe. How do you feel about control?

Your assumption people should be happy to have a job

It wasn’t so long ago that there was a celebration when somebody got a job in a bank or a similar large institution. They were set for life. In the modern environment the idea of spending 25 years working for one company is often seen as a “boomer” thing. Certainly the later generations with their high tech skills and their ability to work very well in groups and remotely, realize that loyalty to organizations is a thing of the past. They consider this truth to be self-evident having watched the layoffs, corruption, and environmental terrorism taking place over the last two decades.

Success in this modern world and in the future relies on winning the war for talent. That talent resides in the hands of the people that actually do the work for the organization, and is a key organizational capability. A harsh truth is that without the ability to attract and retain the available talent your organization will not survive. So, the idea that people should be happy to have a job, particularly the key talent in your organization, is long past its sell-by-date. Leaders need to stop thinking like that and so stop acting like that.

Whether the leadership style you use is current or inherited from a different world.

So where did you learn your leadership? Did you learn it over the last 20 years and base it on a model which was developed and used in the last century, or are you up to speed with the fast moving, ever changing environment we all now operate in. In this environment leadership is always leadership of change. Here we are stuck in the middle of a huge change driven by global events. Some are trying to go back to the way things were. To put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Innovation, agility, flexibility and adaptability are words that have been in free flow in management and leadership theory for the last 10 years. So now here we all are, and when all of those capabilities are needed our tendency to is to resist change, to go to the old ways of doing things or to go with what we know. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

There’s a lot going on, and many of us feel like we’re trying to right the boat and get it up and sailing again and then get it moving. But the boat has changed and the wind is coming from a different direction. You need to recognize this and deal with the ambiguity, while being agile enough to try new things as you feel your way forward in this new environment.

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

The trouble with Marks Meta-verse

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

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

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

2021-06-04T11:23:59+00:00June 4th, 2021|Discussion, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Engagement, Leadership|

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.

Our Leaders need some joined-up thinking to implement the new greener program for government.

2020-06-17T13:35:42+00:00June 17th, 2020|Discussion|

Delighted to see a new government forming at last. I am hoping the words match the deeds in the coming months and years. However there seems to be a lack of joined up thinking about actually getting a Green Plan for Government done. Laudable and way overdue targets will be difficult to achieve without coordinated system change. There is a huge amount of good will but a lack of ability get the good work done. Business that has a positive environmental impact keeps getting blocked by poor regulations and inefficiencies in our public bodies. Look at these examples.

Do you know how many Croke Parks full of clean water we dump into storm drains every time it rains? This with regular drought emergencies and a proposed pipeline from the Shannon? Do you know how much it costs to pump and then treat a litre of water from, say, a well in South Wicklow, to the reserve in Blessington and then to a home in Dublin? I worked as a consultant for a few years with a company that provided rainwater harvesting and stormwater management solutions. Our high quality solutions were cheaper, easier to maintain, made from recycled materials and bio-filtered stormwater before returning it to the water table in pure form. There were loads of other benefits like reduced flooding etc etc. Blocking both solutions were projects specifying only concrete tanks which were blocked within a year, (so environmentally friendly!) and some councils refusing to deduct the charges for water supply when the client were collecting their own rainwater – effectively blocking investment. Other technologies such as porous concrete (that lets rainwater through into the ground) and similar also get no traction in this country. Is it lack of interest or vested interests?

Did you know that right now that the people who plant forestry in this country are sitting idle at this moment because of regulation. The current regulatory and licencing system has presided over the worst year for planting nationally since 1949 with less than 3,000 hectares planted in 2019 – and 2020 may even be worse. Ireland already intends to increase its level of forestry by 8,000 hectares a year. This is vital in terms of achieving our carbon reduction goals of 7% per annum and was designated to offset some of the increase in CO2 from agriculture. The figures are way too low and the current rate of approvals of forestry projects is 50% of the required rate with, for example, 60,000 tonnes of timber stalled in one week alone in April. Farmers who are interested in swapping say, beef production, for more profitable long term carbon reducing forestry cannot get their requirements met!

The Covid19 crisis has forced a lot of people work to from home. The roads are empty, there are no CO2 /NO2 generating traffic jams and our carbon output has dropped. Why not make a visible effort to keep some of that benefit post Covid19. An initiative should be driven by government – rather than by announcements from big tech companies – incentivise people and companies to keep people working from home (if they wish it). Do it now. Provide a minimal level of broadband capability even if it means grant-aiding or subventing the provision of 5G and ramping up its rollout. Give people tax breaks to stop commuting and use broadband instead when possible. Companies are reporting improved performance, people are reporting improved life balance – why are we not supporting and encouraging this CO2 friendly approach when its in the national and international interest???

Much of the problem lies in cross departmental communication and co-operation as well as the culture and sometimes bureaucratic nightmare that exists within parts of our civil service. We have seen real leadership from our government in the last few months, can we please see more of it to address the climate crisis with good green business opportunities. All it needs is some joined up thinking.

Aidan Higgins BEng MBA of ADEO Consulting Ltd is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and coach working with Leaders and Teams at all levels of the Private and Public sectors in Ireland. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

Leadership: preparing for the recovery.

2020-12-16T10:55:32+00:00May 15th, 2020|Discussion|

Getting back together - take time to reflectThe leadership you show in this crisis will impact your recovery.

As we get through this crisis its important to remember to stay compassionate and keep humanity at the forefront of our decision making as much as possible. Remember sometimes very hard decisions have to be made for the greater good but there’s no reason to remove caring and empathy from the procedures. I remember meeting a woman whose best friends were people she had fired at one time because she kept the human connection even working with them to find new jobs. Its the right thing to do and you need to remember that there will be a recovery and a tough one at that and you will need trust in the bank to use a fuel to empower this recovery. Do the right thing, always.

Before the recovery there will be a reckoning.  Thats ok – just be ready for it.

These are tough times – for some far more than others. The stresses of the change of environment, the uncertainty of the future, the worry about mortality of self and loved ones and the coming economic tidal wave will generate an environment in the near future involving both fiscal hardship and PTSD. We are all doing our best to limit the fiscal damage but its only one element. The stresses which many have not experienced before will leave their mark long after the acute part of the Pandemic has passed. Think about the stresses of two parents trying to work in a house with several bored children. Arguments and harsh words. And stress – there’s still a mortgage and bills to pay. As schools resume and many go back to their place of work the stress, repression of emotion, anxiety and other elements will surface and we let go of the metaphorical breath and try to get oxygen back into our system. Think of those healthcare workers as every day they go to work with tension and worry at the risk of not only contracting Covid19 but of bringing it home to the people they love. I have seen the worry and bravery up close. Its hard to watch. Again there will be a price for this. Like radioactivity – you can be exposed to so much, after which there will be long term effects.

Help your resilience.

Ignoring this problem will not make it go away. Leaders need to prepare for its impact. Bring empathy and compassion to your people. Remember they are mostly not the same as you. They will all suffer and express suffering in different ways. They will have been through this with various levels of coping skills and experience of this sort of thing. Some will skip back to the workplace, some will run, and some will come in smoking from their experience. They need help now with their resilience to reduce the levels of their stress. No need to wait for it to blow up. Bring support, reassurance, care and realistic optimism to them now. Take the time to listen, to share experiences, to empathise, to get some oxygen in and to recover before you start into it again. Remember to also look after yourself. Taking time to think, breathe and energise yourself. Like the aircraft oxygen mask get your own on first so you can help those around you.

We have a short video we put together at ADEO Consulting with mindfulness tips to help resilience. I hope it helps.

Take Care

Aidan Higgins

The Authentic Leadership we need in times of crisis.

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

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.

Unleashing the Power of Mindfulness in Corporations

2020-03-06T11:35:38+00:00February 15th, 2020|Discussion|

MindfulnessVolatile markets, challenging consumer demands, and the technological disruptions resulting from digitization and Industry 4.0 are producing unprecedented rates of change. In response, companies have worked to increase organizational agility, hoping to foster innovation and shorten go-to market cycles. Yet organizational experiences and sociological conditioning often impede true agility. As a result, many of these efforts fall short of their objective to manage the uncertainty generated by change. But another movement—mindfulness—will help companies overcome these challenges.

Mindfulness is a centuries-old idea that has been reinvented to address the challenges of our digital age. In essence, mindfulness describes a state of being present in the moment and leaving behind one’s tendency to judge. It allows one to pause amid the constant inflow of stimuli and consciously decide how to act, rather than react reflexively with ingrained behavior patterns. Mindfulness, therefore, is perfectly suited to counterbalance the digital-age challenges of information overload and constant distraction.

The benefits of mindfulness are both clear and proven. Mindfulness programs help leaders and employees reflect effectively, focus sharply on the task at hand, master peak levels of stress, and recharge quickly. On an organizational level, mindfulness reduces sick days, increases trust in leadership, and boosts employee engagement. What’s more, mindfulness helps to unlock the full potential of digital and agile transformations. New processes and structures are just the starting points for these transformations.

Not surprisingly, interest in mindfulness is growing, especially among digital natives: in the past decade, the rate of increase in Google searches for mindfulness has outpaced that of all Google searches by a factor of four. Furthermore, years of scientific research and modern forms of teaching have fueled its popularity. Now, mindfulness apps even come preinstalled on smartphones and tablets.

Yet integrating mindfulness in the corporate context can be challenging. Some companies encounter vocal skeptics; others struggle with entrenched ways of working. Even leaders and employees who are eager to try out mindfulness find it hard to get started. To unleash the power of mindfulness, companies will have to embrace a holistic approach to corporate agility.

AGILITY REQUIRES COPING WITH UNCERTAINTY

To support their agility efforts, many companies have applied “cosmetic” digital-age solutions, such as hackathons, agile meetings (for example, short daily standup meetings to discuss progress and obstacles), and new visualization techniques and creativity tools.

However, most companies have not yet created an environment that truly prepares them to reap the rewards of agility. Often, their ways of working have been shaped by a tradition of emphasizing functional excellence over agility, as well as systems that favor expertise over open-mindedness. Two inhibitors stand out:

  • Resistance to Change. As the pace of change increases, employees will have to continuously adapt to evolving circumstances. In most organizations, however, the existing ways of working leave employees unprepared to do so. They may therefore respond with reflexive resistance, a defense mechanism to avoid the discomfort of psychological uncertainty. Organizational politics and poor communication about the purpose of making changes only strengthen this resistance.
  • Overvaluing Expertise. Many employees think and interact at work by applying expertise that they gained before the digital age, when efficiency, not agility, was the overarching objective. Such an approach encourages closed-mindedness.

To overcome these inhibitors, leaders and employees need to abandon traditional management styles and linear ways of working. They must rewire their established mindsets, cultivating the open-mindedness and clarity required to navigate through unpredictable environments. They must acknowledge that their business involves elements beyond their control and develop the capacity for self-leadership in an unpredictable environment. And to gain mastery over uncertainty, they must learn to walk in the fog, open their eyes wide to detect signals from all directions, and feel empowered to trigger rapid action.

MINDFULNESS FACILITATES NAVIGATION THROUGH UNCERTAINTY

Mindfulness enables people to radically strengthen their ability to adapt quickly to evolving circumstances and ambiguous situations and to increase the speed with which they learn new things. It creates mental agility and helps people look inward to find answers.

In their recent book, Altered Traits, Daniel Goleman, a Harvard psychologist, and Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provide a scientific view of personal mindfulness benefits. They synthesize three proven benefits of mindfulness that, in combination, allow people to act more effectively in unpredictable environments:

  • Staying Calm and Open-Minded. Mindfulness practices, such as breathing meditation, are associated with decreased gray-matter density in the amygdala, the region of the brain that initiates a response to stress. This reduces the inclination to interpret an uncertain environment as a threat and thus react defensively. In this way, mindfulness improves mental agility, allowing attitudes to shift from “But we have always done it like that” to “Let’s see what happens if we try a new approach.”
  • Cognitive Ability. Mindfulness improves short-term memory and the ability to perform complex cognitive tasks. It also frees people to think outside the box, which helps them cut through complexity. In the context of workplace performance, proven results include a higher quality of strategic decision making and more effective collaboration.
  • Focus and Clarity of Thinking. As Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon observed, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” This insight, first articulated in 1971, is more accurate today than ever before. Maintaining a strong focus in this time of digital information overload, therefore, is essential. The regular practice of mindfulness routines can reduce mental wandering and distractibility. Mindfulness strengthens the awareness of both one’s activities in the present moment and one’s mental processes and behaviors (known as meta-awareness).

By delivering these individual benefits, mindfulness boosts the potential of corporate agility initiatives and agile transformations. It helps people to inspect and adapt their behaviors in short cycles, relax so that they can rewire established attitudes, and think clearly in the midst of overwhelming digital stimuli. In short, mindfulness facilitates navigation in the context of uncertainty and ambiguity.

THE CORPORATE WORLD HAS TAKEN NOTICE

East Asian corporations, such as Panasonic and Toyota, have long understood that the personal benefits of mindfulness can support business objectives. Indeed, mindfulness is the “zen” in kaizen,the lean-management concept of continuous improvement. Zen, one form of mindfulness, emphasizes deep insight through observation over know-how. It is about discarding preconceptions and developing fresh ideas to achieve continuous self-improvement.

For example, open mindedness through Zen underlies Toyota’s employee suggestion system and quality circles. The quality circles empower employees to adopt a “beginner’s mind” when observing work-related problems and to independently develop innovative measures to drive improvement. Unlike self-perceived expertise, which encourages closed-mindedness, a beginner’s mind is open and curious, with no preconceptions. The more quickly change occurs, the more employees need to adopt a beginner’s mind for problem solving.

A leading pioneer of corporate mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who facilitated its democratization by designing a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. The course provides a simple and structured introduction to scientifically proven meditation practices. Similarly, Chade-Meng Tan has developed Search Inside Yourself, a course that combines meditation practices with emotional intelligence training—an approach he pioneered at Google.

More recently, companies in the West have turned to mindfulness to promote employee well-being and productivity. The movement began among startups in Silicon Valley and has been implemented by long-established companies across the US and Europe as well as by government bodies. These include Aetna, Beiersdorf, Bosch, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Intel, Royal Dutch Shell, SAP, Target, the UK’s Parliament, and the US House of Representatives.

Many of these organizations embrace agility and aspire to cultivate a new form of leadership. Among the top executives who meditate and encourage their employees to follow their example, for instance, are Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin. In fact, attending a meditation class is a popular way to begin the workday at many Silicon Valley companies, including Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Over the course of many years, Bosch, a multinational engineering company that focuses on automotive components and consumer goods, has increased its agility through a variety of initiatives. These include creating flexible organizational structures, introducing agile development methods, and experimenting with new business models and technologies. In order to promote the success of these initiatives, the company realized that it needed to fundamentally change its approach to leadership. According to Petra Martin, who is responsible for leadership development at Bosch Automotive Electronics, “Mindfulness is an essential lever to shift from a culture of control to a culture of trust. Communication has fundamentally changed since we introduced our mindfulness training to more than 1,000 leaders in the organization.”

At software company SAP, mindfulness has become a key ingredient of corporate life for employees and executives alike. More than 6,000 employees have taken two-day mindfulness courses that focus on meditations complemented by the practice of self-mastery and compassion. In addition, internal mindfulness trainers offer guided meditations during working hours and a multiweek mindfulness challenge, including meditation “micropractices,” such as tuning out of a busy workday for a few minutes to focus on one’s breathing. “For many managers, it has become the new normal to open meetings with short meditations,” says Peter Bostelmann, the director of SAP’s global mindfulness practice. Participants in the mindfulness program report increased well-being and higher creativity. What’s more, mindfulness has promoted significant measurable improvements in employee engagement and leadership trust indices. Bostelmann has seen a significant shift in how corporate mindfulness programs are perceived. A few years ago, some leaders ridiculed the concept of mindfulness at work. Recently, however, executives of other companies—including Deutsche Telekom and Siemens—have sought Bostelmann’s advice about how to adopt mindfulness concepts at their companies.

Aetna, a US health insurer, has trained 13,000 employees on mindfulness practices, resulting in a reported reduction in stress levels of 28%. Annual productivity improvements, a secondary effect, are estimated at $3,000 per employee. Aetna launched the mindfulness initiatives gradually, starting with brief meditations in executive-team meetings and then continuing with yoga and meditation classes for all employees. “We have demonstrated that mindfulness-based programs can reduce stress and improve people’s health,” says Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s chairman and CEO.

HOW COMPANIES CAN INSTILL MINDFULNESS

To fully capture the benefits of mindfulness, companies should customize their mindfulness programs. While it is valuable to begin by determining the objective of mindfulness interventions, many organizations have also achieved good results by starting with a small pilot program, such as providing a mindfulness course to senior leadership.

For some companies, mindfulness will become a paradigm for organization design and employee well-being. In terms of adopting mindfulness generally, organizations can start by experimenting with four types of interventions: leadership training, meditation training, mindfulness micropractices, and mindfulness coaching.

Leadership Training. As management guru Peter F. Drucker observed, leaders need trained perception fully as much as analysis. Well-designed leadership courses address this need by combining actionable mindfulness and emotional intelligence practices.

Even customized mindfulness leadership courses share common elements. Leaders should learn how to integrate formal and informal mindfulness practices into everyday life. Formal practices are often guided meditations, while informal practices include mindful listening exercises and simply paying attention to the task at hand.

By instilling self-awareness, self-regulation, and compassion, mindfulness courses address the psychological root causes of multiple leadership challenges. And because these courses also encourage the natural development of skills for managing time, change, and conflict, training programs dedicated to establishing these skills might become obsolete.

At Bosch, a one-year agile leadership-training curriculum involves three modules: leading oneself, leading teams, and leading the organization. The self-leadership training focuses on mindfulness and involves regular guided meditations, conscious-communication exercises, and courses to help leaders avoid the pitfalls of multitasking.

At a multinational engineering company, some leaders openly expressed skepticism about the value of mindfulness. The company converted these skeptics into believers by explaining the concept in layman’s terms, sharing scientific research about its effectiveness, and inspiring senior leaders to become change agents. Today, mindfulness is the new normal for the company, and leaders pause for meditation in the designated silent room before making major decisions or having difficult discussions.

Meditation Training. In addition to training executives, organizations should evaluate whether to offer training opportunities to all employees. Many individuals are willing to try out meditation but struggle to understand where to start. A half-day to full-day course can introduce basic practices, such as breathing or body scan meditations, so that employees can subsequently continue on their own.

To reinforce their training courses, some organizations—including Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter—offer guided meditations during working hours. Google has also established silent lunches and silent rooms, where employees can go to readjust their mindsets in the midst of an intense working day.

Mindfulness Micropractices. Repetitive practice of basic skills is essential to promote mastery: think of pianists playing scales throughout their careers or baseball players taking batting practice before every game. Similarly, employees who complete a meditation program need to continue practicing, through micropractices, to truly master mindfulness. Seasoned meditators report transformative mindfulness benefits once they have mastered the seamless integration of mindfulness practices into everyday life.

Organizations should invest in creating a culture in which meditation micropractices are not just tolerated but are actively disseminated by mindfulness change agents. Small workshops can also help to integrate mindfulness in a nonintrusive way. These workshops can teach approaches such as Elisha Goldstein’s STOP practice, in which participants learn to stop, take a breath, observe (thoughts, feelings, and emotions), and proceed. Beyond promoting mastery for mindfulness practitioners, micropractices can serve as an easy starting point for skeptics, who often experience surprising benefits after a few sessions.

Mindfulness Coaching. The principles of mindfulness can also help teams collaborate more effectively. For example, if team members master the ability to listen to one another with undivided attention and without interruption, they promote freer and more creative thinking. And a team culture that values appreciation over criticism helps to build transparency and openness. In her 2015 book, More Time to Think: The Power of Independent Thinking, Nancy Kline proposes that people offer appreciative comments five times as often as they do critical remarks.

Facilitation by a coach is essential to capture the benefits of mindfulness in teamwork. Agile teams typically already have scrum masters or agile coaches, and these individuals can become mindfulness coaches as well. Similarly, executive teams could benefit from mindfulness coaches to enable authentic communication and effective teamwork.

UNLEASHING THE POWER

Companies that undergo a transformation through mindfulness are seeing positive returns both on an individual level and on an organizational level. As leaders and employees develop the open-mindedness and clarity required to navigate through unpredictable environments, the organization becomes well positioned to unlock the full potential of agility. For companies that have not yet successfully embraced mindfulness, the imperative is clear: follow a well-designed, holistic approach to implement this centuries-old solution to digital-age challenges.

Original article from BCG’s Christian Greiser and Jan-Philipp Martini is  here

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

2019-08-12T10:18:31+00:00August 12th, 2019|Authentic Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Mindfulness|

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

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

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

Emotional Intelligence Is No Soft Skill

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

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

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