One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence

And What To Do About It

I became interested in emotional intelligence for several reasons:

  1. I have been an executive for over 26 years. In that time, I noticed reoccurring behavior patterns in myself and in those I worked with, that were getting in our way.
  2. I have been married for 31 years and I have become aware that my need to be in control was not as empowering as needed for my wife and five children. My personality traits cause me to become defensive because of certain triggers and circumstances. I started learning how I could become a better husband father and leader.
  3. I started working for a leadership development company and I became fascinated with emotional intelligence. My findings has helped me train over 12,000 business professionals and since then coach scores of executives to be more effective in their roles.

I have learned that everyone has some sort of conditioned behavioral patterns they are dealing with.

Some behavioral challenges are like mine, most are different. Some people have a need for significance or to be liked. I am working with a group that puts on a major youth event every year, to teach young people valuable life lessons, and give them opportunities to lead and serve. Jonas, one of the adult leaders, had an unconscious desire to be liked. Because of that, he planned activities that would be fun and make him popular with the kids. This caused the event to go significantly over budget. To Jonas, the need to be liked overrides the need to stay in the budget and give the kids service opportunities, which will develop their leadership skills. Other leaders are frustrated with this behavior. However, most are conflict avoidant, another behavioral pattern. They do not want to hurt Jonas’ feelings, so they don’t say anything to Jonas’ face. This behavior pattern, to avoid conflict with Jonas, led them to complain to others behind his back.

There are multiple behaviors that could be getting in your way. Perhaps you have a hard time saying no. For example you meet with a friend who you know is going to ask you to join a volunteer board or do something you do not have the time or bandwidth to do. You plan to say no and instead you leave the meeting having said yes again. You promise yourself you are going to be nice, loving and supportive to people you love. Instead, you snap and belittle someone you care for in a moment of weakness. You promise you are going to hold your peace and listen to others, but you end up over sharing and “one upping” with your stories. These behaviors keep reoccurring though we desperately want them to stop.

What will it take for you to solve the problems you currently face? To get the results you want and those expected of you? There will always be challenges or changes in your life. The one consistent element is you. There are many things in your environment you can’t control. You can control your response to what happens. To effectively control your response, develop your emotional intelligence! There is a high probability that in the next six weeks you will get frustrated. There is a huge value for you to be able control your frustration. There are tools available to you that will really help you improve your emotional intelligence and help you become the leader you want to be and your team wants to follow. Become the friend, spouse, or the parent your family loves to be with.

Why Emotional Intelligence Is So Hard

With all the benefits of emotional intelligence and the overwhelming evidence of the other benefits, research suggests that only on third of the population is aware of their emotions as they happen. There is simple reason the number of emotionally intelligent people is so small.

We are not conditioned to be emotionally intelligent. We do not judge ourselves by how emotionally aware we are. Instead, we typically judge ourselves by how right we are or how intelligent we are. This behavior is not necessarily our fault. It is the result of consistent programming from our childhood until now. Early in our educational experience, we started getting homework. With the homework, we met the red pen. When we did your homework and made a mistake, we usually received notes in red pen in the margin usually pointing out our mistakes. This process was repeated over and over through our education process. You were constantly judged on how right you were. And when you were right a lot, you got to go to the next grade, you were rewarded for being right, and then you get to go to college and the process of being right was reinforced here. The world is full of people trained and conditioned to be right.

We may get hired or promoted because of knowledge or technical skill we obtained through our education. Most of us know someone who was promoted and failed. Because they were great at the task or job, they were promoted. In a leadership role, emotional intelligence skills are needed because as a leader, we get things done through others efforts. We no longer do the job, but manage others who do the job.

Most of us have received very little feedback on our emotional intelligence through our formative years. Most of us have the EI competencies of a 4th grader. We’re all emotionally 4th graders with longer legs. Most of our behavioral patterns are developed by then and we carry those habits into adulthood. Most of us judge ourselves on how right we are. The best leaders understand this and have begun to develop their EI competencies.. The Harvard Business Review Article written by Daniel Goleman makes it clear that the “smarter” you are, the more likely you are to be less effective in a leadership role. Read When Being Too Smart Hurts You. Think about how most people judge themselves. “Am I right? Was I right?” Is it possible to be 100% right and not handle the situation well? Yes. It is not enough to manage based on how right you are. The ability to be right doesn’t matter. The ability to have a positive impact does. For more information on impact, see our article, Is the Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team.

What You Can Do To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence?

  1. Learn about emotional intelligence:

    Study the subject and learn how important it is. I recommend a couple of good books: Working With Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, and Emotional Intelligence 2.0, By Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This book comes with an online assessment to help you understand where to focus your EI self development strategy. Which brings us to the next suggestion.

  2. Self-Assess:

    A 360 Assessment is a great tool to understand the impact you are having on your direct reports, peers, managers and more. It takes a willingness to get better to seek the feedback of others. Another great tool is the ProScan Personal Development Profile. This survey will help you identify your behavioral patterns that help and hurt you. It will help you understand how you are being depleted of energy based on your environment which may be making it harder to control impulse urges when you are triggered by an event, person, or situation.

  3. Work with a mentor or coach:

    Enlist someone at home or work to help you identify the behaviors you exhibit which are not helpful to your success and the success of your team. An effective coach can also interview key people in your life to help find patterns of behavior that would be helpful to address.

  4. Identify your emotional triggers:

    Read What Sets You Off? When you identify events, situations, or people that trigger your patterned responses, you can prepare yourself. Greater awareness of how your environment triggers you is a hallmark of increased emotional intelligence.

  5. Develop your team:

    Empower the people around you to become more aware. This will raise the bar for the entire team and create positive reinforcement for all to begin to improve behaviors.

  6. Observe others:

    Pay attention to other people and notice how they behave in certain situations. Identify behavior your want to emulate and behaviors you want to avoid. For more information read Sharpen Emotional Intelligence by Observing Others.

  7. Be curious:

    Be curious about your behaviors. Ask why you behave a certain way in certain situations. Do your best to be an observer of your own behavior. This is a coaching technique that can be very helpful. Read, Change Your Altitude. There is a saying, “That which we observe, we are no more.”

When you improve your emotional intelligence, you will experience immediate benefits to your ability to change your approach and be more dynamic as a leader. You will be more productive and better able to achieve the results you desire.

The Author, Spencer Horn, is the president of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

When Being Too Smart Hurts You

Is being too smart getting in your way of being more effective as a leader?

In his article “Leadership that Gets Results” (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2000), Daniel Goleman reported on studies, which rated emotional intelligence as a predictor of success in business as more significant than intelligence and technical skill. He states, “New research suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles—each in the right measure, at just the right time. Such flexibility is tough to put into action, but it pays off in performance. And better yet, it can be learned.”

Do you know someone who was a good employee who was promoted to a supervisor or manager and failed at that position? Think about why they were not successful. Typically it is because they lack the skills required to manage people which are different from the skills required to manage a task. How well do you balance your tasks and the people you manage or report to? Balancing tasks and relationships requires emotional intelligence. Our knowledge and technical skill can only take us so far. It is usually what gets us hired. However, it is our emotional intelligence that gets us promoted or fired.

Most of us understand that emotional intelligence is important. We have heard of it, yet just knowing about emotional intelligence does not make us emotionally intelligent. Talent Smart surveyed 500,000 people around the world about their emotional intelligence in business. Only 36% were able to identify their emotions as they happened. This means, most of us are controlled by emotions and are unaware of how to handle them effectively. Perhaps you have worked with some of them, perhaps you are one of them.

Why do so many have low emotional intelligence? I believe it is because we are conditioned to be right. We judge ourselves by how right we are or how smart we are. We are rewarded for being smart, for having the correct answer. Relying only on intelligence and wanting to be right might work if we all worked alone and never with a team.  As a leader, how do you get things done? You get things done through other people’s efforts. You must be aware of how to accomplish goals by creating engagement and teamwork.

There is nothing wrong with intelligence unless it is getting in your way from being an effective leader. The research suggests, the smarter you are, the less effective you may be in a leadership role when you are unaware of the impact of your emotions. It does not matter how smart we are when our emotions take over. Author Malcom Gladwell argues dedication and practice opposed to raw intelligence are the most crucial determinants of success. If you want to improve as a leader, please read, “Cure For The CEO Disease”  Remember, unlike IQ, EQ can be learned.

Improvement takes constant effort. Success to you!

Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”,“The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If Today”

How to Defeat the ‘Fog of War’ in Business

5 Steps To Overcome The Challenges And Setbacks We Experience in Business

There is a phenomenon in battle called the “fog of war’. What it means is when individuals who are fighting in a war perceive they are losing. They may act according to the perception and retreat when in fact the unit or army they are part of is winning the war. The fog of war creates a challenge for generals and their armies. If individuals and individual units feel they are losing from their perspective, they may give up which prolongs the victory. The same phenomenon can happen in business.

In our daily fight to be successful in our roles, we will have defeats. Perhaps we have a disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Perhaps we lose out on a sale we were expecting to win. Perhaps a client has a poor experience with our service or product, etc. Sometimes these events can cause us to think and feel our isolated experience is a sign of enterprise wide problems. This can cause discouragement and discontent with some members of our team and can spread to others.

I have fought feelings of discouragement many times. I have experienced personal losses in a business sense and was tempted to think, we must be ‘losing the war’ as a company and maybe I should give up or move on. I also know from experience, we get what we focus on. We will find evidence of our predominant thoughts. When I focused on challenges and failings, I would feel discouraged and questioned whether we could achieve our goals. Conversely, as I began to focus my thoughts and energy around the successful outcomes I desired, my results inevitably changed and my perception of where we were as a company changed. That perception increased my confidence and satisfaction with my company.

The ‘fog of war’ in my experience seemed to happen when our business was in what Bruce Tuckman called the storming phase of team development.  Tuckman proposed his model of team development called forming, storming, norming and performing in 1965. Forming is where we set goals. This can happen at when a company is new or when changes occur. It can happen when we lose or add new people. Storming is where we feel comfortable enough with each other to express discontent and challenge each other. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Norming is where we start to give up our own personal crusades and agree with others to make the team function. This phase is not about avoiding conflict, it is about coming together. The final phase, performing, is where the team is achieving goals and things are running smoothly. A company can be in one of the four phases as whole and individual teams may be in different phases. Individuals on teams can be in different phases as well.

It is easy for employees who are in the storming phase to experience the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon. If a team or company stays in the storming phase for a prolonged period, they have a greater chance of not emerging leading to business failure. If you are a leader of a company or team in the storming phase, have hope. Most companies go through similar phases. The following suggestions can help shorten the storming phase and remind team members that even though they may experience setbacks from time to time, they will ultimately succeed.

  1. Challenges Are Temporary:

    Let your team members know that the challenges of this phase are temporary. Educate your team that all companies go through similar phases. Just naming this phase of team development will help give the team hope things will get better keeping the, positively engaged.

  2. Focus On Outcomes:

    Keep your team focused on positive outcomes desired. It is easy to get fixated on failures. Remember, we tend to manifest the results of our predominant thoughts. Keeping the team focused on positive outcomes will help dissipate negative energy.

  3. Be A Role Model:

    Make sure you as the leader and your team leaders model the attitude that the team will emerge victorious. Team members must be able to look to the leadership for how to act in times of challenge and difficulty. A negative team leader will multiply the ‘fog of war’ dynamics if not addressed by discipline or replacement.

  4. Demonstrate Confidence:

    Show your team you have faith in them. Team members can lose hope and exhibit behaviors that hurt the team. Let them know they are a valued member of the team. Help them understand the impact of their performance and behavior on the success of the team.

  5. Celebrate Success:

    Encourage the team by sharing any team successes no matter how small. Celebrating successes will lift morale and give hope the team and organization is moving in the right direction.

Cure For The CEO Disease

4 Steps To Overcome CEO Behaviors That Erode Culture

Do you know a CEO or top executive that is unaware of their impact or overestimates their abilities? Leaders who are out of touch with the truth about how they “show up” is all too common. This phenomenon is what Daniel Goleman calls the “CEO disease”. Goleman reports…”the higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be.” (Primal Leadership, Pg. 92, Daniel Goleman (2002)).  The problem is that as a leader climbs the organization, the less feedback he or she receives. According to James Conway and Allen Huffcutt, who analyzed 177 separate studies that assessed more than 28,000 managers, found these managers were not receiving consistent feedback on their performance. The lack of feedback problem is reported to be more acute for leaders who are women or belong to a minority. (See Peggy Stuart, “What Does the Glass Ceiling Cost You?” Personnel Journal 71, no. 11 (1992): 70-80).

The predominance of the CEO disease has a large negative impact on cultures of businesses all over the world. When leaders drive negative emotions within their organization, they erode the foundation of a culture that enables people to excel. Leaders who are aware of their impact and work to drive positive emotions will conversely strengthen the culture that enables people to excel.

Four steps to cure the CEO disease:

  1. Recognize That You Can Change:

    Many leaders have the mistaken opinion that they need to be accepted for who they are, because after years of habits and behavior they can’t change. The latest neuroscience has destroyed the myth that we can’t change. We maintain neuroplasticity until we die, meaning, we can make changes to how we think and behave. American author and futurist, Alvin Toffler, says “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

  2. Create A Safe Environment:

    Create an environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback. Some people fail to give feedback because they fear punishment or the leader’s wrath if they dissent. Some only give positive feedback because they do not want to be labeled negative or going against the party line. Some are afraid to give feedback because they don’t want to upset others or hurt their feelings. By creating this environment, CEO’s and managers will get a more accurate finger on the pulse of their organization. Understand that all feedback you receive is subjective. Each leader gets to determine what to do with the feedback they receive. Knowing what people really think is always better than ignorance.

  3. Increase Self-Awareness:

    Be willing to take a 100% honest look at yourself. Many executives work with coaches to improve their self-awareness. Consider participating in a 360 review. This can provide a valuable roadmap for behavior change. Work with great training and development organizations who will provide you with a safe environment to strengthen your leadership competencies. These environments should push you out of your comfort zone to learn and grow. When we are out of comfort zone, our most challenging leadership behaviors surface and a skilled facilitator will help accelerate awareness and behavior change.

  4. Persist:

    Recognize the process of becoming an effective leader is a lifelong pursuit. Even the most effective leaders recognize they can make improvements. For the best leaders, making minor adjustments and behavior improvements sets a powerful example for the team and will pay dividends on the emotional and cultural health of the organization which will translate to better financial results.

For more information on how to cure your CEO disease, call Spencer Horn Solutions today 702-807-4698