top performers

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

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Emotionally Intelligent LeadershipI first posted this in 2010 after coming across a great article on Emotional Intelligence by Dan Bobinski in Management Issues.

He maintained that 2/3 of the difference between average and top performers is due to EI and that in senior positions it accounts for 80% of the difference. Which seems a good reason for managers and leaders to work at developing or enhancing their EI levels.

And so he set out a 10 step plan to help them do just that, starting with the idea that we should stop thinking about good and bad personality and think of people as just being different. And that different isn’t the same as difficult, it’s just that people haven’t learnt how to deal with differences. 

Since Goleman popularised the term emotional intelligence 20 years ago it has become massive (When I googled the term in 2010 I  got almost 3 million hits. Today I got over 7 million). Interestingly when he first described EI it had 5 elements but once he became involved with HAY/McBer it evolved into the classic 4-box model much beloved by consultants. The 4 boxes can be generically described as Self Awareness; Self Control; Awareness of Others; and Managing Relationships.

Self-awareness is generally agreed to be the starting point in developing EI and also in developing leadership skills. In a report published by the Work Foundation in 2010, Penny Tankin said: “Outstanding leaders focus on people. Instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first“. And the Institute for Leadership & Management (ILM), which obviously has an interest in developing leaders, agrees with the report that developing leaders is possible but difficult.

The ILM’s then Chief Executive Penny de Valk said: ” A lot of it is about becoming more self-aware. You need to be much more conscious of the clues you use both verbally and in gestures. … a lot of coaching now teaches this kind of thing“. Tankin agrees and adds that psychometric profiling will give an insight into what people are like and any areas for improvement and that; “a lot of these things can be learned from feedback from others“.

As a coaching psychologist this is music to my ears as I regularly use psychometric tools such a the MBTI and Firo to help clients become more self-aware – followed up by 180 and/or 360 feedback.

At the time I was originally posted this, Gordon Brown was apparently demonstrating his lack of self-awareness, and empathy if it comes to that. You may remember that he called someone who disagreed with him a bigot (see Bobinski’s proposition that different can be seen as difficult to deal with), and then blamed everyone but himself for the outcome of his petulant outburst. PS GB later accepted the blame for what happened, presumably after discussing the matter with his PR advisors.

Surprising many people, Gordon Brown showed a more human side with his resignation speech even admitting that he had frailties. There is some aspect of his personality which stops that being part of his public persona – perhaps his need to be in control (which then allegedly unravels under stress). Good leaders know that occasionally it pays to selectively admit to weaknesses.

Originally posted in 2010 on SGANDA (this has been edited)

And now Gender Intelligence

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Following on from IQ (intelligence), EQ (emotional intelligence), CQ (cultural intelligence), and RQ (resilience quotient).

GQ is based on John Gray’s best-selling books comparing men and women to Mars and Venus.

Recent research suggests that men and women aren’t actually that much different after all  (although men tend to have bigger brains than women).

But the test/quiz purports to tell you how much you know about gender differences so that you can be more effective when working with men and women, especially when selling to them.

Of course it’s a pitch for their sales training but it makes you think so it’s worth having a go by clicking here.

Developing Resilience

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Research among elite performers found that they had a number of characteristics in common. As well as being intelligent, disciplined and bold, with strong practical and interpersonal skills, they bounced back from adversity.

Jim Collins describes in his new book “How the mighty fall” people who are exasperatingly persistent and never give up. They are not necessarily the brightest, most talented, or best looking, but they are successful because they know that not giving up is the most important thing they do. He says; “success is falling down and getting up one more time, without end”.

Early research on resilience focussed on survival in extreme situations (and we still see examples in the recent events in Japan). However resilience is now seen as a more regular phenomenon and the evidence is mounting that most people recover from traumatic events and regain their emotional equilibrium fairly quickly.

In doing so they may use seemingly dysfunctional coping strategies, for example boosting their egos almost to the point of narcissistic behaviour. Or they may choose to repress negative thoughts or emotions – what some psychologists might see as denial. George A Bonanno calls this “coping ugly”.

In his research after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the SARS epidemic, he found that up to 2/3 of survivors experienced few if any symptoms and after 6 months there were only about 10% who needed help.

Until recently disaster sites would be inundated with counsellors offering critical incident stress debriefing, something now considered unnecessary and possible harmful. And after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami the World Health Organisation actually warned against using this technique. It only takes one person in a group to react badly to re-living the trauma for the whole group to be affected.

Linked theoretically with positive psychology and CBT resilience is partly about filtering negative messages, to enable you to take a more realistic perspective, and partly about being single-minded about what you can and cannot control.

It is also linked to personal attributes such as calmness in stressful situations, reflection on performance through feedback, and learning systematically from both success and failure. Resilient people generally:

  • Recognise what they can control and influence and do something about it, rather than worry about what they can’t
  • Stay involved rather than becoming cynical or detached or simply walking away
  • Work with others to shape the environment and influence things that affect them most
  • Act as a source of inspiration to others to counter self-destructive behaviour

So it’s not just about “bouncing back” and carrying on where you left off before. It’s about reflecting and learning from what has happened and then getting back to business.

So can you learn to be more resilient? Clarke & Nicholson, authors of “Bounce back from whatever life throws at you”, think so and set out a 10-point plan.

  1. Visualise success
  2. Boost your self-esteem
  3. Enhance your efficacy – take control
  4. Become more optimistic
  5. Manage your stress
  6. Improve your decision-making
  7. Ask for help
  8. Deal with conflict
  9. Learn
  10. Be yourself

And the US Army certainly thinks so as well. Martin Seligman, father of positive psychology, is currently delivering a multi-million dollar contract to teach over 1 million soldiers how to be more resilient and using a “train the trainer” approach to train NCOs how to cascade the programme.

Based partly on the Penn University resilience programme the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Programme incorporates large chunks of positive psychology eg looking at character strengths, emotional intelligence elements such as empathy, self-awareness and impulse control, and CBT techniques such as Ellis’s ABC model.

Because it also incorporates elements about family and spirituality it may appear to have more in common with life-coaching than executive coaching but it is designed to reinforce the warrior ethic and to make better leaders.

Research shows that resilient people can have a positive effect on the well-being of organisations and their employees so it’s well worth organisations developing such capabilities.

If you want a free report on character strengths go to: http://www.viacharacter.org/

Get smart – get some sleep!

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According to Arianna Huffington, author and syndicated columnist, there is only one thing you need to do to be more creative at work and enjoy better health – get more sleep.

In her short presentation to a TEDwomen  audience in December 2010 she pithily and wittily sets out her arguments and makes sense.

She said she recognised that she was talking to an audience of Type A females but the kind of work addiction, or extreme working, she refers to is common to both men and women with a subsequent lack of sleep.

She urges them to forgo “sleep deprivation one-upmanship” , work smarter not harder, and not brag so much about how many hours they are putting in. She jokes that women really could “sleep their way to the top“.

Sleep deprivation seems almost universal in the Western economies. Adults are short of sleep and increasingly so are children. So let’s follow her advice for 2011 and not succumb to those early breakfast meetings.

Personally I hate breakfast meetings because I know I am not at my best early in the morning (See “Are you a lark or an owl“). I once worked for a CEO who wanted to bring the weekly management team meeting forward from 0900 to 0730. Most of us lived at leat an hour’s drive away but everyone was nodding in agreement, probably not wanting to be seen as wimps, until a consultant put her foot down and said she couldn’t as she had her horses to feed.

Let’s all find horses to feed!

Brains and a ‘winning’ personality? Now that would be dangerous!

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Brains and a 'winning' personality? Now that would be dangerous! If you were only allowed to look for one thing in a prospective manager, what would it be? Business psychology tells us that it should be ‘brains’, or rather general intelligence, or if you want to be precise, the ‘fluid’ bit of general intelligence. That’s the sort of intelligence that helps you to solve problems you haven’t come across before. Why? Of all the things we could assess, general intelligence – or having sufficient brain power – is t … Read More

via Dr Mark’s Business Psychology Blog

Charisma can be measured – and taught

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Researchers at MIT claim they can now measure charisma with 87% accuracy.

I’ve posted on charisma before; “Leadership, charisma and NVC” and earlier asking the question; “Have you got charisma?“.

But this research on social signals moves it a step forward.

Researchers Pentland and Olguin fitted executives at a party with recording devices that captured social signals eg tone of voice, gesticulation, and proximity to other people. 5 days later the same executives presented business plans to a panel of judges in a contest.

Without reading the plans or hearing the pitches Pentland accurately forecast the winners based on the data collected at the party.

The researchers have used this kind of data before in accurately predicting the outcome of salary negotiations and who would survive in the well-known NASA “plane crash role-playing” game.

They use the biological term, “honest signals“, to describe the non-verbal cues that social species use to coordinate themselves – gestures, expressions, tone etc. (language is perhaps 50,000 years old but long before that species communicated and worked together to survive using non-verbal signals).  The honest signals are the ones that cause changes in the receiver of the signal. So if you are happy it rubs off on other people.

They have confirmed that more successful people are more energetic, talk more, and listen more. They spend more face-to-face time with others (this is really important – perhaps 2.5 times as important to success as having additional data), pick up cues, and draw people out, Similar in many ways to the emotional intelligence models.

So it’s not just what they project but what they elicit which makes them charismatic.

They also believe that by using this knowledge they could decrease stress, increase job satisfaction and improve productivity (they believe that they could improve productivity by 10% just by re-arranging the work environment so that people can interact more).

Source: HBR January/February 2010

Updated 9 November 2011: Charismatic behaviours can also be taught. Research has shown that charismatic behaviours include use of body language (NVC), moral conviction and using metaphor.

Now a team at the University of Lausanne has taken 34 managers and given them a 360 feedback survey on their charisma and leader-like qualities.

Make better use of your brain

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High achievement has little to do with your IQ but to a partnership between your brain and behaviour.

So say Drs Brown and Fenske, regular contributors to the Harvard Business Review, in their book “The Winner’s Brain”.

They also believe that the brain retains the capacity to change throughout adulthood (also see “Old doesn’t mean stupid“).

They say if you put in the work you can enhance brain function which in turn will help you become more self-aware, more resilient and with better control over attention and emotional responses (some of the key aspects of emotional intelligence).

Using neuro-imaging techniques researchers can now see which parts of the brain are active when people are engaged in specific tasks and also what impact certain activities have on those areas. They believe that those functions can be enhanced –  literally fine-tuning the brain.

They suggest a number of strategies to help us perform better.

  1. Meditation for stress relief can affect visible changes in areas of the brain which in turn have an impact on our ability to control attention and our emotional response
  2. The bigger the task the more likely you are to procrastinate. Therefore you nedd to reframe the problem and break it into small, concrete steps (bite size chunks as trainers might say). It is the ability to change the way you look at a task or problem that is important and the more you do it the more success you have.
  3. Brain functions that provide focus break down when you are multi-tasking or have distractions. To work optimally you can’t multi-task because the brain has limitations when doing multiple things (see “Multi-tasking makes you stupider than smoking pot“). So eliminate distractions but not all of them. To be at your best you may need to reduce activity in parts of the brain involved in self-monitoring and self-criticism. So us a gentle distraction like background music or ambient sounds just enough to keep your critical self-conscious occupied so you can focus and work more easily. But avoid abrupt distractions like phone calls or e-mail alerts.

Source: HBR September 2010

Updated 5 November 2010: Neuroscientists at the University of Oxford have discovered that passing electricity through the brain, from the right parietal lobe to the left, improves mathematical ability. If you pass the current in the opposite direction however it reduces your ability.

The research was looking for ways of treating dyscalculia, the numerical equivalent of dyslexia, which is thought to affect 6% of the population. Such a treatment might also be useful for people who have suffered a stroke or brain injury.

Of course there would be nothing to stop people with normal ability in maths using such a treatment to improve their ability eg when taking exams. This could replace the smart drugs such as Ritalin and Provigil used by some people as cognitive enhancers by improving attention and alertness. (See my earlier post; “Keeping up with speed“).

Taking work to extremes

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It’s the hours not the pay that separate men and women at work.

Despite the fuss about women only achieving parity with men in 50 years based on a survey from the Chartered Management Institute.

According to the survey women’s salaries increased by 2.8% last year compared to 2.3% for men. So it was claimed that if women’s pay continued to improve at that rate women would have parity with men by 2067 – almost 100 years after the Equal Pay Act.

The average salary for male managers was £41,337, about £10,000 more than women managers earned (but these surveys don’t seem to take into account the sectors where women work which may pay less than the sectors dominated by male managers).

This was also reflected at the bottom of the career hierarchy with junior male executives earning £22,253, just over £1,000 more than their female counterparts. There were bigger gaps in IT and pharmaceuticals at this level, over £3,500.

In the boardroom however it’s a different story. Female directors out-earn men with an average salary of £144,729 compared with £138, 765 for men.

Camilla Cavendish’s article in the Times (20 August 2010) is the most sensible I’ve read on this subject for ages. She rightly pointed out that women only earned less in broadly defined categories like “function head” and this could be because men are better qualified than women (as the female graduates have yet to work their way through the ranks) and more experienced (as experienced women have taken more time out).

But her main point is that it’s not about pay but about the hours.

She says women have made huge strides in terms of flexible working and work-life balance but aren’t necessarily prepared for “extreme working“. Extreme jobs are those where you are permanently plugged into your job; “10 hours a day at work, plus breakfast or dinners, plus being available to clients and bosses at weekends and holidays”. There is no switch off and these jobs are characterised by unpredictability.

Once confined to bankers, CEOs and politicians, these jobs are spreading across all sectors. She cites an American study from 2006 which found that 21% of high echelon workers had extreme jobs rising to 45% in multi-national companies. Half were clocking in over 70 hours a week, a quarter more than 80 hours, and 10% over 100 hours! And 4 out of 5 of these workers were men.

Working across time-zones means that there is always someone who needs you if you work in IT, HR, Law, or other advisory service. Having worked with virtual teams I know how disruptive video-conferencing across time zones can be to productive team working. And that’s before we mention smart phones and the internet.

Some people get a buzz from being “always on” and asking them to switch off their phones in meetings or seminars often produces a negative response. As we know from the recent BA dispute text messaging in the middle of negotiations is hardly showing respect to your colleagues across the table.

Cavendish also quotes a study from McKinsey from 1995 which demonstrated that once people worked over 65-70 hours a week there was a significant risk to health and marital status. Similarly research commissioned by the Department of Health showed that men working over 50 hours a week were at a greater risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

That report was buried by the then government as another department was fighting the EU about the Working Time Directive arguing that the opt-out should be extended. But none of this is new. Industrial psychologists studied workers in munitions factories in WWI and found that working long hours led to more accidents and (sometimes fatal) mistakes.

And last year a survey by the Hidden Brain Drain found that nearly half of all extreme workers were too knackered to even speak to their wives or partners in the evenings. I was once asked to coach a Big 5 partner who wanted a career change because his wife was threatening to divorce him. He asked me to meet him at the airport as he was about to fly off again to Singapore. And although it is typically men who are working extreme hours I have also met female lawyers who work long hours – even pulling “all-nighters” to demonstrate to senior partners how committed they are.

So whilst some women do the time they are also more conscious of the impact on their personal lives, or lack of, whereas men seem more reliant on their job status to feel valued. For the majority of us long hours and stress eventually leads to ill-health as I have posted about previously: stress affecting senior women.

Emotional Intelligence, self-control, and those marshmallows

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If self-awareness is the first building block in emotional intelligence, self-control and awareness of others’ feelings, or empathy, come next.

And one of the most popular stories now reflecting a cornerstone of emotional intelligence is the experiment carried out by Walter Mischel at Standford University in the 1960s using marshmallows to measure self-control.

David Schenk, a writer on genetics, claims that the case for genetic predisposition is overstated and that if you practise hard enough you can even become a genius. In the same article he cites the marshmallow experiment as an example of how children can learn to develop self-discipline.

Another similar story that caught my eye appeared in the international edition of USA Today (one of the few “English” newspapers you can get on Eastern European airlines). The headline said “The secret of school success. Want your kids to master books? First they need to master themselves. Fortunately new research is finding that self-control can be taught.”

The story was about programmes teaching self-regulation in American schools and at the heart of it was a description of the famous marshmallow experiment run by Walter Mischel in the 1960s. The story also criticises some modern parenting methods as undermining the development of self-regulation.

Then in November 2009 both the Observer and the Sunday Times picked up on the findings of a Demos think-tank report. The Sunday Times headline was “Bad parents kill prospects of working class”. It reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000.

The report identified three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot. These were: the ability to concentrate and stick with tasks, self-regulation – whether someone can control emotions and bounce back from disappointment, and empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people.

The report went on to say that the best form of parenting to inculcate these characteristics was “tough love” ie setting clear rules and boundaries, instilled by discussion and affection. And the marshmallow experiment was cited as a predictor of success in life. The report also described disengaged and emotionally callous children and also suggested expanding the role of Health Visitors to provide supportive parenting.

The Observer took a similar tack with “Tough love breeds smart children”. This article contained a number of statistics and found that among the 9,000 families it tracked for the survey only 13% used a tough love approach combining discipline and warmth.

Although the research found that it was the style of parenting, rather than income or social background that developed the 3 character traits referred to above, this approach was more common in wealthy families and where parents were married. The parents’ level of education was also an important factor as was breastfeeding until 6 months.

The report also claimed that these soft skills, or character capabilities, had become increasingly important in life and were now 33 times more important in determining income for those who turned 30 in 2000 than for those 12 years older.

And in advance of a report from the think tank Demos the Times published a piece about the importance of self-control and empathy in children and included a description of Mischel’s now famous marshmallow test.

Mischel has been monitoring the lives of dozens of his subjects since he started the marshmallow experiments at a nursery on the campus of Stanford University, California, in the 1960s. His findings have proved so compelling that 40 of his original subjects, now in their forties, are preparing to undergo scans in the hope of answering a perplexing human question: why are some of us better than others at resisting temptation?

“Brain imaging provides a very exciting and important new tool,” said Mischel, who now works at Columbia University in New York. According to the article in the Times he believes  that by examining the differences between the brains of subjects who turned out to be good at controlling their impulses and those who wolfed down the marshmallow the moment it was offered, researchers hope to come up with new ways of teaching the benefits of delayed gratification.