Thursday, July 11, 2019

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from top right: Lisa Payne Grable of Comphealth and me; The cabin on the lake;  Blue day, Me and Steve with Kevin Liebig and Michael Baier, Steve at the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of AHMA-PSWPink and tan day
June included some interesting sights, as we once again traveled coast-to-coast. For one speaking event, I felt that I went back in time to a resort that seemed locked in the 1950s. It was located in the middle of Vermont, about an hour south of Burlington and 2.5 hours Northeast of Albany. The guest rooms are little cabins spread out around a lake, requiring a drive to get to the main lobby and restaurants. It was very charming but the temp outside was in the low 60's and rainy so outdoor activities were out. The cabins had no TVs and no mobile phone service. They did have WIFI, but it was too slow to stream videos or download shows. At first, David and I had that panicked moment of "What will we do with no electronic entertainment?!?" It's a sad state of the modern mind. It turned out to be quite enjoyable, we made a fire and talked. We walked in the rain. We listened to the rhythmic sounds of the lake splashing under our deck. I actually took a nap (that never happens). I won’t lie, I was happy to get back to the digitally connected world, but it was a nice unexpected respite from the usual grind of business travel.

As you know, Steve and I travel a lot together and never do we discuss our planned wardrobe choices. On several occasions, we have color coordinated enough that we now refer to it as our Donny and Marie moments. This month, you can see that one day we coordinated not only with each other but also our clients. And then did it again the next day.

Thursday, June 27, 2019


I have been specializing in the subject of emotional intelligence for nearly 20 years now so we thought it would be fun to share some of the most frequently asked questions, we hear from people on the topic. Just as a quick point of reference, you can learn more about the subject of EQ in this short 3-minute video.

1. Do women have a higher EQ than men?
Surprising to many people, the answer is no. Women and men have the same amount of overall emotional intelligence. The EQ competency is made up of several skills and within the skills, men tend to have higher levels in some, but women have higher levels in others so they average out to roughly the same.

2. Can you really learn these skills or are you born with them?
This is the best news about emotional intelligence. It can be learned because it is a mix of genetics (nature) combined with experience (nurture). How much EQ you can learn is individual to you - some people can increase quite a lot and some only a little.

3. How do I deal with a boss who has no EQ and is clueless about it?
Sadly, this is probably the most common question I get asked. For tips on how to best deal with this situation, check out this article on "How to Use Your EQ with a Boss Who Has None."  Self-awareness is the foundation of EQ and we all struggle with knowing how we come across to others, especially with our direct reports. And, giving feedback to your boss can be tough but many of the executives we work with that have little EQ respond well to someone who occasionally challenges them in a professional and appropriate way.

4. Why does having EQ matter?
For many years, emotional intelligence skills have been labeled as "soft skills", "people skills" or "nice-to-haves." Only recently has research documented the real power EQ holds over getting business results. You can find some business case examples of how EQ leads to higher income, better performance for teams and higher engagement in employees. 

5. What is the best way to develop more EQ?
There are many ways to develop emotional intelligence, and the method that leads to the most permanent results is via coaching. Hiring an executive coach can help you identify your unique combination of strengths and weaknesses and ways to balance them to leverage the best of you to reach your professional and personal goals. There are also many self-paced resources available from books to webinars.

6. Can EQ be tested?
Yes. There are several validated instruments on the market. We provide the EQi 2.0 as a self-only online assessment tool best used for pre-employment testing, personal development or individual contributors. This comes with a 60-minute personal debrief session and costs $300 each. We also offer the ESCI from the Hay Group or the EQi 360° by MHS. These are multi-rater (360°) online assessments best used for leaders at all levels. They both come with a personal debrief session and cost $600 each.  To learn more about all of the assessments we offer or to view sample reports click here.

7. Is your EQ level set at a certain age like IQ, or does it change as you mature?
Unlike IQ which is set at about 18 years old, EQ continues to develop as you mature, with a peak at about age 60.

8. Can developing EQ help me at work and at home too?
Yes, we at our firm focus on the ways to use emotional intelligence to be better professionals but there are also some significant personal benefits to increasing your EQ. Most people report increased satisfaction with friendships, family and spouses. And people with high EQ are also happier.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Confrontation? No Problem! The Secret to Straight Talk

Loss of sleep, strained relationships, loss of productivity, injuries and sick leave, increased customer complaints - these are just a few symptoms of unresolved conflict in the workplace. Unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses, yet it remains largely ignored. 

Seems this would be motivation enough for leaders to identify and resolve workplace issues.  Yet managers and employees alike seem more willing to step out than to step up to the challenge of constructive confrontation. In this week’s blog, I will identify these reasons and provide helpful feedback to overcome this common workplace issue we all see more than we should. 

Confrontation? No Problem! 

The Secret to Straight Talk 

 Almost 50% of people have considered changing jobs in order to avoid confronting an issue, and 12% actually left the job to get away from the person or problem, according to a study conducted by the University at North Carolina.

It seems that in the scheme of everything we have to conquer on our formidable to-do lists, delivering some direct, honest feedback would be the least of our management worries.  Not so.  We have found that many leaders would rather procrastinate as long as possible before sitting down with a boss, peer, or employee to deliver just a few minutes of raw feedback - or Straight Talk, as we call it.

Straight Talk is the practice of initiating a dialogue to voice contrasting opinions, needs, ideas, hurts, disagreements, and observations, in a constructive and direct manner.  This is sharing instead of stewing, asking rather than assuming, and solving instead of blaming. 
Many people we coach suffer from a lack of self-awareness simply because they are out of touch with how their behavior impacts others and how they are perceived in turn.  No one has dared give them the very feedback they need to hear the most.  Even better, they actually want it too! 

A survey conducted by Lore International Institute of over 500 employees from all types of organizations and industries, found that 92% listed HONESTY as the number one thing they wanted most from a manager. 

Yet working with both novice and seasoned leaders alike, we have found that the number one reason managers tend to put off employee performance appraisals is because of a fear of confrontation.  What does this "fear of confrontation" really mean?  What are we afraid might happen if we get real with others?

The most common obstacles managers cite for why they avoid approaching a troubled employee include:

  • Fear of embarrassing the employee or hurting their feelings
  • Fear of upsetting the status quo
  • Fear of damaging a good relationship or demotivating a good employee
  • Preparation and confrontation require too much time and energy
  • Unable to predict the employee's reaction
  • Feels intimidated by employee
  • Hard to measure the performance problems
The truth is, strong leaders, learn how to balance support and candor, truthfulness with empathy.  Sadly, many leaders deceive themselves and others when they publicly proclaim a commitment to accountability, integrity, and standards of excellence, but instead cheat others out of vital growth opportunities by withholding or "packaging" the truth. 
When we sugarcoat or avoid performance or behavioral issues, we are choosing to place our temporary comfort level above the well-being of the other person's present and future professional life.  To confront is to care. Others may choose to use or lose our feedback, but we owe it to them to give it anyway.   

With giving feedback also comes receiving feedback. This concept is a two-way street and is crucial for managing your ego and being a role-model for your employees on how to successfully use performance feedback. It can be hard to hear honest feedback-especially when the feedback is not what we think or want to believe about ourselves. But the consequences of ignoring that feedback can be even more damaging. 

When receiving feedback from others, it is important to keep in mind the following:

(1) If there are negative consequences to them, they will avoid giving you information you need.

(2) If you get defensive and make it difficult for people to provide feedback, they will decide it's not worth it.

(3) If they give you frequent feedback, but you never make visible changes, they will give up on you.

Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally regardless of their contributions, you'll simply ensure that the only people you'll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

Spend some time identifying feedback conversations you have been putting off and use the following tips on how to give Straight Talk.


  • Admitting to yourself the conversation may not be comfortable but remembering it is in the person's best interest to have it anyway.
  • Remember it needs to be a 2-way conversation so resist the temptation to do all the talking and avoid doing the band-aid approach. Example: "I am just going to get everything off my chest quickly and get it over with."
  • Always assume the person's best intent. For example, the conversation could start with, “Amy I know you were just trying to get your point across in the staff meeting, but I don't think you got the result you were looking for. I noticed some things that shut people down to your point of view. Can I share with you what I observed about the group dynamics?"
  • The conversation should connect to what the other person cares about. Example: "If you change this behavior, you will become the stronger candidate for the promotion." 
  • It is important if you give the feedback you follow it up with providing recognition and support. By simply saying you noticed them trying to improve will be helpful to them and give the necessary motivation to continue using the feedback provided.
Ask yourself -what do either of you truly gain from your silence?  Would you want others withholding important feedback from you?  Are you prepared to receive Straight Talk in return? 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from top left: Presenting at an annual legal retreat in Florida, delivering a workshop in Boston, presenting for Delta Airlines in Los Angeles, Me and Liz Buday from Architect of the Capitol In Washington DC.

May took us coast to coast again, from Los Angeles to Washington DC with stops in San Jose CA, Salt Lake City, Boston, and Bonita Springs, Florida. In addition to some coaching sessions, I spoke to a mix of audiences: a global sales conference for a major airline, leaders from a large government agency, employees at investment firms, and an annual retreat of attorneys from a large law firm. Everyone was able to apply the principles of EQ to their unique roles and industries and can gain advantages via more influence and credibility by utilizing it. It’s a universally powerful science.
One of the highlights of my travels this month was seeing someone who worked for me a few years ago who left after a few months of employment. At the time, this person had good reasons for leaving and has gained some great experience since they left. Even though I was upset at the time about their departure, we remained in contact and have connected online periodically. We saw each other in person for the first time in about 3 years and it was so nice to discuss what happened, understand it from both of our perspectives and discuss future work possibilities. It was their suggestion to meet up and I was so impressed with their maturity and willingness to do so.  There is a huge lesson in that: no matter what happens, staying professional is always an option. Life is long. I know everyone says life is short, but it isn’t. Ghosting current or previous employers will come back to hurt you. Successful careers are the result of years of good decisions and understanding that relationships do matter. Be smart when you part ways with a company, your reputation will last longer than you know. 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Revenge of EQ

This article was published in Forbes and written by David Michels.  To view the original article click here.

The idea of “emotional quotient,” or EQ, is making a surprising comeback in the business world. Also called emotional intelligence, EQ is the ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them. Worthy enough, but why would this be rising in importance at a time when we are so focused on advances in artificial intelligence, the impact of increased automation, and the possibilities of machine learning? As machines increasingly take over jobs and complex decisions once the exclusive domain of people, it would not be so far-fetched to think that we are entering a “post-human” or at least “post-EQ” world.

Instead, and perhaps ironically, digitalization is fueling a renaissance in EQ. As digitalization, broadly defined, continues its revolutionary march through the business world, it brings profound implications for the human workforce. If we thought EQ was an “or,” it’s actually turned out to be an “and.” Rather than sideline EQ, digitalization has actually made it more important.
Let’s look first at the data (of course). The evidence shows that if you care about generating and sustaining results in your business, you should also care a whole lot about EQ. A recent study by my colleagues at Bain & Company found that companies that achieve or outperform their stated ambition are focused on the “people” side of the ledger, and significantly so. Culture, behavior change, management alignment, and dynamic capability building surface to the top as critical factors for success. This remains true even as we increasingly automate our businesses. A 2018 study from Singapore Management University found 87% of respondents agreed that culture created bigger barriers to digital transformation than technology, and 80% of C-Suite interviews highlighted the importance of purposefully focusing on “people aspects” during digital transformation journeys.
My recent experience with a large multinational bank is a good illustration of EQ’s revenge. Technology is dramatically changing the banking industry, especially on the retail side. Like most of its peers, this particular bank knew it would need far fewer retail branches as banking moved to phones and online. The CEO hired a chief digital officer, invested millions in a new online platform, and had grand plans to move a significant portion of its customer base toward internet banking.
But as the boxer Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.” The bank’s numbers just didn’t move as they were supposed to, frustrating and perplexing the executive team. Despite all the money put into the new, impressive digital platform, employees and customers kept doing a lot of what they’d always been doing. To change behavior, the bank’s employees needed new skills, and their customers needed new routines. None of this was in “the plan,” but it didn’t take this management team long to realize that to accelerate progress, they needed to think about the problem from the human perspective—that of the customer and employee—not just from the standpoint of what was technically possible.
As management shifted focus, the numbers started to improve. Managers realized, for example, that if a customer representative in a branch engaged at least once a day with an online adviser to resolve a customer issue in real time, both the employee and the customer became more comfortable with the new digital platform. As a result, the company began to realize more of the expected savings, customers grew to appreciate the convenience of online banking, and branch employees gave better service. Subsequent leadership debates shifted from pure technology to more human considerations. After all, organizations don’t adopt technology, people do.
With technology increasingly automating routine white-collar tasks, the ability to apply human judgment, inspiration, and creativity carries an even higher premium. Consider, for example, the demographic and societal changes fueling the next generation’s desire to work with organizations with a clear and compelling mission. Part of the psychology behind this shift is the natural human desire for stability and predictability. Against the backdrop of technology-driven change and workforce fluidity, a strong and unchanging organizational purpose or mission provides a solid foundation. Emotional connection, empathy, and the capacity to motivate all take on new importance.
Business concepts that have their roots in technology, like distributed innovation, can also require new ways of managing and unlocking human ingenuity. I hear this all the time from executives across industries, including in the not-for-profit sector. Medair, a global emergency relief and humanitarian nongovernmental organization I collaborate with closely, illustrates the value of pairing distributed innovation with a front line that displays strong EQ. To bring innovative sanitation, health and energy solutions to those in greatest need in areas devastated by conflict, drought or natural disaster, Medair leverages its people-to-people orientation on the front lines. It brings insight and innovative ideas from the field back to headquarters, where Medair taps into a strong network of technologically cutting-edge institutions, both academic and private. Collaborating with these universities and organizations, Medair has developed effective approaches to such critical challenges as clean drinking water and proper nutrition.
Clarity on how digital disruption affects your industry and your business is critical. It is even more important to develop a clear picture of the implications for your workforce, their required capabilities, and your leadership style. Just when one might have thought technology was taking over, human considerations have assumed new forms and importance. Think of it as EQ’s revenge in the digital age.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

3 Ways to Stand Out at Work

It is graduation month and it always makes me think of all the fresh new employees who will be entering the workforce in the coming months. It’s not always easy to get on the shortlist or stay on the short list of most valued employees. This week we offer three ways to help yourself stand out at work.

The national unemployment rate remains very low so most everyone who wants to work is working. On top of that, the US has another 1 million+ college graduates entering the workplace this year. All of this makes for a crowded talent pool that might bring challenges when you are trying to stand out. So what can you do to differentiate yourself?

First, if you are a new employee who is just starting in a job, check out these tips for Onboarding Yourself Using EQ. Employees who are recognized as invaluable and indispensable enjoy several benefits, some of which include faster promotions and better bonuses. Some have more influence over their work conditions and resources. Many have more opportunity to grow and succeed in a career. Being smart or having technical competence is not enough on its own, here are three things you can do to be unforgettable:

1. Think continuous improvement. Job skills have shelf-life and employers value employees who are keeping their skills current. They attend company provided training, they are active in their industry associations and keep up with trends. The most valued employees are seen as coachable. They are open to feedback and make behavioral changes as a result. They understand that jobs change, competitive landscapes change, and expectations change and they must adapt accordingly.

2. Don’t be high maintenance. High maintenance employees end up in conflicts with supervisors or coworkers. They drag others into their drama. They play the victim when they don’t get the promotion/raise/transfer they want. If you want to be considered a low maintenance employee you will need to show some resilience. Don’t be easily offended, don’t let your emotions undermine you, don’t get caught up in gossip. Do your job earnestly and be accountable and conscientious.

3.  Own your work. Some people worry that by publicly sharing their contributions or accomplishments they will come across as arrogant. Others take credit for others’ work without giving it a second thought. There is nothing wrong with taking credit for your own work, being proud of what you have done, and not being afraid to let others know what you are capable of. When people mention you, you want them to think “confident," “well qualified," and “self-aware."

Any one of these traits can help you stand out from the crowd, but by demonstrating all three you really set yourself apart. It doesn’t matter what industry, job role, company size or length of service, you can begin using these techniques today and enhance the perception about how valuable you really are.  

Thursday, May 23, 2019

4 Things Highly Self-Aware People Do

Many people ask us about the easiest way to a higher EQ and honestly, it all starts with self-awareness. People with high self-awareness are clear about their strengths and weaknesses. They know how they "tick,” so they can put themselves in situations that bring out the best in them while minimizing the worst of them. This week we will discuss four activities you can do to increase your own self-awareness. 

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. Those who maintain self-awareness are seen by others as connected, in-touch and humble. They often demonstrate the type of confidence that resides on the healthy side of ego and leverage their strengths, but they are also able to recognize when their own behavior is inappropriate or having a negative impact on others. They tend to get more done, take more accountability, and are enjoyable to work with.

1. They take assessments.
There are several good assessments available to measure personality, communication style, business acumen, and emotional intelligence, among other things. All of them help you get to know yourself, your tendencies and instincts, and how other people are perceiving you. This information helps you pick better careers, recognize suitable organizations to work for, and appropriate people to spend time with.

2. They practice mindfulness.
Give yourself opportunities throughout a day to assess your mood. Pay attention in meetings to how you're reacting to others and why. Keep track of when you are at your best and your worst. We find most people have patterns of behavior and by paying a little more attention you will recognize your own. People with the presence of mind are able to stay clear-headed in high-pressure situations and avoid difficult conversations when they know they are not in the right frame of mind.

3. They hire a coach.
Business coaches can give you feedback that no one else will give you. Even when practicing mindfulness, we all have blind spots so a professional coach can recognize behaviors you may not even realize you are doing and if they are ineffective, suggest alternatives. They provide you will valuable insight to see yourself from the point of view of others which can be incredibly valuable information to better influence or motivate coworkers, clients or colleagues.  

4. They identify their reactions.
We are all very busy and often we just know something feels good or bad, but we rarely stop to analyze what we're feeling and why. Throughout the day pause, and ask yourself, "What specific emotion would use to describe how I am feeling right now?" This habit gives you a new language to use when communicating with others, and when people see you as transparent and can track with your thoughts and feelings, you save time from less miscommunication and get better outcomes.

Self-awareness can be achieved by practicing these four actions, which become more natural over time. And just remember when your self-awareness goes up, your EQ does too. And then, you can bet that a lot of other good things are waiting for you!