Friday, June 29, 2018

How to Use Your EQ with a Boss Who Has None


The Clueless Boss

Think Horrible Bosses. Okay, maybe not that bad, but working with someone with little self-awareness or empathy can make your life miserable. So how do you outsmart a boss that appears to have little to no EQ?

Do frequent check-ins. The lower their EQ the more likely they are to be a control freak. Keeping them updated pro-actively prevents them from needing to get deep in the weeds of your work.

Don't give them enough information to be dangerous. When you provide a laundry list of problems or complaints you set yourself up to get a negative response. Keep updates brief and concise and always provide solutions to any problem you share.

Work around them. Use your organizational awareness and network so you have resources around the company happy to help you.

Never go over their head or use the BCC. We know it is tempting but usually backfires and results in a disaster.

Always connect for them how what they are doing is hurting them getting what they want. They probably won't care about you or what is important to you so you have to put everything in the context of how they unintentionally impede their own desired results.


The Enlightened Employee

It will also be important for you to maintain your Stress Tolerance so throughout the day take breaks, get some exercise in or be protective of family time on weekends no matter what.

Use your Flexibility to pick your timing well. Pay attention to their moods, are they a morning person or an afternoon person? If they are not a morning person, don't ask for something at 8am on a Monday.

Focus on results. Most bosses won't care as much about how as what. Use your Self-Control to resist the urge to go passive-aggressive and just tell them what they want to hear to get them off your back. A better way is to set polite but firm expectations of what can be accomplished when. Most of the executives we work with that have little EQ respond well to someone who occasionally challenges them in a professional and appropriate way.

Use some Empathy, they likely have a lot on their plate too, and odds are they were promoted for their technical skills, not people skills so don't expect them to be someone they are not. Sometimes lowering your expectations is the best way to stop being perpetually disappointed.

And lastly, take control over what you can - your thoughts, your attitude, your reactions. You are not a victim forced to stay in a miserable situation. If it becomes unbearable to work with the person, make an adult decision and get yourself to a happier place.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Curse of Being Competent


There is an old saying, "If you want something to get done, give it to the busiest person you know."  If you are that person, the odds are your company will continue to lean on you, whether or not you have the bandwidth or aptitude. Too often, this dynamic leads to a new kind of dilemma, one that you may have lived through, or are currently facing. It's called The Competency Dilemma.

A competency dilemma doesn't simply occur as a one-time event.  If it isn't successfully resolved, it can ultimately become a barrier to professional success.  Without regard for the signals and alerts along the way, it can trigger an alarming state of "task creep," one by one, extra little tasks find their way to your desk.

The Competency Dilemma:  A Progressive Condition

At the time we're hired, or when we're promoted into a new position, the most common goal is to exhibit ways to prove our worth.  We strive to assure those around us, (and particularly our leaders) that the decision they made in hiring or promoting us was indeed the right choice.  Showcasing our skills and abilities (competencies) is a natural response to our primal need to survive in a new environment.
Over time, our competencies become apparent within the culture.  We may ultimately find ourselves becoming the "go to person" for multiple projects that begin to stretch our ability to prioritize and manage a wide array of requests.  Suddenly, we awaken to a newly defined, and amazingly expanded job description.

And so, the dilemma begins.  Discretionary time is greatly reduced or becomes non-existent.  Our personal and professional identities become blurred, and the need for restructuring is imminent because the consequences often include high stress, family strife, damaged peer relationships or even health issues. It's usually not a sustainable situation.
If you are reading these words and are starting to realize that you are currently experiencing a personal Competency Dilemma, it's time to take action. The solution requires a proactive approach.  I am not going to say that you are being taken for granted, but the truth is that no one is going to show up at your desk with a solution on your behalf. It's time to reset some boundaries and establish a renewed state of personal and professional alignment.

The Competency Dilemma:  Awakening & Defining a Solution

Start by clarifying the expectations put on you. How much is actually delegated and expected, and how much is the perpetuation of old habits from you or them? Are there things that could be more effectively managed by another team member?  Could you be partnering more productively with others, in order to benefit both you and the organization?  Is the bulk of your workload out of alignment with the responsibilities associated with your job description?   If so, when was the last time you initiated a discussion regarding the areas in which you possess the most significant competencies?  And, what are the areas of development in which you'd like to gain a new understanding or skill?

The thought of being the catalyst to a discussion based on the need to re-align your workload can be intimidating at first glance.  However, as we all know, the ever-pressing potential of a personal business crisis awaits those who are unwilling to communicate tactfully on their own behalf.

Unfortunately, we don't usually awaken to the potential dangers of a self-described Competency Dilemma until we begin to feel the stress and overload associated with being assigned (or when we have "over-volunteered" for) projects beyond our capacity to function effectively.

The dilemma didn't evolve in a moment's time...so likewise, a long-term definitive solution will only be consistently successful as a result of your ongoing effort to enact positive change.


Remember:  Your ability to thrive within any organization is based upon your capacity to function within the limits of your competencies. And, that is something everyone wants.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

EQ Does Not Equal Pushover



I recently presented at a leadership conference on Emotional Intelligence and shared with the audience that someone with high EQ understands he or she cannot always be kept comfortable, expecting the world to do the adjusting to them. Instead, they realize that often they must make the adjustments and that will mean they are the ones to sometimes be uncomfortable. At lunch, someone asked me if using EQ as leader meant that you were a pushover because in order to keep others comfortable you just give them what they want all the time. Think it's true? Read on.

At the heart of Emotional Intelligence are three R's: Recognize, Read, Respond.

Recognizing (Self-Awareness) your own tendencies - strengths, weaknesses, moods, drives, emotional states;
Reading (Situational-Awareness) the verbal and non-verbal signals of your environment to accurately assess it and its response to you; and
Responding in ways that are most appropriate based on the evidence gathered around you and within you.

When this is applied to managing others, powerful leaders (high EI) are able to recognize their downstream impact on others, recognizing when their own moods are influencing others' performance and their ability to voice ideas or challenges to them, and recognizing when they must own their disruptive (albeit often unintentional) behavior when they need to and take the necessary steps to adjust, repair and learn from the situation.

He or she is able to read the emotional make-up of their direct reports and connect with them on a level that meets the follower's needs, which may or not be the same style as the leaders'. They do this through empathy, seeing each employee as an individual and complex person with unique talents, needs, and perspectives. Which is the opposite of one-size-fits-all leadership? He or she takes responsibility for responding in appropriate ways - by not taking out bad moods or misdirected or exaggerated performance intensity on those around him or her. And by providing praise when and how someone needs to hear it and clearly communicating expectations and desired outcomes instead of doing management by mindreading and assumptions.        

Leaders with high EQ are not just "yes" people. We have all had to hear bad news, and the way it is delivered is critical. EQ helps you to be fair but firm, assertive and sensitive. It allows you to show care while holding people accountable because you have made enough of an emotional investment in them to drive their engagement and loyalty to you; approaching each employee as a unique asset and resource, taking the time to tap into their internal motivations, passions, and talents. A leader with high Emotional Intelligence doesn't do this spontaneously or in a vacuum, instead, they mindfully practice "learning" their employees as a daily habit. Most who have learned to do this report it is their highest leverage leadership behavior - an important shift with huge impact for all. So, I guess it is true, one might say leaders with high EQ do give people exactly what they want.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Month in a Minute

Speaking at SNHU on Teamwork, Consensus, and Collaboration

Ahhhh, how is it the first Thursday of the month again? 

We hit the ground running in May with visits to clients in UT, MA, NY, ME, CA, NH, and TX. We spent a lot of time this month sharing assessment data, from EQ reports to leadership style via a 360, to change style preference, to personality type. Whether it's an online formal report or a pen and paper self-assessment taken during a session, they provide such great insight into our behavioral patterns and allow for powerful self-reflection we don't normally have the time to do. If you haven't taken one, I would encourage you to do so. It's a fantastic learning tool for the development of EQ.  

Top: John Jones, Steve, Me, and Cason Shrode of Cassity Jones, Bottom Left: Me and Jennifer Kinville of Eastern Oil, Bottom Right: EQ Workshop at CompHealth


When we were in Texas, Steve and I had dinner with an old colleague of ours we worked with over ten years ago. It was so nice to see him and learn about his life since our last contact. It's easy to lose touch with people, and in the consulting world, it's common to only reach out when you need something. There are several people who won’t return phone calls or emails when they don't need me, only to get the call or email from them when they are changing jobs or need some work. I am never too motivated to help them. Relationships matter, never blow someone off. 



Friday, June 1, 2018

Leadership Litmus Test



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 unrecognized." (Dana, Daniel 1999). Measuring the Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict.

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.

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 looking like a fool
  • Fear of upsetting the status quo
  • Fear of damaging a good relationship or demotivating a good employee
  • Preparation and confrontation requires too much time and energy
  • Unable to predict the employee's reaction
  • Fear of defensive reactions
  • Feels intimidated by the 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 wellbeing 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.  

General Colin Powell said it best - "Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It's inevitable-if you're honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: You'll avoid the tough decisions, you'll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you'll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset."

"Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally "nicely" 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."

The good news is that Straight Talk is not a skill you're born with, rather it is a learned ability that improves with the right techniques and diligent practice.  Spend some time thinking about crucial conversations you have put off. 

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?