Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hallmarks of a hi-po

Many organizations utilize talent assessment tools such as a “9-box” or talent map and use metrics such as performance reviews, manager input and results/accomplishments for determining who the top talent is. One area that often brings up some controversy is the notion of “potential”. It remains a nebulous, somewhat elusive concept to quantify. Some base it on academics, some base it on a career trajectory and some base it on a “learning agility” assessment. When it comes right down to it, our experience reveals three factors as most important to look for: • Coachability – someone who shows humility even if they went to a top tier school or got high academic marks, who openly admits not knowing something or making past mistakes, someone who demonstrates that they don’t take themselves too seriously, someone with high self-awareness and knows what they are good at and can express what their purpose in life is • Ambition – someone who routinely goes above and beyond, who did outside activities, volunteered, or worked while going to school, someone who shows a pattern of putting in extra effort at work, someone with a direction or personal goals they want to achieve in life, someone who has demonstrated being able to learn something new fairly quickly, a history of being able to think on their feet, someone who isn’t afraid to speak up and share new ideas or strategies without coming across as cocky or know-it-all • Realistic – someone who understands that even despite hard work, promotions and other perks do not happen immediately, someone who does not have a sense of entitlement (they happily do grunt work), someone who is grounded in the reality that life requires a lot of effort and persistence and doesn’t always seem fair, yet they maintain a positive attitude instead of being a victim Naturally, many factors influence how much potential can be realized in an employee (style of their leader, company resources, opportunities to be stretched, incentives, and organizational culture) but someone missing one of these three factors should be a red flag that no matter what is on paper, they may not be a hi-po.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A study in Emotional Intelligence from Southwest Airlines

I was traveling on Southwest today and the crew that started our day was led by a cheerful and friendly lady named Jennifer. It was particularly noteworthy because it was 5:45am. She and her crewmates handled the flight well, I sat next to an 83 year old woman and when she needed assistance Jennifer was attentive and kind – high Emotional Intelligence. I was on a “direct” but not a non-stop which meant I stopped at a layover city but did not deplane. At the layover, there was a crew change. When the new crew boarded, Kristin immediately noticed and mentioned a problem with the overhead storage bin and not so kindly informed a passenger they had to move their bag. At one point, she needed to get something out of her own suitcase and held up the line of boarding passengers so she could get her things and be able to walk back to the front of the plane – low Emotional Intelligence. The last people to board was a family of four, and it’s not so easy to find seats together at the end of the boarding line so Kristin called to the back of the plane and asked the rear cabin attendant to try and hold 4 seats, or at least 2 and 2 so the children wouldn’t have to sit alone. I thought, “Great, maybe we will get some EQ with this crew too.” By push time, the rear attendant came up and said, “Well I got into it with the mom.” And went on to explain that she had only held 3 seats not 4 and when the mom got upset, she told her that they couldn’t guarantee seats together if they are in the last boarding group. That started bantering back and forth between Kristin and her, “I told them there was no guarantee we could give them seats together.” “The mom kept saying, ‘She asked you to hold 4 seats, I heard her’. Well I didn’t hear you say 4 seats, I only heard 3…” “I did say 4, but parents with kids are the worst…” “I guess I am going to get another nasty letter written in about me. Oh well, it’s been a while.” An innocent mistake, an intended good deed. But in its delivery, they demonstrated no EQ. I kept thinking of it had been Jennifer in the back, she would have apologized profusely for misunderstanding the number of seats needed. She would have owned her part in it and with a smile, worked with what she had. And I am pretty sure the family would have been a lot happier with their choice to fly Southwest. EQ isn’t about huge behaviors. It’s about how you handle the little things.

Friday, May 4, 2012

EQ Does Not Equal Pushover

I was recently presenting at a leadership conference on Emotional Intelligence and shared with the audience that someone with high EQ understands they cannot expect to always be comfortable, expecting the world to do the adjusting. Instead, they realize that often they must make the adjustments and that will mean they are the ones to 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. 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, recognize when their own moods are influencing others’ performance and their ability to voice ideas or challenges to them, and recognize 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 by 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, high EQ does give people exactly what they want.