Monday, December 30, 2013

Well-Rounded Chiefs Stay Upbeat; Cultivate Character, Article by Sonia Carberry

Sonia Carberry of wrote an interesting article about the important traits for executives to hone:

For an upbeat outlook, leaders strengthen their dispositions. Top qualities to hone:
 Stay in touch. Intellect moves executives up corporate ladders. Staying on top requires something more, says "Ego Vs. EQ" author Jen Shirkani.
Emotional intelligence — dubbed EQ — sparks those in charge to lead well. Shirkani describes it as demonstrating sensibility.
Lacking a reasonable mindset results in ego-fueled traps, such as ignoring unfavorable feedback and not letting go of control. Sometimes top chiefs just lose touch. EQ helps. "It's the environment. It's designed to make them more comfortable. It sets them up in a lot of ways," Shirkani told IBD.
 Look around. Take submarine bosses, who surface only when they need something. "Suddenly they come up with 10,000 questions on everything," Shirkani said.
A leader strong in EQ would pause and ask himself or herself: Is the timing right for these questions? Who are the people I need in the room?
"The self-control piece of EQ is so important," Shirkani said.
 Strive. Most rising executives can benefit from coaching to strengthen emotional smarts. "It really is some of the most hardworking, earnest executives who fall victim to these traps," Shirkani said.

Read More At Investor's Business Daily:
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Power and Ego

Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University recently wrote Power: Why Some People Have It - And Other Don't and was recently published in HBR.

In a nutshell, he says that leaders who do as they please and allow their whims to overtake company practices and rules may have more power ("Wow, he can do what he wants, he must be important") but that power may not be good for the organization, or get the executive what he really wants. It is a combination of high ego and low self control.

"And what of the people who are subject to the whims of bosses behaving in unpredictable ways?" Dr. Pfeffer asks. "They pay a huge price. Motivation declines...learning suffers...and stress skyrockets."

How about instead having a healthy ego and high EQ? Now that's power.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Size Does Matter

According to Professor Nick Seybert and his colleagues who studied 605 CEO's on a decade's worth of annual reports from nearly 400 S&P 500 companies, signature size does matter.

"Large signatures - which have been linked to narcissistic personality traits such as dominance and outsize ego - were positively associated with overspending, lower returns on assets, and - paradoxically - higher CEO pay relative to that of industry peers."

The complete article can be found here:

Wow. A very interesting study. Yet another reason to choose EQ over Ego. Check out your own signature and see how you compare. Here is mine:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Radio Interview on WKXL Financial Spectrum

I was recently interviewed by Bill Kearney, host of Financial Spectrum on WKXL in Concord NH.

It's about 20 minutes long, if you are interested in hearing it, here is a link to the interview:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My interview with Bob Morris - Business Blogger Extraordinaire

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Bob Morris - an avid book reader and blogger with a very interesting background (read more here).

He asked some very interesting questions about my personal experiences, thoughts on books and movies, and a little about my book.

Here is the complete interview:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Body and Soul

I was on the phone with a client discussing some issues she is having with her employees. There was a big management change a couple of years ago after their owner/founder died. The employees she was referring to have been with the company for a long time and are not adjusting to the new expectations very well. The old company was very unstructured and loose with policies and procedures. The new company is more rigorous and has grown the business significantly. The employees are complaining about all the things the new company doesn't give them: they push back when they don't get their first choice of days off, they grumble when caught socializing instead of working. It made me think about the maturity of organizations.

The company is the body - made up of the products, services, equipment, brand image, etc.  The employees are the soul. The two have to be in synch. So just imagine a you have a coworker in a middle aged body who acts like a child - demanding, ungrateful and whiney. It wouldn't be appropriate and they wouldn't get far. In my client's case, they are in a maturing body still acting like children.

The reverse is true too. The soul cannot act too old either.  Imagine an 80 or 90 year company acting like an 85 year old man. One who misses the good old days. Who "doesn't get" technology or social media and who prefers land lines instead of mobile phones. In fact, a recent study done by recently reported that 68% of CEO’s have no presence on social media. That’s a big number and their own personal discomfort with it often influences their company policies and practices. Old school big time.

Have you thought about the age of your body and soul? Is your workforce acting with appropriate maturity? Of course, what's appropriate for you will be unique. The key is having organizational emotional intelligence: situational awareness combined with flexibility.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Breakthrough in Self-Awareness

I was conducting a phone coaching session with a client last week, someone who is near the end of our 6 month engagement. He shared a couple of powerful stories with me about self-reflection and thinking about his feelings to understand them instead of letting them run wild and undermine him.

One example was recognizing a mood he was in, and although it was a good mood, it usually brought out a snarky, sarcastic side of him. One that usually gets him in trouble, after the fact. He said as a result of the EQ work we have been doing together, he thought the sarcastic response to a question instead of saying it. A very small gesture that made a big difference in how his coworkers responded to him resulting in better collaboration, better communication and better results.

Another example he shared was recognizing in the last 30 days that he felt restless and underutilized - enough to consider resigning. We have been working together on his delegating more, trusting more, and letting go of control more. Suddenly, he no longer has a line of people in his office needing things from him. He no longer has employees coming to him for solutions and answers to trivial questions. He no longer has to get involved in fixing things himself, instead he is training and then holding people accountable. For the first time in his career, he actually has down time. He said prior to his development breakthrough he would have accepted the negative feelings of not being challenged at face value, without understanding what was underneath them and would have quit to pursue the next big thing. Instead, he spent time thinking about his feelings and processing them to recognize what they really meant.

Instead of the feelings being a negative, he sees that they are actually quite positive - the outcome of being a stronger senior leader. He is now able to redirect his energy to higher level activities. He is able to stay with his company and add value in numerous ways. I am so proud of him.    

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ego vs EQ Radio Interview on KUCI

The best part about having a book published is getting to talk with business colleagues and friends about life and leadership. Take a listen to my recent interview on KUCI (Irvine CA) "Real People of Orange County" with Kimberlee Martin, a dear friend of mine, whom I have known 20 years since we worked at Nordstrom South Coast together.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interview with Brandon Anderson - Director of OD & Talent Management, Transamerica

I recently had the pleasure of working with Brandon and one of his client groups within the Employer Solutions & Pensions division of Transamerica. Here is my recent interview with him...

JS: What EQ skills do you feel are vital for professionals today and why?

BA: In today’s competitive business world, regardless of our level in organizations, professionals need to be skilled not just in the technical competencies required to succeed in their position, but also in many key aspects of emotional intelligence.  In the talent acquisition efforts at Transamerica, we of course focus on “hard” skills like education, professional experience, and industry knowledge, but we are now beginning to increase our pre-hire exploration of such competencies as political acumen, influencing skills, conflict resolution, and assertiveness.  Success at our firm is achieved when new hires are able to quickly demonstrate proficiency in their position, and also assimilate to the culture quickly by leveraging social skills, encouraging and participating in team work, being change adept, communicating effectively, and showing initiative.  I’ve seen the same success story at other employers and in many industries.  As quickly as our professional environments change these days through mergers and acquisitions, organization redesign, and leadership turnover, I feel that being flexible and able to tolerate stress are critical EQ skills for all professionals.  Additionally, with flat organization structures more common, it is important that professionals are able to influence others without necessarily managing them directly.  This ability to “influence without authority” requires a high level of emotional intelligence as well.  In a nutshell, I believe the most important EQ skills today are adaptability, initiative, team work, communication, and influencing.

JS: How is Transamerica utilizing the power of EQ as part of your L&D initiatives?

At Transamerica, we have identified the need to equip our employees with knowledge and training around emotional intelligence as part of our larger employee development strategy.  We are currently in the process of piloting programs on the high-level concept of emotional intelligence and if well-received, we intend to build curriculum around those EQ skills we feel are most critical for success at our firm.  While we do focus on technical and position-specific training, we also believe in helping employees develop “soft skills” that they can use both professionally and in their personal lives.  I believe that EQ is fundamental to an employee’s overall sense of well-being at work and in life.  Our “soft skills” learning and development programs are all rooted in EQ principles and we are beginning to connect these concepts to other talent management programs such as reward and recognition, performance management, and succession planning.

Are there any roles in particular that need EQ more than others?

I believe that EQ is critical for all employees.  Such skills as communication, understanding others, team work, self-control, commitment, and optimism are clearly important at all levels and in all roles.  However, I am a strong believer in mentorship and the importance of senior leaders demonstrating the workplace behaviors they would like to see in junior staff.  Leaders who demonstrate high EQ by being able to manage their impulses, solve problems quickly and effectively, be champions of change, and even use humor to diffuse stress or conflict, are generally successful and well respected in organizations.  These leaders also can effectively coach and mentor employees on more difficult EQ skills such as political acumen, conflict resolution, and developing people.  In addition, the Human Resources function should play a leadership role in providing coaching and guidance around EQ principles to all levels of employees.

About Brandon Anderson
Brandon joined Transamerica in 2011 as Director, Organization Development & Talent Management and is based in Los Angeles, California.  His primary focus is to lead the employee development strategy and talent management programs in one of Transamerica’s business divisions, Employer Solutions & Pensions.  During his time with Transamerica, Brandon has spearheaded the design and execution of a Corporate University that includes a blended learning approach of instructor-led and online training for employees across several locations in the US.  Core curriculum includes such programs as Situational Leadership, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Emotional Intelligence, among others.

Brandon is passionate about learning and the overall “health” of organizations.  He works with all levels of employees to ensure they have access to the tools they need to effectively manage their careers and contribute to the overall success of the business.  He also provides executive and management coaching on career planning, personality assessment, management development, and performance improvement.

Brandon has experience in multiple industries including financial services, retail, aerospace, defense, pharmaceutical, and healthcare.  During his 15 year Human Resources career, he has worked for a variety of companies including United HealthCare, Pfizer, Honeywell, BAE Systems, and Pacific Sunwear.  Brandon holds a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, master’s degrees in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Clinical Psychology, and a BS from Pepperdine University in International Business.:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Congrats to David Cote - 2013 Chief Executive of the Year

Chief Executive Magazine selected David Cote of Honeywell as their CEO of the Year. I was impressed with several examples cited in the article ( First, he created a doctrine of 12 leadership behaviors, one of which is "Self-Aware/Learner".

We know that self-aware leaders avoid ego trap 1 (ignoring feedback you don't like) and instead seek out information that helps them be more connected and more aligned between intention and impact. Adding the "learner" component is brilliant, because at Honeywell it's not enough to just listen to feedback, but also learn from it and take action.

The article also quotes Mr. Cote as saying, "One of the first things I did was just get out a lot." In fact, is says he connected with 10,000 people in his first couple of months on the job. That's an example of avoiding ego trap 7 (losing touch with the front line experience) and I would hope that he is still making it a regular practice to visit employees around the globe in their daily work environments.

Using emotional intelligence to overcome common ego traps isn't really that complicated. It just takes some consistent attention and diligent behavior - two things completely in your control.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Let's Talk EI Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed on the "Let's Talk EI" radio show about my upcoming presentation at the Society of Emotional Intelligence conference in Tampa on October 18th.

Here is a link to hear the interview:

If you are interested in learning more about the conference the website is:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Traits of Great Leaders - from

Here is a link to an article on the traits of great leaders:

Essentially, they demonstrate greatness in 5 ways:

1. Facing Challenges
2. Winning Trust
3. Being Authentic
4. Earning Respect
5. Staying Curious

The traits of an emotionally intelligent leader include humility, empathy (being emotionally connected to others), staying grounded with customers and employees, and regularly operating out of comfort zone. In many ways, the greatness traits are outcomes of EQ.

Monday, September 2, 2013

EQ in China

Greetings from China...I'm on an exploratory visit to learn more about the applications of emotional intelligence here. I'm quite impressed, most business people I've spoken with know what EQ is (and they refer to it as "EQ" not "EI" or "emotional intelligence"). They are talking about it in their schools. Very encouraging! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

AOL's Armstrong Falls Victim to an Ego Trap

Tim Armstrong.
Victim of Ego Trap 6 - Underestimating How Much You're Being Watched.

First, he is human and was triggered by an employee who was not following his stated rules. Second, he is feeling the weight of the company's future on his shoulders.  But in the end, by lashing out at an employee and firing him on a public conference call, Mr. Armstrong sadly fell victim to Ego over EQ. Instead of recognizing his temper start to flare, reading the environment he was in, and responding like a composed leader he let his emotions get the better of him, forgot he was in such a public forum, and lost his self control. Seconds of mindful attention can save an executive from embarrassment and a loss of credibility.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Interview with Geri Williams-Fitts – Vice President of Human Resources at Highgate Hotels

My featured guest this month is Geri Williams-Fitts, she is the Vice President of Human Resources at Highgate Hotels. I have worked with Geri for several years now and have always been impressed with her commitment to raising the EQ of her workforce. To learn more about one of her groups see my blog post on The Quin.

JS: What EQ skills do you feel are vital for hospitality professionals today and why?

GW: Use of EQ in our processes is the foundation for a host of all critical PEOPLE skills—it impacts most everything we say and do each day.   Emotional intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. Each emotional intelligence competency plays a vital role in the world of hospitality.  When a professional elects to enter into hospitality, Personal competence - self-awareness and self-management skills are essential.  Are you flexible?  Can you positively direct your behavior and the behaviors of others?   Anyone who has checked into a hotel can attest that these skills are not only vital, but indispensable.   Through the use of EQ techniques, we as an organization can better understand how potential candidates will react to other people’s moods, behavior, and motivators to establish quality relationships.  Relationship Management indicators also are essential.  Hospitality professionals must manage interactions successfully every moment of the day…internally or externally.  
Too often, managerial placements in any industry are not the best managers of people.   Being in a PEOPLE business…this could be a real problem. We seek leaders with a multitude of skills however, we target good listening skills. A manager who is a good listener puts aside their own assumptions...typically projecting a caring and considerate demeanor.  Even if not in a position to find a solution to a problem, the leader usually can effectively make a guest or fellow colleague/associate hopeful and optimistic.

JS: How is Highgate utilizing the power of EQ as part of your guest experience initiatives?

GW: In an industry that revolves around customer service, knowing how to please your guests is crucial for the success of our operation. Each guest experience is unique.  When our guests arrive, they bring their own levels of expectation to the experience.  Knowing how to make your guests happier is good for business. Hiring people who are masters at managing their emotions, who don't get angry in stressful situations, is critical. Given the extremely fast pace and ever changing interactions, associates with the ability to look at a problem and calmly find a solution as well as being excellent decision makers and breed confidence in their abilities to trust their intuition which, in turn leads to more repeat business.   A hotel stay should always be an extraordinary one and through use of EQ in our casting choices, it makes a big difference in the quality of our guest’s experience.

JS: In your opinion, are there any roles in particular that need EQ more than others?

GW: Hospitality has a diverse guest base, more so than any other industry.  Equally it remains as one of the only industries that remain open 24 hours a day- 365 days a year.    To illustrate the complexity of our business, in a 900 room hotel, by June of this year, 280,000 guest rooms have been cleaned by our valued room attendant base.   WOW!     Understanding the intricacy of their role and managing our relationships and remaining aware of their emotions, allows us to foster extraordinary work environments and manage interactions with each associate successfully. Our guest is our associates. Senior leaders are aware that if associates ask what they need for a better workplace, we set an expectation that leadership will respond to their feedback with new, refreshed approaches.   This tells our associates that their opinions count and that leadership is listening and responsive.   We are in the hospitality business and our job is all about how to make people smile and have a pleasant experience during their stay. This begins internally first which, in turn breeds an environment where our associates are not only ambassadors for our company but ambassadors of our industry.

About Geri Williams-Fitts:
Ms. Williams-Fitts is located in the Dallas office and is responsible for overseeing Highgate’s Human Resources function for the corporate offices and all hotel locations.  As the VP of HR, Geri is a key strategic part of the senior leadership team driving people strategies and initiatives to improve key performance indicators such as staff satisfaction, retention, turnover, stability and sales productivity. Additionally, the VP of HR is a culture merchant and change agent who works with business units on a daily basis in regard to unique people challenges and needs. The role is a blend of strategic HR coupled with hands-on responsibilities. Prior to joining the Highgate team, Geri has established 20 year career in the hospitality industry serving in multiple Senior Human Resources roles with Wyndham Worldwide and Hilton Hotels.  In addition, Geri spent over nine years with notable retail service organizations to include May Company and Federated.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Surrounding Yourself With More of You

When it comes to the challenges of building an executive team, nearly every CEO or business owner will say to me: “I’m a really good judge of character, so I go with my gut.” Too often, as a result, these leaders shortcut a thorough interview, and that perfect person turns out to be a terrible technical or motivational fit, resulting in more turnover or worse, an employee who stays and makes everyone else miserable.

Surrounding yourself with people you “click with” because they share your same strengths, values, and ways of thinking are exactly the people least likely to challenge your decisions or catch the balls you drop. That’s a risky game to play in a competitive marketplace where diversity of thought and creative offerings are what keep organizations alive. When you surround yourself with more of “you,” you set up—or, worse, institutionalize—blind spots that can prevent you from seeing oncoming challenges.

When you hire others who live on your wavelength, you unintentionally create a support system of people who are not equipped to challenge you, to question your thinking, or to offer you a different perspective and direction. You essentially become trapped in a self-made bubble, missing opportunities to hear valid dissent, better approaches, or alternative ideas. Consequences range from stagnation and disengagement, to monotony or rigidity. Putting your emotional intelligence to work in the hiring and promoting process can help prevent these blind spots from occurring and give you a new way to think about what makes for the “perfect” hire.

What if a leader’s preferences and point of view so closely match those around them that they develop collective team blind spots? This represents a significant organizational risk that can escape the collective consciousness until it’s too late.

It’s perfectly natural to be drawn to someone who understands you. You may finish each other’s sentences and bristle at the same annoyances. I know it’s tempting in the interview to think, “Wouldn’t it be great to work with that person?” Regardless of the type of similarities, as an interviewer, you must be aware of any temptation to give priority to hiring or promoting someone who is similar to you, rather than consciously seeking out individuals who are able to bring a unique approach or mindset to the team or to offer a special skillset that’s needed for success. Surrounding yourself with more of you is a sinister trap, because it lures you with a mirror that reflects your strengths, your style, and your language, while silently multiplying your (admittedly few and relatively minor) shortcomings. I know, a “mini-me” is as much fun to be around as you are. But wouldn’t it be even better to surround yourself with skills complementary but not identical to yours? People who would thrive in areas you would rather hand off anyway? 

This article is an summary excerpt from Ego vs EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps Using Emotional Intelligence. Click here to order a copy of the book

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dare, Dream, Do by Whitney Johnson

I enjoyed DDD so much, before I even finished it, I ordered two more copies for friends that I knew would benefit from Whitney’s message. Her own stories, combined with the many others in this book, are diverse yet all connect with a main theme of regaining focus and purpose-driven living. If you have a dusty dream or haven’t thought about it before, this book provides some simple yet effective strategies for creating a more fulfilling life and regaining your personal power.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How Much More Could You Be Making?

I had the pleasure of meeting Allison McGrail of Allison Hope Photography ( to have some new headshots taken (look below to see how they turned out). She did an excellent job accommodating my requests which included about 4 wardrobe changes, indoor studio shots, outdoor close up shots, garden shots, etc. She spent extra time with me and met all of my requests with a smile. When it came time to pay for my sitting fee, I was prepared to pay at least double what she charged me. I thought, "I need to tell her she is undercharging, she doesn't understand her value here." (I have since done that).

Later that very same day, I was on the phone with a client who I had just completed a small project for and she said, "I need to tell you something as a friend. You are undercharging by about half." I almost fell out of my chair. Damn. Why is it so clear to see someone else undervaluing their worth but nearly impossible to see it in ourselves? Is it a female thing? Is it a small business owner thing? I would love to hear your opinions on it. Please post comments...


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Men's Wearhouse CEO: Ego or EQ?

George Zimmer, founder of Men's Wearhouse was summarily terminated this week with little explanation. A great Washington Post article written by Jena McGregor summarizes the situation. I particularly noted this comment:

According to reports, one retail industry analyst speculated that Zimmer, who transitioned out of the CEO role in 2011 to become executive chairman, may have had trouble letting go of the reins, a common problem for founders.

Ego Trap 4 at it's destructive work: Not Letting Go of Control.

To see the whole article, go here:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview with Bob Dolan from MIT

I am excited to introduce a new interview series on the Shirkani's Musings blog. My first guest is Bob Dolan, Career Advisor for MIT Postdoctoral Scholars. We share a similar belief that Emotional Intelligence is a vital ingredient for job success. Here are his thoughts on the subject:

JS: What do you see as the ideal balance to maintain between technical knowledge and emotional intelligence for Postdocs?

BD:  I believe the optimal balance is 50-50 (for everyone).  Although all of the Postdocs I work with have incredible technical expertise in their field, in order for them to be effective they must possess the workplace required behavioral attributes to be successful.  Ironically, they do have many of them but are not aware that they have these skills.  They are so focused on their profession that they have not noticed they have actually worked in collaborative environments.  Many of which were multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary.  Several have mentored grad students and managed several initiatives in their labs which are an indication they also possess some form of leadership skill.  I have also observed that many possess strong communication skills and have delivered several presentations and have been published many times.  So I view it as a lack of self-awareness that prevents them from recognizing they do have many of the EI attributes.  Only through probing questions do they reveal them and then they move forward in a more confident manner.

JS: From your experience, what do employees that make the most successful career transitions do differently than others?

BD: From my experience both in industry and in career services my observation shows that successful transitions occur for several reasons.  First, if the transition is a different profession, the technical knowledge and experience must be obtained before they can be considered for the new role.  By doing a gap analysis and understanding what they need to do (self-awareness) is critical to any transition.  Next is motivation.  They need a strong drive to achieve and a propensity to pursue their goals with high energy and enthusiasm.  Finally, they need social skills (EQ) to effectively assimilate into their new environment. They should display the ability to build relationships and find common ground among their new co-workers.

JS: I know you often advise former military personnel who are transitioning to civilian roles. In your opinion, what EQ skills do they often bring with them that employers can benefit from?
 BD: Working with the military is very interesting and humbling for me.  I mostly work with those who have recently been discharged, or who will be discharged in the near future.  I run programs at Hanscom AFB in Lexington MA and have worked with many who spent time in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.  They all possess incredible courage and strength of character, but when I ask them how they feel about transitioning into the civilian workplace they are timid and nervous.  Many believe that they don’t have the skills that employers want.  However, after discussing their work and asking questions they reveal that they have essentially all of the skills that employers want.  The top five EQ skills that they all consistently display are leadership, team work, communication, initiative, and adaptability.

Bob Dolan
About Bob Dolan:
Bob joined the MIT Global Education and Career Development Center and has held full-time and seasonal roles since 2005. He is a Certified Job Search and Career Transition Consultant with experience in the field of Career Management since 2001. In addition to assisting military personnel transition into the civilian workplace, Bob is also a guest speaker at several universities and career venues in the Boston area. Before joining MIT, Bob had a private Career Consulting practice and worked with clients across multiple industries. 
Prior to choosing a profession in Career Services, Bob worked in several industries as a member of Corporate Finance Management teams. Bob holds a BS in Business, an MBA, and worked in the Publishing industry, Chemical industry (polymer sciences), and 12 years in the High Technology telecomm sector.  Bob served six years in the US Army with the 1st Battalion 182nd Infantry Regiment.  As a hiring manager for over twenty years, Bob brings a unique blend of "real world" and career services expertise to his clients. Since 2003 Bob has been on the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Career Counselors' Consortium of New England.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson's Butt Slap

Last week, NFL player Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson was in court and was caught on tape and seen by those in the courtroom when he butt slapped his attorney. It seemed an innocent move, done as an "atta boy" but a very good example of the power of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Part of EQ is responding in appropriate ways based on how you read the environment and what is most appropriate behavior. In many cases, as with Johnson's, perfectly appropriate behavior in one situation can be completely wrong in another if you lack situational awareness and accurately reading the environment.

The tipping point between high and low EQ is subtle but incredibly important. It requires presence of mind and an ability to manage impulsive reactions. Poor Chad, it happens to the best of us. Just usually not so publicly.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Going to Houston? Stay at the Hilton North

Last Thursday, I worked all day in Boston, led a program and then participated in meetings. I flew that afternoon out of Logan to Houston, not arriving until 9:30pm. It was a long day and I was tired and hungry but the options at the Houston airport meant a bottle of water and a bag of chips for dinner.

I arrived at the Hilton North around 10pm and was greeted warmly by four staff members waiting at the front door. One of them was Manny Adarkwa, a chef in the hotel restaurant. He immediately grabbed my suitcase (50 pounds heavy - yes, lot's of shoes), waited for me to check in and assisted me to my room. I wondered how he could possibly know how much I needed a helping hand after such a long day. I sincerely thanked him and wished him a wonderful evening. He then made my night, returning shortly with a plate of fruit, cheese and crackers. I never mentioned that I missed dinner, he just knew somehow. I was supremely impressed with the level of guest service and genuine hospitality. I stay in a lot of hotels and this one is a rare gem.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There's No Crying in Business

One of the emotional intelligence skills is emotional self-control. Those who lack it often have difficulty managing their emotional reactions to situations and may lash out in anger or break down in tears. I won't pretend that crying in a business meeting is not a credibility killer.

I have spoken with many of those that cry when overwhelmed by a situation and ask, "How am I to best deal with this when you start crying?". Most tell me to keep the meeting going while they try and compose themselves. So that's what I do. I bring in a box of tissues and keep the meeting going.

But I am a woman and I think men stop dead in their tracks when a woman in their office starts crying. This is a great article from a self-disclosed crier that explains why men have difficulty ignoring it. Most importantly, it provides strategies for those of you who tend to cry easily on how to maintain your emotional self-control and earn more credibility.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Wisdom of Titans by William J. Ferguson

Part of my summer book series has included The Wisdom of Titans. For any business leader, this book is for you. William does a fantastic job sharing the stories of many successful entrepreneurs and their very different paths to success. This book takes different ideas and lessons and really reinforces the power of following your dreams and how you can achieve them. From the stories of the Marriott’s who remind us that you have to stay grounded with your business, to Julia Stewart who clearly demonstrates the power of influence, to Sam Zell who says his “Eleventh Commandment: Thou should not take ones self too seriously”, the stories are filled with practical answers to questions all business owners ask themselves. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn from recognized business founders who want to learn multiple paths to success.  

Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

Part of my summer book series has included Lean In. If you’re a woman in the working world this book is a must read. It is targeted for woman of all ages and raises our awareness of the role we are playing in our own lives. Sheryl’s ideas go far beyond leaning into ones career but rather leaning into who you are as an individual and what you can offer for the future. I appreciate her balance of documented research combined with her own personal experience. I promise, once you start reading you will not be able to put it down. I plan to recommend this to all of my clients.

The CEO Code by David Rohlander

Part of my summer book series has included the CEO Code. This book is a great “Go-To” handbook for shaping leadership techniques to help your company succeed. I really like how David takes military principles and applies them to teach crucial leadership lessons. I particularly like his chapters on Resolution and Repetition and his reinforcement of the power behind being an emotionally intelligent leader.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Quin - EQ in Action

This week I got the pleasure of working with Holly Breuche and her new team at New York’s luxury hotel, The Quin ( which opens in a couple of weeks. I was so impressed with the teams' overall enthusiasm and interest in EQ. She has assembled some inspirational A Players: Shanelle, Hercy, Miriam, Sean, Guia, Michel, Kimberly, Steve, Orlando, Dennis and Enada. The group left with a keen understanding of the importance of demonstrating high emotional intelligence as department managers and leaders.

A hotel opening tests everyone’s stress tolerance, flexibility and empathy, and Holly’s insight to provide the training prior to the big day shows she has both high IQ and EQ! Having emotional intelligence can truly make or break a workplace culture and I felt very positive after leaving the team members of The Quin and I can’t wait to see their future success.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What's Easier to Train: Technical or EQ Skills?

I was meeting last week with the managing partner in a technology consulting firm. They are in need of some EQ development. I asked how he knows and he said they have experienced consultants who have difficulty giving and receiving feedback, demonstrate bad behaviors when under stress, and seem to lose touch with how they are coming across to clients. All signs of low EQ alright.

He said they have had the habit of hiring for technical skills thinking the new employee can "pick up" the emotional intelligence piece. He said what they have realized is that the technical skills might have actually been easier to train and they may very well have done better to hire for EQ instead.


Monday, May 20, 2013

The Most Powerful Tool in Leadership - Coachability

We all have blind spots - behaviors we exhibit that are undermining our best intentions, harming our credibility, or damaging our relationships with others. Oft times, we learn about our blind spots through a harsh comment from another or in feedback that may not be tenderly given. It can hurt to hear, or come from an unexpected source, and be so far from our intent that it can sting like a literal slap in the face. Instead of the tempting response to reject the information outright, we must have the maturity and foresight to see these growth opportunities when they present themselves

Often, the best advice does not come from a certified coach or superior, but from more unexpected and informal sources like an employee, an exit interview, an overheard complaint, or collective body language in a meeting. Benefiting from this insight requires a readiness that must be present in any successful, self-directed learning experience.  I call this readiness being coachableSomeone who is coachable is open to seeing other perspectives without being threatened: they "get it". On the flip side, someone who is uncoachable is righteous in their convictions and rigid when exposed to input from others.  

Paradoxically we often hear the uncoachable describe themselves as being open-minded.  Translated, this means that their mind will remain open long enough to receive the feedback, run it by their internal threat meter (the EGO), and then ascertain how much damage it could do to their internal belief systems and external image. Being open to hearing what someone has to say is not the same as being willing to allow it to challenge and change you.  Ego driven activities such as self-preservation, rationalizing, and image control waste so much time, little attention is paid to the merit or value of the feedback itself.  The message gets lost beneath the thundering, chest pounding of the Ego. 

In contrast, someone who is truly coachable has set aside their Ego in order to raise their EQ.  Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the must-have ingredient of coachability.  Competencies such as transparency, active listening, self-awareness, intuition, optimism and self-control are the bedrock of transformational learning and all stem from EQ.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Last week I had the great pleasure to help a family business identify their core mission and vision. The best part? It was a winery. There was so much power in the room as we talked about honoring the family legacy and the land. We were onsite, and the warm sunny day in the vineyard set a magical backdrop for the conversation, as we heard birds and baby lambs in the background.

It came at the end of my busy week of coaching sessions and EQ training. It was on the drive out that it hit me how blessed me and my fellow executive coaches and development colleagues are to do the work we do. We impact people’s lives in a unique way.
First responders (police, fireman, doctors) are most helpful when things are bad. And we are glad they are there, but hope to never need them again.

Professional service providers (accountants, lawyers) are necessary evils. We wish we never had to see them again.

Mental health professionals (counselors, therapists) are best used when we are at a low point. We work to be healthy enough to stop seeing them again.

But I work with you best when you are not in crisis.
I build on your best traits.
I help you see when you have been blind.
I give you power you didn’t know you had.
I will leave a lasting and life-long imprint on your career and soul.
I take you to the deep end of the pool and force you to swim, but will never let you drown.
You can’t wait to see me again.

That is good work. And I actually get paid to do it.

Seriously, how freaking awesome is that?      

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ego Trap #6 - Follow the Leader

A great story from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In about how Robert Rubin, then secretary of the Treasury fell into Ego Trap #6:

Before becoming Treasury secretary, Rubin served as co-chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs. At the end of his first week as co-chairman, he noticed that Goldman was heavily invested in gold. He asked someone why the firm had taken such a big position. The startled employee answered, “That was you, sir.” “Me?” Rubin replied. Apparently, the day before he had been taking his initial tour of the trading floor and commented, “Gold looks interesting.” This got repeated as “Rubin likes gold,” and someone spent millions of dollars to please the new boss. (pg. 82)

So, what version of “Gold looks interesting” is happening to you in your organization?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Knowing Less Can Be More

         I was in meeting this week with an executive reviewing his career path. He mentioned that he came to his current company from a completely different industry. We discussed the difficulty he faced of not knowing the details of the operations he was now responsible for. But there is a huge upside of being unable to tell people how to do things. It gives you a built in immunity to avoiding Ego Trap 4 – Not Letting Go of Control. The leader who falls into Ego Trap 4 chooses to stay involved at transactional levels, feeling that a hands-on approach is their responsibility if they know more about something than anyone else. Although this is an understandable response, the impact of a leader who is deep in the weeds often results in hindering the team’s ability to solve problems independently. Not knowing the nitty gritty details of everything forces you to delegate more, let go of control, and allows room for better decision making.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leadership Credibility

Leaders with credibility are self-aware. Blind spots are our stumbling blocks, our bad habits that
hold us back from being the kind of leader we aspire to be. Resolve to take a risk this year and learn
how to lead from the ones who matter most – those following you.
Consider the following behaviors that crush leadership credibility and employee motivation
(trends uncovered through employee focus groups and surveys across industries and levels):

§ Lack of direct feedback Telling others around the person or saying nothing at all.
Common employee complaint:
“You can tell they are unhappy with me but won’t talk to me directly about it”

§ Solitary decision making Making decisions that impact others without soliciting their feedback.
Common employee complaint:
“This directly affected my job but yet they didn’t think it was important to ask me what I think”

§ Talking out of both sides of your mouth Being hypocritical, contradictory or overly political.
Common employee complaint:
“Mixed messages”

§ Forgetfulness Forgetting conversations and instructions given. Poor listening skills.
Common employee complaint:
“I have to take notes just to be sure I can prove later we had this conversation”

§ Unpredictable/ Reactive Crisis mentality, often adopting the reactions of others.
Common employee complaint:
“We’re headed one direction today, we’ll be headed the opposite direction tomorrow”

§ Fairweather boss A fan one minute, a critic the next.
Common employee complaint:
“You have their support until it becomes unpopular”

§ Unrealistic or assumed expectations Expecting others to possess the same work ethic or
assuming unspoken expectations will be met.
Common employee complaint:
“I failed at something I didn’t even know I was being evaluated on and never got the chance to
discuss it”

§ Not understanding their employee’s jobs Assuming credibility can be earned without
understanding the inner workings of the team.
Common employee complaint:
“If they had any idea what we do they would make better decisions instead of making our jobs

§ Breaking promises/ poor follow through Unreliability in all its ugly incarnations.
Common employee complaint:
“They hold us accountable but when it comes to them there always are exceptions and excuses. ”
Leadership behaviors that build credibility and employee motivation:
·       Assuming the best and delaying judgment
·       Reliability in word and deed
·       Soliciting their input in brainstorming and problem solving
·       Challenging them to think outside their job description
·       Taking a genuine interest in employees as individuals
·       Delegating learning opportunities not just problems
·       Laughing at yourself and fessing up when you blow it
·       Encouraging creativity
·       Giving others the freedom to “fail forward”
·       Operating from a hope of success rather than a fear of failure
·       Asking “how am I doing?”
You can make great strides in the coming year toward becoming the kind of leader you
most admire.
The first step is moving out of your comfort zone and asking for feedback on how others see you
modeling these behaviors. Learning about how others perceive you will reveal ways you can be
more effective and is surprisingly liberating.