Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections of 2014

I love new year's eve and the prospect of what the new year holds. 2014 has been an incredible year for me, it was filled with some real challenges but also some career highlights. And as painful as the challenges have been, I have learned and grown so much because of them.

On the last day of the year, I am most grateful for my two beautiful daughters. They have shown so much maturity and resiliency this year. They are both healthy and happy and bring me so much joy.

I have been able to travel to some beautiful places this year. My favorite highlights include visiting St. John USVI, Charleston SC, and attending Sundance. Being invited to speak at the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond hosted by Wells Fargo was so cool, as was speaking to the Intuit XDers this year. And I also had the pleasure of speaking to government agencies for the first time. By far, the most special hotel I stayed at this year was the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara.    

I also have been blessed this year with so many wonderful people who have been my supporters, my advisors, and dearest friends. A special thank you to Pamela Sumner, Nicole Lorey, Jordana Mirel, Jane Mata, Mark Brazeal, Vicki Clark, Loretta Yenson and Perry Pigeon Hooks of Hooks Books, and my sweetheart David Bailey.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interview with Michael Babikian, President and CEO of Transamerica Brokerage

I'm delighted to have as my guest this month Michael Babikian of Transamerica Brokerage group, part of the Transamerica Life Insurance company. I have worked with Michael and his team for many years. Together, they are leading the industry in innovation and strategic initiatives focused on protecting families. 

JS: In your opinion, what are the skills that executive leaders need today?

MB: Our greatest competition is status quo. Doing things the way that they have always been done—whether bringing products to market or managing people. As leaders of organizations, we are in the business of optimizing human performance, which in a world of constant change, is all about change management. 

In the past, leaders focused on the development and optimization of individual performance. An organization that was made up of strong individual contributors could be great. But today, leaders have to optimize not only individuals but also ecosystems and group dynamics. In order to get great performance for organizations, we must invest in ecosystems in the form of EQ skills.

For example, marketing used to be more of an art form. Now, you have to be an information officer with a marketing background, and be able to work in a complex ecosystem made up of virtual teams with various reporting structures and priorities. Individuals that develop the skills to navigate through this complex system while working with a group add to an organization’s strength and create a collaborative culture.

It’s not what you know as an individual, or even as a group, it’s how quickly can that knowledge be shared, understood and implemented within the entire ecosystem. EQ and collaborative learning, teaching and engaging are the basic skill sets necessary for effectiveness as leaders today.

JS: You have been a strong supporter of the development of emotional intelligence in your organization. What benefits have you observed as a result, particularly when maneuvering through industry change?

MB: There is a trust deficit in our world today at all levels and in all types of leadership—in government, in large multi-national companies and other institutions that many of us have previously placed our trust. Developing and encouraging emotional intelligence should be an integral part of an organization’s efforts to reinforce trust, both internally and externally.

Developing emotional intelligence between individuals and within groups fosters alignment. And alignment begins with authenticity and an acknowledgement of vulnerability, which creates trust within the team’s dynamic and in the ecosystem that surrounds it. For us, alignment and the trust it fosters are critical; they start within our organization and lead through the levels of product distributors all the way to the consumer.

JS: What leader in your own life has had the most impact on you and why?

MB: There are several leaders in my life that have had a great impact on me. Each of these individuals, whom I admire even more today than I did in the past, have demonstrated three key traits: authenticity, connection and trust.

Authenticity. The leaders who had an impact on me were those who I trusted. I never questioned their intent because they were authentic about who they were, what they were trying to accomplish and why. There were no masks; there were no hidden agendas. It was this authenticity that led to trust. When problems arose, which they always do, there was no question of intent of the action. For example, a mistake might have been made, but you don’t spend time and energy questioning intent—you work through a solution.

Connection. Human beings do things because of a connection. Whether it’s an idea, a goal or a person, it’s all about a connection. So In a world where collaboration is important, maintaining connections is even more important. The great leaders in my past have had strong connections with the people, teams and systems around them. They had the ability to communicate a goal or an idea across the board that led to stronger engagement throughout the workforce that resulted in a more positive and thriving organization.

Trust.  Establishing and maintaining trust is a critical component of great leadership.  It is how we motivate teams to accomplish great things. One element of trust is making an environment where people can fail. I had the opportunity to work with great leaders who supported fast and forward failures.  Trying to maintain perfection is impossible and can get in the way of getting things done.  With trust, we learn quickly from mistakes and are better positioned to reach our goals.

About Michael Babikian

Michael M. Babikian is president and CEO of Transamerica Brokerage, a marketing unit for Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates. He was formerly Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer of the Transamerica Life & Protection Division and Chief Marketing Officer for Brokerage; Senior Vice President of Marketing; Vice President of Strategic Marketing Services, and an Advanced Marketing Consultant.

Prior to joining Transamerica, Babikian was general counsel to Infinite Source Technologies, Inc., where he advised on all legal and tax matters. Previously, he was an attorney for the tax law firm of Baker, Olson, LeCroy & Danielian, a tax specialist in KPMG’s Multi-Family Office and worked in the legal department of the California Franchise Tax Board and for the Internal Revenue Service.

Babikian is chairman of the board of directors and a professor at Glendale University College of Law; chairman of the board of directors of the Children’s Music Fund; and a board member of the Chief Marketing Officer Council and a member of the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall Corporate Advisory Board.

After completing his undergraduate studies at the University of California at Irvine, Babikian went on to receive a law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He subsequently earned a master of laws in taxation at the University of San Diego and a master of business administration from the University of Southern California. In addition, Babikian is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, having graduated from the program for leadership development.

Michael can be reached at:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sometimes the Worst of Us Brings Out the Best of Us

It's been a rough month for me as a leader. I lost a new employee who I counted on and really thought would be a great fit for us, but I was wrong and she moved on. I am juggling speaking events, travel, business development, project coordination and single motherhood. Our firm has client demands that are very close to exceeding our current resources so we are in the process of coordinating coaches and trainers for 2015. It's all good stuff but even good stress is still stress and I have had some very unemotionally intelligent days! And it's on my lowest days of self-reflection that mean girl voice in my head says to me, "Some leadership expert you are, you are a fraud." I have also chosen this time to do my own periodic 360 assessment, so I am bracing for those results. I also plan on heavy drinking that day. 

I came across this great article from Wendy Wong at The Ken Blanchard Cos called Learning From Unleaderlike Moments. What a great reminder that even when we feel at our worst and most vulnerable, is when we can grow into the best of us. 

I think the key to successfully leveraging the most from bad times is the following:
  1. Having the willingness to dwell in the pain and shame long enough to self-audit our behaviors. Why did I say or do that? What are my triggers? Who was in the wake of my bad behavior that I need to apologize to? 
  2. Taking action instead of allowing the unleaderlike moments to continue. Identify the stress sources and take care of them, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it may be. Come clean with your team, own it and commit to doing better next time. Don't allow chronic bad behavior.
  3. Moving on. There is no positive benefit from lingering guilt, worry, or self-judgment. If you have done #1 and #2, you are ready to let this go and move on. 
What are your best practices for recovering from leadership failure?   

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Want to Avoid Ego Trap 4 - "Not Letting Go of Control"? Take This Quiz

I am huge fan of Dan McCarthy's blog Great Leadership and he recently posted a self-assessment to determine if you might be a micromanager:

In Ego vs EQ, I share the pitfalls that leaders can fall into when they allow blind spots to sabotage their successful influence on followers. Ego Trap 4 is Not Letting Go of Control. This ties directly to micromanagement. Ironically, in some cases, micromanaging leaders may see themselves as low-ego, ultimate “servant leaders.” They may think: “Look at me, I am rolling up my sleeves and working side-by-side with the troops.” In reality, what may look like helping, though, isn’t helping at all since the group doesn’t often need another operator. They need a leader. In most cases the leader’s need to be involved often slows down the work of the group, as other things sit and wait for him to review or approve them. The principles of Emotional Intelligence say it’s not an executive or founder’s job to stay in the weeds and micromanage every challenge the company faces in each and every department but instead to lead people in the strategic direction they envision.

In a related article, I posted "The Trouble with Control" as a guest on Dan's blog if you are interested in learning more.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interview with Beth Burbage, Vice President of Organizational Development, Silverado

Beth Burbage is one of my favorite people, she has a strong passion for the work she does and deftly instills the same commitment to care in the employees at Silverado. She and I have worked together for many years and I have been able to witness under her leadership her department and her organization grow and thrive. Silverado continues to be recognized for their industry leadership in the care and treatment of the memory impaired. Welcome Beth!

JS: You have been actively involved in leadership development for many years now, in your opinion what leadership skills will be imperative in the next five years?

BB: “It’s all about relationships,” as one of Silverado’s Board Members, Vance Caesar, often says. I strongly believe that leaders need to have the ability to build relationships up, across and down in their organizations. This is not something new, but I feel that leaders can sometimes place too much emphasis on the “task side” of their jobs, with not enough attention being paid to the “people side.” Sure you’ve got to get the job done, but the role of the leader is to get work done with and through other people. If you don’t have excellent relationships, you absolutely cannot be successful. So as we take a look at the broader society and where leadership fits in in the next five years, I think relationships are more important than ever. When times are stressful and there is uncertainty in your world, you’ve got to rely on the foundation of your support system, which is the people who surround you. So what is the key to building these vital relationships? Trust. Extending trust to others and being trustworthy yourself. Both are critical to building solid relationships. A leader must be willing to be vulnerable and trust first. This can be very hard for some people. But I stand by that as the best way to start the relationship building process.

JS: Silverado has done a great job of incorporating emotional intelligence (EQ) into its leadership competencies. What EQ skills do you feel are most important for leaders, particularly in the senior care industry, to demonstrate?

BB: At Silverado we give LIFE to the people we serve. LIFE stands for Love, Innovation, Family, and Engagement. We also give LIFE to our associates. When we look for leaders who will embody these values, and who can live them on a daily basis, effective emotional intelligence competencies are a common denominator. Several that stand out to me as important at Silverado and the senior care industry as a whole are: empathy, flexibility, self-regulation, and self-awareness.

We work with families at an incredibly vulnerable time, when they have decided that they can no longer care for a loved one with dementia at home, and they need to find a new home for them. Empathy is an absolute necessity in being able to listen, understand, and provide guidance to family members as they are making tough decisions.
As we work to give LIFE to our residents with dementia and their family members, we need to be prepared for the unpredictable. The moment-to-moment landscape at the community is constantly changing, so flexibility is key.

If leaders become unnerved in this ever-changing environment, then they can model the wrong things to our associates, escalate issues unintentionally, and sometimes undermine the trust that family members and associates have in them. So the next EQ skill of self-regulation comes into play along with flexibility. Does the leader know how to thoughtfully choose their reaction to the situation at hand? Can they remain calm under pressure? These are things we try to determine when hiring and promoting leaders.

All EQ skills are important, but the last one that I think is critical in our environment is self-awareness – it actually may be the most important EQ skill in my opinion. If a leader is not able to understand their own emotions, is not tuned into their strengths and weaknesses, then I believe they cannot succeed as a leader. You have to know where your weaknesses are so that you can develop or hire others to fill those gaps. You need to be open to receiving feedback and doing something with it. This will build your self-awareness and help you to be the best leader you can be.

JS: Many organizations struggle with bringing the concept of emotion into the business conversation. Silverado has done a great job with incorporating your operating philosophy of “LOVE is greater than fear” openly into your culture. What is your advice for companies who want to make emotions safe for daily conversation? What value has it provided your leaders?

BB: Having LOVE is Greater than fear (L>f) as our operating philosophy certainly has a huge impact on our culture. You can see it in action at all levels in our organization; from one-on-one conversations between individuals, all the way up to how the philosophy is used as the main guiding principle behind how our executive team makes decisions that impact the whole company. It was our CEO,Loren Shook, who initially introduced the concept to the executive team. He struggled with how it would be received, but overcame his own fear to take the next steps. With this in mind, I believe that one of the markers for success is that we had senior level support from the beginning. We had a leader with a vision. We have been relentless in our pursuit of ensuring that the philosophy lives on and is embraced by all associates. We have also worked hard to define what the behaviors look like that represent “coming from love.” We train our associates on the philosophy at new hire orientation. It’s included in all of our leadership training. We are vigilant about being sure that people understand what it means to come from love. The phrase “love is greater than fear” is heard in the hallways, in most meetings, and is something that associates have personally embraced and taken home with them. My advice is to keep in mind that it’s not just one thing that makes it ok to bring emotions into our workplace, it’s all of these things and more. From a leadership standpoint, having this philosophy makes a leader’s job easier. The training that we provide clearly outlines the expected leadership behaviors. When a leader can ask him or herself, what would I do if I were doing the right thing at the right time (coming from love)? And then be supported by their management for their actions that spring from this thought process, they know they did the right thing. They feel valued.

 About Beth Burbage
Beth Burbage is the Vice President of Organizational Development for Silverado Senior Living. She has over 25 years of experience in the learning and development field and directs all aspects of Silverado's Organizational Development (OD) function. This includes organizational effectiveness, leadership development, and interpersonal effectiveness for leaders, team development, as well as coaching and mentoring systems. Beth has responsibility for continually building the company's stock of human capital and encouraging associate development and engagement. She also facilitates implementation of appropriate change management initiatives, and reviews current development programs to ensure alignment with the company vision, values, and goals.  

During the past eight years at Silverado Beth has won several awards. In 2014 the OD department was honored by California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Leadership with an annual award for “Excellence in Leadership Development.” She was recognized by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) in 2012 with a Program to Watch for Silverado’s Leadership Development Forum. She was also selected by ALFA for a Best of the Best award in both 2010 (for LOVE>fear Training) and 2008 (for LIFE Leaders Training).In 2007 she was recognized by Silverado’s President and CEO with the Management Excellence Award for implementing leader development programs.

Beth has presented at State (California, Texas and Arizona) and National (ALFA) assisted living conferences on various topics of leadership. She is an active member of the Organization Development Network, the NeuroLeadership Institute, and the Association for Talent Development (formerly ASTD).

Her last position was as Corporate Director of Organizational Development at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. where she had responsibility for all learning and organizational development for the corporation. Prior to this position Beth spent four years with the Fluor Corporation in the People Development function, and started her career in training and development at MCI, where she spent 14 years.

Beth holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. She served on the Board of the Orange County Affiliate of the National Human Resources Association for 5 years, where she served as President.

Past work experience includes serving in the United States Army and working for the U.S. Government as a civilian in the Intelligence field in Vicenza, Italy.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 Ways to Deal with a Tough Situation at Work

Wouldn’t it be ideal if our work environments were guaranteed to be free of tough situations with a coworker, boss, or colleague? Unfortunately, this is usually not reality.  When you encounter challenging circumstances, it is critical to know how to handle it effectively. I received a call recently from a woman struggling with her manager. She felt the manager was being difficult, using sarcasm and backhanded passive aggressive comments. She asked what she should do. I gave her my standard list of options, here are my best suggestions for navigating a difficult situation in the workplace:

Deal with it Directly

Address the person openly and constructively. Change can only come if there is honest dialogue. Make sure to keep your tone from being accusatory or hostile. See Secrets of Straight Talk for tips on how to best do this. While a dialogue alone may not work, it could lay the foundation for a resolution that is mutually acceptable. Without a conversation, I can guarantee you that nothing will improve on its own.

Learn to Cope in a Healthy Way

Don’t say anything and instead choose to absorb the stress and cope with the situation in a healthy way. Channel your negative stress into something that’s constructive, whether that’s physical exercise, reflective journaling, or strategizing with a professional coach. Additionally, practicing yoga or meditation can help you keep your perspective, along with framing the situation with the question, “In the grand scheme of things, how important will this situation be in a year? Two years?” Find an outlet and you’ll be surprised how freeing it feels to work through your frustrations constructively.

Move On

Make the adult decision to move on. Sometimes you simply cannot change a situation, and chronically complaining or constantly worrying about it will not alter the circumstances. Building conflict serves no purpose but to escalate a tense situation, so instead of wishing things would improve, choose a better situation for yourself. This is not admitting defeat – it’s acknowledging that your time, energy, and mental health are all important and worthy of respect and consideration.

The woman later called me to let me know that she had chosen option 1, sat down with her boss and shared her honest feedback. She said it completely changed how her manager treated her and both were successfully working together. Good news.

While tough situations at work cannot always be avoided, it’s essential that you learn how to manage your response by either dealing with the issue directly or finding a way that helps you cope with the stress in a healthy manner. It’s also vital to recognize when the situation is no longer worth it and it’s time to walk away.

What are your best tips for dealing with tough situations in the workplace?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Market Basket - More Ego than EQ?

I have been watching with great interest the New England story of the battle going on at Market Basket. In short, it's coming down to rivalry between two cousins in a fight for power. As a result, the company has lost millions in revenue, employees have lost jobs and consumers have had to redirect their shopping to other options. I am not sure if they can even recover as a business at this point. My question is, how is the Board of Directors allowing this nonsense to continue? This is the risk of business owners filling their Boards with friends and family, which must clearly be the case here. Ego Trap 3 is Surrounding Yourself with More of You. Dangerous. And could cost you your company some day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SHRM 2014

This year's SHRM annual conference was held in Orlando FL, the largest US conference with 13,000 of your closest friends. I had the coveted speaking time of the last session on the last day. Thanks to the 350 die hards who stayed at the conference until the curtain closed.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Interview with Terri Timberman, Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources at Broadcom

Our firm has been working with Broadcom for many years now, a company with incredible engineering talent and some of the smartest people on Planet Earth. There is an ever present awareness of the important formula of IQ + EQ at the company so I am delighted Terri Timberman, their Executive VP of Global HR is joining us to answer a few questions about leadership at Broadcom. Welcome Terri!

JS: In your experience, what is the most common reason executives derail?

TT: There are a couple of common reasons that cause executives to derail.  Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has an impact on both. 

Most of us as executives need to have a strong ego to get to where we are.  Learning to manage that ego such that others can learn, succeed and develop is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of becoming a true executive leader.

The most common derail EQ area is executives who fail to make the transition from individual contributor to leader. They continue to do the things that made them successful earlier their careers without evolving their style.  It is the perpetual challenge inherent in shifting from individual or manager to executive and ultimately to being the strategic leader.  These are the executives who have difficulty delegating and who cannot distribute decision making and responsibility with authority to his/her staff. Executives with high EQ know that their roles have changed. They understand that while they may know how to do “it” and perhaps can even do “it” better, it’s essential to the development of their teams and to their own development to not do “it.” 

The second most common cause for executive derailing I’ve experienced combines a number of aspects of EQ.  Having spent almost my entire HR career in high technology, surrounded by brilliant technologists and scientists, I’ve seen more than my share of very, very smart executives who were not schooled in the art of leadership or communication.  The ability to create and communicate a vision, engage others in that vision, understand employees as individuals and create an environment of responsibility and accountability needed for job satisfaction and personal development are not skills generally taught as part of engineering degrees and often not as part of MBA programs. 

JS: Because your organization is heavily focused on technical skills, what role do you see EQ playing in career success at Broadcom?

TT: Broadcom, even more than most technology companies celebrates innovation and technical competence.  Innovation is a core value at the company and we celebrate these individuals who embody those skills and values.  As the company has grown, the need for high EQ technologists has grown, adding the need to demonstrate those skills through broad-based leadership.  We need our technical heroes (called Fellows and Distinguished Engineers) to mentor others.  They need to develop and mentor the next generation of innovators and can only do that through demonstrating strong levels of EQ.  It becomes a virtuous cycle, as each level of technology professionals develops those around them.  The “newer” engineers may have more current technical knowledge and are expected to share up, down and sideways.  The more experienced engineers help integrate the current technical skills and knowledge, coach others in how to communicate and mentor others, etc.  Ultimately in today’s workplace, while “experts” are valued, experts who exhibit EQ are the resilient survivors companies work to retain.

JS: Admitting weaknesses can feel vulnerable and some may not want to appear weak or to be struggling. In your opinion, what benefit is there for an executive to recognize their own EQ deficits and seek coaching?

TT: We have made “coaching” a privilege and a statement of the company’s commitment to executives.  When we provide an executive with a coach, it is a sign of our belief in the executive and his/her potential.  We view coaching as “the last few feet” in the long journey, meaning that for executives, it is intended to help him/her polish (improve) a last few skills in the tool box.  When successful executives share openly about the benefit (coaching) the company is providing him/her, rather than being viewed as weak or struggling, the executive is demonstrating EQ.  Often his/her success is viewed as connected to the coaching process. 

About Terri Timberman:

Terri Timberman serves as Broadcom's Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources. In this role, she is responsible for managing and leading Broadcom's HR and administration functions, including organizational development, employee relations, employee training and development, compensation and benefits, and recruiting and retention strategies. She also leads HR strategy for acquisitions and integration programs.
Ms. Timberman is an HR industry leader with more than 30 years of experience in innovative organizational design, development and strategic planning. She joined Broadcom in March 2009 after serving in senior HR positions at Planar Systems, Inc., AMI Semiconductor, Inc., Radisys Corporation, Merix Corporation, Tektronix, Inc. and TriQuint Semiconductors.
Ms. Timberman serves on the Boards of Directors of Broadcom Foundation and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), and is a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Forum of Oregon (ALFO). She is also the executive sponsor for Broadcom's Diversity and Inclusion strategy and Employee Engagement Group program that includes the Broadcom Women's Network, the Multi-cultural Network and the Aware Network.
Ms. Timberman received a B.A. in Organizational Communications from Marylhurst University, Portland, Ore.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nomination for 2014 Best Book Award

It has been an extremely exciting and busy year for us at Penumbra Group. This past week, I received some very exciting news that I couldn't wait to share with you. My recent book, Ego vs EQ, which hit shelves this past October, has reached a new milestone in the world of books. Ego vs EQ has been listed for two categories of the "USA Book News Awards" including, Business and Management & Leadership. I am honored to have received a nomination for this tremendous award and I am looking forward to seeing what's in store next for Ego vs EQ. Pick up your copy today by clicking on the link below! Happy Reading!

Monday, June 23, 2014

eLearning Program Now Available on Interviewing for EQ

Through a partnership with Soundview PRO, our very popular course "Strategic Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence" is now available as an eLearning program...

Get more details, see a course outline, and a video welcome at:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Request for Help

For those of you loyal readers, thank you. It is a great pleasure to do the work I do and work with so many amazing people. I need some specific support on a couple of things:

1. Write an Amazon review for Ego vs EQ. The magic number is 50 and I am currently at 34 so I just need 16 nice people to take 5 minutes out of their busy day to do this. It is very simple, you just go to:

Click on the button that says, "Create your own review". You can do this even if you did not buy a copy from Amazon. If you did buy a copy, just be sure that you are logged in. Once we hit 50 reviews, Amazon begins to include Ego vs EQ in marketing campaigns that it is not currently eligible for now.

2. Recommend me for a TED Talk. They are planning the 2015 conference now and it is my goal to speak there next year. The page to go to is:

You will be asked 6 questions, only 2 are mandatory. Please let me know if you need any information from me.

Thanks a million!!  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Great Time at ALFA

I had the pleasure of joining the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) at their national conference this year. I have been a past speaker so it was great to see so many familiar faces and reconnect with colleagues. I presented at three sessions and joined the Executive Human Resources Round Table Lunch. ALFA provides such a great service to its members through education and networking, if you are in the assisted living or senior care industry, don't miss next year's conference!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Least Narcissistic of Them All: CEO's with Humility

Narcissism is ego on steroids. And that extreme sense of self-importance and self-accomplishment is a trait we often see in poor leaders who are failing at managing their organizations. But what about the CEO’s who swap out the “I” and “my” for “we” and “our”? Does their humility benefit their company’s performance? 

In the article Narcissism as a Predictor of Company Performance, discusses the results of Professor Alex Frino’s study on the connection between narcissistic traits in CEO’s and corresponding stock returns. In his Australian experiment, “the group of large Australian companies headed by the least narcissistic chief executives had annualized stock returns that were nearly twice that of the group of most narcissistic CEOs for the period of September 2011 to March.”
When conducting similar research on American companies, Frino found that VMware Labs CEO Patrick Gelsinger and TJX CEO Carol M. Meyrowitz were in the top 10 least narcissistic leaders whose companies were high performers. 

It’s easy to call out those CEO’s who fail to keep their ego in check and subsequently lose sight of their company’s main goals, but it’s important to acknowledge those leaders make a conscious effort to engage in EQ and empower their employees to succeed and achieve the team vision. Sheldon Gary Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, and David C. Novak of Yum! Brands also made the list.

It will be interesting to read Frino's future research on the link between a "me" attitude and company performance, but one thing is for certain - an unchecked ego without the critical soft skills of emotional intelligence will always be a bad for business.  

Check out the full article over at

Friday, June 13, 2014

NAIFA Annual Meeting

We have worked in the insurance industry for over a decade now and it was a pleasure to work with the local chapter of NAIFA - the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers New England Chapter at their annual meeting. I presented on the Applications of Emotional Intelligence, the audience was very engaged, great to meet all of them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interview with Eric Hutcherson - Talent Management Rockstar at Marsh

I am taking some liberty with my description of Eric as an HR rockstar, but trust me if you met him in person you would have the same impression. Leveraging his non-traditional HR experiences in sports and non-profits to his current role as a talent management executive, he has channeled his energy and powerful insights into leadership and human dynamics. I had to ask him to be a guest on my blog. I encourage you to take his advice to heart and challenge you to think differently about leadership. 

JS: In your opinion Eric, how does demonstrating emotional intelligence connect with authentic leadership? 

EH: Authenticity is key to deriving the results you seek as a leader. It is my opinion that employees are wiser than we give them credit for. As a result, they can see right through the games we sometimes play as leaders. This is especially true when having to deliver bad news, tough messages, or are attempting to persuade. It is funny to watch as leaders attempt to “position” the story in a way to compel the person to think, react and feel the way we want them to. When in fact, if that same leader simply gave a true representation of the situation, explained the circumstances clearly and truthfully, the outcome would generally be exactly what they were hoping for. If not, at least the employee walks away feeling respected, appreciated and clear. Many leaders attempt to manipulate the situation. They rely on their “ego” when they really need to tap into their “EQ”. 

This is where ego is a dangerous thing. We sometimes think we are so smart that we can get anyone to feel the way we want. When in fact, the real skill/capability is their EQ. When done right, the leader is able to glean key information that helps them assess where the person is at any point in the dialogue. They can sense the flow of the discussion, know where to go and where not to go, and most importantly, they become in tune to the drivers of the other person, understanding how things are occurring to them and making adjustments along the way. Watching a leader in tune with their EQ and thus leading authentically, is a thing of beauty. As I coach executives on their leadership brand, I hit this subject really hard. Authentic leadership is an art that is seldom practiced. However, I spend a disproportionate amount of time coaching on leadership brand, communication style, authenticity and integrity above all. 

This is why I live by the mantra, “I like who I am and I like what I see”. At the end of the day, I want to go home and make sure my clients go home knowing I was my full authentic self today…every day. 

JS: You have read Ego vs. EQ. What do you think is one key take away leaders should be implementing every day? 

EH: I absolutely love this book because it is not only theoretically sound, but it is extraordinarily practical. I have to say that after reading it, many times, Ego Trap 6: Underestimating How Much You Are Being Watched still strikes me as the key to it all. 

I can’t tell you how many times I and other leaders have fallen into this trap. It still amazes me at how fine the details are that colleagues will recall about behaviors, statements etc. While it is true the impact a CEO can have is often overstated, it is also true that you are always being watched. As I deliver my career and leadership development program, “Say Yes to Success” it focuses on this quite a bit. When you, as a leader, are interacting, consider this simple fact. “You are always on an interview!” When looked at through that lens, you wouldn’t dare say, do, or act in the same way. And as highlighted in the book, it isn’t always the major overt actions that have the greatest impact. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that colleagues remember most. I don’t intend to suggest leaders need to always be buttoned up. But definitely be more aware and in tune to those around them and the speed at which news travels. This is why EQ is so critical. We lose ourselves at times in the moment, not sensing the tone of the situation and this is typically when the misstep happens. 

My advice to leaders is simple. Because of the position you hold and the influence you have, you have to remember that the second the words leave your mouth, it is fact. Surprisingly, I consult with so many leaders who struggle with this concept. They will say, “But I was brainstorming” or “It was just a throw away comment”. This book will quickly help leaders realize, there is no such thing. One practice I have put in place with all of my coaching clients is this. Think five things but only say one. In other words, be more careful and sparing with how much you say, limiting the chances for you to say something wrong. Another simple piece of advice for leaders: your leadership brand comes in the room before you do. So your behavior (past and present) will drive the experiences people get (and therefore shape) the leadership brand you develop. The results you derive, positive or negative, are shaped by those initial behaviors. If you want to change the brand…change the behavior! 

JS: What will the rest of this decade require of leaders? Any insight into the challenges they should be prepared to face? 

EH: I guess there are so many things a leader can expect to face and of course, they can’t really prepare for all of them. That said, the pace of change is the thing I focus on. I believe the next decade is going to move faster than ever before. As Boomers leave the workforce and the Millennial generation become the leaders of the future, pace and change is all they know. Everything is done instantly. Banking, buying, and learning (among others), happen instantly and on-demand. The ability of leaders to adapt to that pace of change is critical. It will shape how we do business, how our clients/customers see our value, how employers will value the capabilities of future employees and how employees will evaluate the nature of the companies they work for. 

Comfort with change, coupled with the unique ability to actively listen, synthesize and adjust will be the key to leadership success in the future. Can leaders “pivot” according to the situation? Can they guide their actions, coaching, and leadership for what is required at the time, yet be prepared to change if the situation dictates? Leaders, especially those that lead with Ego, are predisposed to Tell not Coach. As a result, they often don’t listen…they reload. Since in many cases they have seen it all before, they coach according to past experience, missing the need to pivot and adjust. Today, the leadership issues are so diverse that coaching in the moment is what is needed. Just-in-time, on-demand and customized coaching will be the solution to create the differentiated skill-set required of the most successful leaders.

About Eric Hutcherson

Eric Hutcherson serves as a Managing Director, HR Leader for the US and Canada Division of Marsh, a Marsh and McLennan company and a leading global insurance brokerage firm, based in NY with over 25,000 colleagues worldwide and approximately 10,000 in the US and Canada.

In this capacity, Eric leads the HR function in support of the Marsh business and people strategies.  Eric is instrumental in designing and delivering proactive solutions to the people challenges that face the firm. He and his team are responsible for talent acquisition, colleague engagement, talent and succession planning as well as a range of initiatives and projects.  Prior to his role at Marsh, Eric spent 8 years at Mercer, another MMCo company, in various HR leadership roles including Global Leader for Mercer’s Outsourcing and Global Operations and Shared Services businesses, Chief Human Resource Officer - Americas, Americas Human Resource Leader for Retirement and Investments, and Human Resource Officer - US Northeast Zone.  Eric also held several Human Resource management roles with Putnam Investments.  Prior to his career in Human Resources, Eric worked in the professional sports field with the Boston Celtics and Foot Locker.

At Marsh, Eric is heavily involved in Marsh’s diversity and inclusion efforts, plays an instrumental role in the Employee Resource Groups and is helping to shape their external presence in the diversity community. 

Outside of work, Eric is a motivational speaker, serves on several non profit boards, and is a basketball coach and trainer. 

Eric received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from New York University and his Master of Science in Sports Management and Administration from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On Air With Ric Franzi - Critical Mass Radio Show

On May 13, 2014, I had the great opportunity to talk with Ric Franzi on air over at Critical Mass Radio Show. We discussed my latest book Ego vs. EQ and delved into the power of emotional intelligence and its dynamics in the workplace.

You can listen to the podcast of our interview right here on the blog:

Head over to hear Ric Franzi's other interviews at the Critical Mass Radio Show Series and be sure to check out for more information on emotional intelligence and how you can beat the 8 common ego traps that great leaders avoid.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Day in the Life

I spoke at a conference in Phoenix yesterday and planned to fly to New York today with a connection in Denver.  Flight from PHX to Denver scheduled to leave at 12:30pm. We boarded, taxied to runway and then stopped due to weather in Denver. After an hour they said it would be another 90 minutes so we would go back to the airport. We deplane. We sit in the gate area for ten minutes and they announce the ground hold is released, we need to board again. We board. They close the door. Just before we push, they announce the ground hold is back on. They open the door and offer to let us deplane. Ninety minutes later we board again. We finally leave at 5:30pm. 5 hours late. I arrive in Denver and missed every possible connection to NY. So, I get rerouted through Chicago. I arrive at 12:30am and leave tomorrow morning for NY at 6am. The bonus will be if my checked suitcase actually stays with me. Note to self: always pick the direct flight. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Emily Slivka Joins Penumbra Group Inc.

At Penumbra Group Inc., we are so excited to announce the addition of Emily Slivka to our team! Emily is joining us as a full-time Professional Development Administrator after a previous semester interning with us.

Originally from Bedford, New Hampshire, Emily is a recent graduate of High Point University, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Relations. Emily was active on campus during her studies, working for the university as an admissions ambassador and learning firsthand what emotional intelligence looks like in higher education. Drawing on her experience as a marketing intern for the American Red Cross and a public relations intern with La Belle Winery, Emily will be enhancing the client experience at Penumbra with her charismatic persona and professional manner.

In March, I had the pleasure of speaking at Emily's alma mater.

 Welcome to the team, Emily!

Monday, May 5, 2014

SHRM Talent Management Conference & Exposition

Just this past month, I had the great pleasure of speaking at the 2014 SHRM Talent Management Conference & Exposition in Nashville, Tenn. hosted by the Society for HR Management. I spoke at last year’s conference and it was wonderful to return and be surrounded by so many interested participants again. There was a great turnout at our session, with over 300 people in attendance, and I loved interacting with our engaged audience through Twitter using the hashtag #SHRMtalent. A special shout-out to @JackiKintz and @GAParker01 for the great feedback – and thank you to everyone who attended and participated!
One major highlight of this conference was getting the opportunity to see Marcus Buckingham, best-selling author of “First, Break All the Rules” and founder of TMBC, the world’s most effective strengths-based leadership solutions. It was great to hear him speak on employee engagement and innovative talent management solutions.

Friday, April 25, 2014

AudiologyNOW Focuses on EQ

I had the pleasure of speaking last month at the American Academy of Audiology's annual national conference, AudiologyNOW in Orlando Florida. We had a great turnout, with close to 200 audiology professionals eagerly learning more about the Strategic Applications of Emotional Intelligence

I was also interviewed for their monthly magazine, Audiology Today, if you'd like to take a read. 

A key conference organizer, Kathleen Devlin Culver was instrumental in my participation and in providing resources to help me be the most prepared. I really enjoyed the audience participation and interaction. Thank you for having me!  

From Left: Joscelyn Martin, AuD, Instructor of Audiology, Mayo Clinic, MN and member of the Foundation Board of Trustees, Jen Shirkani, Jeff Newnham, President, Phonak US (a major international hearing aid/hearing technology manufacturer), Angela Shoup, PhD, Associate Professor, Otolaryngology and Director, Division of Communicative & Vestibular Disorders, Univ of TX  Southwestern Medical Center and Chair of the Foundation Board

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

High Point University - Emotional Intelligence in Higher Ed

Can a university have EQ? I am pretty sure I have seen it in action. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at High Point University in Greensboro NC last week to the graduating seniors about EQ. It was part of a Senior Seminar class led by the impressive and passionate HPU President, Dr. Nido Qubein, who invites guest speakers to share relevant, practical content to their students; who will undoubtedly be future leaders in business, charities, families and politics. I spent the entire day and evening on campus and was impressed with the degree of maturity, politeness and professionalism of the students, faculty and staff. I observed students being treated like customers, something I have never seen before. Keep your eye on these kids folks, I would start recruiting via internships. That's what I did and have a wonderful new HPU grad starting with us at Penumbra Group in May!

Jen Shirkani and Chris Dudley, HPU Chief of Staff

Afternoon open-to-the-public session, standing room only