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Two Key Skills for High-Performance Leadership

high performing leader presenting to colleagues at a work meeting

What does it take to be a high-performing leader? Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman explored this question with George Kohlrieser, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD, while they discussed emotional intelligence and leadership.

Their conversation centered on the twelve emotional intelligence competencies many organizations recognize as being essential for effective leadership. Each competency focuses on a specific aspect of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, or relationship management.

Positive Outlook is a competency in the self-management domain. During their conversation, Professor Kohlrieser stressed the importance of positivity, saying leaders must be able to find and convey to others what is positive in any situation. Dr. Goleman described research that highlights ways leaders can learn to be more positive. Here is a brief section of that conversation:

If there is one constant in life and the work world, it is change. Along with being positive, effective leaders must be able to adjust to the changes they face each day. In this brief video clip, George Kohlrieser talks about positivity as an essential precursor to another emotional intelligence competency, Adaptability.

Positive Outlook and Adaptability are just two of the twelve emotional intelligence competencies of leaders who perform better than their peers. Research shows that leaders who score high in six or more of the emotional intelligence competencies are better able to create the conditions needed to improve performance in the groups they lead.

Oftentimes the result isn’t just better performance, but happier and less stressed teams. And who doesn’t want that?

Want to learn more about leadership and emotional intelligence?

Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership is a series of video conversations between Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, including Richard Boyatzis, Richard Davidson, Vanessa Druskat, and George Kohlrieser.

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence is a collection of Daniel Goleman’s writings filled with advice for leaders on using emotional intelligence to enhance their performance.

How to Develop Empathy When It Doesn’t Come Naturally

how-to-develop-empathy

How to Develop Empathy When it Doesn’t Come Naturally

By Richard Boyatzis

How well do you understand the people with whom you work? In every setting, you can be more effective if you have a clear perception of those around you. Empathy is key for understanding others and is the most fundamental of the social intelligence competencies.

Empathy is the ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, take an active interest in their concerns, and pick up cues to what is being felt and thought.

By “understand another person,” I don’t mean merely making believe that you’re interested in their lives, but actually caring about understanding them. Can you discern another person’s motivation? Such understanding is one of the building blocks for any healthy interpersonal interaction, both personal and professional. In fact, when it’s missing, it’s a building block for negative relationships.

Think about a time when you felt that someone was really tuning in to you. What did their behavior look like? Much of empathy comes down to listening. If you want to practice it, practice listening to other people. Very often it means asking them what they’re thinking about or how they’re feeling. You might start in a group meeting where you focus on one or two people during a half-hour meeting and ask yourself, “I wonder what she’s thinking right now? I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” As a way to check whether or not you’re even close to accurate, approach them after the meeting and say, “What were you thinking about during that meeting? What did you think of what happened?” It ends up being a very useful way to see if you can tune in to different people. Ask them an open question and listen closely to the answer. The more you practice that, the easier it’s going to get and the less artificial it will feel.

As a former engineer, a lot of us who were trained technically had trouble even making eye contact. That’s a precursor to listening, and to developing empathy. It’s hard to ask a person a question and to listen to them if you’re not looking in their eyes. There are a number of things that you might have to practice to get to a higher state of empathy, but you don’t have to get to the Spock mind meld, the technique of merging minds that we learned about in Star Trek. Empathy starts with a desire to understand others better.

Here’s an excerpt from a conversation I had with Daniel Goleman for Crucial Competence, in which I elaborate on the foundations of emotional intelligence. You can access the full video series here.

Why Emotional Intelligence is Crucial for 21st Century Leaders

emotionally intelligent leader looking out the window

By Daniel Goleman

Leaders who want to succeed at any level of an organization must be emotionally intelligent. That’s the message I take away from reviewing decades of studies done by researchers and businesses across the world. What do I mean by emotional intelligence? What does the research say about why it matters? How can you develop your skills at emotional intelligence?

crucial-competence-daniel-golemanAnswering those questions is the focus of Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership, a new video series featuring conversations I had with four of my colleagues, Richard Boyatzis, Richard Davidson, Vanessa Druskat, and George Kohlrieser. Here’s a brief introduction to the information we share in Crucial Competence.

A Different Way of Being Smart

Emotional intelligence is a different way of being smart: how you manage yourself and your relationships. To find out whether someone has intellectual smarts, you test their IQ. To find out if someone is emotionally intelligent, you must look at their skill at handling emotional tasks. How aware are they of their own emotions? How well do they manage their emotions? How tuned in are they to the feelings of the people around them? How do they interact with others?

These questions about skill are based on a competence model for determining what makes someone truly capable of exceptional leadership. In a competence model, you do a systematic analysis and determine the abilities, or competencies, that you find in the high performers that you don’t see in the average.

Today, every organization with a high-quality Human Resources operation uses a competence model for their key positions. They use it to hire people, to promote people. And, it tells them what to help people develop in order to become star leaders.

After I wrote Emotional Intelligence, I asked about 100 organizations to let me look at their competence models, including the distinguishing competencies that set apart their outstanding performers from the normal at a given job. I aggregated all of these and looked at the composite with one question in mind: how many of the distinguishing competencies these organizations independently arrived at are based on IQ, purely cognitive abilities, and how many are based on emotional intelligence?

What I found was quite revealing:

For jobs of all kinds, at all levels, on average, emotional intelligence was twice as important as cognitive ability in terms of the distinguishing competencies. The higher you go in the organization, the more it matters.

If you look at top leadership positions, C-suite positions, you’ll see that 80 to 90%, sometimes 100%, of the competencies that organizations independently have determined are the ones that set their star leaders apart are based on emotional intelligence.

What does this mean for you? Developing these competencies could help you become a better leader. One who is more adaptable, more focused on achievement, has better conflict management, and is generally more successful.

There are four parts to my emotional intelligence model: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Within each of these domains, there are learned competencies based on the underlying ability that make people outstanding in the workplace. My colleagues and I identified 12 emotional intelligence competencies spread across the four domains. Crucial Competence explores in depth each of those 12 competencies.

Here’s an excerpt from Crucial Competence where I discuss the neuroscience of self-management with Richard Davidson:

Want to Inspire? First, Develop Trust

trust-emotional-intelligence

By George Kohlrieser

If you want to inspire a team or organization, first you must develop trust.

What leaders have inspired you? Who is the best boss you have ever had? Beneath the inspiration it is likely that there was a strong sense that you could trust that person and that they trusted you. Without having trust in an organization’s leaders, people will not be inspired to follow their direction.

Trust is a key aspect of secure base leadership. I have worked extensively with this concept, which came out of the work of John Bowlby, the founder of attachment theory. A secure base is a person, a place, or a thing that creates a sense of comfort, gives energy, and inspires one to be curious, seek challenge and take risk. A secure base is someone who provides both safety and challenge. Secure bases can also be anything that inspires, like goals, symbols, places, memories. Secure base leadership is the ability to create a state of safety not for the sake of safety but to support someone in stepping outside their comfort zone where creativity, innovation, and exploration best takes place.

You can think of it like a child’s relationship to their parent, caretaker, grandparents, or teacher. They want to be close to them to feel safe, but they don’t want to stay there. They want to go out and explore. A leader has to create that same environment. They must create a trusting and safe environment, in which a person can explore possibilities and the potential of what she can do.

For any of you familiar with climbing, another way of thinking about it is like belaying. The belayer acts as a “secure base,” positioning himself or herself at the bottom of the ascent. The climber is attached to one end of the rope and the belayer, using a device clipped to his harness, holds the other end of the rope so that the climber has enough slack to move, but not enough to fall any great distance. As the climber advances upwards, the belayer remains at the bottom to secure the climber. The relationship is all about trust. The climber, like an employee, can take risks precisely because the secure base figure or leader below is supporting them.

Why Is Trust so Important?

Trust has an important effect on how our brain functions. The brain has one fundamental goal: to survive. And most people are living to survive. However, more than 80 percent of people are not really thriving, and are driven instead, by a fear of failure or anticipated loss. For success at life and work, the brain has to be rewired to focus on thriving, on opportunities and on looking for what is right and what is possible when something goes wrong. If there is trust, people can drop their programmed defensiveness and become more open to new ideas and solutions. Leaders who care about their teams are able to dare them to stretch (and to take risks).

There is a paradox here between caring and daring. A leader can show trust — and caring — and still hold people accountable. Caring is not rescuing. I ask leaders around the world, “How caring should a leader be?” It should be 100 percent. AND — How daring should a leader be? It’s 100 percent.

When a leader earns trust, it’s like they are putting her or his hand on your shoulder so that you are not afraid of failure. Great bosses trust others and don’t punish failure. Instead they give high quality feedback and ask you to change.

If we translate caring and daring to leadership styles using Dan Goleman’s model, the affiliative style is a good basis to work from as it is the personal part of leading. However the leader should never accept lower standards and that’s why the affiliative style has to be combined with the visionary style of leadership, which means that people will want to follow the leader to “dare” themselves and to be inspired. These leaders deliver “pain” (feedback) and people say ”thank you, give me more pain (feedback)!” Why? Because they see the benefit of the pain (feedback) to reach high performance.

Trust creates an environment that enables us to attach and to bond with others. It is the opposite of detachment, isolation, over-independence or self-reliance. In teams it creates a sense of belonging which is essential for collaboration in high performance.

What does an organization look like that is based on trusted and Secure Base Leadership?

It starts at the top. When you walk in, people feel welcomed. They feel a sense of calm rather than defensiveness. They don’t feel like they are going to be judged. You see people doing things spontaneously, being able to engage in proactive behavior and teamwork. Most importantly, you see the resolution of conflict. There is always going to be differences, and those differences can drive people apart, break the connections, and break bonds. You always find people are able to engage in good conflict management – a Crucial Competence – because the trust and the bond is maintained.

How can you Develop Trust within your teams?

Developing trust takes focus and commitment. How do you rate yourself on these nine areas that characterize a secure base leader?

  1. Staying calm under pressure
  2. Accepting the individual while encouraging change
  3. Seeing the potential in people
  4. Using listening and inquiry
  5. Delivering a powerful message
  6. Focusing on the positive
  7. Encouraging risk taking
  8. Inspiring through intrinsic motivation
  9. Signaling accessibility

Learn more about Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership.

What Hiring Managers Want vs. What Recent Graduates Have

Daniel Goleman’s Harvard Business Review articles have been helping develop leadership skills up to the C-suite for decades. As the class of 2016 begins to enter the workforce, these highly acclaimed articles remain as relevant now as ever before.

What is it employers look for when hiring recent graduates? What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters is a collection of Dr. Goleman’s writings designed to explain the components of emotional intelligence and why they matter at work.

Recent Grads: What Makes a Leader?

Recent research by the Hay Group surveyed business leaders and recent graduates based in India, the U.S., and China. More than three-quarters of managers reported that entry-level workers and recent grads are not ready for their jobs.

According to the Hay Group, recent graduates often lack “soft skills” unrelated to their technical or cognitive abilities. These skills include key emotional intelligence (EI) abilities such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and social skills.

Dr. Goleman’s article “What Makes a Leader” continues to be one of Harvard Business Review’s best-selling articles. First published in 1998, Dr. Goleman’s message has resonated with people across all walks of life: what distinguishes outstanding leaders is emotional intelligence.

“What Makes a Leader” was just the beginning of Dr. Goleman’s writings about emotional intelligence in HBR. His next HBR article, “Leadership that Gets Results,” summarized the data from Hay Group on leadership styles that build on EI abilities and their impact on the emotional climate of organizations.

More Than Sound has reprinted “What Makes a Leader” and “Leadership that Gets Results” in a collection of Dr. Goleman’s writings, including three additional HBR articles, pieces about the importance of focus for leaders, and other recent brief articles.

What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters is available in affordable print and e-book formats, is a compact volume that delivers a wealth of insight and timely information for leaders young and old.

From Daniel Goleman’s Introduction to What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

“This collection of my writing on leadership and EI – mainly articles I’ve written in the Harvard Business Review – reflects how my thinking has evolved. When I wrote Emotional Intelligence in the mid-1990s, I included a short chapter, called “Managing with Heart,” that made the simple argument that leaders need strengths in emotional intelligence. This, at the time, was a new and rather radical idea. That chapter, to my surprise, got lots of attention, particularly from people in management.

As I looked into the data on leadership and EI for my next book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, I became even more convinced. I took advantage of my training back in graduate school from David McClelland, who at the time was a pioneer in the method known as ‘competence modeling,’ which allows a systematic analysis of the specific strengths that make someone in a given role an outstanding performer. When I did a rough analysis of close to 200 such models from a wide range of organizations, I found that the large majority of competencies that distinguished the best leaders were based on EI, not IQ.

That caught the eye of editors at the Harvard Business Review, who asked me to write an article summarizing this. Called ‘What Makes a Leader,’ that article is the first chapter of this book. My next HBR article, ‘Leadership that Gets Results’ – the second chapter here – summarized data from Hay Group on leadership styles that build on EI abilities, and their varying impacts on emotional climate of the organization.

As I looked more deeply at the new findings from neuroscience on the dynamics of relationships – and what that meant for the drivers of excellence and high-impact relationships – I again wrote for HBR. Those articles, too, are included in this book. My most recent thinking has shifted frameworks to explore how a leader’s focus matters for effectiveness. The chapter ‘The Leader’s Triple Focus’ summarizes sections on leadership from my book Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. And, the final chapter, written for a magazine (by coincidence called Focus) published by Egon Zehnder International, reflects on the ethical dimension of leadership. I’ve also included several of my blogs, placed after the relevant chapters, that either further delve into the topic or complement it. These first appeared, for the most part, on LinkedIn; some are from HBR.com.

I hope my reflections gathered here will help you along the way in your own leadership journey.”

making difficult decisions

Your Body’s Role in Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Don’t let the voice of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”- Steve Jobs

When it comes to making difficult decisions, how do you hear “your inner voice,” that your heart and intuition somehow already know?

Listen to your body’s signals.

Making Difficult Decisions: Gut Feelings

Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, explained the complex process of how our minds and bodies formulate and respond to a hunch for our video series Leadership: A Master Class.  You can read the excerpt here.

There’s wisdom in the body. When you’re self-aware, you get a gut feeling. You have a heartfelt sense. Our gut feelings are messages from the insula and other bottom-up circuits that simplify life decisions for us by guiding our attention toward smarter options. The better we are at reading these messages, the better our intuition.

Yet sometimes, if we have been traumatized, for example, the gut feeling we get can lead us astray. If you’ve been bitten by a dog or hurt by someone who had red hair, when you see a dog or a person with red hair, your gut may say “bad, bad, bad”, and may create a tone of negativity that is based on past traumatic experience. So bodily input doesn’t always mean you should respond to it directly. You should analyze it.

Making Difficult Decisions: Somatic Markers

Somatic marker is neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s term for the sensation in our body that tells us when a choice feels wrong or right. This bottom-up circuitry telegraphs its conclusions through our gut feelings, often long before the top-down circuits come to a more reasoned conclusion. The ventromedial prefrontal area, a key part of this circuitry, guides our decision making when we face life’s most complex decisions, like who to marry or whether to buy a house. Such choices can’t be made by a cold, rational analysis. Instead we do better to simulate what it would feel like to choose A versus B. This brain area operates as that inner rudder.

Making Difficult Decisions: Sensing

Erica Ariel Fox spoke with Daniel Goleman in his Leadership: A Master Class video series about “direct knowing”: I know this, but I don’t know how I know it. I didn’t read it in a book. Nobody told it to me. I didn’t have an Excel spreadsheet that laid it out for me. Nonetheless, I know it. She argues that we have a set of skills that coaches and leaders who work with teams might call “reading the room.” Others call it attunement or discernment. It’s not data processing and thin-slicing, and it’s also not having an emotional evaluation of decisions. It’s a sensing. When she works with a team in crisis, she recognizes that tuning in to the group’s feelings and emotions helps her ask the right questions about what’s happening.

Making Difficult Decisions: Use Your Body

When we’re under pressure, we become narrow minded and tense. We aren’t able to tap into our body signals. But we also forget to use our body to help us refocus. Taking a time out also allows us to hone our self-management skills. Paying attention to the mental and physical signs and experiences that occur during stressful situations gives you an opportunity to practice composure.

Breathing is often abandoned or compromised when anxiety arises. A few conscious deep breaths will oxygenate your brain and improve the clarity of your thinking. Here is a simple exercise you can do: Breathe in and count one… then breath out and count one. Breathe in and count two… then breathe out count two. Breathe in and count three… then breathe out. Keep repeating this in a steady rhythm.

To ground yourself further during the process, place your hands on your abdomen or chest and observe the sensation of your abdomen or chest rising and settling. Learn to relax in the experience.

Master the Art of Making Difficult Decisions

making difficult decisions

Registration is open for the Mindful Leadership Breakthrough System, a live webcast series with executive coach and senior meditation instructor, Dawa Tarchin Phillips. The program is designed to help executives and leadership development professionals apply mindfulness principles to overcome common internal and external barriers to presence, productivity and performance.

mindfulness coaching

Mindfulness Coaching: Start with Your Own Journey

mindfulness coaching

Mindfulness Coaching: Practice Makes Perfect

Juliet Adams’s coursework for her Masters degree in training and performance management didn’t include mindfulness coaching. And, it showed. She pushed hard to achieve, and paid the price in stress. Adams worked beyond peak performance. The result? Burnout. Then, she discovered mindfulness. With these practical techniques in her mental toolkit, she was able to recognize that her clenched jaw and raised shoulders meant stress and how to shift out of that.

At first, Adams used mindfulness for her own well-being. Then, her own learning about the impact of mindfulness seeped into her work. Initially, she noticed a shift around how she approached her job. Then, she started to incorporate aspects of mindfulness into her consulting practice. She’s found her clients to be very receptive.

Adams is now the author of Mindfulness at Work for Dummies and Mindful Leadership for Dummies. She is also the founder of Mindfulnet.org and the director of A Head for Work, a leadership and workplace productivity firm. She’s also a contributor to Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit. Adams joined More Than Sound founder Hanuman Goleman for a conversation as part of More Than Sound’s “What is Mindfulness?” podcast series.

Mindfulness Coaching in Organizations

How do you introduce mindfulness in an organization? That’s a question Daniel Goleman explores in his article, “Introducing Mindfulness in Organizations.” Goleman shares advice from his colleague and a key adviser to Google’s Search Inside Yourself curriculum, Mirabai Bush. Bush said, “When I meet with prospective clients, I listen not just for what they need – but what they perceive that they need. That helps me determine my approach. There are so many different ways to talk about mindfulness and its effects.” Bush has developed different exercises for use in a range of settings, available in her audio collection Working with Mindfulness.

If you’re in a position to hire a mindfulness coach, the first question that often comes to mind is: what makes a good mindfulness coach? Mirabai Bush offers some insights for organizations looking for such services, and for what it takes to be an effective coach:

Mindful presence

When you’re interviewing potential teachers or coaches, notice whether the person is in the moment, without judgment, and really present for you.

Training

Before people begin to teach mindfulness, they should do significant practice, not just in mindfulness but in teaching mindfulness. There are several reputable training programs available such as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program.

Experience

Again, teaching mindfulness is different from practicing mindfulness. There are many people who want to start teaching right after they learn it. After spending some time practicing – or even after some formal training – it’s easy to assume, “Oh, I could teach people to sit down and bring their attention to their breath and breathe in and out. Anybody can teach that.” But that is not true.

Coaching style

With mindfulness coaching and training in an organization, you’re asking your team to look inside themselves and begin an inquiry into the parts of our minds, bodies and hearts that most of us ignore most of the time. That’s profound. You really want to have someone you can trust to lead you through that exercise.

What the Research Says

Bush discussed how to apply mindfulness research and techniques in organizations with Jeremy Hunter, Daniel Goleman, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser in the print book, Working with Mindfulness: Research and Practice of Mindful Techniques in Organizations. In that book, Bush and Goleman spoke about their experience of introducing mindfulness techniques to secular audiences – including the US Army. Here’s an excerpt from their discussion:

Mirabai Bush: For a long time there was a lot of resistance to introducing mindful techniques in some of the organizations I worked with. But as soon as people agree to try it, the benefits become very obvious. Participants become more calm, more clear. They begin to have better insight into what’s happening, and they begin to get along better with the people they’re working with. So once people agree to try it, there’s really no problem. But there is still resistance to trying it, although much less since the publication of the neuroscientific research on mindfulness. All the work that’s come from Richard Davidson and others has really helped people get past a certain level of resistance and skepticism.

Daniel Goleman: I can give you a little background on that change. You mentioned Davidson. He is now a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Richard and I were fellow graduate students at Harvard. He was the other one who was interested in meditation. He did his dissertation on attention and so on, and he has gone on to develop a field called Contemplative Neuroscience, which has upgraded the quality of the research on mindfulness and meditation.

Until Richard’s work, frankly, some was great, and some was terrible. Now this research is using fMRIs and state-of-the-art brain imaging. What it’s showing is what we knew intuitively when we were in India, which is that these practices can be quite transformative. And if you practice them a lot, it’s really transformative. If you practice a little, it’s still transformative.

What we found in the research on relaxation was that one of the byproducts of focusing your mind is that your body lets go and relaxes. And the reason it lets go is that one of the things that keeps us stressed is these tight loops of thoughts and ruminations—what’s on my mind, what’s upsetting me—which are hard to let go.

Meditation training, whether it’s mindfulness or any other kind of meditation, teaches you how to drop those upsetting thoughts. Our understanding is that it’s the letting go of those thoughts, putting your mind in a neutral or present place and keeping it there, that causes the body to be able to drop the tension, let go of the stress, and then get deeply relaxed.

mindfulness coaching

We asked leaders who are shaping the mindfulness movement to offer a more nuanced survey of the mindfulness landscape. Listen to the podcasts here.

Mindfulness Coaching Audio Resources

Working with Mindfulness

Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence

Relax: 6 Techniques to Lower Your Stress

Brainpower: Mindsight and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Attune: The Role of Focus in Authentic Leadership

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function