Tag Archives: emotional self-awareness

Leadership Isn’t Just For the Higher Ups

 

Anyone can be a leader, given the right motivation, support, and environment.

AJ is one of a large staff of ultrasound techs in a busy city hospital. When the other techs have a question about how to do an unusual exam, they ask AJ rather than approach their often-cranky supervisor.

Everyone in the firm knows Lisa, even the people who aren’t on her team. Officially, she’s an engineer who does technical background work related to the high-end buildings the company designs. Unofficially, Lisa is known for creating a positive climate through her upbeat energy and open-hearted concern for her coworkers.

Sean works as part of a virtual team of investment analysts across the United States, one of several US-based groups employed by a global bank. Highly engaged in his work, Sean has made a point of getting to know members of other teams as well as to learn about who’s who at company headquarters.

What do this ultrasound tech, engineer, and investment analyst in common? Each is a leader, even though their official position does not include a managerial role. Others in their companies look to them for some form of leadership, whether it is technical expertise, emotional support, or knowledge about organizational dynamics.

Regardless of job title, anyone can be a leader in an organization.

Of course, some people have titles and responsibilities that position them as someone who is in charge. Yet, in most organizations, there are also people who take on leadership roles in any position. They are actively engaged in their work and influential in their interactions with others. They take initiative in sharing their insights into how things get done.

Sometimes, like with AJ, leadership shows up as task expertise. Often, it takes the form of someone exercising emotional or social skills. As Daniel Goleman writes in his collection, What Makes a Leader, emotional and social intelligence are key competencies that distinguish high-performing leaders from their more average peers. Lisa and Sean each demonstrate several of the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies.

In her interactions with others in her company, Lisa shows skill at Positive Outlook and Empathy. Through her listening attentively and expressing her positive views, Lisa influences the work of others and acts as an informal leader in her company.

Sean clearly demonstrates the Organizational Awareness and Achievement Orientation competencies. His drive to achieve translated into him taking the initiative to build relationships outside of his team. Although not the formal leader of his team, Sean’s connections with members of other teams and awareness of the top tiers of the company mean that he can provide important information to his team.

Who are the Leaders in Your Organization?

When you hear that question, do you immediately visualize the organizational chart and the CEO, division heads, managers, and team leaders?

Or do others with less obvious leader-type jobs show up on your personal list of the leaders in your organization?

What leadership qualities do you see in those “not-in-a-formal-leader-position” leaders?

How are you a leader in your organization?

Ask yourself these questions, and ask your co-workers. Listen to your own answer and pay attention to what your co-workers say. Everyone can take on a leadership role, regardless of formal job description. Listening well to others and taking the initiative are both key steps to leadership, whatever form it may take.

What’s your next step?

Recommended Reading:

emotional intelligence mattersWhat Makes a Leader includes Daniel Goleman’s bestselling Harvard Business Review article of that title, along with many other influential writings on the topic of leadership with emotional intelligence.

A great read for any aspiring or rising leaders!

team norms

Team Norms and Emotional Intelligence

 

I’m a strong believer in the importance of what we expect of one another in a team. And I’m not alone, as much of my research has focused on finding the distinctions that define the best teams. What my colleagues and I have found is that norms – or shared expectations – are the universal elements that identify high-performing teams.

Every group has norms, whether they’re developed consciously or not. A great example is: Do we start on time or do we wait for latecomers? Is it okay to show up late? Norms vary from group to group, and depend on what’s agreed upon by all involved.

The important thing about norms is that they regulate all behavior in teams. They regulate at the systems level. Many team researchers make the mistake of thinking that changing behavior in the team is about changing individual behavior. Building the individual emotional intelligence of team members is fabulous and it helps. However, once you enter a team where the norms don’t support your emotionally intelligent behavior, you’re more likely to conform to those norms than act otherwise. If rudeness is a norm, cutting people off, showing up late, that will emerge.

The way to impact a group’s performance is to impact the group’s norms. I explored this topic with Daniel Goleman in Crucial Competence, as a way to complement the many facets of building emotional and social leadership.

My colleagues and I have studied the norms of high-performing teams and found that the best teams periodically step back and reflect on their process. They take time to say, “How are we doing? Are we being too nice? Are we arguing too much? Are people getting supported? What do we need to work on?” This is essentially the group equivalent of the first key competence in individual emotional intelligence, self-awareness.

Where do norms of high-performing teams come from?

We had a hypothesis that an emotionally intelligent leader is more likely to develop emotionally intelligent norms in their team. A graduate student of mine when I was in the faculty at Case Western, Elizabeth Stubbs Koman, had contacts in the military, and she wanted to test the team norms and the emotional intelligence of leaders. She found a wonderful sample of air crew teams and maintenance teams, 81 teams that included 422 people. She first studied the team leader’s emotional intelligence using the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory in a 360-degree survey. We got anonymous ratings on the leaders. Then, she administered our survey that measures the group emotional intelligence norms. She also had the outcome data for these teams, the military’s objective measures of performance.

What she found was exactly what we predicted:

The team leader’s emotional intelligence didn’t predict the performance of the team, BUT it did predict the emergence of the emotionally intelligent team norms.

And, the team norms then predicted the performance. The way the leader’s emotional intelligence mattered was in shaping the norms, dynamics, and reality of the team, which in turn, led to higher performance.

Consider how this applies to your team, whether you are a leader or not. Play your part in cultivating positive team norms, garnering agreement, and speaking up when norms become counterproductive. Over time you’ll find this creates efficiency and cohesion among all of the team members.

Recommended Reading:

Our new primer series is written by Daniel Goleman, Vanessa Druskat, and fellow thought leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence and research. The following are available now:

Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, Adaptability,  Achievement Orientation, and Positive Outlook.

For more in-depth insights, see the Crucial Competence video series, and Team Emotional Intelligence.

culture development

Culture Development: How to Cultivate People for Organizational Success

 

I love the cartoon in which a stalwart CEO sitting behind a desk says to his employee “I want a coherent new corporate culture that will take us into the third millennium and I want it by this afternoon.”

Indeed, culture is at the heart of competitive advantage, particularly when it comes to sustaining high performance. Yet, while business leaders recognize culture’s crucial role, research indicates that fewer than 10% of companies succeed in building a winning culture. 

Notably, there is often a blind spot when it comes to culture development.  Simply stated, it is nearly impossible to develop culture without developing ourselves, the people who make up the organizational culture. 

For precisely this reason, the new book, Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Culture is provocative reading.  In the book, Harvard researchers, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, deconstruct the cultural assumptions, norms, and behaviors of three highly successful companies who have charted a new and disruptive path to organizational success. Bridgewater, Next Jump, and Decurion provide examples of positive deviance when it comes to people and culture development.

These organizations see culture development as integral to their business success. Everyone, not just leaders or high potentials, in these organizations is engaged in personal developmental practices, such as minding the gaps between where they are currently and where they aim to be relative to any number of Emotional Intelligence Competencies, including Emotional Self-Control.

Kegan and Lahey are co-founders of Minds at Work, which helps individuals, teams, and organizations make personal and collective change. We spoke with a member of the Minds at Work leadership team, Co-Director,  Deborah Helsing. She shared the following illuminating stories of deliberately developmental organizations (DDO’s) and how they embed Emotional Intelligence skill building into their organizational cultures:

Bridgewater

At Bridgewater, an institutional fund management company, people talk openly and honestly about the pain that can be triggered by really looking at our own internal barriers and the root causes for why things happen at work. They refer to an equation to remind themselves and each other why they do this every day:  Pain + Reflection = Progress.

They even have an app that is standard issue on their company-provided iPads, “the Pain Button.”  This tool allows employees to record and share experiences of negative emotions at work—especially times when one’s ego defenses are activated by specific interactions with others. Open sharing of these experiences then triggers follow-up conversations among the parties as they seek to explore the truth of the situation and identify what individuals might do to directly address the underlying personal causes. This practice is aimed at helping people “get to the other side,” a Bridgewater term for working through ego defenses, neutralizing the sting of having your mindset questioned, and coming to actively manage forms of emotional self-protection that will otherwise be barriers to personal growth. 

Next Jump

Next Jump, an e-commerce company, upholds the belief system behind its culture with the equation: Better Me + Better You = Better US. By broadening the notion of a “learning organization,” Everyone Culture makes the case that any workplace can be a site of deep personal development (especially Emotional Intelligence).

The onboarding process at Next Jump gives new employees a very intense introduction to the organizational culture. Because that culture differs so markedly from that of other organizations, Next Jump has found that helping people adapt as soon as they start work is the easiest time to accelerate their growth. 

For their first three weeks, all new employees including those who come with years of experience and success, and who are moving into senior leadership positions attend what Next Jump calls “Personal Leadership Boot Camp,” or PLBC for short.  The program starts with participants learning to identify their character weaknesses, what Next Jump calls their “backhands.” The metaphor comes from tennis.  Everyone has strengths (our forehand), but in order to be a great tennis player, you cannot  rely solely on your forehand.  You must also work on your backhand, the areas where you feel less comfortable, less natural, or less skillful.

Another practice at Next Jump is The Situational Workshop (SW), which leaders of the company believe is among the most effective things they do.  Every week for two hours, five people meet: two different pairs of Talking Partners come together with a more experienced colleague acting as a mentor-coach. Charlie Kim, founder of Next Jump, identifies what he thinks makes this kind of weekly workshop structure powerful:

At this weekly workshop, each of the four of you describe some challenge you’ve met at work in the week and what you’ve done to meet it, or not. You might not be sure if how you handled the situation was optimal or not. The mentor-coach is there to encourage you to reach a higher level of self-awareness, so that you might identify new options for responding to similar future challenges and so avoid reacting in the same old way…. Over time, you see people growing immensely from these weekly sessions. 

As Charlie explains about the SW’s purpose, the focus is “on the training of judgment, rather than on technical training.” As a result, the discourse and pace of a SW can be a bit surprising to a first-time observer. People are identifying “problems of practice,” snags they run into, but the coach’s response is rarely direct problem-solving. All Next Jump’s practices are geared to help people change from the inside out. Solving problems too quickly, without the benefit of uncovering underlying assumptions means You won’t change. If you don’t change, you are most likely going to be reproducing new versions of the same problem you think you’ve already solved.

What it takes

Many workplaces attempt to foster the growth of their employees, but few are deliberately organized to put employee growth at the very center of their mission like these organizations do. Kegan and Lahey describe three dimensions of DDO’s that reinforce one another. Edge, home, and groove. These refer to taking risks in working on a skill that involves self-management (edge), for example, while having the benefit of trustworthy communities (home) and regular practices and routines to establish new habits (groove). These three dimensions’ closely mirror Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Theory, which emphasizes the importance of experimentation and practice within a safe community.

The takeaway here is that wherever you are in your work life you can begin to make meaningful progress toward your own development. For example, find a peer who has a similar intention to strengthen the Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control competencies. Be willing to be vulnerable with one another about the real challenges inherent in change, and look at our own shadows. Commit to weekly or bi-weekly check-ins to build the muscles of EI over time. This small yet powerful step can yield profound results.

If you are a manager or supervisor, you could create your own DDO team. Make time in team meetings to engage in EI skill building. Foster a team culture of non-judgement and psychological safety allowing people to bring their full selves, including growing edges out into the open within the team. Provide meaningful, positive feedback and celebrate small increments of change.

Recommended reading:

Developing Emotional Intelligence competencies is one of the best ways to facilitate culture development in your organization.

Our new series of primers was created by bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, along with fellow thought leaders in EI, research, and leadership development.

You can find the first 3 in the series available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, and Adaptability.

Emotional-Self-Control

Emotional Self-Control: A Leader’s Perspective on Staying Cool Under Pressure

 

According to Daniel Goleman, Emotional Self-Control is “the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check, to maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions… staying clear-headed and calm.”

Self-management and control are necessary components of the leader’s tool kit. It’s not so much about trying to muzzle yourself as it is about understanding your role as a leader.

Here’s how Emotional Self-Control emerged in my experience:

Years ago, as a newly minted manager at IBM, I was blessed with an insight into what this means both for the organization and myself. I was promoted to management because I was good at doing things. It’s the same in every business where I’ve worked. Generally, those who are the best at doing the work get recognized and when there is a need for managers they are selected because of their ability as “doer’s.”

In my case, I took over a financial planning department at an IBM semi-conductor plant in Essex, Vermont. The manager I replaced was a hard and dedicated worker, often putting in fifty to sixty hours a week; however, his work was largely transactional, and reactive. We did as we were told under his management and took few risks. Having taken over his department, I found myself sitting at my desk one evening wondering what I was supposed to do and trying to understand exactly what it meant to manage and lead a department of skilled financial analysts, some with far more experience than me.

I could feel the beginnings of panic, a tightening in my chest and a strong feeling that I should be doing something. But what? As I sat with my feelings, I suddenly understood. My job wasn’t at all what I thought it was. My job was to hold the anxiety for my department, for my team.

What does it mean to “hold the anxiety?”

Holding the anxiety involves engaging your Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control so that you can see the difference between your “doer” self and your “being” self. When you don’t have the ability to “do,” your anxiety can increase and you may feel motivated not to feel your feelings, but to push them on to your employees and co-workers. This can manifest itself in many forms. Micromanagement or other controlling behaviors are often at the top of the list. It is easy to rationalize our behaviors. But consider an alternative approach: if you choose to allow your anxiety and fear to take over and you micromanage or control your team, you miss the opportunity to develop your own self-awareness and effectiveness as a leader, and also miss out on the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with your team. You may never really see what great work they can do, instead believing they need you to make decisions for them. They will then wait for your direction before making decisions and moving forward because they don’t feel trusted. But developing decision-making abilities in others is key to good leadership.

In “holding the anxiety,” you create space for them to learn and grow and ultimately increase the capacity of your team.

Applying Emotional Self-Control in the real world

It is a very delicate balance. Those above you in the hierarchy may be acting out their own anxieties from various pressures. This is where Emotional Self-Awareness and Self-Control are critical. You can listen to what your boss wants, feel the feelings you have, hold them, and then calmly talk to your team about what needs to be done and engage them in creating the proper result by listening, guiding, coaching, and leading.

Always take a moment to allow yourself to simply “be” and connect with your self-awareness, but don’t project it onto the team. You won’t always be successful. Sometimes we do project, but when you do if you can own it and recognize your projection you will continue to build a trusting relationship with your team and demonstrate your true strengths as a leader.

Fear is a motivational and destructive force in business. No one wants to fail. If we can understand and own our own fears and not project them on others, we will discover that engaged team members are far more creative and productive than frightened ones.

Victor Morrison has diverse management experience, including Financial Operations Manager for IBM, CFO of Finance for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, CEO of Elan Ski and Snowboard Company for North America, President of American Flatbread, and recently as CEO of Dr. Hauschka Skin Care for the US and Mexico. Victor also works locally as a management consultant, focusing on sustainable business strategy development and executive management coaching. Victor has also been an occasional Adjunct Business Professor in Green Mountain College’s Sustainable MBA Program, teaching classes in People Management, Sustainable Business Strategy, and Finance.  

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about how to apply these concepts at work? Our newly released Primers provide a concise overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies of Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control, as well as an overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model itself.

The Primers are created by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, with several fellow thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research, including Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard J. Davidson, and George Kohlrieser.

 

attention-span-self-awareness

Improve Your Attention Span Through Self-Awareness

attention-span-self-awareness

Improve Your Attention Span Through Self-Awareness

By Ann Flanagan Petry

“You think because you understand ‘one’ you must also understand ‘two’, because one and one make two. But you must also understand ‘and’.” – Rumi

In the workplace, we often fall into just the trap that Rumi describes. We think that because we understand how to be busy accomplishing tasks (one) we also understand how to be effective in our work (two). So, we focus on agendas, “to do” lists, and clearing out our in-box. But when we do that, we are missing out on the quiet yet critical, “and” in the equation: the powerful force of mindful self-awareness.

Attention span is the length of time you’re able to concentrate on a single activity before becoming distracted. The longer you’re able to sustain attention, the more likely you are to gain depth and quality in things like learning or creating. This impacts work and life in a myriad of ways, from increasing productivity to being able to express the best of what we have to offer. But how can we improve our attention span effectively?

Self-Awareness is a Verb

Self-awareness is often referred to as a static state within leadership competencies: “he has self-awareness.” In other words, he has met this competency and we can check “goal met.” However, it is important to recognize self-awareness is really more of a verb and refers to an ongoing process. To understand this more fully, take a moment and tune-in to your own mind and body right now… What do you notice? Indeed, recognizing what is happening in any given moment – from the inside out – can be a bit of a shock. Someone once described it as hearing one insult after another. Others have said it was like an endless barrage of complaints… what isn’t working… what isn’t good enough. Beyond being aware of the internal narrator, we might notice other things, like the tension we are holding in our bodies or the incessant urge to stay busy – to be productive.  This is self-awareness. Remarkably, our inner experience is ever changing and shifting. Awareness of this reality is at the heart of the self-awareness competency.

The Challenge of Continuous Partial Attention

In fact, the cultivation of the competency of self-awareness is becoming more critical for 21st century leaders. To understand just how important, consider the increasing regularity of lack of self-awareness occurring in daily life. Linda Stone coined the term Continuous Partial Attention (CPA). Stone, a former Silicon Valley executive, honed her leadership skills at both Apple and Microsoft. She discovered this from observing leaders all around her. Continuous Partial Attention coupled with fear of missing out (FOMO) is the new normal. We take our smart phones out at the slightest hint of a wait, whether it’s at the grocery store or the stoplight. Both terms describe a recent human phenomenon: a constant state of anxiety and hyper-vigilance to attend to texts, social media, and email… all at the same time!

To demonstrate this further, a survey of Canadian media consumption by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span had fallen to eight seconds, down from 12 in the year 2000. We now have a shorter attention span than goldfish, the study found.  Attention span was defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted.”  Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft believes human attention is “the true scarce commodity” of the near future.  Daniel Goleman describes the impact of “the impoverishment of attention” in his book, Focus, The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Self-Awareness as an  Inner-Rudder

Notably, according to Goleman, “self-awareness, particularly accuracy in decoding the internal cues of our body’s murmurs, holds the key” and is an inner-rudder that can bring us back to deepening attention. As a result, numerous organizations are explicitly coaching and training employees in awareness skill-building. The organizations range from multinational corporations to city governments.

Inspired by the work of neuroscience researcher, Richard J. Davidson and his vision to “imagine a world where we could improve our capacity to pay attention by even 5%,” Sara Flitner, former Mayor of Jackson, Wyoming, together with the support and funding of the Wellness Department at St. John’s Medical Center (SJMC)  partnered with the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Center for Healthy Minds to offer research-based practices in well-being and leadership development. Together, they undertook a community-wide initiative to bring this content and learning to elected officials, school administrators, as well as hospital and town leaders.

Also of note, a large professional services firm engaged the Center for Healthy Minds to train hundreds among its leadership ranks. Michele Nevarez, a positive organizational development consultant and adjunct faculty with the Wisconsin School of Business helped facilitate the neuroscience-based leadership training for Jackson’s leaders and the firm. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Nevarez believes the sessions met a critical need of bringing key stakeholders together to apply practices that strengthen attentional focus and promote renewal. This can help to combat the daily information overload and allow for better coping with the stresses of everyday life, which if left unmanaged can undermine well-being.

The challenge of Continuous Partial Attention and information overload is a common and tremendously difficult problem that is growing with each new wave of technological capabilities. Yet, we are discovering people are adaptive and have agency to choose how and what to pay attention to.

Try this:

Choose a time of day, or trigger activity (such as for 10 minutes before or after eating lunch) and check in with yourself. You can even schedule this on your calendar for reminders and to insure you’re not interrupted. What do you feel in your mind and body? A sense of hurry to get back to work? Unease from lack of sleep or lingering emotion from disagreement with your spouse? The simple act of tuning in and noticing what comes up is, in essence, the practice of tapping into one’s emotional self-awareness and attention. With regular practice, this can help deepen and lengthen attention span by rewiring the brain to be more at ease with less reactivity to external impulses. It will also help to combat the daily information overload, allowing for better coping of the stresses of everyday life.

Ann Flanagan Petry is a Positive Organizational Development Consultant, Coach and Contributing Author of the forthcoming book, Advancing Relationship-Based Cultures. She has over 20 years of experience driving performance improvement in organizations. She partners with leaders to cultivate resilient, mindful, emotionally intelligent teams who improve clients, their own and their organization’s performance and wellbeing. 

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about Emotional Self-Awareness? Our newly released Primer provides a concise overview of this Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency. It is co-written by several thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser. See the Primer here.

mindful self-awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership (New Research)

mindful self awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership

By Matthew Lippincott

“Just being in a present, more calm place of mind I think that it’s easier to see what’s really important and what’s not…I definitely think [mindfulness] had a huge, positive impact on my success, there’s no question about that.”

– General counsel for a leading global health products corporation

In 2016 I completed the first known study to examine the impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness. The study included interviews with 42 senior and executive leaders, documenting reports of the influence of mindfulness on their leadership careers at a total of 83 global organizations. All of the participants had completed mindfulness training, and incorporated that knowledge into their daily leadership activity. I also used the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis to identify the presence of Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies that have been empirically linked to increased leadership performance.

What is Mindfulness? How is it related to Self-Awareness?

Mindfulness has been studied in clinical, military, professional sports, and corporate settings for more than 30 years. This research has associated mindfulness with a significant number of benefits, including increased employee job performance ratings and reduction in stress and anxiety. Neuroimaging has also been used to investigate the effect of mindfulness, indicating a change to the brain’s physical structure and functioning relating to reasoning, inhibition, and decision-making.

Scholars agree that mindfulness is a state of consciousness consisting of awareness and attention.

Also referred to as a form of meta awareness, mindfulness is comprised of:

  1. Clear focus of attention on the present moment, including experience and events.
  2. Ability to change the level of non-judgmental attention.
  3. Awareness of shifting attention between the inner self and the outer world.

The easiest way to understand mindfulness experientially is to focus all of your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur.

For example, mindful self-awareness can be practiced by actively observing yourself when communicating with others. This includes your reactions to verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, and the way those reactions influence your responses. This type of awareness also contributes to Emotional Self-Control, as summarized by a participant who heads strategy and business development for one of the highest ranked global 2000 companies: “I can really compact the quality of awareness, and look at the emotions coming and going just in front of me. And not be swept away by them.”

Mindfulness training will strengthen Emotional Self-Awareness, the first Competency of the ESCI model, which falls under the domain of Self-Awareness. Emotional Self-Awareness is our ability to recognize our emotions, how our experience affects our feelings, and discern the relationship between how we are feeling and our actions. In this context, mindfulness enhances your self-awareness capabilities by helping you develop the ability to monitor and understand emotions as they arise.

Awareness and understanding of your feelings is key.

Developing Emotional Self-Awareness is a crucial first step in effective leadership because it lays the foundation upon which the other eleven Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies are built. We can’t develop skills like Emotional Self-Control, Empathy, or Teamwork unless we are coming from a place of Emotional Self-Awareness. It gives leaders the necessary information about themselves and the effectiveness of their interactions so that they can monitor their emotions and manage their behaviors accordingly.

Key Findings of the Study

Analysis of my study data revealed a variety of improvements being attributed to mindfulness:

  1. Significant, positive impact on leadership effectiveness, supported by extensive examples of workplace results.
  2. All 12 of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies linked to leadership performance were identified in each of the participants.
  3. Reports that mindfulness enhanced cognitive function and recognition of how emotions influence mental performance and behaviors.

The study produced a significant amount of data relating to organizational leadership development as well, highlights of which include:

  • 98% of participants described a transformation of their fundamental understanding of what effective leadership is.
  • 79% of participants reported stronger interpersonal relationships resulting from greater authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability in their interactions with others.
  • Extensive indications of enduring (trait) behavioral changes, which is supported by the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model.

The results of this study also align with other research indicating that improvements to leadership effectiveness may be achieved more quickly and with a higher rate of success through the incorporation of formal mindfulness training. This is partially due to the role of mindfulness in enhancing Emotional Self-Awareness and the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies. This complementary relationship helps leaders to identify what types of behaviors are required for specific situations, and also strengthens their ability to determine whether or not those behaviors are effective.

The scientific basis for these improvements is believed to be based upon repeated activation of neural networks through training focused on developing self-observation capabilities.

For example, neuroscience studies indicate that mindfulness may change the way neural networks connect with each other. Researchers also indicate that these changes may contribute to an improved capacity for activation of regions of the brain associated with more effective situational stress response and adaptability via neuroplasticity. These changes may improve your ability to activate regions of your brain that help you respond to stressful situations.

Mindfulness Training is More Accessible Than Ever

A quality mindfulness training program will typically last at least 8 weeks with a minimum commitment of 30-40 minutes a day. This time requirement is likely related to the fact that changes to neural networks require repetition in order to take hold. Online and print-based home study options exist, as do a growing number of apps that help deliver training more conveniently.

Takeaways for Personal Application

So how can you develop mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness in order to become a more effective leader? Committing to the completion of a mindfulness training program administered by a certified individual or organization is the fastest and most reliable way to experience these benefits. In fact, the use of mindfulness in the workplace can begin shortly after training starts, so enrollment in a quality program is also the fastest way to start experiencing results.

There is variability in the quality of programs so a safe bet is to look for programs based on the proven and highly regarded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Extensive instructor training and certification programs have been in place for years. This means that you should have no difficulty finding courses being designed and delivered by credentialed experts with in-depth experience.

Many of the leaders I interviewed also specifically mentioned that they regretted having “dabbled” with mindfulness training and not completed a full-length program earlier in their careers. When discussing this topic, leaders associated full-length training with a variety of professional benefits, summarized as: “I’ve found mindfulness to be incredibly powerful and incredibly useful,” and “[mindfulness] has provided me a tool or a set of tools to be more effective as a leader.”

What to Expect

The process of mindfulness training includes exercises that will lead you to experience a mindful state early in the training. A well-developed program, delivered by a credentialed instructor, will also help you more effectively apply the training to your environment. Once the core skill set has been developed you will be able to use the techniques intentionally. A consultant specializing in board-level strategic advisement I interviewed said “Before I go into a meeting with a client or a client group, I’ll stop. I’ll make sure that I just don’t rush in. I’ll check in, do some breathing, check in with myself. Set my intention for going into a meeting.”

You will also develop the ability to use mindfulness in response to unplanned, situation-dictated requirements. Different techniques are used for different purposes by each individual. This was best summarized by the founder of a 25-year-old, leading global consulting firm as: “for me the important part of the practice is sort of the daily integration that happens throughout the day, any number of times.”

The more you can incorporate deliberate and improvised mindfulness practices into your daily routines, the more you will begin to experience the positive results associated with mindful self-awareness. These results are based on how you use your new insights into the effects of your thoughts and feelings on your workplace behaviors. Therefore, in my next article, I’ll share findings from my study relating to how mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness relate to the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency of Emotional Self-Control.

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about Emotional Self-Awareness? Our newly released Primer provides a concise overview of this Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency. It is co-written by several thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser. See the Primer here.

Self-aware-leader

How Self-Aware Are You As a Leader?

The first time I was held hostage, my self-awareness and ability to manage my emotions saved my life. After a psychotic man rushed at me and held a pair of scissors against my throat, I chose to talk rather than call for force to be used against him. I focused on each word, using them to build a connection and shift the man’s focus away from despair. In that moment, I had to communicate from my heart, not just my mind.

I am a trained hostage negotiator. Most leaders rarely face life-or-death situations like this that hinge on their self-awareness and their impact on someone else. However, many leaders regularly find themselves in positions where their ability to use self-knowledge and communicate well are crucial to effectively engaging other people to work toward a common goal. When you know what’s in your heart and can communicate it, you get engagement, authenticity, and a deeper bond.

Self-Awareness is Fundamental to Inspiring Leadership.

Self-awareness is the entry point to effective leadership. Just as in hostage negotiation, it is important for leaders to be aware of their impact on others. Yet many leaders have no idea of their negative impact. A key barrier is people’s own blind spots about themselves or their role in the organization. There can be big differences between how we evaluate ourselves and how other people see us. How can someone change if they don’t realize they have areas that need improvement? Good coaches and bosses help people confront the fact that they have blind spots that they need to change. Then the real change can begin.

How to Develop Self-Awareness

Once you’re aware that you have blind spots, how can you change? Reflection, meditation, and being able to ask yourself critical questions are key tools to cultivate self-awareness. What is getting a result or not getting a result? Can you label your emotions? Do you know when what you’re feeling is disappointment, anger, fear? Do you understand the real cause of these emotions? If so, you can begin to connect how that emotion is triggered, and how it impacts your work and life.

To really rewire the brain, it takes coaching and practice. In my High Performance Leadership programs, we see dramatic changes in people through this process, developing awareness particularly through group feedback. After a week of working together, the group tells you whether they’d like to have you as a boss or a colleague. I’ve seen senior leaders brought to tears, saying, “Now I know why my employees hate me. I hardly knew the people on the program, yet they identified behavior I wasn’t aware of.”

Ask yourself:

How can I get feedback about the impact I’m having? This type of feedback that a coach, mentor, or supportive colleague can offer is crucial to high performance. For example, maybe the feedback is that you’re using too many words when you talk or that you don’t speak up enough when you have something to contribute. Knowing that someone recognizes this in you can help you change these behaviors. When somebody gives you feedback, you can identify the issue and start to work toward change.

George Kohlrieser has forty years of experience as a hostage negotiator and a psychologist. He’s the Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at one of the world’s leading business schools, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. At IMD he created and directs the school’s flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program.

For more in-depth information on the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model and how Emotional Self-Awareness impacts your work and life, see Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer.

To learn more about Emotional Intelligence in leadership from George Kohlrieser and Daniel Goleman, see The Competent Leader and Crucial Competence.