Do you know when you’re getting in your own way?

stuckArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

Self awareness is a beautiful thing.  However, the challenge to acknowledge you need to increase self awareness is daunting. Most of us go along our merry way without giving thought to how we may be getting in our own way with limiting beliefs, unconscious fears or simply a lack of emotional intelligence.  How do we even begin to check in with ourselves and look for opportunities to grow?

Probably the easiest way is recognize it in others.  It’s much safer and less threatening to observe someone else’s self sabotaging behavior than to look in the mirror.  So let’s take a look at a few examples to sharpen your focus.

Joan is complimented by her client on her performance in completing a project.  Instead of accepting the compliment, she rejects it by saying it was really not a big deal.  The client makes another attempt to praise her work but she passes it off as ‘no biggie.’  The client begins to wonder if the cost of the project is commensurate with the effort required.  As they discuss her next engagement with them, the client negotiates hard for a lower price – much to Joan’s dismay.  She’s appalled that they seem to undervalue her work.

Tony emailed a colleague this morning with a request for information on a critical project.  As of this afternoon, he has still not heard back.  He proceeds to call his colleague and leave a voice mail, insisting he get the information ASAP. As the minutes roll by, Tony begins to wonder if his colleague is intentionally dogging him.  That notion angers him even more and he finds he cannot stay focused on his work because he is so agitated.

Kathryn calls to schedule a company dinner meeting at a restaurant they’ve used many times in the past.  The restaurant manager informs her that, due to the holidays, they need confirmation of the number of guests to secure the reservation for a private room.  Kathryn indicated she would not know the actual number until three days before the dinner.  The manager reiterates their requirement and Kathryn triggers.  In haste, she tells the manager she will find another restaurant.  However, at this late date, she will be hard pressed to do so.

In each of these situations, the individual was unaware how their deficit in emotional intelligence affected their reactions.  Joan lacks the self esteem to accept that she had done great work; Tony lacks empathy to understand his colleague has his own challenging time table, and Kathryn lacks impulse control to reason out a better solution in the moment.  They all got in their own way yet each of them places blame elsewhere.

The common denominator in these scenarios is the need to look within at your contribution when life throws you a curve ball. Certainly you don’t cause every bump in the road of life, but a few may have your hand print in them.  Your next step in the self awareness journey?   Simply ask yourself, “How may I have contributed to this?” and “How would my best version of myself do things differently in the future?”  If you answer honestly, you just might be amazed at how quickly you stop getting in your own way.

Thank you for reading.  Make it an EQ day!

Cup by Cup

lemonadeArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

There’s nothing like a new year to get us motivated to make a change. Just skim your friends’ social media posts and you’ll most likely read a plethora of energized, excited-for-what’s-ahead resolutions. You’ve probably made a few yourself, even if you haven’t posted them for all to see. The start of a fresh calendar year is the natural motivator we need to prompt initiative and a bias for action.

But what happens in February, March, April, and onward is often a different story. As enthusiasm wanes, resolutions are sidetracked by life. Busy-ness, distractions, and discouragement can shift the best of intentions to a source of shame and guilt stemming from our lack of follow-through, which leaves many, yet again, to announce in December, “Can’t wait for this one to end!”

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Having a bias for action is actually a competency of social + emotional intelligence. Those who have it are able to create opportunities and seize them, not letting things like the red tape of bureaucracy and other external circumstances slow them down. They are often risk-takers and go forward with boldness in pursuit of the hopes, dreams, and plans. They accomplish their goals and move on to climb taller mountains. But those who do not possess this quality–and we all know the type–probably because we are one of them in some shape or form–are waiting, waiting, waiting for something good to come their way. They often are procrastinators, operating out of either survival or crisis mode, need direction to get things done, and are known to give up easily when circumstances don’t lend a helping hand.

Which camp do you fall into?

A misnomer on being one who is proactive is that one has to take on something huge to make a difference. I love the story of Alex Scott, a little girl from Connecticut who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer that forms in the nerve tissue. Rather than give up, Alex decided to do something about it. At age four she asked her mom to help her set up a lemonade stand to raise money so that doctors could, in her words, “help other kids”. That first lemonade stand brought in profits of $2,000, and throughout her short lifetime of eight impactful years, her lemonade sales raised over $1 million toward cancer research and to this day continue to inspire as many as 10,000 volunteers, at over 2000 lemonade stands in her name, to make a difference in the lives of kids who are battling cancer.

Cups of lemonade!

The smallest of actions can bring about powerful results. The important thing is that you keep moving forward, keep squeezing those lemons and adding sugar, stirring faithfully, and get out there and sell that lemonade, even if it is cup by cup.

If you struggle with staying power, the good news is that there are ways to jump start your initiative and bias for action. Here are some small steps that will propel you forward when your start to lose steam:

·        Make a to-do list. As simple and overrated as this may sound, write down your goals and list out some simple, daily steps to get there. This list can serve as a guide when you begin to get off track.

·        Figure out what is tripping you up. Is it fear of failure? Do you have too many tasks on your plate? Are you stretched in too many directions? Are you allowing distractions to deter you from your goals? Attempt to identify your hurdles by writing them down. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or a trusted colleague, or seek out the help of a coach.

·        Tackle the tough jobs first. Every goal has aspects which are more enjoyable than others. Getting the ‘worst’ ones out of the way first frees you up to enjoy the rest of the project and helps you avoid procrastination down the road.

·        Focus on the things you CAN do and not on the things you CANNOT. Start with these ‘can-do’s’ and get some help on the ones that you just can’t tackle alone.

·        Revisit to your list of daily to-do’s and refocus on checking off the next item when you discover you are losing momentum.

I don’t doubt you’ll achieve your New Year’s resolutions this month. But when the excitement begins to wane, remember the lemonade stand, and remind yourself that taking these small, basic steps can help you refocus and keep up the good fight, cup by cup.

“Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen right now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”  — Indira Gandhi

How will you navigate the journey ahead?

2017-new-yearAs you look out at the challenges ahead in 2017, consider equipping yourself with tools to help you navigate the peaks and valleys that life brings.

Social and emotional intelligence (S+EI) is the ability to be aware of how you and others are feeling, in the moment, and to manage your behavior appropriately. Do you know anyone who could use a little help with this? We all have behaviors that may be tripping us up, derailing our careers, and negatively affecting the quality of our relationships.

The good news is, behavior can be changed, and we’d like to help you learn how.

Our critically-acclaimed online Coach Certification Course in S+EI gives you  skills and expertise to create a unique niche in your coaching practice as well as help those you work with increase their S+EI for happier, more productive lives. Whether you are a coach, an HR professional, a leader, or an individual looking to navigate the journey ahead, consider adding the skill of S+EI coaching to your toolkit in the coming year.

Learn more at http://the-isei.com/all_course_list.aspx or contact us at info@the-isei.com. We look forward to walking alongside you!

The gift that everyone needs

holiday4

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In many countries, this time of the year is marked by the telltale signs of people scurrying around from store to store trying to find the perfect gift for friends, family, and loved ones. And while we may fuss that this holiday season has become too commercialized, most will admit that it feels really good to give, especially when we’ve chosen a gift that is well received! Seeing the delight on someone’s face as they unwrap a present they like can warm our hearts on any cold, winter day.

But there’s a gift that many of us possess, yet, often unbeknown to us, withhold it. We’ll spend our hard-earned paychecks on new toys or colorful housewares or the latest electronic gadget for those we love, and even at times for strangers, but this particular gift is a little more difficult to part with. It doesn’t come wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with bows, and you won’t find it online or at your neighborhood retail store. Yet, it is a gift that each of us wants — and needs.

I don’t like conflict.  Not many of us do.  Whether it be with family at home, or colleagues at the office, or with strangers on our daily commute, conflict with other human beings can leave us feeling used up, empty, and numb–the very opposite of what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel this time of year. The holidays are a time for peace.  But we all know how difficult relations with each other can be at times.  How much peace are you feeling at the moment with those you interact with?  And more importantly, how much peace are you giving at the moment to those in your life?

When my kids’ dad and I divorced years ago, I can’t exactly say we were feeling the love, joy and peace of the season in our household those first few winters. There was arguing. Crying. Yelling. Disenchantment. The ending of family as we knew it left raw wounds, which would at times begin to heal over, until a word or action ripped open the flesh once again with new hurt and pain. I was angry, he was angry–we were angry.  The kids got their presents: princess dresses, Batman masks, bicycles, movies, gifts laced with all the trimmings of the holidays, yet the most vital ingredient was missing:  peace.  I remember one particular night we were dropping off the kids and the interaction between us was so bitter than I was shaking with rage.  Peace?  It just wasn’t an item in Santa’s gift bag for our family that year.

Peace can only come about when we are able to get along well with those around us. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘people person’, it’s almost impossible to avoid interactions with others, and it’s these interactions that greatly affect our ability to experience peace. Believe me, I understand how certain circumstances can cause our relationships to be strained, to say the least, but unless we develop healthy conflict management skills, and interpersonal skills, both key components of emotional intelligence, even when there are valid reasons for the controversy, our ability to experience peace– and give peace — will be stifled.

Is there anyone in your life who’s robbing you of your peace?  Or, more importantly, is there anyone from whom you are stealing it? Maybe it’s a coworker who drives you nuts, or pushes your buttons, or…. you name it … whatever it is they do that’s causing you distress. Maybe it’s a family member that hurt you a long time ago in an angry argument.  Maybe it’s the guy who just pulled out in front of you at the intersection. Whomever it is, how does it feel?  If your reaction is anything like mine, the sick pit in your stomach when you think of the person or interact with them is enough to dampen the brightest of holiday spirits.

Forgiveness is often thought of to be a religious term, but it is helpful in bringing about peace to all, no matter what religion, belief system, or god you serve.  A quick internet search of the word ‘forgive’ leads you to this definition: “To stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”  But I like the second definition that comes up even more so:  “To cancel a debt.”  Cancel means to cross it out, delete it, to let it go. It is inevitable that when in relationship there will be cause for offense. But it’s our choice to let go of the punishment that we feel they deserve for their bad behavior.  It’s a gift that we all possess and have the ability to give, and it’s our choice whether to give it — or not. And while not offering it is definitely an option, we’ve all heard the famous quote by Marianne Williamson:   “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

My years of holding on to resentments tainted my joy, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Sure, I could blame my ex for the unrest, but in actuality it was me who was refusing to offer the olive branch of peace. It took several years, but when I was finally ready to cancel the debt I felt my he owed, it was only then that peace could begin to seep back into my life. Hurtful words became just a little less hurtful. Unrealistic expectations of each other were put to rest, and oddly, a sense of respect for each other began appear, faintly at first, like the first twinkling star at dusk. Although these moments in the beginning were few and far between, it soon became more and normal to treat each other decently. It was as if we were tentatively exchanging little trinkets of peace, like stocking stuffers, and as we rebuilt trust, the gifts became more substantial, valuable, and frequent. I’d compliment him on his parenting skills, he’d thank me for teaching the girls to sing.  He’d offer to pay for something extra, then I’d do the same next time an expense came around. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with extending kindness when the list of his wrongs always seemed to be much longer than the rights. But I found it hard to maintain a hardened heart when he’d offer a kind word, and visa versa. Sure, we’d often backslide, but for the most part we could tell our relationship was moving to a healthier place. Long story short, just last week, we were attending one of our kids’ choir events, and stopped into local coffee shop beforehand, and all sat together and shared coffee, and actually got along.  No arguing, no hurtful digs, no unkind words. We even laughed a bit and snapped a group photo.  What a different scene than from those early days of conflict. Will he ever be my best friend again?  Most likely not. I don’t think I’d even want that. But we have been able to finally lay down the years of bitterness and begin to again experience the love (well, “like” may be more accurate!), peace, and joy that Christmas carolers croon about.

Forgiveness. It’s gift that we all possess, but one that can be hard to give, especially when we can justify the reasons someone doesn’t deserve it. Offering forgiveness is much easier said than done — but know it can be done and can lead to the peace we all desire, deep down. Who will you offer this gift to this season?

 

The Leap

leap

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Do you have dreams that are not being realized? And in the day-to-day grind you just can’t see how to make them happen? It’s the story of my life. As a result of my wanderings around the great state of Colorado this summer, I realized that the guilty culprit of dream-stealing is that discouraging and negative acquaintance of ours named Fear. Why we ever decided to make friends with him in the first place I’ll never know! He has an annoying way of stopping by unannounced and knocking on our door until we relent and let him in, usually in the dark and restless hours of the night, when we are wrestling with discouragement and worry. And then he has the gall to stick around like an unwanted house guest until we’re exasperated and completely spent! I know in my life the presence of fear is the very thing that keeps me from exploring new opportunities that are the stepping stones to making my dreams unfold. Fear paralyzes us to the point that not only do we forget our dreams but can’t remember why we even dreamed them, and a life that seems mundane, routine, and purposeless stealthily assumes their place.

Fear can be so crippling that in order to tackle it, drastic measures are needed. Fearing the unknown becomes such a way of life for some of us that the thought of taking any sort of risk or changing up the routine is terrifying, despite realizing we have landed in a life that is so very far from our hearts. Taking a leap of faith, which is a form of exercising our personal power, when an opportunity presents itself becomes the only option to get unstuck and move forward.

I go cliff jumping for this very reason. If you’ve ever tried it, you understand how terrifying it can be.  Just getting to the launch pad is treacherous.  Usually the way up is a narrow, steep footpath with loose rocks, sharp drop-offs, and absolutely no room for error.  As if that doesn’t get your heart racing, there’s often no way down except to jump.  As you carefully peer over the edge to once again assure yourself there are no rocks below (though you already swam around down there a couple hundred of times to make sure), despite seeing those who go before you successfully accomplish the feat, your fears grab your innards like a pair of strong, sinewy vice grips that squeeze so tightly you feel your timid heart may burst with the overload of adrenaline.  Everything in your reasonable, sound mind tells you that there is no earthly reason it would be a good idea to fling yourself off into the oblivion.  But with heart pounding and breath coming in shallow gasps, you leap, a scream escaping your chest that doesn’t quite sound human. At the splash you plunge deep into the cool, cold waters with an instant exuberant affirmation that makes you wonder why you ever hesitated in the first place. It’s a physical way to push back physical fears that so translate over into fears of the heart. The exhilaration of mustering up the bravery to leap, despite sane reasoning, then plummeting downward, barefoot, into the refreshing blue waters below, reminds me that I can do anything if I am bold enough to try.

What cliff is looming ahead for you, that thing you are afraid of that’s holding you back? Or what cliff have you recently leapt from that has moved you one step closer to your dreams? One lie that fear whispers in our ear is that we are alone in our struggles, and alone in our successes.  This misconception can lead to isolation, loneliness, and a false sense of self — three masks that do a good job of clouding our vision and make us feel like we are pursuing our dreams with blinders on. Keep sharing your stories, because it is these tales of love, and hurt, and accomplishment, and setbacks, that could be the very thing someone needs to read today to help them make the leap.

Does Emotional Intelligence Really Affect the Bottom Line?

money-down-the-drain

 

Article contributed by guest author Dawn Cook

By now you’ve probably heard the term Emotional Intelligence and you might have a good idea what it means.  Being smart with your emotions is the simplest answer, although not a complete one, and will suffice for now.  Before we determine how or if it affects the bottom line, let’s take a look at what emotional intelligence looks like in terms of behavior.  Here are twelve keystone examples.

Someone with high emotional intelligence is someone who:

  1. inspires trust and commitment to goals
  2. exercises good decision-making under duress
  3. bounces back easily from frustrations and disappointments
  4. resists the urge to negatively react to condescending emails or comments
  5. communicates with confidence without being arrogant or overbearing
  6. recovers quickly from stress
  7. can see the silver lining in or make the most of tough situations
  8. builds rapport easily and makes others feel heard and understood
  9. handles conflict with ease and grace
  10. influences others to take action
  11. demonstrates compassion by helping others
  12. sets healthy boundaries

Naturally there are many more ways to detect emotional intelligence in the workplace, but this gives you the gist.  So how does this translate to improving business?  How does it impact bottom line profitability? Though a bit difficult to measure sometimes, leaders with high EQ – emotional intelligence quotient – experience these types of outcomes:

  1. They can focus on new opportunities since there are few employee issues.
  2. Turnover, recruiting and training costs are low.
  3. Engagement, productivity and creativity are high.
  4. There is high trust, so the speed of doing business increases while cost decreases.
  5. Communication is open, honest, frequent and effective.
  6. Teams are motivated and collaborate well together.
  7. Little time is spent gossiping at the water cooler.
  8. Change initiatives are successful.
  9. Financial goals are met or exceeded.
  10. The organization enjoys regular growth.

So do these things affect the bottom line?  Would they affect yours?

How I failed in my first year of business

moneyArticle contributed by guest author Aimee Teesdale

My company (aka.: ‘my baby’, my ‘pride and joy’) turned one year old at the start of September (2016). Nothing all that special, until you consider that a few years ago, I would never have even dreamt that having my own business was possible. A small town girl from a dodgy council estate, who was I to think about starting a company?! “No, not me. couldn’t do that”.

But as I entered the mainstream of Monday-to-Friday 9 to 5, I decided I didn’t want to simply accept the Rat Race way of life. There had to be more to life than just sitting at a desk making someone else’s dreams come true. I just didn’t know what it was, or if I was even capable of having it. But instead of succumbing to my self-doubt, I set about creating the lifestyle I wanted to live, by creating the person I needed to be to have it. I embarked on my own journey of self-discovery, combined my education in psychology and passion for self-development, and became a transformation coach who empowers other people to achieve the same level of transformation for themselves. But starting my business, and transitioning from ‘PAYE’ to ‘Ltd’, hasn’t been an easy journey.

In the time since starting my business, I’ve obviously been to a fair few networking events, and one thing that always struck me whenever I met fellow founders was how well everyone always seemed to be doing, when I always felt like I was struggling. ‘How’s business going?’ – ‘Yeah really good thanks! How’s yours?’ – ‘Yeah good’ (I’d reply with a sunken heart and fake smile). Why was everyone else nailing it and I wasn’t? What was I doing wrong? I felt like I was trying to crack the enigma of how to get clients and be paid for what I do. Well over the course of time I came to realize that actually, starting a business is hard, and everyone went through tough times, it was just that no-one was talking about it. Everyone was quick to boast about their successes, but rarely did people admit their mistakes. The failures – what failures?

As a coach, I understand the power of being authentic, vulnerable, and brave enough to expose even the less appealing side of ourselves that we prefer to keep hidden. I understand the power of it because I see from my clients: the ones who achieve the most transformation are the ones that are brave enough to admit their deepest, darkest thoughts, fears and mess-ups. So here’s me being authentic, vulnerable and brave, as I explain how in the first year of me running my company, I often failed:

I became obsessed with the outcome:

I was obsessed with ‘success’, measured by how much money I was (or rather, wasn’t) making. I’d grown up in a poor family and was desperate to escape the burden of always having to scrimp and save. But with this obsession for money, I lost my happiness, because the more I dreamt of wealth and financial abundance, the unhappier I was in the present moment, and the more I focused on what I didn’t have rather than what I did. I lost sight of the most important outcome of all: personal fulfillment. Personal fulfillment through transforming people’s lives. Once I focused on that, the money flowed.

I got impatient:

I wanted “success” and I wanted it now. I read somewhere that impatience is simply the lack of trust or certainty that things will happen as you want them to. Think about it: you get impatient in a traffic jam because you lack the certainty that you will make it to your destination on time. You get impatient teaching a concept to someone because you don’t think they will ever get it. You get impatient at your husband because you lack the certainty he will do the dishes when you want them to be done. In the early days, I still doubted whether I’d really be able to make my business successful, which lead to impatience, which lead to me working all hours to get things done, because – well EVERYTHING just because it HAD to be done NOW (when really, it didn’t matter if it was done today or next week – the outcome would be the same). Once I started to trust myself and my ability, I was able to enjoy life, enjoy building the business, and sure enough, attract more clients.

I focused too much on my price rather than my value:

I tried to charge my first potential client the price I wanted to be charging in the future after year’s of experience. It didn’t matter to me that I’d only just qualified as a coach. I thought I knew it all. I tried to charge what other well-established coaches were charging simply because, if they were getting that much money, why shouldn’t I? But I was missing the point. It’s never about the price, it’s not even about the years of experience. It’s always about the value. Do the perceived benefits of what you offer outweigh the perceived costs, to that individual? When I shifted my attention to serving my clients powerfully, by making my intention to simply make a big difference to their life, instead of just thinking about how much I was going to charge them, client after client said yes.

I compared myself to other people:

And worse still, to the wrong types of people – people in totally different industries with totally different businesses and expertise! I looked at them and saw what they were achieving and then started to feel inferior or worthless because I hadn’t achieved the same. As humans, it’s natural to want to gauge our own success based on the success of others, but it should be used as an opportunity to learn and propel us forward, not to let it play down one’s own level of self-worth. Throw away your ‘Ruler of Success’ – there’s no such thing. Define your own measure of success and work towards that – not someone else’s.

I procrastinated:

Ah, the most common archenemy of freelancers and entrepreneurs. There are lots of books out there giving tips on how to overcome procrastination, but they’re mostly behavioural: ‘break the task down into small pieces’, ‘tackle the hardest one first’, ‘set a clear objective’, etc etc. However what I teach is that all behaviour stems from conscious and subconscious thoughts, beliefs and emotions. We act because we feel, we feel because we think. The act of doing nothing, or everything other than what you’re supposed to do, is a result of some kind of thought process which is making you not want to do that thing. For example, one day I realized that the reason why I was procrastinating was because I was being inauthentic. I had written the marketing for my coaching services on a concept that I thought would sound better and sell better. It didn’t come from my own true journey or purpose. It felt fake. When I realised this, I went home and re-wrote my website from my heart. I stopped thinking about strategy and instead focused on sharing. And now when I talk about what I do, I don’t have to think of ‘my elevator pitch’ or sales speech – I just talk. And finally my prospects call me and say ‘I really resonated with what you said…” So if you’re procrastinating, take a deep look inside at those subconscious thoughts and beliefs: Is your task really aligned with your true self? Do you believe in the project, in yourself and in your capability? Are you fearing the outcome? Are you fearing potential failure?

I refused to plateau:

I was GO GO GO day in/day out, not content with no-progress. I blamed myself for not working hard enough if I took a few hours off to relax. I didn’t appreciate the value in just simply letting things be for a little while. This doesn’t mean not working, it just means being content with having reached one milestone before striving for another. Once I finally embraced a period of plateau between milestones in my business, by easing off the gas pedal and focusing on experience and exploration rather than ‘make as much revenue as possible and as quickly as possible’, I let in a world of self-discovery. I was like an elastic band, being pulled back and held under tension, gathering momentum, taking aim, before being fired. Once released, whooooosh…off it goes.

Even with these mistakes, Aimee C. Teesdale Ltd is thriving, not despite my failings, but thanks to them. Thanks to slowing down I gathered the experience, insight, and confidence to quit my part-time job and go full time in my business, a whole year ahead of the goal I had originally set myself. Thanks to procrastination I discovered my authentic self. Thanks to greediness I discovered the meaning of value, enrolled my first client and got the ball rolling, scaling up my prices with every new client I attracted. I am grateful for all my mistakes because I chose to learn from each one of them. Mistakes and failures are not to be feared – they’re there to help us improve.

Failure isn’t the opposite of success – it’s how you get there. What are the mistakes that you’ve made, and what have they taught you? What have you discovered or achieved as a result?

Improve your decisions. Use your emotions.

decisionArticle contributed by guest author John Thalheimer.

It was late on Tuesday; Julie had to make a decision before she left work. It had been a long day of meetings, project reviews, and conversations with her team. As she walked into her office, she sat down in the armchair she usually reserved for guests to her office. The decision she had to make weighed heavily on her. Instinctively she knew however she decided it would impact the performance of her team for the next year at least.

On her desk sat the resumes of the two candidates that would replace her operations manager. Over the last two weeks, she had narrowed down the candidate pool to these two resumes, and now she had to make a decision.

One of the primary responsibilities of executives is to make decisions for the betterment of the organization. In fact, executives make hundreds of decisions each week that impact the direction of their organizations. In my work with leaders, most of them believe that making rational decisions are an important aspect of their leadership. For the important decisions, the leader usually has a very systematic way to make the decision. Ben Franklin introduced us to the pro vs. con list that many executives use today.

My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and the other Con. Then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, which at different time occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights…” Ben Franklin

If you google decision making, you will get over 133 million different responses. Obviously, we are obsessed with making good decisions. And no wonder with the importance of each decision we make as leaders. And in a way Ben Franklin had it right, the importance of understanding the pros and cons of the variety of choices is still paramount in our decision-making process. Unfortunately, it is not a straightforward as reviewing the facts and making the best rational decision.

As humans, our emotions play a large way in how we make decisions. Our emotions evolved to coordinate our various human operating systems. For instance, the functions of sleep and fear of a predator require different reactions from the brain and body. If the brain was receiving cues from the outside world it was time to sleep while at the same time a lion was stalking us, our species would have been extinct a long time ago.

In today’s society, how we perceive the world impacts our emotions and in turn, influences how we behave including how we make decisions. For instance, when we are deciding between various software providers, we may eliminate one because of a gut reaction that they are not forthright. Maybe the vendor reminds us of time where a vendor let us down. Maybe the vendor triggers an anxious response by shoving the contract in front of you. Maybe the vendor pushes your respect button by calling you, Miss or Son. In any case, this “gut reaction” is an emotional response to an internal trigger that may or may not be accurate.

Our emotional responses are not necessarily rational and may be based on an environmental trigger of which we are unaware. When I was purchasing a new stove for my house, one of the factors I used to make my decision was that it had to be a gas stove. I rationalized this by reminding myself that all of my chef friends said that it is best to cook on gas. It wasn’t until I walked into my grandmother’s house and saw her gas stove that I realized the motive for me to buy a gas stove was a nostalgia for the time spent in my grandmother’s kitchen.

How can we stop having emotions impact our decisions? We don’t. They are a critical part of our decision-making process. In most cases, they provide us a deeper understanding of the decision and how it relates to our internal value system. This connection between our values and the ultimate choice is key to making the best decision possible.

Using the following rules will help us make the best decisions and allow our emotions to properly impact our decision-making process.

  1. Know exactly what you want to achieve. This may seem self-explanatory but in the work environment with its competing and at times conflicting goals, this can be a challenge for even the most experienced leader.
  2. Gather information about the various choices so that you can have a full perspective. You don’t have to get every piece of information possible. Just enough so that you feel comfortable. This is where the pro’s vs. con list can help clarify the different choices.
  3. Get other people involved in the decision-making process. (Not too many, after a certain point too many viewpoints will cause paralysis.) With complex decisions, finding good partners to help you and challenge you help you make the best decisions. It can also offset any biases you may have.
  4. Check your choices against organizational values and standards. Some choices may seem best until they are reviewed with the organizational values in mind.
  5. Finally, make a decision. Yes, your emotions will be involved in the decision-making process, that is not only acceptable and is preferred as it will allow you to react to things that which you are not aware.
  6. Review your decision and its outcomes. Did it meet your expectations? Were there unattended consequences? How did it impact the team? Does anything need to be adjusted? We are never perfect in our decision making, it is how we correct ourselves that truly matter in the long run.

Let’s get back to our heroine, she needs to get home.

Julie stood up and walked towards her desk. She picked up the two resumes. She quickly looked over them, visualizing the two people in her mind. She smiled to herself and picked up the phone and called the Director of HR with her choice. In the end, she realized that it was her decision, and she knew that her intuition would not steer her wrong.

She headed home to her family, wondering what her husband had chosen for dinner.

 

 

What’s keeping you from getting there?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

The alarm goes off and you jump out of bed with the best of intentions. You have a long to-do list and today is the day you’re going to check those boxes. Check, check, check, check, then – oh. There it is — that one task — the one you’ve been avoiding. That one that has been looming over your head like a dark and thunderous storm cloud, carrying in its dark and grey shadows a sense of dread and trepidation. And with each day that passes without working on it, the bigger and stormier that cloud gets, to the point where it begins to wake you at night and give you that sick, pit-in-your-stomach feeling when you think about it. You know that you have to start on it. But instead of diving in and tackling it, you jump on social media, and before you know it, you are watching videos of cats jumping in the air when they spy a cucumber lying nearby. And at the end of the day — that sick sense of dread is still there. Can you relate?

Procrastination is a choice we make that can really eat at our drive for achievement. I like how Christopher Parker put it: “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” So true!

To procrastinate means to avoid doing something that we ought to be doing, and most likely, spending time doing ‘more enjoyable’ things in place of the task at hand. This avoidance can take the shape of spending time on less-urgent matters or simply running from the task completely. Achievement drive is a valuable competency of emotional intelligence and without it, we find it hard to accomplish our goals. People who are overflowing with achievement drive set high professional (and personal) standards and continually strive — yes strive — to not only meet those standards, but to go above and beyond. Those without it tend to do only what’s required of them and don’t like to stretch themselves to accomplish challenging tasks.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” — Mason Cooley

In grad school we were given the task of developing a research project around our topic of study and to go out and gather responses to a specific set of questions, recording the answers with a scientifically-based and statistically-reliable methodology. The project contributed to a good portion of our semester grade and was going to take more than a couple of hours to complete. “It’s a good idea that you get started on this one early”, our instructor stated. I immediately started worrying about what topic I would choose and whom I would include in my focus group. But instead of going home and at least brainstorming some ideas, I tucked the assignment away and tried not to think about it for the next few weeks. With each passing day the project grew bigger and increasingly fearsome than it actually was, until it seemed larger than life itself. This is an impossible assignment! I’ll never finish it on time! Before I knew it I was waking at night sick with worry, but when the daylight came, instead of working on it, I did everything else BUT the project so that when night came again, the dread settled in my bones like a life-sucking parasite.

At the last moment, literally, with about four days to go before due date, out of desperation, I dove into that assignment, and to my surprise, discovered it was very interesting and even — dare I say — fun? I wished I had more time to spend on it but due to my procrastination I only had a couple of days to work on what turned out to be my favorite assignment of the year.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” — H.P. Lovecraft

Remember when Indiana Jones had to step out into nothingness to discover the only way across the ravine? Sometimes taking the first steps into a daunting task can feel that way.

A good way to avoid letting it become seemingly impossible is break it down into smaller, manageable steps…and sometimes forcing yourself to put one foot in front of the other, stepping out into that hazy unknown. Letting a project sit too long untouched can slow down your traction. The sooner you can begin to chip away at a task’s monumental stature the sooner you’ll realize it’s not as prodigious as it seemed. And you might find you enjoy the views along the journey.

 

How to do this?

A simple place to start is to create an action plan:

  • Define the project and make note of the deadline.
  • Take a moment to anticipate how you will feel when you accomplish this project and jot it down.
  • Make a to-do list of the steps needed to take to accomplish the project. Set timelines for each step. These can be daily or weekly, depending on the length of the project.
  • Pick your team. Who will help you, whether it be for research, or task-sharing, or simply to lean into as a source of encouragement? Many hands make light work.
  • Push to the front of the line. Each day, if possible, work on this project first. Allowing yourself to do other tasks may take you off course and prevent you from taking necessary steps toward the goal.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Each step achieved puts you one step closer to the grand finale. If it helps, create a visual display to show how much of the project you have conquered each step of the way.

Learning to break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can help you avoid procrastination and become more results-oriented, pushing through the uncertainty that often goes hand-in-hand with something that feels overwhelming. Learning to become more action-oriented and thus develop achievement drive can help you begin to take more risks and work toward a higher standard of excellence. The downside is that you may not get to watch as many cat videos on YouTube. But the sweet taste of accomplishment that comes from reaching your goals and finishing projects will most likely be a bit more satisfying.

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” — Thomas Carlyle

Hired or Not? Emotional Intelligence can make the difference

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Edwards

Emotional intelligence is often the “final” factor

If you are like most job seekers, when you read “strong people skills” and “strong technical skills” in a job posting, you may tend to gloss over the first to focus on selling your technical talent and experience to the prospective employer.  In fact, we often refer to people skills as the “soft” skills and that sounds secondary to anything else we might possess. WRONG!

More and more companies hire for attitude because they have been burned when hiring purely for technical skills and knowledge.  What seemed like a dream candidate turned out, occasionally, to be a problem employee who was not successful.

Hired or Not?

Organizations often use behavioral interview questions which are founded on Emotional Intelligence, referred to as the “Other Kind of Smart” like Harvey Deutschendorf and Daniel Goleman. The latter wrote a book, Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More than IQ, which soared to the top of the New York Times bestseller list for a year.  Additionally, some companies use

pre-employment assessments, based on soft skills to predict job related behavior or organizational fit. These tests determine the level of self-awareness a candidate possesses as well as how insightful s/he is of other people.  The higher the Emotional Intelligence, the more able the individual is to influence others, crucial to many professions including customer service, marketing and sales.

Emotional intelligence separates star performers from everyone else

Research consistently shows that people with high EQ out perform their peers and studies have shown positive correlation with high EQ and careers involving customer service, sales and, especially, management positions. They are aware of their own emotions and keep them in control, enabling them to focus on their work, when others around them are adding to the drama and non productivity.

Yes!  You can showcase your emotional intelligence in your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile

By sharing your success stories and achievements, you can really stand out against your competition by showing how you:

  • Develop rapport with your work contacts
  • Build trust with team members and customers
  • Manage stressful situations
  • Negotiate favorable outcomes during times of conflict
  • Nimbly navigate change

What about the interview?

Knowing how to incorporate Emotional Intelligence into an interview can also give you the competitive edge you need to ace the selection process.  Employers hire for positive attitude, resilience and cultural fit; therefore, your responses to interview questions should include examples of how you have overcome obstacles, adapted to changes and worked effectively with others. Simply saying that you possess these traits is not enough.  Go into your interview prepared to share several examples.  That way, if you have multiple levels of interviews, you can share a different example with each interviewer.

IQ may get you hired but EQ gets you up the career ladder

Emotional Intelligence also accurately forecasts leadership capability and is used often when companies identify and groom emerging leaders since that process consumes considerable investment of resources. But it is used extensively in identifying and training top sales teams and has been used by a wide variety of organizations from L’Oreal cosmetics to the United States Air Force with results of more effective hiring decisions, lower employee turnover and higher performance.
If you are interested in career advancement, understanding Emotional Intelligence is a wise investment in your development. An assessment will provide you with a baseline and the great news is that EQ can be improved over time with an individual development plan.

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