(This is the second in a series of blogs on Using Positive Psychology in Coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence)
Consider this scenario. You’re coaching one of your favorite clients. They have something really big they want to achieve and you are supporting them. You’re pulling out all the stops. You have them picture what their life will be like once they achieve their goals. You ask them to visualize every detail. Where are they sitting? Who is with them? What’s around them? Are their toes in the warm sand? Are their fingers wrapped around the leather steering wheel in that hot new car? Can they just hear the applause and see the standing ovation after that big speech? You ask them to imagine what it will feel like once they’ve accomplished this big goal – actually, even more than imagine what it will feel like, you ask them to try to really experience the feeling of it. What are those feelings? Will they feel proud? Confident? Elated? Exhilarated?
Good emotional intelligence coaching, right? You have them visualizing and actually feeling the emotional tug of accomplishing the big goal. This positive imagery and the associated positive feelings will really help them feel motivated and inspired, right?
Well . . . not so fast. According to research conducted by Gabriele Oettingen at New York University, visualizing and even feeling what it will be like to achieve our big goals and dreams in life can actually backfire.
Well, the visualization and emotional pull can help at first, but over the long run, it can trick the mind into relaxing, as if all the hard work has already been done, and the emotional energy we stir up initially around achieving the goal can actually trickle away. People can actually become complacent.
In one of Dr. Oettinger’s studies, students enrolled in a computer-programming knew they had to excel in mathematics in order to succeed in the program. All the students had high hopes and a great determination to excel in math.
The students in the program were separated into three groups. In the first group (the “indulging group”), the students were asked to name (and write down) four positive aspects associated with excelling in mathematics (e.g., feeling proud, getting a better, higher-paying job, getting more job offers to choose from, etc.).
In the second group, (the “mental contrasting group” – see below), the students were asked to name two positive aspects of excelling in math, and two obstacles to reaching their goal in alternating order (e.g., I’ll get a better, higher-paying job, but I might get lazy and not do the work. But I’ll get lots more job offers, but then again, I might get distracted).
The third group (the “dwelling group”) was asked to think through and write down four negative aspects of not excelling in math. (e.g., I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the time to study, etc.) Ugh.
The teachers in the program tracked the students’ performance for two weeks following this exercise and “graded” the students on how much effort each student had invested over the ensuing two weeks in excelling at mathematics.
Only in the second group, the “mental contrasting” group, where the students considered both the positive AND the negative aspects of achieving their goals, did the students earn the grades needed to achieve the goal of excelling in math. Not only did they get the grades, they exerted the effort needed, and they also felt far more energized toward the goal compared with the students in the other two groups.
The students in the first group, the “indulging group” who were asked to imagine only the good aspects of success felt only moderately energized, demonstrated only moderate effort, and earned only moderate grades, despite their high expectations for success. Same for the students in the third group, the “dwelling group” who were asked to think only of the negative. They too felt only moderately energized, showed only moderate effort and earned only moderate grades. Students in the first group actually felt de-energized after visualizing their success would come so easily. Many became complacent. And those poor students in the third group never felt energized from the start.
Many other studies confirm these findings, including studies on learning a second language, finding work/life balance, smoking cessation, and various other goals related to self-improvement.
Those who simply fantasize about their goals actually feel less energetic about them and end up achieving fewer goals. One study of mid-level managers at four hospitals in Germany was particularly interesting. One group of managers was trained in the mental contrasting technique (explained below) and one group was not. Two weeks after the training, those who had been through the training achieved far more of their short-term goals than their colleagues who did not attend the training. They also found it easier to make decisions about how to use their time – another benefit of mental contrasting: by thinking realistically about the obstacles to success, we pick goals we are actually likely to achieve and avoid wasting time on projects that will not get us to our goals.
So what is this Self-Regulation Strategy of Mental Contrasting?
Mental contrasting requires two steps involving both “positive” and “negative” thinking and emotion. We want to ask our clients (or ourselves) to:
1) Imagine the attainment of the desired future or goal (“positive thinking”) in vivid detail, and then
2) Reflect on current reality and the obstacles which may stand in the way (the aforementioned “power of negative thinking”)
This process helps people be realistic in determining whether they can achieve a goal or a desired future state, and whether they can make the commitment to do so.
When the feasibility or expectation of success is high, people commit strongly to attaining the goal; when feasibility is low, they are far less likely to form a commitment to a goal (their goal commitment is weak or simply non-existent).
Mental contrasting is therefore a useful tool in helping clients with realistic optimism, selecting goals that are attainable. In the process, they reserve their energy and personal resources (time and money) for the goals they can achieve.
An additional benefit of mental contrasting is that it requires individuals to think of the obstacles (or the negative aspects) that could get in the way of goal attainment so they can plan in advance how they can remove those obstacles.
In sum, it helps to have an end goal in mind, and a clear vision or picture of what that goal will be. Vision, purpose and direction are vital to our success. They get us to our goals. But we also need to engage in “mental contrasting” – realistically thinking of the negative and the obstacles that could get in the way so we can plan for them. We need to think about where we want to be, and realistically where we are now. Interestingly, this process ends up actually energizing us more toward goal attainment than simply fantasizing and solely engaging in positive thinking.
Optimism is more than hope and positive thinking. I don’t wish to diminish hope. Hope is important. Without hope we have nothing. But optimism is more than hope. Optimism is about being realistic about the work involved, and about taking action, and about overcoming obstacles. Optimism involves considering the negative as well as the positive.
So, give this mental contrasting technique a try for yourself. Think about something big you would like to achieve and write down at least three benefits of success. Then reflect on and write down at least three things that could get in the way. Going through this process helps us direct our motivation and energy where it’s needed most, and also helps us determine whether a particular goal is truly feasible or simply not in the cards.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried reaching a goal simply by visualizing success while not considering potential roadblocks? Did it work for you? Were you successful? Have you ever tried mental contrasting? How did that work?
Our new course, Using Positive Psychology in Coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence starts this Thursday, March 7. Positive Psychology is first and foremost a science. While it’s “nice” to believe in the power of positive thinking, the science indicates more is needed. Mental contrasting is just one of over a dozen evidence-based Positive Psychology techniques we will be reviewing to support our practice of Coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence. Come join us this Thursday to learn more! Register here
Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.
- Dalai Lama XIV
This is the first in a series of blogs on Positive Psychology and how it supports our work in coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence.
Last Spring, I had the wonderful good fortune to take a class* from the late Dr. Chris Peterson. Chris was one of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology and a scholar and researcher with a long-standing interest in optimism (as well as health, character, and well-being).
Sadly, for all of us who studied with him, and for all the world, Chris passed away unexpectedly last October. He was an inspiration to me and to many others in the world of Positive Psychology. He taught me to strive to seek the positives in life, to “pursue the good life,” to scientifically study what goes right in life, and to always remember that “other people matter.” He is so missed, and one of my primary goals in teaching a new course (starting next week) on Using Positive Psychology in Coaching Social + Emotional Intelligence is to pass along some of the many lessons Chris taught me.
Today, we will touch on some of his work related to optimism. Prior to Chris Peterson’s research, optimism had developed something of a bad rap (believe it or not). People equated optimism with Pollyanna, and the annoying Dr. Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide (i.e., foolish, stupid, unrealistic optimism).
Positive Psychology is based, above all, on science, and Chris Peterson turned his attention to the scientific study of optimism. In fact, studies of optimism preceded and helped usher in the field of Positive Psychology, which is why we will start here.
An enormous amount of empirical research over the decades (Peterson’s and others) has demonstrated that optimism is good for us. Among the benefits, optimism can lead to:
- Better health, bolstered immunity
- More satisfying relationships (both friendships and intimate relationships)
- Greater success in work, school and sports
- Less stress
- Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure
- Increased longevity (longer life)
- Greater happiness
- Enhanced resilience and coping skills
- Greater productivity and motivation
- More patience
- Enhanced physiological and psychological well-being
- More effective problem-solving
- Greater self-confidence and positive self-regard
- Improved social life and bonding between individuals
- Greater focus
- Improved communication and self-expression
- Enhanced mental flexibility and creativity
Optimism and other positive emotions have a positive impact on virtually every bodily function and organ in the human body, including the brain, the heart, the vascular and immune systems, the hormonal system and on detoxification.
An optimistic expectation leads us to the belief that goals can be achieved. Positive expectations can be self-fulfilling. So how can we set optimistic expectations, both for ourselves and in support of our clients? This will be the subject of a future blog post and will also be explored in our upcoming class (starting next week!) Using Positive Psychology to Coach Social + Emotional Intelligence.
In this advanced class, we will be covering dozens of Positive Psychology exercises and interventions (related to optimism and many other topics that can add significant value to our practice of coaching social and emotional intelligence). To register, click here
*While I have taken several courses in Positive Psychology over the past few years, I had the good fortune to take the Positive Psychology class with Dr. Chris Peterson through MentorCoach, LLC, a coach training school based out of Bethesda, Maryland. Their foundational coaching training program is based on the principles of integrating evidence-based coaching and the science of Positive Psychology. For anyone seeking an ICF-accredited program for your foundational coaching training, I highly recommend MentorCoach. For information, contact Dr. Ben Dean at www.MentorCoach.com.
This week’s article comes from Betty Mahalik, one of our own S+EI Certified Coaches. This article deals with positive psychology and the tremendous positive impact this can have on coaching our clients and on ourselves. In fact, this topic is so important, we have added an advanced course on positive psychology to the course line-up here at the The Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence. Betty’s blog post on this topic is definitely worth your time and an excellent article.
Last week I received one of those blog messages that I believe has changed my life. It was from Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of a book I’m reading called Buddha’s Brain, that links current neuroscience research findings with ancient practices such as meditation. His message, backed by research was this: focusing on the positive really works to grow your brain, increase your emotional balance and generally make you a happier, healthier person.
I’ve always prided myself on being a positive person, but Rick’s article took the idea of positivity to a whole new level for me. You see it’s not enough to simply think positive thoughts or keep a gratitude journal or count your blessings. Those are fine as far as they go. But the real juice—that research is now validating as vital for improving your mood, attitude and your health–comes from internalizing those positive experiences at a deep level, using multi-sensory images to “burn” them into your brain. I recently explained it to a coaching client like this: using all of your faculties, reenact the positive experience and then imagine that the positive emotions being triggered are sinking down into your whole body like butter melting into a hot English muffin.
Want to try it? Start right now by recalling a positive moment from the past 24 hours. It might be something as simple as a trip through the produce department of the grocery store to something more emotionally meaningful like a loving conversation with a friend or family member. Now in vivid detail recall that experience with as much sensory memory as you can muster. What color were the fruits and veggies? What color was your friend or family member wearing? What else did you notice during the experience? What smells do you recall? Was there a particularly loving expression or a smile your loved one was wearing? What did you hear? Were there any particular sounds or words you want to recall from the experience?
Once you’ve reenacted the experience with as much imagery as possible, now imagine all of the positive emotions you experienced seeping down through your brain, spreading into your body, neck, back, shoulders and heart. Stay with the imagery and the sensations of love, peace and well-being for as long as you want. You can do this exercise in as little as 30 seconds or take a longer 2-3 minute positivity break. According to Hanson, the longer you can hold the images and feelings the stronger the beneficial effect on your brain: “The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in implicit memory.”
This practice not only sharpens your recall of the positive things in life, (something many of us have a hard time doing because of a built-in survival bias for noticing the negative), it actually builds more positive neural activity in the brain, which has a beneficial effect on everything from your productivity to your health, according to Hanson’s research. It also strengthens your ability to experience more positive emotions in the moment.
Keep paying attention to the positive and here’s what Hanson says begins to happen: “Over time you will fill up your cup, overcoming the negativity bias of your brain with a growing, inside-out sense of happiness, love, and peace.”
Don’t know about you, but I think our world and each of us as individuals could do with a growing, inside-out sense of happiness, love and peace.
I’ve noticed since I started consciously taking positivity breaks that I’m calmer, more centered, naturally more grateful and I’m paying attention to the little joy-filled moments of everyday rather than waiting for the “biggies” to happen and being disappointed when those so-called big moments don’t live up to my inflated expectations. I also notice that I’m replaying those negative memories and moments less frequently, another benefit to the positivity practice!
Every moment is a gift. This year I invite you to start engaging in regular positivity breaks. Train your brain to “take in the good” and develop the daily habit of reviewing those small but precious moments of happiness that often flit by unnoticed.
Okay I’ll take the lead and declare today a special occasion: National Positivity Day! Now it’s your turn to help create a groundswell of positive experiences and emotions. Go ahead and take a positivity break….take in the good….feel the love.
Have a positively wonderful day, week, month and year!
If you have an interest in learning more about positive psychology and how it can be used in coaching social + emotional intelligence, our next class starts Thursday, March 7th. You can view the entire schedule by visiting www.the-isei.com/advancedcourses
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Article Contributed by Guest Author Patrick B. McLaughlin M.A., M.Ed.
Although this is a story about Halloween, we didn’t want to wait until next Halloween to share it. It was written by Patrick McLaughlin, an amazingly empathetic S+EI coach from Quebec, Canada. Enjoy!
Whether one is a parent, a friend, a manager, a police officer or whatever, a well-developed facility in ‘Interpersonal Effectiveness’ goes a long way in creating the possibility of Trust and in Improving Relationships. The individual who demonstrates such Impersonal Effectiveness is not inhibited by the reality that there can be an element of risk in not being aware of the other’s potential reaction. However, there is a powerful safety valve contained in sensitivity and in the ability to ‘read’ what is not being verbalized.
Far removed from the corporate world, here is a Halloween event which, at least in my opinion, reflects the qualities of Empathy and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
The local organic food store displays a multitude of enticing items but, since space is limited, circulation can be challenging at times. I had just picked up my ‘Millet and Soya Bread’ and was making my way in the direction of whatever other required item was on my mental list. My progress was somewhat interrupted by the presence of a mother and her daughter also experiencing some degree of difficulty in circumventing the various barriers. The little girl was rigged out in a party dress and I noticed that something resembling a floral design and sparklers illuminated her face. Not being particularly inhibited by nature, I said to her, ‘I like your face’. Very shyly she looked at me and then turned to her mother for consolation. Now my conversation continued with the mother and I asked if the little girl was shy which the mother confirmed, then addressed her daughter in French. Presuming that the language barrier may have been the primary reason for her discomfort, I also spoke to her ‘en français’ but the hesitency remained. The mother informed me that her little girl was preparing to go ‘trick-or-treat’ing, its being Halloween. ‘Alors tu vas chanter ce soir?’ (So you are going to sing this evening?). She murmured something which I understood to be ‘Yes’. When I asked her what she was going to sing, (Qu’est-ce que tu vas chanter?), silence returned.
The shopping continued and I would presume that the little girl was glad to find herself once more in the reassuring safety of her mother’s caring, delighted that the inquisitive stranger had finally left her in peace.
It was not to be. Our paths crossed again at the checkout counter. The little girl looked at me with some suggestion of comfort. So I started again, all en français. ‘I also will be going trick-or-treating this evening and I will be singing many songs in order to get lots of goodies’, (a figment of my imagination, of course) and I sang her a bit of a song…’Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous, Dormez-vous? etc’. Then I pushed gently ahead, asking her what song she was going to sing. Wonder of wonders..she sang her song, clinging to her mother. ‘You have a lovely voice’, I said, ‘and you will surely gather lots of candies and cakes this evening’. ‘Will you share them with your Mummy?’ ‘No.’ ‘Why not’, I asked. Without a moment’s hesitation, she came up with a rather sound justification for keeping all the goodies for herself. ‘My Mummy does not like cakes’.
Not only was this a wonderfully warm encounter, but I noticed that the mother, the gentleman behind the counter and two other ladies who were there to shop and not to hear the two of us rehearsing our singing programme for Halloween had delighted smiles on their faces. The power of empathy had not only successfully inspired this young lady to sing in public but had reached out and touched three strangers and evidently warmed the heart of the mother who must have been delighted to witness her shy little daughter abandoning her reserve in such a delightful manner. The power of empathy created a positive change, even for a moment, in the spirit of all these individuals who beforehand were complete strangers. And, judging by her attitude in the final scene, her Halloween was not ruined.
This impromptu encounter most certainly illustrated the extent to which the expression of empathy can create positive change in a group setting. The little lady who was the focus of my attention was not the only one to manifest that something had touched her in that moment; the evidently delighted response of the others, even though they were merely onlookers, was a testimony to the power of empathy.
Article contributed by Lisa L. Custardo, CC-SEI, MBA, CPA, CGMA
According to Duncan Mathison, Managing Director of Executive Coaching for DBM, a human capital management firm, “The most commonly cited reason employees leave companies is their unhappiness with their manager.” In fact, “The top 10% of the managers in a company will have half the turnover rate of the middle 80% and two and a half times less turnover than the bottom 10%”, he says. “Good leadership makes a huge difference in not only retention but overall company performance.”
So, as professionals, what can we do increase the effectiveness in ourselves and our managers to secure the optimal level of human capital that effectively sustains the rising expectations of our company’s operational, financial, and leadership performance? Hire the right people – with the right talents – put them in the right place – and, treat them right. Right? Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Mathison goes on to state, “The skills that make a high performer are NOT the same skills that make good leaders. Research shows that only 29% of those employees who are high-performers have the potential to be great leaders. Two qualities make the difference. First, great managers have high emotional intelligence; they know themselves better and handle themselves well with others. Secondly, they are very good at learning and applying what they learn to improve their skills.” Ah – therein lies the key.
In my personal and professional opinion, if you are looking to increase your skills and awareness in the area of emotional intelligence, and/or that of the managers in your organization, you are in exactly the right place! In working directly with the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence and the coaches & practitioners certified to administer the self-assessment Social + Emotional Intelligence profile (SEIP), you will likely find yourself in perfect company to gain the best insight, knowledge and tools that put you, your employees, and your company at the best pivotal vantage point for professional success.
Outlining 26 significant areas identified as critical in socially and emotionally intelligent individuals, teams and organizations, the SEIP material has been highly recognized as the most comprehensive, statistically-reliable, scientifically- validated instrument on the market today. Including such important areas as stress management, emotional self awareness, innovation & creativity, resilience, managing conflict productively, integrity, personal power and agility, powerful influencing skills, catalyzing change, teamwork and collaboration, communication, building trust & bonds, and inspirational leadership, it’s no wonder Mr. Mathison and DBM site emotional intelligence as a critical factor for professional and organizational success.
For anyone aspiring to be a top executive, or even a great manager for that fact, I offer the following recommendations, as laid out by DBM, including a few additions of my own:
- Find an organization that invests in employee development
- Challenge yourself to improve your ability to work with others
- Seek out feedback
- If you are a manager, get an executive coach to help you develop the leadership skills for the next level of responsibility
- Invest in yourself and those around you by becoming more aware about the level of your own emotional intelligence strengths and limitations and develop a stronger sense of social awareness, understanding, and influence
- Learn what the behaviors look like in those that demonstrate strong emotional and social intelligence and model them regularly
- Go the extra step of identifying and improving areas within the competency areas of social and emotional intelligence that you personally see as vital for your own self-development and that of your organization
Recommendations as set forth by DBM – Zenger and Folkman, The Extraordinary Leader
Are you part of the 29% that Mr. Mathison refers to as, “high-performing professionals who also have the potential to be great leaders?” If so, how do you know AND what are you effectively doing to amplify and sustain your leadership talent and that of your organization, in helping your company rise to an exceptional level of performance?
I look forward to any input, comments, suggestions and/or additional recommendations for those aspiring to great leadership.
My highest regard,
Lisa L. Custardo
Article Contributed by Guest Author Hope Eaton
For years Kyle was dedicated to a career he loved, and was almost happy with his work/life imbalance. That is, until he had a family. Once this happened, it was no longer okay to work 16 hour days. There were other things that were important to Kyle, and he wanted to do everything as perfectly as he did his job. He wanted it all, and why not, everyone else seemed to be doing it.
And yet, Kyle began to experience a great deal of frustration because he wanted to spend more time with his wife, his kids and his friends. He wanted to keep up his exercise program, and he also wanted to keep doing the work he loved.
However, when he was at work, he did not feel fully engaged because he was thinking about the T-ball game his son was playing that he was missing; and when he was with his family, he was stressed and frustrated about the presentation he was not getting done. When he was out with friends, he did not fully enjoy their company because he was thinking about the laps he should be swimming.
Kyle finally got to the point where he was not fully enjoying anything. Everything he read about work-life balance, about being more productive and how to squeeze more in his days was not helping him, and his stress levels rose.
This is when he reached out for coaching. We worked together to design his life through the lens of the emotional intelligence competency of realistic optimism rather than the “I can have it all” perfectionism he had been pursuing. Starting with this optimal life exercise from Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, Kyle:
1. Identified the most important domains in his life. For him these were:
- Professional / career
- Parenting / family
- Romantic / spouse
- Personal health / exercise
- Economic / financial security
2. Created a two-column chart of what each of these domains would look like in a “perfect” world and what they would look like if they were “good enough.”
|Professional||8 hours of solid work per day||3 hours of “real” work per day with no interruptions|
|Parenting||Spend all weekend with the kids as well as all mornings and evenings||Have dinner and/or breakfast with his family 4 times/week|
|Romantic||A date night 3 times per week||A date night 1 night every two weeks|
|Personal Health||2 hours of exercise per day and 30 minutes of meditation 2 times per day||1 hour of exercise a day (with weekends off) and two 10-minute meditations daily|
|Economic||Tuition pre-paid for all 3 children by the time they are 3, $500,000 in savings by 40.||Open a 529 and put away what they can and contribute to 401K up to employer match|
Kyle identified the best possible scenarios for each domain given the realities of his life. He accepted that he, like most of us, cannot have it all and that life is not “perfect.” As a result, he is now fully engaged in each major domain of his life, and he is happier and less stressed. Life is good !
How have you helped your clients work realistic optimism into their lives?
Article Contributed by Guest Author Pam Watson Korbel
Larry Linschneider, CEO & Owner of Linschneider Construction Co. (LCC), has watched his highway construction business slowly decline since 2008 when the recession hit the United States.
During the last 18 months, new projects are starting at a rate of 1 per month versus an average of 2 per month previously. Consequently, sales revenues are 60% of the norm and profit has slid 5 percentage points to 3% for the past year.
More importantly, work is not fun for Linschneider anymore. His employees act like children so he stopped having staff meetings. The managers who report directly to him lack motivation so he quit managing them. The ‘yard’ where equipment and supplies are stored is messy and two safety incidents occurred there in the past three months. Plus, at a time when it would make sense for Linschneider to be re-kindling relationships to take advantage of potential construction opportunities, he chooses to withdraw even more spending most of his time in his office on his computer. And two ‘A Player’ executives with LCC are now shopping for jobs with the competition.
While the names, company and statistics have been changed in this scenario, it is all too common. Unfortunately, Larry Linschneider and many of his executive peers have not read any of the current literature about the impact of emotional intelligence on a business firm’s financial status. If Larry and other executives had this information, they would have learned:
- Lack of personal awareness among leaders is the number one cause of declining and failing businesses. Larry has given up all his personal power to the karma called the economy.
- Employees take their cues from their leaders on how to act and as a consequence change their behavior to mirror the boss. Larry’s job isn’t fun anymore because attitudes are contagious.
- Research by Six Seconds shows that 76% of business issues are people and relationship related versus 24% technical and financial. Yet, executives like Larry spend hours tweaking cash flow reports to improve profitability.
- Sales in companies that put a high value on people and relationships internally and externally can be as high as 37% more. Small and mid-sized companies that focus on high customer service still find opportunities during economic downturns.
- Profit in these same companies runs 27% higher, largely due to a company’s ability to take work away from competitors who do not value service and loyalty.
- Employees with high achievement motivation, empathy and self confidence are more productive than those with just high intelligence.
- The Gallup Organization’s research shows that 75% of workers are disengaged in their jobs resulting from the lack of useful feedback, poor assignment of tasks, not seeing the value of their work and working in a negative work environment. Retention of ‘A Players’ is critical during a recession because forward-thinking companies consider this a good time to steal them away.
The research on emotional intelligence and its impact on business is convincing: hard results can be derived with soft skills. Do you get it?
Once in my career, my “boss” wrote my annual review in pencil. Yes, seriously. There was very little feedback on the actual form and when pressed, I learned he wrote it in the 15 minutes before I arrived in his office for our meeting. I felt devalued and like I was wasting my time. My trust was completely blown and my respect for him dropped immensely. The same person whose lips were saying, “I really want to see you succeed, how can I help?” was showing me through his actions that there was no intention to follow through.
As leaders, it is essential for us to “get it right” when it comes to coaching and mentoring others in our organization. These may be peers, direct reports, or even our superiors, as the need to manage up is crucial for our success. Giving positive, constructive feedback is key. I don’t mean the “pat on the back variety.” I mean real, meaningful feedback that allows the individual to truly know how they are doing, what can be done better, and celebrate specific successes.
When you are giving feedback in an annual review, or in the moment, be sure to use the following steps to maximize the value for the individual receiving it also for you.
- Be specific—provide specific examples of actions and behaviors that attributed to the outcomes. Balance the positive and the negative as much as possible. Avoid judgment in your specifics. Just the facts “ma’am.” And be genuine in your approach.
- Be timely—in an annual review, be careful of focusing only on events that have occurred recently. Instead, be sure you have collected successes and challenges from throughout the year. This should not be the first time your report should be hearing about either positive or negative situations. The annual review is a round-up; a time to review the progress being made. Feedback on performance should be ongoing to avoid surprises and maximize the opportunity for learning and growing.
- Show courage and compassion—don’t dance around if you are delivering difficult feedback to an individual. Get right to the point and offer suggestions for how improvements can be made. This provides the individual with hope and moves them into thinking about the future instead of the past. Make sure you affirm the talents and skills of the individual. Equally important for leaders is to not fool yourself. Do not excuse poor behavior or performance. You may need to show courage and compassion by cutting your losses. This can be freedom producing for both you and the individual.
- Be sincere and honest without demoralizing the person—empty praise is easy and just…well…empty. Likewise, words like “always” and “never” will lose your audience and they will not be able to see through their defensive lens. Do not go on the attack. This isn’t about putting someone in their place. Feedback is about helping someone rise to be a better version of themselves.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare—It is critical to spend some time thinking about what really needs to be said and the best way to say it. Ask yourself how you would receive the information presented they way you are considering? Do you need to make some adjustments? Are there extenuating circumstances that will make it easier or more difficult to hear feedback at this time?
Quality feedback increases trust, accelerates results, and ultimately impacts the bottom line. Great leaders have a gift for giving timely, effective feedback that moves those they are mentoring/coaching to the next level as they incorporate changes in their behaviors and performance practices.
To fully assess your current competence in Coaching and Mentoring Others and create a personalized development plan, contact the Institute for Social +Emotional Intelligence at Hello@The-ISEI.com or go to our website www.The-ISEI.com to learn more.
Article Contributed by Guest Author Hope Eaton
Recently I have been coaching a client, Kellie, who did not find meaning or engagement in her work yet could not see a way to change her situation. From the outside, she looked successful as she managed to juggle the demands of her career and raising her 3 children with her partner, but she had the self-awareness to know that this was just the external perception. Kellie was increasingly frustrated that she could not see any new solutions or get a fresh perspective on how to make changes that would allow her to realize her goal of better integrating her work and her personal life.
Because Kellie, like many of us, spent much of her day looking for problems and how to solve them, Kellie’s brain was literally wired to look for the negative. As research in positive psychology illustrates, this focus on problems and the negative undercut her creativity, increased her stress levels, and lowered her motivation and ability to accomplish her goal.
To spark her innovation and creativity competencies so that she could come up with some fresh ideas to accomplish her goal, we utilized the following three techniques from positive psychology.
- Develop a positive habit: Kelly took 5 minutes at the end of the day to make a list of what was positive in her work and personal live. She alternated between reviewing each days events to identify an event or two that was positive in her day and making the exercise more general. This trained her brain to notice and focus on possibilities for growth and seize on opportunities to act on them.
- Develop a gratitude habit: She also took 5 minutes at the beginning of each day to write down 3 things for which she was grateful. Research shows that consistently grateful people are more creative, energetic, emotionally intelligent and less likely to be depressed, anxious or lonely.
- Identify your strengths and use them every day (a great free tool for this is the VIA Survey of Character Strengths which can be found on the Authentic Happiness website after you register). Kellie was not completely surprised by the strengths that she identified; however, she was not using her top 5 very frequently. Knowing your personal character strengths – what is best about you as a human being – is powerful knowledge that can be used to reach your full potential with your work, your family and your relationships.
By using these techniques, Kellie was able to take a look at her strengths and saw that there was a major disconnect between her strengths the work that she was doing. After adopting the positive habit and gratitude habit, and armed with knowledge of her strengths, Kellie approached her employer to change the scope and terms of her employment to ensure that she was able to exercise her top strengths each day and modify her schedule so that she could spend more time with her family, one of her core values. As a result, Kellie is much more happy and is using her enhanced creativity and innovation competency to identify new market opportunities and products at work and to engage with her family in new ways at home.
Article contributed by guest author Joel H. Head, ACC
Listening to your inner voice, some say “God’s voice”, is a way of tuning in to your innermost thoughts and beliefs. The scientists call it “clairaudience.” Sometimes that inner voice is calm and reassuring or even a cheerleader. And sometimes, operating out of fear, it yells stop, you’re not good enough, or not smart enough to pull that off.
Self-awareness, one of the tenets of emotional intelligence, can be difficult to achieve. You have to get in touch with how you feel in the moment and how events or people affect you. Does your boss give you a headache? Do deadlines curl a knot in your stomach? What exactly are you feeling right now? And what triggered that feeling?
Self-awareness also means listening to your innermost thoughts and emotions because they provide clues to how you are acting and the results you are getting. Are your inner beliefs holding you back, like an anchor weighs down a boat? Or are your innermost thoughts propelling you forward with wind in your sails? Just listen to yourself for clues about how to deal with daily situations in your life.
There is truth in the old saying “be careful what you wish for”. Because thoughts are energy which attracts like-energy. Like beams into the universe, your negative thoughts will attract negative people or events. Think more positive energizing thoughts and the world will open up. Author Mike Dooley sums it up simply as “thoughts become things.”
So tune into yourself. Become more aware of how you are feeling and what you are thinking at different parts of the day. In addition to just being plain relaxing, the information you gain will help you to lead a happier, more energetic life.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
― Shel Silverstein