Posts Tagged ‘emotional self-awareness’

An unpopular way to inspire

In a world where everyone appears to be shouting loudly (whether verbally or through the written word in their social media posts) to push others to think differently and act differently, it can seem as if forcing one’s hand is the only way to bring about change.

How did this become the norm, and when did the art of inspirational leadership lose its foothold?

It was the 14th century when the word inspire first came into use, carrying much of the same meaning then which it does today: to influence, move, or guide, not by force, but by a divine power, empowering followers to action. It was a metaphorical use of it’s Latin root inspirare which means to breathe or blow into to create something new [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspire]. We figuratively refer to this when we say things like, “that vacation was a much-needed breath of fresh air”, or when a particular confrontation is stifling, “I need to get some air”.

I can’t help but think of a blow-up life raft, which, when uninflated, is rather useless, but when filled with air, is capable of fulfilling its intended purpose of floating upon turbulent waters to carry its passengers where they need to be. Inspirational leadership is like that. It’s the act of breathing life into others so they are then capable of being their best self, not only fulfilling their intended purpose, but motivated to rise above to create and achieve great things.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more, you are a leader.”

— John Quincy Adams

Back to the yelling. When you hear inflamed insults, name-calling, and outbursts of verbal venom spewing forth, do you feel inspired to dream more, learn more, and do more? Do you experience inspirare, your heart and soul filled and brimming over with the oxygen-rich motivation to become your best self and accomplish bigger, better things? Or instead, do the angry affronts leave you feeling rather deflated?

Inspirational leadership is the ability to mobilize individuals and groups by articulating a clear, compelling and motivational vision for the future. Those who possess this superpower (I jest, we all are capable of it, with some superpower effort!) are able to bring people together in unified efforts to reach an intelligible, enthralling objective. And one very effective way to do this is to be a servant leader.

Servant leader. It’s a phrase first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in his essay The Servant as Leader. It’s not the most provocative phrase, is it? Where’s the passion, the persuasiveness, the power that we so often associate with leadership? For many, the word servant evokes images of weakness and ineffectiveness. If this is you, I challenge you to allow for a paradigm shift, for this humble, quieter style of leadership may very well be the most powerful breath of fresh air needed to inspire others.

Leaders who practice servant leadership focus on others’ needs and objectives, and seek to understand the why behind those needs and objectives. They are able to see and appreciate others’ perspectives. They actively look for ways to increase others’ satisfaction and make themselves available, with gladness, to offer assistance.

Think of someone you know who truly understands you, who ‘gets’ your hopes and dreams, and actively does as much as they can to help make them happen. They listen to you. They validate your viewpoints. They take time out to be with you, show an interest in your life, and truly care. When asked, they are happy to offer support to help you be successful. They celebrate your achievements and mourn your losses, by your side.

If you are so fortunate to have someone like this in your life, a servant leader, you understand the positive impact of the inspirare they provide. Imagine if all of us had these life-breathers encircling and lifting us up. In his article in the Small Business Chronical, Fraser Sherman outlines how servant leadership, in the workplace, can boost morale. He notes “Employees feel valued and they know you are looking out for them. That inspires them to work with more enthusiasm and [better] serve the customers, which benefits your bottom line.” [https://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-servant-leadership-style-11693.html#] Servant leaders also encourage a collaborative workplace, and provide a model of authenticity where employees, in turn, feel safe enough to be authentic, deepening levels of trust within the organization.

Palena Neale, Ph.D., writes in her Forbes article, “Why Servant Leadership is More Important Than Ever“, that our current “new normal” with different ways of operating, sickness, layoffs, furloughs, and at-home employees make this novel style of leadership vital. She writes, “Wider societal impacts include adverse effects on the global economy. This calls for a more comprehensive, communal leadership approach: leadership that is focused on serving others.”[https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/05/26/why-servant-leadership-is-more-important-than-ever/#207f37642861]

In contrast, think of leaders you know who are not on the lookout for the needs of their teams. They focus on their own objectives and often diminish the needs of others. They don’t make time for those ‘beneath’ them, and when they do interact, they are distracted, quick to give quick, “off the shelf” advice or solutions, hurrying the conversation along. They fail to go above and beyond, and team members find themselves saying things like, “I hate to bother you…” or “I’m sorry to take your time but…” at the start of any ask. These individuals tend to speak poorly of others (leaving you to wonder what they say about you when you’re not there), point blame away from themselves, and rarely stand up for the underdog.

Sadly, leaders such as this leave their teams feeling deflated and discouraged.

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

— Albert Schweitzer

It’s easy to point the finger at those in leadership. “If only leaders would figure this stuff out!”, we say in exasperation. However, we’re talking about emotional intelligence here — that ability to exhibit self-awareness and self-management, and tune into others’ emotions and manage our relationships with them appropriately. If you’re ever tried to control someone else’s behavior, you probably know how well that turns out. We can only change ourselves. So instead of waiting on those who bear the title, let’s instead take the brave task of looking inward as to how we can improve our own inspirational leadership skills. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Get to know people. Ask others how they are doing and really stop to listen. Use open-ended questions to understand the why behind their needs, hopes, dreams. One of my favorite coaching questions, after someone has shared, is,”What else?”
  • Keep an eye out for small ways you can be of service to others. Open the door for someone, offer up the best parking space, spend an extra 5 minutes listening. Offer to buy a colleague’s coffee. Give a sincere compliment. These little gives can help build a new habit of service.
  • Schedule time for others. I know you’re busy. We all are. If it helps, set aside a small amount of time each week on your calendar as ‘Others’ time, so doing something for others actually DOES fit into your schedule.
  • Adopt a yes attitude for a while. When others make requests, think how you CAN help them instead of all the reasons you can’t. If it’s a no, it’s a no, but before you commit to the no, consider alternate ways you could turn it into a yes.
  • Keep your promises. Nothing sucks the air out of someone like a broken promise. Be realistic in what you can do and if you do agree to help someone, make that the priority. You will always have ‘better’ things come up…other opportunities and demands which compete for your time and attention. Though those things may be more attractive — stick to your word.
  • Become an over-deliverer. It’s one thing to meet someone’s needs, but going above and beyond can inspire others to new heights. Again, start small. If someone needs five minutes of your time, offer them ten. If they ask to have coffee, take them out to lunch. If they need an hour off work to tend to stressful events at home, if possible, tell them to take the day.
  • Develop the habit of follow-up. We all appreciate it when someone gives us the time of day, but if it’s a one-off incident, the value of that connection begins to fade with time. Follow up with them. Check in with them, and ask about details you discussed last time. If you’re one of those people who says, “I’m not good with names — let alone details!”, write down the things they share with you and review before your next encounter.

Servant leaders have a desire to be the change someone else needs. These days, it’s not the most popular way of leading, and surely won’t get you a lot of attention. And for most of us, it doesn’t come naturally, and it doesn’t come easily. But it is a skill set worth developing. Not only will your efforts breathe life into those around you to be their best, they just may inspire you to discover your own purpose and direction as well.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Letting Go of Past Resentment for Higher Production

Article contributed by guest author Patricia (Tish) Conlin

What injustices have you suffered in your work as a Business Professional? Are you harboring resentments right now over slights or mishandled situations? We all experience negative emotions in our work and they are painful for sure. As hard working professionals, respect can often be hard to win with clients and staff alike and negative stereotypes can influence others’ treatment of us at times. Whether you have chosen your field of work or have fallen into, we all acknowledge that the casual rejections and ups and downs of any business can overwhelm even the most successful of us. Do you think it is easier to bury the negative emotions of past hurts or project failures deep inside than to face them? Guess what? Those past resentments that you are holding onto are impacting your energy and success today so you need to let them go so you can focus on the present instead of living in the past.

I remember a few years ago working on a huge ERP Recruitment project with a large U.S Client project. It was an incredible success for a year. Then the client got bought out by a bigger company and soon informed us that they were hiring an internal recruitment team and my team all felt doomed. Sure enough, within weeks of working with the internal recruiter, he started consistently rejected our candidates even the rock stars. I was working with our team of recruiters in both Canada and the U.S and there was enormous frustration involved. Everyone started to complain and there was a lot of anger, frustration and resentment. One of the recruiters became almost aggressive with the internal recruiter and the animosity increased. I noticed that things were heading in the wrong direction and was happy when she asked me to take over. What I did to turn this around was not rocket science. I started by separating the internal recruiter’s actions from him as a person. I developed a rapport with him and learned about his life and interests by asking genuine questions. I learned more about his past work and reasons for joining the current company which gave me insights into his decision making confidence. We shared stories and ideas and even laughed together. Then,  I started questioning his decisions to reject our candidates without rancor. I used compelling facts to reconfirmed their skills and track records and create a win-win for both sides. As trust built between us, he started selecting candidates for interviews. Eventually one was hired and the relationship started to become positive and productive. This was not magic. I have built a successful recruitment firm over 20 years because I learned the simple lesson that it never pays to get angry at the other party’s behavior just as it never pays (metaphorically and actually) to hold onto resentment.

If you are able to observe yourself every day and notice that you becoming more tense, irritable or angry on a regular basis, ask yourself what set you off. Sometimes a lost deal or rejected offer can really hurt and it is normal to feel frustrated but if you go to work consistently in a bad mood, you are doing yourself, your staff and your business a real disservice. If we’re honest with ourselves, past wrongs committed by people we expected to respond better aren’t easily forgotten like our normal everyday problems. Betrayal seeps into the bones and carves a well of toxic thoughts and feelings. Anger feels like an effective answer to betrayal, and it takes a lot of pain and suffering to raise your own little army of resentments. Unfortunately, that army is actually a bunch of crafty warriors that are attacking YOU and destroying your ability to let go and move on to better circumstances. Letting go of resentment can be incredibly hard but is incredibly powerful and will help you shift back into higher productivity at work and in life.

Below are some great tips to shift out of resentment and get back to being productive and

  1.  GAIN PERSPECTIVE- It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when your unresolved feelings begin snowballing into anger and blame. Be aware of or record your feelings in writing. Revisit later and see if those feelings make sense in the bigger picture.
  2. LET IT GO – They probably forgot already. Consider the perspective of the one who hurt you. This person is not sitting gleefully reliving how they once affronted you. More likely, they were unaware they did you harm or totally forgot. No amount of emotive rage will change the past. It’s natural to go through stages of grief when you’ve been hurt in some way. Let yourself go through them. Then let it go.
  3. TAKE THE HIGH ROAD – Taking the high road feels amazing. By now you’ve probably noticed that resentment hasn’t gotten you anywhere. That’s because you’re putting your energy and resources into nursing animosity instead of more fruitful endeavors. When you discuss the situation with the person who wronged you, focus on win-win outcomes for both to build a better go forward. Try to understand why the other person responded the way they did and whether stress or specific circumstances caused the reaction. Bring empathy and understanding to the discussion is hugely helpful. If there is a pattern of disappointment or lack of trust, opt to move on graciously instead of making a scene. It never is worth while holding onto a client or any relationship where trust has been permanently breaches.

To avoid resentment, set clear and realistic expectations with clients, candidates and staff/managers to start. Think of what you want and what they want and how both parties can achieve their goals successfully. Remember the below quote when a situation is taking charge of your moods:

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” —Hermann Hesse

I’m inspired to help other Business Professionals achieve their true potential. Why? I’m passionate about the business of living fully and achieving personal and professional goals that are meaningful. During the decades of owning and running a leading Talent Solutions company, I have witnessed countless people suffering from burn-out, chronic illness, severe stress, depression and anxiety. I’ve experiences the joy of the ups and the agony of the downs in our business and decided to use my decades of experience and training as a successful Business Professional, Black Belt Martial Artist, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Emotional Intelligence Trainer to develop specific training and coaching programs that address the soft skills needed to create lasting success. These (6 Session video and audio) on-line courses help you learn how to increase energy, improve performance and build more resilient, focused and engaged teams and are available at www.tishconlin.com

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

 

It’s Lonely Near the Top: Challenges for Chiefs of Staff

Article submitted by guest author Ted Riter.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The role of Chief of Staff continues to grow in corporate and nonprofit America. While the responsibilities for this role vary from organization to organization, within organizations, and even between predecessors and successors, there are common challenges across the board for chiefs of staff. This paper presents both challenges for those in this field and recommendations for success as a Chief of Staff.

THIS STUDY

The background information for this study was gathered through interviews conducted November 2018-February 2019 with over three dozen current and former Chiefs of Staff. These Chiefs of Staff were in long-established corporations, startups, nonprofits, government agencies, and family offices[1]. They were in diverse fields, including high tech, pharmaceuticals, philanthropies, and higher education. Most Chiefs of Staff had served in their position for 12-18 months. Some had transitioned to other roles within the same organization or started their own ventures. A small number of Chiefs of Staff saw themselves as “career” Chiefs of Staff. Most Chiefs of Staff filled this role for a Chief Executive Officer. Some filled this role for other Executives or an entire C-Suite.

THE CHIEF OF STAFF ROLE

Chiefs of Staff are inspired and inspiring professionals, dedicated to the success of their Executives and their organizations They are eager learners, selfless with their time and energy, and masters of navigating sensitive situations. And, they are often placed in this role with great hopes, but little guidance or support for self-development.

Though a universal job description for Chiefs of Staff does not exist, Prime Chief of Staff, a leader in this field, breaks down the role of Chief of Staff into the following six functions: [2]

  • The Goalkeeper – Manage and triage workflow of the executive. Prioritize, delegate, and complete work on behalf of the executive.
  • The Operator – Add structure and process for better communication within the office of the executive as well as across teams. Ensure activities are running efficiently.
  • The Implementer – Drive business priorities from start to finish. Execute special projects or initiatives on behalf of the executive or the organization.
  • The Integrator – Create cohesion among teams and departments. Connect the dots across the organization for improved alignment and engagement.
  • The Proxy – Act on behalf of the executive for greater visibility and accessibility. Prevent bottle-necking and promote decision-making when the executive cannot be present.
  • The Advisor – Serve as a strategic thought partner, sounding board, and confidante. Inform organization strategy and decision-making.

These six functions are helpful when conceptualizing the role of a new Chief of Staff. Those interviewed in the field had a less nuanced view and responded:

  • I manage the staff – the CEO included.
  • My goal each day is to help connect people to people, people to ideas, and people to purpose. I spend 90% of my time helping people understand the “why.
  • I do a lot of listening and “pealing back the onion.” I’m the internal consultant/versatilist – I help every department scale.
  • I represent my CEO with special projects and make their life easier.
  • I am not chief of the staff, I am a chief connector

Chiefs of Staff routinely reported that their functions relied heavily upon both the needs of the Executive and their work and life experience. Mark Organ, Influitive CEO and thought-leader in the field of Chiefs of Staff, offers the following guidelines for hiring a Chief of Staff:[3]

  • A manager-level hire – This person would be responsible for typical administrative tasks like calendar management and booking travel, but he would also make important judgment calls on how the CEO should best spend her time and what meetings would be most valuable for her to attend.
  • A mid-career, director-level hire – This person may have 6-12 years of experience. He would be in charge of tasks like running town halls, preparing speeches and prepping the CEO for leadership meetings. He’s unlikely to take on any strategic responsibilities, however.
  • An experienced VP-level executive – This person is already an experienced executive who’s looking to become a CEO one day. She may meet with department heads to talk through goals and targets, and work on developing tactics for various parts of the business.

THE CHALLENGES

The Chief of Staff role is filled with challenges, some of which are unique to this position

Job Descriptions & Loneliness

Loneliness is not an uncommon experience for leaders. It often comes from a perception that they must “carry the burden” on their own. Chiefs of Staff report an added layer to this experience, often feeling that no one quite understands what they do in their organization.

In dozens of interviews, it was clear that day-to-day, no two Chiefs of Staff serve in the same role. Job descriptions vary greatly, and often do not even exist until long after the role is filled.

According to former Chief of Staff and author Tyler Parris, “…a chief of staff is a catch-all role, filled by someone with exceptional organizational and people skills, who handles all manner of tasks not covered by an existing member of an executive’s leadership team or administrative staff.”[4]

This difficult to define “catch-all role” can create confusion for executives, directors, and staff, especially when the role is filled for the first time.

Confusion around this role may result in pushback from those in the C-suite who see the Chief of Staff as a possible barrier to communication with the CEO. Staff might fear losing influence with the CEO and have uncertainty about their standing in the organization. This fear can easily be projected upon the Chief of Staff and lead to a creation of walls that hamper communication. Some staff members even outright express to the Chief of Staff, “I didn’t think we needed you.”

A consistent message from Chiefs of Staff, is that the most positive working relationships are based upon mutual agreements rather than expectations. One former Chief of Staff knew it was time to leave the role when it became clear that the CEO’s expectation was an 80/20 split between directly supporting the CEO and project management, while the Chief of Staff envisioned it as a 50/50 split.

Chiefs of Staff recognize that they have no real peers in their organization, unless they are in a larger setting with multiple Chiefs of Staff. The comradery that is often experienced in other positions may therefore be absent for Chiefs of Staff. A Chief of Staff for a Family Office shared that it “often feels like I’m on an island – it’s unlike any other job.” And, because of this isolation, one admitted, “I’m very frustrated. I don’t know how long I will be able to stay here.”

Even those Chiefs of Staff who excel in their position might feel unseen. One reported: “It’s very lonely. Because I’m so good at what I do, they don’t even see what I’m doing.” Another said, “I feel not seen and not appreciated.”

Many Chiefs of Staff spoke of the tremendous amount of privileged information they hold. This responsibility often makes it difficult to find colleagues and loved ones to confide in and count on for full support without breaking confidentiality. And, in fact, some Chiefs of Staff reported that their partners “know too much that is probably confidential.”

One Chief of Staff confided, “My CEO might be doing things that are unethical and I’m not sure what I can do about it.”

Social and Emotional Intelligence & Overwhelm

While the Executive might be a passionate leader with a big vision, the Chief of Staff often serves as a counter balance.

One Chief of Staff reported, “My job is to be an observer with my emotions removed, and then show what I see to the CEO, who cannot remove their emotions.”

This facility for social and emotional intelligence is critical for the success of a Chief of Staff, and yet not a skill that comes naturally to all in this role. As defined by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence, “Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own and others’ feelings – in the moment – and use that information to lead yourself and others” [5]

Some Chiefs of Staff, lacking these skills, commented:

  • I internalized all my frustrations and then I changed the way I did things. For instance, I stopped bringing many things to the CEO.
  • I’m a people pleaser, so difficult conversations are a big challenge.
  • I have a hard time initiating the conversations and then letting them go.
  • I get frustrated because I see the change but am not able to do anything about it.
  • I’m often the least experienced person in the room and this kills my confidence.

Many of the Chiefs of Staff who struggled with social and emotional intelligence, reported feelings of overwhelm and burnout:

  • I sometimes work 90-hour weeks and rejoice when it’s down to 60.
  • I recently took my first vacation in 4 years.
  • I don’t know how long I can continue here.
  • A Chief of Staff has to thrive in chaos, and I don’t know if I can anymore.
  • I have no time for my own health and relationships, let alone personal development.

This toll of overwhelm might be a surprise for some in an organization. Some Chiefs of Staff report that others see their travel schedule with an Executive or a fancy restaurant reservation and imagine glamorous and exciting opportunities not afforded to everyone. While travel can be to exciting places and access to the Executive enviable, this is by no means vacation, and most Chiefs of Staff express a desire to curtail their travel and spend more time at home.

One Chief of Staff offered, “I am envied by many because it looks fun. At the end of the day, it’s not a glamorous thing. I’m one of the hardest working people in the organization.”

Chiefs of Staff leave their position for many reasons, including acceptance of a predetermined tenure end-date, and following bigger dreams. However, many are burned out with no more to give in this position and gratefully move on to other positions in the current or different organizations.

SOLUTIONS

Most of the Chiefs of Staff interviewed self-identified as “successful” in their roles:

  • They are fully supportive of their Executive.
  • They feel supported by their Executive.
  • And, they believe they are helping the overall success of their organization.

And yet, even many of the successful Chiefs of Staff expressed a need for more support. With this added support, the role of Chiefs of Staff will continue to grow and benefit organizations across the globe.

Fuzzy Job Descriptions

Creating a job description for a Chief of Staff, especially for the first person to fill this role, is both challenging and worth the effort.

In addition to the measurable responsibilities for a Chief of Staff, the hallmark of a good Chief of Staff-Executive relationship is one built on trust. A high level of trust enables the Chief of Staff to predict the Executive’s behavior, understand the decision-making process, and allow the Executive to focus on the biggest priorities.

Recommendations to Build Trust:

Create measurable outcomes and goals from the beginning: One Chief of Staff suggested making a list of the top 5 tasks for the week and delegating everything else.

Schedule private time for direct communication: One Chief of Staff recommended undisturbed meeting time one to two times per week to give the Executive peace of mind so they can focus on what is most important for them to be doing.

Practice vulnerability: Vulnerability is not typically welcomed in the workplace because it is associated with weakness. However, vulnerability is an extraordinarily powerful tool for building trust in any relationship, including between an Executive and Chief of Staff.

There are many exercises for safely expressing vulnerability. The simplest practice is to admit and own mistakes without assigning blame to others.

Loneliness

Since there is unlikely to be peer support for Chiefs of Staff within an organization, find those who “get it.”

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Loneliness

Join an established Chief of Staff network: New opportunities for connection are being created through the efforts of Prime Chief of Staff and a current Chief of Staff herself, Caroline Pugh. Together, they are hosting events around the country and have created an online community of practice[6]

Create a Chief of Staff network: As the role increases in the business world, there are more and more opportunities to find or create a local network with Chiefs of Staff from all sectors of the workplace. Formality is not necessary.

Find a mentor: Chiefs of Staff are generous with their time and energy even when they have moved on to other roles, and they are often open to mentoring others.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in the field of social and emotional intelligence, teaches that leadership is based primarily (85%) on emotional intelligence and (15%) on IQ. Fortunately, emotional and social intelligence are also skills that can be honed through training.

There are four areas of concentration that can be trained for Chiefs of Staff to excel in their positions:[7]

  • Self-awareness – knowing your internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions.
  • Self-management – managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources.
  • Social awareness – awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns.
  • Social skills / relationship management – ability to create desirable responses in others.

Many Chiefs of Staff have a very high level of social and emotional intelligence. They report:

  • I’m good at learning new skills.
  • I’m fearless when it comes to failure – I hop into the ringer.
  • I’m not afraid to put out a shitty first draft; zero to one is easy for me.
  • I am very often the youngest person in the room and try to make age irrelevant in a meeting.
  • I like to sit in the back of the room and take it all in.

Recommendations to Build Social and Emotional Intelligence

Hire a coach: The coaching industry is growing even faster than the Chiefs of Staff field. Good coaches might have good answers to a Chief of Staff’s questions. The best coaches will have good questions to a Chief of Staff’s answers.

Budget time and funding for professional development: Training pays dividends. The best professional development has a component geared for Executives as well as Chiefs of Staff.

Overwhelm

Overwhelm can be a result of fuzzy job descriptions, loneliness, and poor social and emotional intelligence skills. And, there are practices to prevent overwhelm on and off the job.

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Overwhelm:

Practice self-care: Physical exercise, meditation, healthy eating, and time off might sound trite. However, they are recommended by every successful Chief of Staff interviewed for this report.

Practice embodied leadership: Our bodies are excellent teachers if we are attuned to them. However, we spend most of our day in our heads. Through training in embodied practices that stretch our nervous system, Chiefs of Staff can better hold the disruption and stress of the day.

Train for clear communication: Difficult conversations are inevitable in any leadership position. Learning clear communication skills is an art form that will be of benefit both inside and outside the organization.

RESOURCES

 Books Recommended by Chiefs of Staff (with some surprises in the mix):

  • Being You, Changing the World by Dain Heer
  • Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organizationby Tyler Parris
  • Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Difficult Conversations by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen
  • Discover Your True North by Bill George
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr
  • Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  • Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happinessby Forrest Hanson and Rick Hanson
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Factsby Annie Duke
  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  • Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive by Kevin N. Lawrence

Books Not Yet In Print

In addition to recommending books, some Chiefs of Staff envision writing the following:

  • How To Do It All – Including taking care of yourself
  • I’m A Chief of Staff…Now What?
  • Paving the Way for Process
  • The Story of Creating This Place: Things that seemed so big, but in the end are pretty small
  • Things That Make Sense But Don’t Make Sense

 

FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION

An Unexpected Finding

One of the unexpected findings of this study is that many Chiefs of Staff experienced difficult childhoods or other challenges in their formative years. Though this paper cannot make a direct link between a difficult childhood and success as a Chief of Staff, it is an interesting area for further exploration. When questioned about specifics, these Chiefs of Staff confided they were often the ones who mediated family disruption: Arguments, divorce, death, illness, crisis. Perhaps, the experience navigating these challenging situations made it easier to step into the Chief of Staff role and mediate the high stakes, big egos, and charged energy of the workspace.

Transitioning Into and Out of the Chief of Staff Role

As the role of Chief of Staff grows outside of government, it is becoming seen as a stepping stone to higher leadership positions.[8] Though a great proving ground for numerous C-Suite and VP positions, the transition is often not seamless. There is a training opportunity both in the time before stepping into the Chief of Staff role and upon exiting. There is also an opportunity for addressing the emotional impact of transitions felt by Executives and Chiefs of Staff as the relationships come to an end.

CONCLUSION

Chiefs of Staff are proving to be invaluable assets for Executives in business and nonprofit organizations, just as they have been for many years in the government and military. Those who participated in this study were smart, talented, energetic, and motivated for success. They were great ambassadors for their Executives, their organizations, and their roles as Chiefs of Staff.

As this position becomes more common, it is important to address the challenges unique to Chiefs of Staff and offer appropriate training and coaching to ensure continued success for both the role and for those who serve in these positions.

 

What is an open heart?

Article contributed by guest author Rick Hanson.

The Practice:

Put No One Out Of Your Heart.

Why?

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. It makes your heart heavy and contracted. And it primes your brain to be more tense and reactive, which could get you into trouble, plus trigger the other person to act worse than ever.

Sometimes you do have to hang up the phone, block someone on Facebook, turn the channel on TV, or stay at a motel when visiting relatives. Sometimes you have to put someone out of your business, work group, holiday party list –or bed.

In painful or extreme situations, it may feel necessary to distance yourself utterly from another person for awhile or forever. Take care of yourself, and listen to that inner knowing about what’s best for you. You may need to put them out of your life. And you can see for yourself if you need to put them out of your heart.

How?

When your heart is open, what’s that feel like? Physically, in your chest – like warmth and relaxation – and in your body altogether. Emotionally – such as empathy, compassion, and an even keel. Mentally – like keeping things in perspective, and wishing others well.

Feel the strength being openhearted, wholehearted. Be not afraid and be of good heart. Paradoxically, the most open person in a relationship is usually the strongest one.

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.

Notice that an open heart still allows for clarity about what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as firmness, boundaries, and straight talk. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are famous for keeping their hearts open while also being very effective.
Seeing all this, make a commitment to an open heart.

In this light, be mindful of what it feels like – physically, emotionally, mentally – to have your heart closed to a particular person. Be aware of the seemingly good reasons the reactive brain/mind throws up to justify this.

Then ask yourself, given the realities of this challenging person, what would have been a better path for you? For example, maybe you should have gotten more support from others or been more self-nurturing, so you wouldn’t have been as affected. Or spoken up sooner to try to prevent things from getting out of hand. Or managed your internal reactions more skillfully. Maybe you’ve done some things yourself to prompt the other person to be difficult. Whatever these lessons are, there’s no praise or blame here, just good learning for you.

And now, if you’re willing, explore opening your heart again to this person. Life’s been hard to him or her, too. Nothing might change in your behavior or in the nature of the relationship. Nonetheless, you’ll feel different – and better.

Last, do not put yourself out of your heart. If you knew you as another person, wouldn’t you want to hold that person in your heart?

Does your personal power need a jolt?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I had three people this week ask me to do something that I did not want to do.

A nice person would say yes, right?

But I am a nice person.  And I said no.

It’s not that I couldn’t do it – I could have changed around my schedule, cancelled a few appointments, overscheduled, and put myself into a situation of stress. Saying yes to them would have meant me saying no to things I already had set up and was looking forward to working on. It wasn’t that I couldn’t – I just didn’t want to.

In my people pleasing days, I would have said yes, even if it created a burden on me and others. Like many of us, I was taught to accommodate others first at a young age and was told I should always put the feelings of others before mine. As objectionable as it sounds, I actually attended a college where if a guy asked me on a date, I was expected to accept, whether or not I wanted to go out with him.  Serving others was of highest priority.

The thing is, helping others is a good thing. Having an attitude of service toward others is a competency of emotional intelligence. But so is the competency of personal power.  And there are times that we need to stand up for who we are, for what we believe, for what we want – and that’s OK.

“Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to another.”  — Sean Covey

Does the thought of putting yourself first make you cringe?

Personal power is a sense of self-confidence with an inner knowing that you can live the life you choose. It’s the confidence that you can meet life’s challenges and navigate difficult circumstances, having those tough conversations when needed, and speak your truth.  It’s not about being rude – or hurtful – or careless of others’ feelings. It’s the ability to do all the above in a quiet, sincere, assertive and appropriate manner.

People who have a strong sense of personal power have a calm inner conviction about who they are. They are not afraid to go after the things they want in life. They are able to tell the difference between the things they have control over and the things they do not. They know they can determine the direction their life will take and make efforts to head that way.  They define themselves as capable and can give their convictions a strong voice.

“Remember, NO ONE has the right to control your emotions, thoughts, and actions, unless you let them.”  — Kevin J. Donaldson

For some of you, you’re nodding, recognizing these traits in yourself.  If that’s the case, kudos to you.  Those around you are most likely blessed by your confident leadership and sense of self. It’s a delight to be around someone who believes in themselves and can portray that with a calm, kind spirit. We’re not talking being bossy or demanding, which often indicate someone who is trying too hard to show others they have control.  Someone with personal power doesn’t need to be the center of attention or try to control everything (or everyone!) around them.  They are solid with who they are and how they fit into the world.

But for some, exhibiting personal power can be a struggle. These folks tend to avoid confrontations even if it would lead toward resolution of a problem that’s slowing them down. They have difficulty speaking their mind, for fear of overstepping bounds or being judged, and lack confidence in their own judgement. They avoid challenges, give in easily, question their abilities, and don’t set clear boundaries. They can be labeled as a pushover or a doormat. Often, though they say yes to something, they want to say no, and end up resenting the situation or the people involved. They tend to need approval from others and fear rejection or disapproval if they say no. Is this you?

“It’s better to say no now than be resentful later.” – Chantalle Blikman

If your personal power needs a little jolt — good news!  As with all competencies of emotional intelligence, we’re talking about behavior, and behavior can be changed.  Here are some energizing tips to try if you struggle with personal power:

  • Make a list of your accomplishments. Try to recapture how you felt when you reached your goals.
  • Take note of the things you excel in, whether it be a simple task or a specialized skill set.
  • Listen to see if you put yourself down and take notice in which circumstances you tend to do that.  Next time those situations crop up, make an effort to avoid self-deprecation. If you can’t say something nice about yourself, don’t say anything at all!
  • Examine your boundaries with others. Do you let people take advantage of you?  Do they walk all over you?  This is not about their poor behavior so much that it is about you allowing them to.
  • Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes. If you do not want to do something, practice saying, “No thank you”, “I ‘m not available”, or “No, I don’t want to.”  And you don’t need to make up an excuse as to why!
  • Did you mess up on something that is gnawing at your confidence? Congratulations, you’re human!  Admit your faults then let your failures go, learn from them, and move on.
  • If you don’t know something – no need to feel shame — own it and learn to say, “I don’t know…but I’ll find out.”  If it’s something you’re not comfortable with not knowing – get out there and research the answers.
  • Can’t control a situation? Hooray! You won’t believe how wonderful it is to let go of things (and people) you can’t control. Try it, you’ll like it.
  • Journal about your best self. Dream a little dream and write down how you’d envision yourself as if you were living out that dream.
  • Learn to speak loudly and clearly so others can understand you on the first try. The simple task of having to repeat yourself too many times can tug at your confidence.
  • Consider reading a book or taking a course on assertiveness.
  • Team up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make shifts toward increased personal power.

Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back and look at yourself in third person. It is hard to see a friend not stand up for themselves and allow themselves to be walked all over. Think of yourself as a friend and treat yourself with dignity, respect, and honor as you learn to stand tall and live out your life as you desire. It’s OK to put yourself first sometimes, especially when not doing so threatens your confidence, health, and mental well-being. Practice saying no when appropriate and release the guilt that can accompany not always putting others’ needs first.

We need people who will stand up for what they believe in, speak up for themselves, and act in a courageous way according to their values. It means living in integrity and is vital to strong leadership — and this world needs good leadership! Exercising personal power gives others something to follow. Always giving in to others, especially when it’s in conflict with your values will not benefit anyone. If you’re not used to standing up for yourself, this will be difficult – I get it – a lifetime of patterns can be hard to break.  But behavior can be changed. Isn’t it high time to learn to embrace and use your personal power?

“You have a lot more power than you are giving yourself credit for.  Please embrace it.”  — Queen Tourmaline

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In some parts of the world, springtime is just around the corner. And as the weather turns warm and the sun peeks out from behind the grey, winter clouds, many of us turn our attention to spring cleaning. Something about the nesting we tend to do during a long, cold winter creates an innate desire to clean house and get a fresh start with the budding of spring. We open up the windows, organize a closet, and clear out the clutter. We get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or are slowing us down.

Our emotional homes need a similar ritual of spring cleaning. When is the last time you spruced up your emotional well-being?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how we are feeling, in the moment and respond accordingly. As well, it includes social intelligence, the ability to read how others are feeling in the moment and to manage your relationship with that person appropriately.

Emotional intelligence differs from our intellectual quotient in that it can be modified and improved. It’s all about behavior and behavior can be changed! Increasing our emotional intelligence is a great way to clean house, emotionally, to rid ourselves of stumbling blocks and open the windows to the refreshing scent of emotional health.

What behaviors are you seeing in your own life that no longer serve a productive, positive purpose? Maybe it’s an old hurt that you allow to continually rise to the surface and trigger anger. Maybe it is a cutting, sarcastic tone that causes damage to those on the receiving end. Maybe it is an inability to see your own worth and lead others with inspiration. We all have our areas that could use some sprucing up. But while most of us know how to use soap and water to clean our physical homes, where do we start to freshen our emotional homes?

Often the cleansing process begins with some accurate self-assessment, to pinpoint the things that are weighing us down. In the words of Cyla Warncke, freelance writer and journalist:

“By taking the time to identify and understand our baggage and making a conscious decision to let go we free ourselves to experience life in a richer, deeper, more meaningful way.”

What are some ways to begin your journey of accurate self-assessment?  There are many tools on the market that can help. Here’s an online quiz created by LiveHappy.com you can take to see how much emotional baggage you are carrying around: http://www.livehappy.com/self/quizzes/quiz-how-much-emotional-baggage-do-you-carry. You also can dive more deeply into your self-assessment by working with a life coach to help you discover the areas that could use some work. Good coaching, teamed up with an assessment such as the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile® created by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence® can give you an accurate, detailed evaluation of your current emotional state: (take our assessment free at http://www.theisei.com/PreviewVideoforCertCourse.aspx).

Once you’ve established the areas of your emotional health that need refreshing, the next step is to make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. There are four tools that anyone in an emotional cleanup project will need:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Other Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Relationship Management

Howard Gardner laid the framework for these four quadrants in 1983 with his theory of multiple intelligences, and in 1998 Daniel Goleman introduced these quadrants as keys to emotional growth. But just knowing the tools you need doesn’t necessarily get them into your hands.  A shopping trip is in order. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good coach, counselor, or colleague who you trust and can speak honestly into the crevices of your life that may be collecting dirt. Sometimes it just takes an outside eye to spot the cluttered areas that we don’t notice on our own. And if you’re at a loss as to where to start with finding someone to serve as a guide, here at the Institute we have a team of trained coaches who are experts in the field of social and emotional intelligence who can offer insight and direction down your emotional housecleaning.

If you’re not ready to work with a professional on your emotional spring cleaning, there are many self-cleansing practices you can incorporate to jump start your emotional well being.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort. ” – Deborah Day

Many are just basic self-care for our physical bodies that quickly transfer to our emotional health. Get more sleep. Take a yoga class. Drink water. Check your diet and begin to replace unhealthy choices with more nutritious ones. Exercise. Meditate. Learn something new. Serve others. Dream. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Rest. Journal. Practice thankfulness. With a quick search on the internet you can find a multitude of resources to begin to give better care to your emotional self. Many creative ways to nourish your spirit can be found in this enjoyable read by Alison Miller:  http://alisonimiller.com/spring-cleaning-for-the-soul-25-ways-to-nourish-your-spirit/.  In addition, here at the Institute we offer online courses in social + emotional intelligence that can not only help you clean up your own emotional house but train you how to nurture it in others.  Learn more at www.the-isei.com and click on the Classes tab.

Taking the time for emotional spring cleaning will not only give you a mental ‘lift’ but will clear away the clutter that may be preventing the emotional-well-being you long for.  So as you get out your broom and dustpan this spring to tackle the task of cleaning your home, don’t forget about doing some spring cleaning in your emotional home as well.

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.

 

 

Regaining Your Personal Power By Avoiding The Opinions Of Others

Article contributed by guest author Grant Herbert.

People with a low personal power or self-worth are generally fearful of what they perceive to be attacks on them as individuals. They have experienced and internalised the consequences of failure and rejection and it really scares them. The most unfortunate thing is, in this all to prevalent scenario, they usually have a distorted view of what failure truly is.

This counterfeit appears real when you allow others to set the values and standards from which success or failure and acceptance or rejection are measured. Your goals and dreams may have been battered an bruised, but your ideas of rejection and failure are usually based on what others have said to you. You seem to have relinquished control over your future and are completely at the mercy of the forces around you.

People who exhibit a low self-worth think that because they have failed in one part of their life’s journey, they have also failed at being a good person. They can not separate their act of failure from the destruction of their identity, so they equate their perceived failure to meet other people’s standards with low self-worth. Self-destruction is as painful as the rejection, so they will eventually end up fearing not only failure but their own self-abasement as well. The American author and advertising executive, Bruce Barton, summed it up in this brief but powerful verse. “How curious it is that men who will die for the liberty of the world will not make the little sacrifice needed to free themselves from their own bondage”.

During certain stages of my own journey toward a healthy level of Personal Power, I have reflected the above definitions perfectly. Building an identity, based on my ability to gain acceptance, drove me deeper into the bondage of the performance trap. If only I can do more it will make up for my failure to be a good husband and father which led to being rejected, judged and labeled. Then one day someone encouraged me, and I cannot for the life of me remember who, to use the self-affirmation “What other people think of me is none of my business”. I was looking for unconditional acceptance from people who were not wired up to give it to me. Their own journey had conditioned them to see things the way they wanted to see them and therefore their view of me was based on my actions going through their unique filtering system. It wasn’t until I learned that true unconditional acceptance could only be gained from within, that I could overcome the fear of what other people thought of me and move forward into my full potential.

Fear of others opinions can be overcome by not relinquishing to them your Personal Power. Positive self-talk, practiced every day, can negate the negative words of others. Remember, you are more qualified than anyone to have an opinion about yourself.

Have the best week possible, you deserve it!

I get by, with a little help, from my friends

converseallstarsArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

I don’t like it when someone offers advice to me when I didn’t ask for it.  You know those people who always have a better way of doing something, and are more than happy to share it with you?  How does it make you feel?  And how about when someone offers some ‘constructive criticism’ on the way you did something when you honestly weren’t even looking to them for input?

I went swing dancing a few weeks ago and carefully chose my outfit that night based upon style and versatility. I specifically chose to wear my Converse All-Star sneakers, primarily because one, they looked cool with my outfit, and two, the last time I’d worn heels and my feet were killing me.  Wouldn’t you know that later that night, a random “helpful” man took it upon himself to point out that I should wear boots with heels instead of the shoes I’d picked.  *?!*  Why he felt the need to offer this advice baffled me. I know, you’re thinking it was because I was dancing poorly, but I wasn’t. Really. And besides, he was the one who was not a strong lead and kept getting off beat.  My response? It was really mature. “I’m sorry, what?!  Oh, so you who have now known me for 5 minutes are suddenly an expert on my feet?  You, who have no idea how long I’ve been dancing, or how badly my back hurt last week from high-heeled shoes, or what my delicate lovely feet even look like? You (as I judged his dated button-down shirt and too-baggy jeans) who have no clue as to the advanced thought process it takes to put together a well-coordinated-yet-practical outfit for dancing?  You, man who doesn’t know me, really have the 411 on which shoes would have been best for me tonight?”  I really laid into him.  Well, not really, not out loud at least. But all the way home in the car I had that terrific conversation with him, in my head.

It’s a trite story to illustrate a point. We don’t like to hear advice we’re not looking for.  But when it comes to our work performance, or the way we are getting along with others in the office, or our leadership style, can we remain close-minded when someone offers their two cents worth?

“But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send, save me, oh save me from the candid friend!”  — George Canning

Being able to accurately self-assess is a competency of social and emotional intelligence.  And if we’re not able to make an accurate assessment, there are times when we need others to step in and help.

Just because we think we are great at something doesn’t mean we are great. I’m always amazed at the try-outs they televise for American Idol.  You know, the ones that are really, really bad but they think they are really, really good.  Off tune is putting it nicely.  In their minds they truly think the panel of three will shout a unanimous, “You’re going to Hollywood!”, and are shocked when they instead hear Jennifer’s, “Sorry, Sweetie.”  How did this miss occur? You wonder why a good friend never pulled them aside to say, “Pal, listen, I love you, and you have so many talents, but singing just isn’t your thing.”

No, it’s not easy to receive advice or correction, but candid feedback can give us the insight we need to be a better us.

It is a brave thing to be able to ask others what they think about you. And yet even braver to be OPEN to what they say. There is a proverb that says, “Faithful are the wounds from a friend…”  Wounds. Correction can feel just like that. It stings and if we’re not careful can leave a scar if we take it the wrong way. The truth is, it is much easier to stay right where we are and not grow or change. Most people hit a ceiling of emotional intelligence and are content to stay right there. If that’s where you’re at, then so be it. But if you want to develop, and thrive, and succeed – if you want to break through that ceiling and reach your fullest potential—you’re going to want to start asking for feedback, and even more importantly,  listen to it. We all have blind spots that we just can’t see clearly. By reaching out to close friends, trusted colleagues, or a coach, we can gain insights that will open us to growth and help us develop our weaker competencies into strengths.

How do you react to feedback?  Like I did with my dance shoes? I have to admit, after-the-fact, that the shoes I chose that night didn’t have the greatest traction on the dance floor, and I even developed a blister toward the end. Maybe random man was on to something there. Maybe next time, I’ll attempt to remain receptive to feedback.  Maybe.

The trouble with being too busy

poolArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

I posted a picture of myself a few weeks ago relaxing at the pool on my lunch hour. I had to laugh at the comments that came in:

“Must be nice.”

“Work much?”

“You must never need a vacation!”

“Some of us have the life!”

First of all, I had already worked about 55 hours that week by mid week and it was my lunch break. I don’t know about you, but though I often work right through the lunch hour, once in a great while, when possible, it is nice to take a break for a few minutes and relax. Eat lunch. Talk to a friend…and yes, even lay by the pool. Yet it’s almost as if taking a lunch break isn’t acceptable in our professional world, especially if it truly involves ‘breaking’ and not ‘still working’. Productive, results-oriented people don’t take lunch breaks, right?

Over the years I have gotten to know me and, despite its unpopularity, have learned that if I don’t spend some time outside each day relaxing or enjoying the moment, I tend to get tense, stressed, and negative. This directly affects my productivity, ability to stay positive, and how I interact with others. For me, taking a short break actually makes me more productive during the work day.

“We all have one life to live, but if we are too busy to notice the world revolving around us, then we are not living.” — Rex Wilson

Are you really living?

Keep count one day of how many times you hear the response “Busy!” when you ask how others are doing. Our typical conversations consist of, “Hey, what’s going on? Too much, I’m crazy busy!” or “Do you want to meet this week for coffee? Would love to—but I have too much on my plate—maybe next week?!” Being overly busy has become our norm, but the downside is that it limits our ability to tune into our emotions and how we’re feeling in the moment, which in turn affects our ability to respond well. Busy may be the standard – but how emotionally intelligent is it?

“It’s in the quiet that our best ideas occur to us. Don’t make the mistake of believing that by a frantic kind of dashing around you are being your most effective and efficient self.  Don’t assume that you’re wasting time when you take time out for thought.” – Napoleon Hill & Clement Stone

Music to my ears. Maybe my pool time is not wasted time after all.

Emotional self-awareness is a vital component of emotional intelligence. It’s the ability to be aware of your own gut instincts and react appropriately to them. It’s being able to use your feelings as a valuable source of information to guide your decisions throughout the day.

Why is it so vital?

First of all, our inability (or refusal) to listen to our emotions can have many negative physical effects on our bodies. If you’re experiencing chronic headaches, lower back pain, neck or shoulder pain, and anxiety, these may be signals that your emotions are trying to tell you something.

Secondly, if we aren’t aware of how we’re feeling, then we can’t manage our behavior, and if we don’t manage our behavior, we’re going to blow up important relationships by acting impulsively. Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman says this,

“If you are tuned out of your own emotions, you will be poor at reading them in others.”

The social side-effects of not being emotionally-aware are irritability, treating others abrasively, and impatience. Think back on the last time you were, say, really exhausted. Did you like how you reacted to those around you that week? Most of us are too busy to even stop and reflect on how we’re feeling in the moment, which leaves many in react mode instead of act mode. It’s difficult to lead and work well with others when we can’t read how they are feeling at a given moment, let alone be aware of our own emotions.

Finally, when we tune out our emotions, we may begin to fail to notice when our day-to-day actions are not aligned with our vision and values and find ourselves way off course.

Are you too busy?  Take this short, simple online quiz to find out:    http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=are-you-just-too-busy

“People are clearly coming around to the idea of taking breaks and even ‘doing nothing’ in order to lead a healthier lifestyle,” –Liz Pryor, author & speaker

In an article entitled The Importance of Emotions, the author says this:  “In order to take good care of ourselves it is important that we know what are needs are. Our emotions help us to know what are needs are through what we feel. If you feel anger you know that you have to solve a problem with a situation or a person and that you must change your behavior. When you respect your needs you feel happy.”

Emotions help us stay aware of our needs, and the needs of others.

So how do we began to be more emotionally self-aware?

  • Slow down so you can begin to listen to your inner voice.  It normally doesn’t shout loudly so if you don’t tune in you may not hear it. It will always take a back seat to a frantic lifestyle, and if you don’t stop and listen closely you will miss its song.
  • Carve out some time each day for relaxation, meditation, and leisure.  I know, you’re too busy. We all are. But start with just a few minutes each day to do something that is non-work related that brings you enjoyment.
  • Take notes. Get in the habit from time to time of jotting down how you are feeling – and why. You can keep a simple journal to record your range of emotions and the intensity of each emotion. If you prefer to track your emotions on your phone, there are many apps available to help:  http://appcrawlr.com/ios-apps/best-apps-mood-chart

Because our emotions are essential in providing valuable insights and information about ourselves, others, and the situations going on around us, can we really afford to tune them out any longer?

The more adept we are at discerning what is shaping our moods and mental well-being, the more able we are to manage our behavior. The results? Greater productivity, effectiveness, confidence, and a feeling of being in control of our lives. Recognition alone can diffuse (or heighten) an emotional reaction. As you learn to know and understand your own emotions, you’ll also begin to be able to understand what drives the actions of those around you, improving relationships and connections.

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