emotional intelligenceThere is much–albeit not enough–talk in the business world today about emotional intelligence (EI) and its importance in understanding what makes leaders transcend to the next level. There is less discussion of EI as it pertains to matters of love—couples, parenting, friendship. From what I know as a psychologist who is interested in neurobiology, I do not think of EI independent of thinking about the brain. Daniel Siegel, M.D., is one of the cutting-edge leaders in this new area of study called “Interpersonal Neurobiology.” Dr. Siegel, in an article for the Psychiatric Annals in April of 2006, wrote the following (I recommend reading it slowly):

An interpersonal neurobiology view of well-being holds that the complex, nonlinear system of the mind achieves states of self-organization by balancing the two opposing processes of differentiation and linkage. When separated areas of the brain are allowed to specialize in their function and then become linked together, the system is integrated. Integration brings with it a special state or functioning of the whole, which has the acronym of FACES: Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable. This coherent flow is bounded on one side by chaos and on the other by rigidity. In this manner we can envision a flow or river of well-being, with the two banks being chaos on the one side, rigidity on the other.

The focal point in this paragraph is on the idea of a “complex non-linear mind” that is “integrated.”  Integration comes about when the special functions of the brain work well (differentiation) but are also connected and communicative (linkage). As a result we get FACES.  When we consider these five functions of an integrated mind, also think of a leader, partner, parent, friend—who has all these functions working together as well:

  • Flexible … the ability to bend without breaking
  • Adaptive … ability to adjust to different conditions
  • Coherent … clear, logical, and forming a whole
  • Energized … having vitality and enthusiasm
  • Stable …  firmly established, not easily upset, not likely to give way

This is how Siegel describes a mentally healthy brain-mind. It is a mind that “flows” optimally between chaos (disorganization) on one side and rigidity (over-organization) on the other. What I find compelling is that these five (FACES) brain-mind functions aptly describe an emotionally intelligent leader (partner, parent, friend) as well. Emotionally intelligent people apparently have healthy, integrated brain-minds.

Who would not like to be married to (or have as a parent or friend) a person who is Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energetic yet Stable–in other words, emotionally intelligent? Likewise, who wants people in their organization–not the least of which a leader—who possesses the opposite attributes of being inflexible if not rigid, unable to adapt, incoherent (confused, unclear and illogical), depressed, unmotivated or unstable? Having someone like this to follow (be married to, parented by and/or friends with) would be at best unpleasant and at worst damaging.

We can’t choose everyone in our life, of course. We get to pick our partners and friends. (Unfortunately we do not get to pick our parents.) We don’t always get to choose our workmates, but organizations can choose employees and leaders. So if emotionally intelligent leaders have healthy or integrated brain-minds and these integrated brain-minds make for transcendent leaders, how do we get a few of these brains into our organization?

I often argue that it is easier to hire a star employee rather than develop one. That is why I spend a good bit of time in my consulting practice helping organizations hire best-fit (emotionally intelligent) people. It is relatively easy to find someone who has the right education, training and even experience–especially in this current “buyers” market. It is much harder to find someone who is Flexible, Adaptive, Coherent, Energized and Stable . . . someone who has a healthy brain-mind, someone who is emotionally intelligent.

But it is not possible to hire an entirely new company full of integrated emotionally intelligent people. We have to work with the employees (and owners) that we have. This begs an important question: Can we retrain the brain?  Fortunately the answer is YES, however it is a qualified yes. It is not easy, and not everyone is willing or capable of retraining his or her brain. Siegel and other neurobiologist agree that the brain is “elastic.”  What they mean by that is that—although difficult—we can recondition the brain: build new and better brain-mind integration. How does one do this?

The better question might be “where do we do this?” We do it in the Middle Prefrontal Cortex. It is the at the crossroads between the emotional limbic system and the thinking cortex and it has to do with things like emotional balance, empathy, insight, fear extinction, intuition and morality. One key way to effect and eventually develop this part of the brain-mind is through awareness. When we raise people’s awareness we increase the proper functioning of this important region of the brain.

There are different ways to raise awareness in a business environment: the use of assessments, targeted workshops and especially one-on-one coaching.  But there are other ways to affect this region of the brain-mind. Stay tuned, I will discuss them further in part two of this article. For now, I hope you are encouraged to understand that we really can increase emotional intelligence and thereby improve relationships with everyone who crosses our life path.

Please let us know your experiences with emotionally intelligent (or lack thereof) bosses or leaders, as it pertains to FACES. And remember, EI is intelligence you can live with.

EnvyOne of my friends is now in Europe, all his expenses paid by his employer. (Oh yeah, did I tell you that he went with his wife and they are paying all her expenses too?) Another friend just released a book which is well on its way to becoming a national best seller (see Back to Normal: Why Ordinary Childhood Behavior Is Mistaken for ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Dr. Enrico Gnaulati). I have two friends who just retired in their 50’s and will never have to worry about money again. So do you think I am happy for them? To be honest, the envious part of mind wants an all-expense paid trip to Europe with my family. I want to have a bestseller so I can retire and never have to worry about money again.

What do you envy? Do you envy your friend who can eat anything she wants and is still as skinny as a rail? How about the guy at work who used to report to you who was just promoted again? Or how about your friend who is (apparently) happily married and expecting her first baby and you have not had a good date in months (okay years)? Do you envy those people who have the Midas touch—everything they do turns to gold?  We can envy anyone who has more (money, looks, happiness) than us; we can envy anyone who has less (body fat, bad luck, marital troubles) than us. The list of things that we can be envious about is as long as things in the world that we can possess or acquire or experience—but don’t. And the list is long.

Envy Happens! Envy is a basic human emotion—a state of mind to be exact. It is reflected in some of our earliest literature, for instance religious texts. In the well-known Judeo-Christian story of Adam and Eve, the author of Genesis writes that eating of the forbidden fruit would make the couple like God. Embedded in this narrative is a story of envy. They envied God and who would not?—Which of us would not want to be described as all powerful; all knowing? But what really seemed to piss them off was that they needed God. According to British psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, we are prone to envy anyone on whom we depend. Why? Because we are not all powerful and all knowing and we do in fact need others.

Envy unchecked is very destructive. Envy hates.  Envy wants to hurt if not destroy the envied. This is also seen in the Genesis story of Cain and Abel. If you remember the story, Cain envied his brother Abel and as a result murdered him. Sometimes the expression of envy is huge; many wars have been started because one group wants what another group has. However, more often the expression of envy is more “civilized” showing up as resentment, backbiting and passive aggressive behaviors.  And when we envy, there are often serious feelings of inferiority lurking in the shadows of our self-concept.

The opposite of envy is gratitude. Envy wants what others have, what others do and what others experience. Gratitude “wants” what we, in fact, have, do and experience. (You heard the expression: Do you have what you want or want what you have?) Gratitude accepts and appreciates—the “AA” of a healthy mindset. We are most centered when we accept who we are and what we have. However, it is not easy to be content when there is so much feedback out there showing us what we lack. It takes a mature mind to transcend an attitude of scarcity to have an attitude of gratitude. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with wanting to have more. But if you cannot be grateful with the good you currently possess—and yes there is good in our lives—then you can never be truly happy even if you possess the envied things. (We all know of celebrities who apparently have everything most people would ever want but live seemingly unhappy lives.)

I have struggled with envy my whole life. I grew up in a very poor family and often heard my father talk about all the rich people who had it easy. I still struggle with being content with what I have and where I am in life. However, as I have worked through issues in my own personal therapy and lately in my mindfulness practices, I find myself more content and yes—even at times grateful—for my life as it is now. I want more and will get it. But gratitude is not about the future; gratitude is about the NOW. So I choose to be happy for my friends who are retired at 50, traveling in Europe, and a successful author. I am truly glad for them, as I am glad for all the good things in my life. And I hope that you find that quiet, sober place in your mind and heart that appreciates what you have NOW this Thanksgiving and for the other 364 days of the year.

If you have a moment, please share with us what you find yourself envying and/or what you are personally grateful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!

HonoringDifferencesI just finished facilitating a workshop for a consulting firm on the topic of “Honoring Differences & Emotional Intelligence.” All the participants took the ITI– Interpersonal Triangle Inventory, which is an inventory that I developed based on the Interpersonal Triangle model that I introduced in my previous post (See “Emotional Intelligence (EI) in Three-D: Scarecrow, Tin Man & Lion.”)  Based on their scores they were sorted into one of four relationship styles represented by the following colors (the first three are sorted into the three primary colors thus representing the three primary ways we relationally move or connect; the fourth is a hybrid):

  • Red: Moving Against—Lion. These types of relators tend to be more aggressive, directive, take-charge, determined, quick to make decisions, and are opinionated.
  • Blue: Moving Toward—Tin Man. These types of relators tend to be people oriented, empathic, supportive and caring, willing to defer to the needs of others.
  • Yellow: Moving Away—Scarecrows. These types of relators are more measured and careful, want to be accurate and true to the facts.
  • Purple (Blends of Red Lion & Blue Tin Man). People in this hybrid are enthusiastic and readily engage and influence others. They like liking and like being liked. I have a Purple relationship style in most of my relationships.

I’d like to share with you what we learned through the workshop experience (in no particular order):

  • People have different relationship styles. Some are more quick and determined (like the Red Lions) others are people centered (like the Blue Tin Man) and others are more careful and precise (like Yellow Scarecrow). Then there are Purple people like me who want to engage and influence others. One style is not necessarily better than the others all the time (even thought I would follow a Red in an emergency, a Yellow when I want objective facts and a Blue when I want to be understood).
  • Each style has its positive or negative expressions. Each style, in its positive expression, can enhance communication and bring about positive outcomes. However in its negative manifestation, each style can break down communication and be destructive. Often the negative expressions are directly related to their positive expression. Elias Porter—the person who developed the SDI (the Strength Deployment Inventory)—suggested that our weaknesses are nothing more than overdone strengths. Think about it. A quick Red response overdone makes them rushed or impetuous. A Blue’s deference to others can easily become a form of self-denial; and a Yellow’s carefulness is only a couple clicks away from being overly cautious and hesitant.
  • We have different styles in different situations. For example, my relationship style is different at home than when I am speaking or consulting. At home I am more Orange (Red and Yellow) and at work I am more Purple (Red and Blue). And when I get around Red alphas, I have to fight the temptation to become overly Blue (submissive). Different settings and interactions with different people often bring out different elements of how we interact. A person at work might be one way with a boss (e.g. Blue) and then another way with a subordinate (e.g. Red). I am always amused by CEOs who run large organizations who, when they come home, become totally subservient to their spouse.
  • If we don’t honor differences in someone else, we will end up reacting to them. Evolution formed a brain that is suspicious, if not hostile, to those who differ from us. If we don’t leverage our differences for good we will likely get entangled in some sort of estrangement. I worked with a board of directors who had a good number of Red relators. They looked down on the “weaker” Blue relaters seeing them as “soft” simply because they were not as decisive and opinionated as they were. It was unfortunate that the Reds did not honor their Blue brethren because they did not take advantage of their sympathy for client relations and their ability to collaborate. This can happen at home as well. We can write off our “quiet” (Yellow) spouse as disinterested rather than slow and thoughtful. And we’ve all heard of the rough and tough father who reacts to his “weaker” (artistic) son not realizing what a precious gift the son brings to the world.

I’d love to hear back from you: What relationship style do you tend toward  . . .  at home? Are you more Red, more Blue or more Yellow (or like me, a hybrid)? Is your relationship style different at work? If so, how?  Do you ever “overdo” one of these relational styles to a fault? (If you are not sure, ask your spouse, children, or your employees.) Do you ever find yourself reacting to your partner for having a different relational style than yourself?  Please share your experience with us.

Ultimately, be yourself, accept who you are and be positive in your difference. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

Oil for the Tin ManIn the previous (maiden) blog on EI, I introduced some initial ideas on this most important concept, emotional intelligence. If you remember, in the first article I featured Daniel Goleman’s four basic factors of EI:  Self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Well I have another way to cut the EI pie, taken from my book (Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst). It is also the subject matter of my new book coming out in 2014 and I am pleased to present it to you now.

Over a half-century ago Karen Horney, M.D. enhanced the psychological world with her book, Our Inner Conflicts. The now-classic book introduces the three primary ways people relationally move: we move toward, move against, or move away from others. Across the ocean in England—and independent of Dr. Horney—Wilfred Bion, M.D., used three different terms to describe how we emotionally “link” or connect to each other. He said that people interpersonally connect either through love, hate (Power) or knowing.  Although the terms differ, in essence, these two psychoanalytic giants—independently of each other—identified the three fundamental ways in which we interpersonally move or connect to others.

Over the years, I have relied on these tripartite concepts to guide me as a therapist, a teacher and an organizational consultant. As I have worked with these concepts, I’ve gradually developed a model that I call the Interpersonal Triangle. The Interpersonal Triangle is strongly confirmed throughout psychological literature, as well as in other places such as systems theory, biology, organizational psychology, philosophy, religion, literature and even pop culture (too many to speak of in this article). But what does all this have to do with the Wizard of Oz?

Early in her journey Dorothy meets three companions—Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Each of these companions has some characteristic that is underdeveloped and in need of fulfillment. Remember Tin Man who cares about having a heart? He represents “love,” or “moving toward.” Lion, who battles for courage, represents “power,” or “moving-against.” Finally, Scarecrow, preoccupied with having a brain, symbolizes knowing, or “moving away”—mindfulness, if you may. Each of the movements can either be negative or positive in their impact, as we will soon see in the example below. 

InterpersonalTriangle

So what does this have to do with EI?  I maintain that an “effective, mature and decent” human being is someone who relates to others in a dynamic yet flexible way, integrating the positive aspect of all three dimensions at the same time. And when we are not able to respond in a positive way in one or more of the dimensions, we are thrown out of kilter. Let me give you an example.

Mary owns her own small firm. Ever since she was a little girl she had a hard time with Tin Man. She believes that all the “touchy feely stuff” is a display of weakness. Because of that, she tends to overdo Scarecrow (being cold and distant) and Lion (being impatient and domineering).  I was hired to help Mary find out why she was having such a difficult time retaining talent in her company. A quick (anonymous) survey of the employees, along with some personality testing, soon brought the answer clearly into focus.

Based on the feedback that I gave her, she reluctantly agreed to a series of coaching sessions (after all “needing” coaching—moving toward—is a sign of weakness).  Based on the theory of the Interpersonal Triangle, we did not focus on her overdone cowardly Lion behaviors (her impatience and micro-management) nor did we consider her overdone Scarecrow (her cold disposition toward employees). Instead we focused on Tin Man–her least favorite dimension.  At first we experimented with safe Tin Man behaviors; for example, giving compliments to employees who did a good job.  Later we worked on more difficult Tin Man behaviors, like seeking input from the project managers on how to run a project.

Even though I focused mostly on Tin Man, my goal in this coaching assignment was to move her toward full positive functioning of ALL THREE of the characters. As she began to improve in her Tin Man behaviors, a wonderful thing began to happen. Not only did she begin to exhibit more positive Tin Man behaviors, which was most welcomed by all employees, BUT she no longer manifested the overdone negative LION and SCARECROW behaviors. Instead LION transformed into effective leadership and candor; and SCARECROW showed up more as wisdom and patience.  Mary was learning to more effectively move through the three dimensions of her interpersonal world.  She was exhibiting Goleman’s self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management. Mary had become more emotionally intelligent.

In this very brief introduction of the Interpersonal Triangle, it is enough here to raise awareness of the three ways we can relationally move—positively or negatively.  And to know that if we are weak in one mode, we will go out-of-balance in the others—making us less effective in how we relate to and impact others.   And when we find the “synergy” of all three we can move powerfully and effectively through the three dimensions of the interpersonal world.

Dorothy’s weakest link was Courageous Lion. When she finally found her mojo, she was able to pull the inner team together and melt herself a witch and fire a wizard (more to come on Wizards and Witches). Which character do you have the most trouble with in your life . . . as a manager, a parent, a spouse? (We are often different in different settings.) Don’t bother working on your weaknesses, work on the strengths that are underdeveloped and you will be more emotionally intelligent. And emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

Post1EIWelcome to EI-Psych. EI stands for emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a modern day term for being an effective, mature and decent human being. Emotional intelligence simply stated is “the ability to recognize, understand and effectively manage your emotions and behavior.”[1]  In its more common usage it also includes the interpersonal aspect as well, thus the ability to recognize, understand and effectively manage the emotions and behaviors of others. Daniel Goleman has both popularized and further developed this idea in several books and articles on the subject. He has boiled the concept of EI into a simple chart that shows the four basic categories of EI: Self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management:

Awareness

Behavior

Other

Social Awareness

Relationship Management

Self

Self-Awareness

Self-Management

EI-Psych is a blog committed to facilitating a discussion and enhancing growth around this most basic and vital human capacity, EI.  Because of its deep penetration into the human experience, I will talk about EI as it pertains to a few broad categories of human interaction. Sigmund Freud once said that the essence of living is Love & Work. (I would add a third category that takes in some sort of reflective or even spiritual essence that would include concepts like mindfulness.)  Therefore in EI-Psych we will focus on Work relationships (leadership, employee engagement and teams) as well as Love relationships (couples, parents and friendships) with an occasional reference to all things “Spiritual.”  (We will let the reader know in the beginning of each blog the “categories” that we will touch on in the article du jour.)

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a modern-day term for being an effective, mature and decent human being. A good deal of research on EI has been done in the area of management and leadership. Although not all studies are unequivocal, the preponderance of research support the idea that the higher the level of emotional intelligence, the more effective the leader; and, the poorer the emotional intelligence, the poorer the leader’s effectiveness. A business owner once hired me to “make his project managers more emotionally intelligent.” I do not have to convince any reader of this idea who has ever worked for a boss who is overly demanding, impatient and rude. This boss does not bring the best out of people.  However a boss who is firm and clear while being positive, fair and grateful will get us to be our best.

No doubt the same is true in other relationships outside of work, such as with friendship, dating, marriage and parenting. In this way, EI is a measure of social and personal maturity.  When we think of people who are mature, we think of people who, first and foremost, know themselves accurately and honestly. They have self-control; they know other people and know how to manage the relationships they are in without being a manipulative brut or self-sacrificing. In other words, these mature individuals are emotionally intelligent. Last but not least, emotionally intelligent leaders, spouses, parents and friends are “decent” people. They have integrity. I love the word integrity. Integrity has three meanings: (1) adherence to a code, incorruptible; (2) soundness—like a building has integrity; and, (3) Completeness, as in integrated.  Emotionally intelligent people have integrity, don’t they? They are “good” people who are sound (strong) and are well balanced.

IQ, intellectual intelligence, does not seem to change much over time without specific interventions. If you had an IQ of 115 when you were 8 years old, you are likely to have an IQ near 115 when you are 48 years old. Is this also true of EQ (another way to say EI)?  Yes and no—the answer to this is complicated.  We do inherit certain genes that affect and effect our EI. It is postulated for example that 50 percent of our ability to be happy is hard-wired at conception. We also have positive and negative experiences as children that will drastically and permanently influence our EI as adults. The good news—in this “glass half empty” scenario—is that the glass is also half-full! We have 50 percent that we can work with as adults that can make a BIG impact on the quality of our lives and our relationships. (I often say to my clients that even a little change is a lot of change.)

So stay tuned. Together, let’s leverage the 50 percent that we can change. Join us as we consider this most important human capacity. Just imagine what difference it would make in your life if you were more positive with your spouse, led your team at work with more effectiveness, could be less reactive with your challenging child or more patient with (yes) your mother-in-law. Emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.


[1] This definition is taken from an introduction to an emotional intelligence 360 assessment developed by Kenneth M. Nowack, Ph.D. and released by Envisia Learning’s © 2003.