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Digital composite of Businessman using smart phones while emojis

I’m back to the EQ blog after a very productive hiatus. When the proposal for my latest book was picked up by a publisher last year, I took time off to write the book, develop its internet platform, promote the book (in my spare time—ha, ha) and then leverage the new content from the book into improved workshops.

In my first book Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst, I introduce the Interpersonal Triangle model. However, it’s always been my dream to write an entire book on the model: I wanted to do a “deep dive” for readers. That opportunity arose when Linda Langton, a well-known New York literary agent decided to represent me (and the book). In her first round of inquires she found a publisher—Career Press—who picked up the book, titling it The 3 Dimensions of Emotions. Now it was time to get to work.

Since my first book, I’ve realized the benefit of framing the model in terms of dimensions. Just as there are three dimensions in the physical world—height, width and depth—so there are three dimensions in the emotional or relational world: namely power, heart and knowing (or mindfulness), respectively. Each of these dimensions has a negative side and a positive side. To the degree that we limberly move in the positive aspects of the three dimensions in our life, with balance and integrity, we are effective and therefore fulfilled (and perhaps even happy). The ability to dynamically integrate personal power or agency with heart or love for others, all the while maintaining stability and wisdom through knowing and mindfulness, is for me another way to describe emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s four categories of emotional intelligence—self awareness, other awareness (empathy) self-control and managing others—are all represented in the three dimensional model with the added benefit of prescribing how to get back into balance when we find ourselves out of kilter.

Ever since I developed this model decades ago from the brilliant work of psychologists Karen Horney and Wilfred Bion, I used the model to design and facilitate emotional intelligence workshops for parents, marital couples, mental-health professionals and for organizational leaders. Since the publication of the book last year I’ve had the opportunity to take these emotional intelligence workshops to their next level, especially in the area of organizational leadership training. This has been nothing short of exciting. Work comprises a major portion of our life and the more emotionally intelligent we are (and our boss is) the more fulfilled we are in our life.

Here’s a recent example of how I applied this model with a high tech company that I did a workshop for in India. A majority of the Indian managers and high-potential leaders within this company often found themselves reacting in the negative side of the “Heart” dimension by tending to appease others, and when that failed, freezing up and becoming immobilized. You could say that as people-pleasers, they were lacking in skills for positive confrontation. As a result, their effectiveness as leaders was minimized; they lost their personal power and perspective. This dynamic came to light after the participants took the Interpersonal Triangle Inventory, (which is available free to readers of my book).

Later, while participating in workshop exercises, we focused the second half of the workshop on building Mindfulness and Power skills to bring them back into balance and to improve emotional intelligence and effective leadership. For example, we helped them to identify the circumstances when they go into the freeze and appease mode. And when they were able to recognize that, we gave them a list of positive behaviors (best practices) that they could employ to pull themselves out of their negative reactivity. They could employ the “sleep on it before you react” practice when possible (Knowing dimension) or practice “I” statements with those for whom they were challenged (Positive Power Dimension behavior).

While this group was working on balancing their Heart reactivity with positive Power and Mindfulness behaviors, another group from the same workshop had a different challenge. They were Power reactors. They reacted by getting angry and trying to gain dominance over other people. They had to work on collaboration and empathy (from the positive Heart dimension) and self-control and self-regulation (form the Knowing or Mindfulness dimension). With the help from other colleagues in the workshop, they came up with a different set of best practices that they could incorporate to bring themselves back into balance and thus be more emotionally intelligent and thus be better leaders.

It was very rewarding to see the content of the new book fleshed out in front of me with real managers and leaders from another country. I saw them become hopeful when they realized that there were alternative actions they could take to their personal habits and reactivity patterns. I plan to return to India in a few months for a follow-up booster session because we all know that changing our reactivity patterns is not easily done in one workshop.

Well, its nice to be back to this blog. I look forward to more opportunities to exchange ideas.As always, you can also catch me on my 3 Dimensions of Emotions blog. And please let me know your thoughts and questions and what other topics that you’d like me to address related to the very important idea of emotional intelligence.

 

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training the brain

Four Pathways to Retraining Your Brain

This is the follow-up to my December 1st post, which was based on an article by UCLA researcher Daniel Siegel. His article describes a healthy brain-mind using the acronym: FACES:

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

At the end of Part I in this series, I wrote:

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 neurobiologists agree that the brain is “elastic.”  What they mean is that—although difficult—we can recondition the brain: build new and better brain-mind integration. . . . And one key way to effect and eventually develop this part of the brain-mind is through awareness.

As promised, Part 2 of this article will discuss how to raise awareness in leaders so that we change their middle prefrontal cortex and thus generate real learning, growth and effectiveness.  Following are four ways to raise awareness as leaders in the business world in order to retrain the brain. The principles apply likewise to our roles as spouse, parent and friend but in different forms, which I will mention briefly at the end.

1. Experiential Training: I start with the most common, but least effective way to retrain the brain. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in training. One of my favorite things that I do as a consultant is to facilitate training sessions among business and executive teams. But even when I do the training myself, I almost always try to make it experiential and STRONGLY encourage follow-up—the more personal and experiential the follow-up, the better. We retrain the brain primarily through experience, not through taking notes or watching colorful slides. The more we repeat the experience, the more new neural pathways we form.

2. Targeted Personal Assessments: This can take many forms. The most common form of this is the routine annual or bi-annual review. Human beings thrive on accurate, digestible feedback.  When the feedback is about us, we generally listen with a higher level of attention. It is particularly helpful if the feedback comes with clearly stated and doable actions. Changed behavior is changed experience, which equals new and better neural pathways.

As a business psychologist I often give assessments to key employees and leaders in a company.  These assessments can take on many forms. There are the typical self-report assessments, which are valuable but easily skewed. I particularly like using what is call a 360-rater feedback where any number of people (up-line, down-line, peers, etc.) can take the test about you and you can see how others perceive you.

3. Business Coaching:  Probably the most powerful way a leader can raise awareness and retrain the brain is through coaching. Business coaching (executive coaching, corporate coaching or leadership coaching) is based on a one-on-one relationship with a trusted advisor (usually from the “outside”) who provides a discovery process, in-time feedback, support and advice to improve an individual’s effectiveness in their organization.  It is the individualized, ongoing process that makes it the most salient brain-changer. If a basketball player benefits from a coach, any and every business leader would likewise be the better for the process of interaction and feedback.

4. An Aware Organization: This last suggestion is the hardest to come by but is the most comprehensive. It goes beyond helping individuals become more aware (the goal of the first three points above) by making awareness part of the corporate culture itself. The organization creates a  culture that not only models and encourages awareness from all its members, but is interestingly aware of itself as well. It is an organic living SWOT analysis. In other words, it is an organization that is aware of its

  • Strengths to exploit,
  • Weaknesses—(yes, its weaknesses)—to monitor,
  • Opportunities to leverage, and
  • Threats to be privy to.

How does an organization become aware? It starts at the top. If its top leaders are not aware, then there is little hope. The Aware Organization is also an organization that is open to outside review (assessment) and feedback and is willing to hear and face the truth about itself. This organization is one that will naturally promote awareness as a norm.

How do these principles apply to other roles that we assume—for example, as a spouse, parent, or friend? Well, any way that we can raise our awareness in one relationship (without shame or defensiveness) does the same thing for us in other types of relationships. Here are some examples (that correspond to the 4 areas above):

  1. Taking interactive courses and workshops. For example, I run occasional courses for couples and parents that are highly interactive and “awareness raising.”
  2. Take online assessments. There are many free assessments that you can take. (If you’re interested in knowing more, leave me a comment below and I will forward you the links). Listen to your partner’s (child’s/friend’s) feedback carefully without defensiveness. Consider what parts of what is being said might possibly be true. This should raise awareness and change your brain.
  3. Instead of getting coaching, try a stint in your own personal therapy, or consider working with a mentor or spiritual director.
  4. Create an “Aware Home” where part of the culture of your household is a commitment to non-defensive listening to feedback. Also be part of organizations (clubs, churches) that are awareness-prone organizations.

If you want leaders (partners, parents or friends) who have the ability to bend without breaking while remaining firmly established and persistent (Stability), and the ability to adjust to varying conditions and markets (Adaptability), are able to think with clarity and logic (Coherent), and have a vitality and an enthusiasm (Energy), then you want a leader (partner, parent or friend) with a high-functioning middle prefrontal cortex. And to retrain that part of the brain you need to increase awareness and foster growth experiences.

Share with us strategies that you use to raise your awareness. And remember, emotional intelligence is intelligence you can live with.

This is my last post of 2013. I wish all of you a wonder-filled Holiday and a great 2014.