How EQ Prevents Accidents and Increases Production

At Toyota manufacturing plants, a cord is placed in each assembly line for anyone to pull at any time to stop the line for safety, errors, or broken parts. The system is simple–anyone who observes something that seems “off” can and should pull the cord.

This system is an example of how fostering emotionally intelligent behavior can prevent accidents and improve production. The cord empowers assembly teams from bottom to top, sending the message that each team member’s eyes and ears matter. It also sends the message that everyone is equally responsible—if you have the power to pull the cord and you don’t, that’s as much on you as it is on your manager.

The cord is just one example of how being aware and pushing through to taking action, two core EQ skills, positively impacts manufacturing teams. Research shows that training manufacturing plant supervisors in EQ reduced lost-time accidents by 50% and increased production by 17%, compared to untrained supervisors who saw no difference in production. EQ touches on a number of competencies that drive success in manufacturing. Here are three examples:  

EQ increases accountability. Like the Toyota example, EQ gives people the tools they need to hold each other accountable and confront each other in a healthy way. For instance, if a team member is lingering in the break room when she’s needed on the floor, their team should feel comfortable calling her out. Teams operating with a high degree of EQ are not only more comfortable calling each other out, but they’re also more comfortable being called out. When the employee is called out for lingering too long, she doesn’t sweat it or take it too personally because she understands that it’s the way her team operates. Because accountability is a piece of the day-to-day work, people don’t fear it and respond irrationally the way they do on other teams.

EQ means better problem-solving. On manufacturing teams, problems are inevitable. Essential parts break, other groups hold your team up in the production line, and new technologies create unforeseen changes in the day-to-day work. The mark of a high EQ team is the ability to stay calm under pressure in order to focus on the things that they can control. When problems inevitably arise, a high EQ team will ask itself “What do we know that can make a difference?” They may need to liaison with the engineering team, speak with the team ahead of them in the line, or they may need to move to a different task entirely. Instead of letting their emotions take the wheel (causing unnecessary arguments, hasty decision-making, and impulsivity), a high EQ team recognizes and acknowledges their emotions then focuses on the problem at hand.

EQ leads to helping behavior. High EQ teams are able to see the bigger picture—their team as a piece of the organizational whole. That means lending a helping hand when they see another team is swamped is still part of their job to help the organization’s performance. It also means building rapport with other teams to improve interactions and asking for help themselves when needed.

From Insights to Action. Each of these examples show how emotional intelligence can help manufacturing teams avoid accidents and work more fluidly and effectively on a daily basis. That said, they’re also competencies that any team in any industry can learn from. Accountability, problem-solving, and lending a helping hand are important attributes for all teams across industries.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/.

How to Build Organizational Buy-in for EQ

Convincing leaders, resource decision makers, or an entire organization to invest in emotional intelligence development (EQ) is a daunting yet worthwhile challenge.

When you succeed at getting buy-in across the organization, the results give your people and your organization a competitive advantage: Not only are high EQ employees happier, more engaged, and higher performing, but also a positive cumulative effect begins to take hold. As EQ becomes a living and breathing part of company culture, people operate from an emotionally intelligent framework. They develop a strong accountability for understanding and managing the range of emotions that surface and influence their interactions. They also use a common vocabulary around emotional intelligence that allows them to connect, make decisions, be more agile, foster inclusivity, build trust, and handle conflict (among other things).

At TalentSmartEQ, after more than twenty years of helping organizations build buy-in for EQ, we’ve implemented a vast assortment of approaches that work. Here are five of our best.

  • Tie EQ to your business needs. One of the best ways to avoid making EQ seem like just another “nice-to-have training” is to connect EQ directly to business needs your industry values. Our clients in hospitals offer a great example. Physicians, nurses, and hospital staff tend to be swamped, so you have to make a compelling case to convince them to take the time to train above and beyond their clinical skills. To get their buy-in, many hospitals turn to HCAHPS surveys—a hospital rating system conducted by patients that focuses largely on patient care. The surveys dictate a significant source of hospital funding, and of the survey’s 25 items, 16 can be boosted by developing EQ skills (items include things like careful listening, showing respect, and communicating clearly). By outlining the close connections between successful patient care and emotional intelligence skills, decision makers readily see how EQ skills affect their bottom line, and hospital staff see how EQ skills support the patient care experience on a daily basis.
  • Connect EQ to your existing competencies. Why not start with the core behaviors that make up your company values? Employees should already know the significance of the competencies that matter to the organization. The value of EQ becomes obvious when you lay out exactly how EQ can help people grow those competencies. Say, for example, your company values risk-taking. Employees will experience hesitation or fear as they approach potential risks. To take the risks effectively, they have to get good at managing those emotions in real time so that their risks are calculated, not reactive. At the same time, team members have to be good at listening and hearing people out when they present an idea, and they have to be good at dealing with conflict as people inevitably disagree. Connecting EQ to core competencies works well, especially because many core competencies are people competencies and are influenced by emotional intelligence skills training.
  • Win over influential people as early adopters. Office politics are inevitable. Make sure you have influential people buying into EQ from the beginning because those people alone can cast a wave of support and alignment. Ask them to think back to memorable moments when they grew the most as a professional, and you’ll often hear a story of EQ skills in action at your organization. Invite your EQ champions to kick off training sessions with a few EQ stories to inspire your next generation of high EQ leaders.  
  • Bring EQ in from multiple angles. Offer EQ learning opportunities across a variety of stages in someone’s career, and their understanding of EQ and ability to apply it will deepen with time. For example, applicants to your organization may first hear about EQ during their interview. Then, as they’re hired and onboarded, they’re oriented to what EQ is and how it’s valued at the company. Along the way they have access to open enrollment or online learning courses where they can assess their EQ strengths and weaknesses. Later on, high potentials and first-time supervisors enroll in a deeper dive of EQ development training and take a retest to track progress on their EQ behaviors. Leaders attend development programs with EQ 360 feedback and coaching follow-up. On top of all that, EQ can be built into yearly performance review discussions. Teams are asked to assess their team EQ for a team retreat and create team EQ actions plans together. To come full circle, your recruiters and hiring managers are trained on EQ interview questions and what to listen for in candidate responses…The point is, as you increase the number and variety of EQ touchpoints, EQ becomes increasingly a part of how your workforce interacts with customers, suppliers and each other. People will naturally begin to use it as a framework for the work they do.  
  • Measure progress and results. If you want to build buy-in, show people the numbers. There’s plenty of existing research across industries of how EQ training has drastically improved performance, but you can bring this message closer to home by measuring tangible performance results of your own and publishing them for your employees. Whether its sales numbers going up, safety incidents going down, or patient ratings improving, when you can tie EQ and performance together with tangible data, people will get on board.

From Insights to Action. No two organizations are exactly the same, so they need different ways of implementing EQ to fit their learners, their culture, their budgets, and their goals. Reach out to TalentSmartEQ at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/ to learn what might make the most sense for your organization.

How Emotions Affect Your Productivity

When we talk about productivity, we are quick to talk about things that help or hurt, like exercise, sleep, caffeine, our diets, work-tracking, goal-tracking, our morning routines, and the various quirky habits of highly successful people. While many of these topics can help us be more productive, they seem to all skirt around the very heart of the issue when it comes to productivity: Our emotions.

Our emotions are always present, and they influence our ability to focus and think rationally. We have to learn to become more aware of and manage how we’re feeling, or else our emotions can lead to bad habits like procrastination, perfectionism, and an inability to focus.

Procrastination

When Winona lands her dream job as the lead editor for a trendy, art-film theatre in New York City, she can’t wait to get started. She’s already filled out pages of ideas in her notebook. She has concepts for articles, projects, interviews, and new angles, but when she sits down at her desk on her first day of work, she can’t seem to get started. She flits from her blank Word document to Google News to her notebook, and then back to Google News again. She wants nothing more than to get started on something, but she can’t break her pattern. This example may seem counter-intuitive to procrastination. She’s not bored, and she’s not in over her head. In fact, she has exactly what she wants. So why can’t she just get to work?

EQ strategy: Take control of your self-talk. At the center of Winona’s procrastination is her self-talk. She’s so excited by this new opportunity that she can’t help but fear the worst. She’s anxious about the possibility of people finding out she’s a fraud and losing her dream job. Whenever she is about to begin writing, she starts to think about all the possibilities of failure. She thinks things like, “What if I can’t do this?” and “What if this doesn’t work out?” Then she hides using Google News, her email, or whatever distraction is at her disposal. Luckily, Winona takes her self-talk seriously. After a rough first day, she sits at home and reflects on her thought process that led her to procrastinate. To get herself back on track, she decides to rewrite her self-talk. Next time she starts to go down that negative self-talk path, she resolves to stop herself and repeat a simple, positive, and realistic statement instead: “One step at a time.” She even jots the statement down on a Post-it and sticks the Post-it to the side of her screen. This is exactly the reminder she needs to start writing each day.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a close cousin of procrastination. Instead of blocking the outset of a project, it can strike at any point in your work. One of the most common moments for perfectionism to interfere is near the close of a big project. You take a sales proposal as far as you can, but still, you can’t help but feel like there’s more you can do to make it better. You needlessly toil away at petty details, rephrasing the same sentences in different ways, afraid to send the proposal off to your coworker who is prepared to give you feedback anyway. Little do you consider the diminishing value of return. Using the time you could be using to get started on a new proposal, you instead work long hours to make minute improvements.  

EQ strategy: Get comfortable with failure. High EQ people overcome perfectionism by noticing their mindset and reframing their perspective. Instead of treating failure as a demotivator, they derive motivation from it. Feedback, after all, is an opportunity to learn. This doesn’t mean they turn in half-baked work. It means they pay attention to their process and begin to learn when they have shifted from a healthy concern for detail to over-the-top perfectionism.

Flow

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” What he’s describing, a hundred years ago, is that universal feeling we get when we strike that perfect balance of focus. Time, distractions, and even hunger fade into the background and we are totally absorbed with the work in front of us. The psychologist, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term flow to describe this state of mind. In his research he found that people who experience flow are happier with their work and five times as productive. The key to achieving flow lies partially in the task you’re working on and partially in the emotions you feel. The key is that the task can’t be too easy or too difficult, and correspondingly, you can’t be too anxious or too bored.

For our editor Winona, for example, she was too anxious about the task at hand (even though she was capable). Once she refined her self-talk and her approach, she was easily able to reign in her anxiety and dive into her writing.

EQ strategy: Self-reflect before each task. While we can’t necessarily control the difficulty of the tasks we face at work, we can look inward to listen for, spot, and manage our emotions. Each time you’re about to begin a new task, check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. Not too enthused about the project? It might be too easy and therefore boring. If that’s the case, try to find a way to spice it up. If the task is something simple, like data entry, you may be able to devise a system or game to play with yourself to make it more interesting. For example, you might try to input data as accurately and quickly as possible and track yourself over time to see how you improve. Or if you feel anxious about a challenging project, try to get to the source of what makes you anxious. Is it a tight deadline or a task that you’ve never attempted. In that case, you might try to break it down into smaller components. The third possibility is that you are experiencing a strong emotion unrelated to your work. By taking the time to reflect for a moment, you can more readily set that emotion and situation aside for an evening call with your best friend. This will prevent it from welling up at work as you attempt to get into your task.

From Insights to Action. Now you know that barriers to outward focus require looking inward. Reframe your self-talk, shift your mindset, or take a pulse on how you’re feeling before you tackle that next task. You’ll be surprised how far these simple, daily EQ strategies will take you on your way to becoming happier and more productive.  

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmarteq.com/contact/

Better EQ, Better Performance

In January of 2020, EQ had already topped LinkedIn’s Yearly Report on the Top 5 Most Desired Workplace Skills, and this was before workplace and life challenges faced us all when the pandemic struck. Organizational leaders with savvy insight doubled down on EQ making it an organization-wide priority to help give their employees the tools they need to face the unprecedented in a healthy, productive way.

When we connected with Reid Swanson, a certified EQ trainer at a major southern Californian medical center, he shared exactly this sentiment with us: “As we move to virtual trainings,” he said, “I have a smaller budget this year than what I’d budgeted previous years. But especially with everything going remote and with all the disruptions right now, EQ is one of the things that we especially need to keep emphasizing and making available.”

Swanson’s sentiment is one shared by many of our clients, both old and new, and to help show people why this is the case, we wanted to step back and highlight some of the most important ways that training people in EQ skills can benefit individuals, teams, and organizations:

Better EQ, Better You: EQ skills can radically alter your life. High EQ people perform better at work, make considerably more money, are more effective in their relationships, and they literally live happier, healthier lives.

Performance: At TalentSmart, we tested emotional intelligence alongside 33 other important workplace skills and found that EQ is the strongest predictor of performance, explaining a full 58% of success in all types of jobs. Of the millions of people we’ve studied at work, 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. High EQ people earn an average of $29,000 more per year than those with a low degree of EQ. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people across industries, at all levels, in every region of the world.

Quality of life: EQ literally saves people’s lives. Negative emotions like stress, anxiety, and depression weaken the immune system. Because high EQ people more skillfully recognize and understand their own emotions, they’re more likely to recognize negative emotions and potential stressors. And because they are more skilled at managing negative emotions, they have healthy habits in place to deal with their negative feelings. One study looked at tension, fear, and anxiety in women over the course of twenty years and found that those less skilled at managing their emotions experienced higher levels of stress, and over the course of twenty years, they were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those women more skilled at managing their emotions. EQ skills not only prevent stress-related disease, but they can also increase the speed of recovery from cancer and heart attacks. EQ skills have also been linked to happiness. People high in EQ know how to make the most of their positive emotions by doing things like savoring good moods, practicing gratitude, learning to view failure as an opportunity to grow, not letting small things interfere with big picture happiness, and learning to derive their happiness from within not without.

Better EQ, Better Team: The bulk of work at organizations is done by teams, and teams are made up of people with varying levels of EQ. This can present a problem on teams that don’t successfully work to improve their group’s emotional intelligence—they may stumble on politics, unnecessary bureaucracy, internal and external conflicts, and miscommunications. But, on high EQ teams, performance of the group can become seamless, full of good ideas and innovations, and can easily exceed the capabilities of any one person alone by playing to key strengths and weaknesses.

Team performance: Teams skilled in EQ are more successful at achieving their goals, problem-solving, and completing tasks quickly than less emotionally intelligent teams in healthcare, technology, and engineering professions.

Team dynamic. Because team EQ skills help teams overcome the complexity of interactions on a team level (between individuals, subgroups, and team-to-team communication), it has easily been linked to a number of team-level skills. Some of the most important include the ability to collaborate cross-functionallydevelop in-group trustestablish group cohesion, and manage stress as a team during emotionally charged situations

Better EQ, Better Organization: Building emotional intelligence into the organization from top to bottom gives everyone a universal framework and vocabulary with which to approach work, and it also improves the bottom line.

Organizational performance: In a seminal case study at L’Oreal, salespeople hired for their emotional intelligence outsold their counterparts by about $90,000 per year for an organizational jump in sales of $2.6 million. L’Oreal’s high EQ salespeople were also 63% less likely to leave their job. TalentSmart training programs in EQ have led to a number of organizational improvements including:

  1. A 40% increase in engineers’ ability to deal with change at a Fortune 200 defense contractor.
  2. A 67% improvement in problem employees’ ability to prevent setbacks from influencing their work at a Fortune 50 telecommunications company.
  3. A 93% improvement in leaders’ ability to handle conflict at a Fortune 500 medical center.

Organizational benefits: When it comes to companies that people tend to work at, stay at, and even recommend to friends, we like to attribute this to “company culture” or “intangibles.” In reality, we are often referring to a company’s ability to build an environment of inclusivity and growth from top to bottom. EQ on the organizational level has been shown to help unify people toward a common mission, encourage prosocial behavior and organizational citizenship, and to make employees less resistant to change. These types of organization-wide benefits enable employees to find mentors, learn new skills, feel like a part of something bigger, and forge deeper, long-term relationships at work.

From Insights to Action. To read more about the benefits of EQ, EQ strategies for improvement, and more, go to www.talentsmart.com/. Or, to learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmartEQ’s emotional intelligence products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at www.talentsmart.com/contact/.

Why You Need Emotional Agility to Succeed

How does a salesperson successfully close on the biggest opportunity of her career? What makes an executive leader resilient in the face of massive organizational change? And what makes an insecure new leader rise to the occasion? More often than not, the answer boils down to the way that person navigates and manages their emotions. The salesperson doesn’t let her anxiety take over, but she does lean into her adrenaline to move past barriers and ensure she tries to close. The resilient executive leader devotes extra time to stress management and reminds herself of all the preparation she’s done for these types of moments. The new leader defeats his insecurities by breaking down his job into smaller, achievable pieces.

Each of these people demonstrates a high degree of emotional agility. Emotional agility is the ability to manage your emotions and thoughts in a way that makes you more effective at what you’re doing. In studies across organizations and industries, emotional agility has been shown to reduce stress, increase confidence and resilience, and help people build relationships. According to researcher and author of the 2016 book Emotional Agility, Dr. Susan David, the key to developing emotional agilityis to follow four practices in your thoughts and emotions: 1) recognize your patterns, 2) label your thoughts and emotions, 3) accept your emotions, and 4) act on your values.

To bring each of these practices to life, we’ll follow Shelly who just landed her dream job as a Director of Marketing for an animal shelter. She’s on her first big project, trying to put together a rollout plan across platforms for the entirety of their social media. She knows she should be more focused and motivated than ever, but for some reason, she can’t stop falling into internet holes. What can she do to turn this behavior around?  

1. Recognize Your Patterns. To change a habit, you first need to recognize it. The best starting point is usually the most obvious sign—your behavior. In the case of Shelly, she recognizes that something’s wrong and spots her pattern in behavior quickly: She’s not getting any work done. As soon as she asks herself what’s getting in the way, she immediately knows she is succumbing to distractions.

2. Label Your Thoughts and Emotions. Now that Shelly knows what is getting in the way of her work, the question becomes why. To think about the “why,” she follows a chain of emotions asking herself why along the way. She knows, for example, that she feels anxious, flustered, and guilty as she scans the internet. Why? Because she’s anxious about her new job and this immediate new, big task. But why is she nervous? After all, she ran much of the social media at her previous job. She’s nervous she will fail and lose her dream job. Even more specifically, she realizes that she suffers from a kind of imposter syndrome where she can’t stop imagining her worst-case scenario. Shelly was able to reach this internal kernel of truth by getting as specific as possible with her emotions. When Shelly said she was “anxious” or “nervous,” this got her moving in the right direction, but it was when she arrived at the source of her anxiety that she began to see the bigger pattern. To get yourself moving in a more specific direction with your emotions, check out this comprehensive emotions list, which actually includes words for emotions that only exist in other languages like “toska,” a vague sense of restlessness, “abbiocco,” a sleepy feeling after a big meal, and “umpty,” a feeling of everything being too much and all in the wrong way.  

3. Accept Your Emotions. Once you’re successfully able to label your emotions, it’s important to actually accept them for what they are. Don’t judge them as good or bad. In Shelly’s case, her anxiety won’t magically disappear by recognizing that she’s afraid to fail. However, her acceptance may give her the sense of calm to stop ruminating on hypothetical failure and focus on the task at hand. After all, some degree of failure is inevitable, and she can only control her effort. This might be a good moment to talk with her supervisor about her insight and plan going forward. That supervisor will appreciate Shelly’s growth and may offer her reassurance about making mistakes, which will offer Shelly an additional source of calm.

4. Act on Your Values, Not Your Thoughts. Values give you a sense of distance from your negative emotions by offering a bigger picture perspective. They can also serve as a “rupture point” from cyclic, negative thinking. Shelly, for example, reminded herself that the Marketing Director job for an animal rescue was her dream job because she’d always felt highly connected to animals since at the age of seven when her family adopted a dog. She derived a lot of energy from this value-based thought. Instead of running to the internet, or obsessively thinking about ways she might fail, she focused on making a difference by spreading the word that there were animals who needed homes and seven-year-old girls whose lives would change in the process. She even developed a mantra for when she doubted her own abilities. “You can make a big difference,” she told herself.

From Insights to Action. We have such a constant stream of thoughts in our daily life that we frequently don’t realize the extent to which these thoughts dictate our attitude, actions, and even our outlook. We think of our thoughts as something that “just happens” or are “naturally a part of us.” To be agile with our emotions and thoughts, we have to recognize that our thoughts are under our control. And to get that control, we just need to begin to listen more closely, break them down, and understand them better. For further help with these emotional agility practices, check out these Self-Awareness Strategies in TalentSmart’s Emotional Intelligence 2.0:

  1. Quit Treating Your Feelings as Good or Bad (page 64),
  2. Observe the Ripple Effect of Your Emotions (page 66),
  3. Watch Yourself Like a Hawk (page 75),
  4. Stop and Ask Yourself Why You Do the Things You Do (page 84)
  5. Visit Your Values (page 86)

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

7 Strategies That High EQ Leaders Use

In early March, Wilma was promoted to a sales management position. Although she was experienced at the organization and knowledgeable of their selling strategy, she was entirely new to leading people.

When the pandemic shut their office down a week later, she was thrust into a tumultuous state of change as a new leader. Her company’s goals changed overnight, and the organization’s expectations of her team seemed to shift weekly. Her team sailed rapidly into uncharted territories, and for the first time in her life, Wilma was the one at the helm. To add to this, she was stressed and anxious in her personal life, trying to balance her changing family life (her kids schooling remotely too) with her new work responsibilities.

You might think Wilma succumbed to all this change and stress, but she managed to succeed as a new leader because she leveraged the emotional intelligence (EQ) skills she’d developed over her years in sales. Following Wilma’s immersion into leadership, we can take away seven key EQ strategies for leaders navigating rapid change.

Prioritize self-care. When faced with a set of challenges as extensive and sudden as Wilma’s, many leaders attempt to play “team superhero” and fix everything at once, alone. What they really do is drive themselves into exhaustion and create a tense atmosphere for their team. Wilma knew the value of long-term perspective during high stress times. When she felt her stress surge, she reminded herself that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and that her team’s success wouldn’t be built in a day either. To succeed long-term, she had to take care of herself day-by-day and hour-by-hour. She got extra vigilant about her sleep, caffeine intake, exercise, and diet. She also practiced a more rigid work-life balance, giving herself ample “unplugged” hours each day to recharge and reset.

Foster a positive environment. When a leader takes control of their own stress and negative emotions the way Wilma did, they positively impact their whole team. Studies show that the emotions of a leader are especially contagious to their teams, for better and worse. Leaders like Wilma who show up to work upbeat and optimistic cause their entire team to see things in a more optimistic light. This increased positivity leads to increased creativity, better decision-making, and even boosts sales. Without realizing it, Wilma was looking after the well-being and performance of her entire team just by practicing self-care and bringing her best possible self to work each day.

Navigate tough conversations. One of the first things Wilma learned about leading people was that it entailed a constant stream of difficult, high-impact conversations. In March alone, she had to check in on a team member struggling with the shift to remote work, make pay cuts to salaries across the team, and even place one team member on furlough. Each of these difficult conversations required a high degree of empathy, active listening skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. For instance, when she checked in on her struggling teammate, she noticed the changes in his behavior, approached the conversation carefully and at the right time, and was willing to be vulnerable by sharing her own struggles to make him more comfortable.

Exercise humility. When the team needed help strategizing for a healthcare specific client pitch, Wilma knew she lacked experience in healthcare. Instead of insisting she take the lead as manager, she acknowledged the gap in her knowledge and pulled up the most healthcare experienced salesperson, Marcus, to take the lead. She also asked Marcus to coach both herself and their teammate to encourage spread of knowledge.

Be approachable. Wilma kept a virtual open-door policy, holding office hours on her Zoom account once a week where team members could drop in and ask her questions or chat. During team meetings, she encouraged anyone who constructively criticized, offered a differing opinion, challenged someone’s idea, or asked questions of any kind. Her approachability also equated to increased comfort, flow of ideas, and overall fun. People interacted loosely and lightly on her team.

Practice accountability. On the one hand, Wilma held herself accountable for her team and shielded them from higher-ups when mistakes were inevitably made. On the other hand, she also held team members accountable for their own work, trusting them to make decisions for theirself. This made her team quicker and more nimble.

Respond, don’t react. The ability to monitor your emotional reactions in the moment and avoid regrettable or impulsive behaviors is one of the core tenants of EQ. When Wilma’s team members let her down or said something that triggered her, she was careful to avoid reacting in the moment out of frustration, anxiety, or fear. Instead, she took her time in her responses. She slept on big decisions and ran important emails by other managers at her organization.

From Insights to Action. The great thing about the above strategies is that anyone can apply them to grow their emotional intelligence and positively impact the people around them—not just leaders.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

Mask-to-Mask Communication: Know What You’re Missing

TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that the group of highest performers is filled with people who are high in emotional intelligence (90% of top performers, to be exact). Because these people know how much our facial expressions influence our ability to communicate, they pay close attention to the facial expressions of others and they match their own facial expressions to the messages they want to communicate.

With masks, even the most emotionally intelligent people face a big challenge: our facial expressions are blocked. And we rely on facial expressions to understand emotions when words are mismatched with tone even more than you might think. According to a UCLA study, facial expressions account for 55% of successful communication when words and tone sound inconsistent.

Perhaps the people most affected by masks are those working front-line jobs. In the world of physicians and nurses for example, studies show that nonverbal cues are linked to better patient care. In the past, healthcare professionals have relied on facial expressions to show their patients empathy, sincerity, competence, and focus. That’s why doctors treating Covid-19 patients in full protective gear have resorted to taping photos of themselves to their scrubs to help put a human face on a scary situation. Or, as another example, in the service industry, waiting staff, baristas, or people working registers rely on facial expressions to make customers feel welcome, to smoothly navigate problems or complaints, and to create a positive atmosphere.

Even people not working front-line jobs still interact with the front line. When we go to the grocery or the doctor, we rely on facial expressions for greetings, to show gratitude, and to connect.

To help you get through these expression-less times, here’s what you can do to communicate with high emotional intelligence skills from the nose up and from the neck down.

Catch what you can. According to Dr. David Matsumoto, a psychologist specializing in emotions and body language, it’s possible to identify each of the following facial signals from above a mask that covers everything below the nose:

  • Wrinkles of disgust in the nose, forehead, and eyes.
  • Lifting of eyelids and eyebrows in fear or surprise.
  • Movement of corners of eyebrows in sadness or distress.
  • What we call “twinkling of the eyes,” a happy smile that crinkles the corners of your eyes.

Know what you’re missing. There are facial expressions that happen only or primarily in the mouth region. For these facial expressions, the best we can do is know what we may not see. Pursed lips, neutrality of expression, and a small frown or smile can easily stay contained in a mask. Maybe the most missed expression during the mask era is the “social smile” which is when we smile in place of a greeting or verbal acknowledgement. Because the social smile is manufactured to show appreciation or recognition, it doesn’t activate the whole face. The microexpression in your eyes is not enough to reach the twinkle level of happiness. The result is that your usual social smile when a barista hands you a latte appears blank-faced and possibly ungrateful with a mask.

Catch yourself and compensate. To reveal your hidden facial expressions without unmasking, you first must catch yourself making them. Then, you can compensate with small changes in your expression. For example, to compensate for a social smile, you might fully nod your head, wave, or even say “Hi” or “thank you” out loud with the positive, grateful, or excited tone that you mean to get across. Here are a few other ways to compensate:

  • Face the person you’re speaking to.
  • Use hand gestures.
  • Use your body and head more.
  • Exaggerate a reaction so that it crosses the whole face.
  • Speak louder and slower. Enunciate.
  • Match your tone to your emotion.
  • Keep your posture upright to show you’re engaged.
  • Make sure you have their attention in the first place.

From Insights to Action. The bottom line is that communicating with masks will never quite reach our normal, nuanced levels of communication and may lower our EQ. However, we can do a lot to avoid communication breakdown and to still get our emotions and ideas successfully across. Here’s a hopeful solution to leave you with: Check out transparent masks. They’re designed for families and friends of hard-of-hearing people who need to read lips, but if more widely adopted, or at least used in more front-line positions, many more facial expressions would be noticeable.

For additional TalentSmart articles, visit https://www.talentsmart.com/articles/.

Understanding Self-Awareness Inside and Out

In a deck of tarot cards, one card shows a collapsing tower. The collapsing tower represents the danger of building something on a false premise. No matter how much work we put into something—a relationship, a company, an idea—it’s inevitably going to come crashing down if the work was built on a flimsy foundation. When you build your emotional intelligence, the essential foundation is self-awareness.

Self-awareness is your ability to recognize and understand your emotions as they happen and to know your general tendencies for responding to different people and situations. People who test highly in self-awareness build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively, work more creatively and productively, are better decision-makers, and are overall more confident.

Perhaps the best thing about self-awareness is that it’s a learnable skill you can improve with practice. To help get you started, let’s take a close look at two sides of self-awareness: Internal and External, followed by two self-awareness strategies from Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Internal Self-Awareness

What it is: The internal side of self-awareness is our ability to recognize and understand the things that make us tick—our values, beliefs, goals, passions, strengths and weaknesses, and personality. These drive how we feel. and why we feel that way.

Internal self-awareness in action: When Alexa von Tobel set out to start her business LearnVest, she was terrified by all the things that could go wrong. To quell her fears, she began to put together a written plan, and the writing deepened and expanded. By the time she was done, the plan was 75 pages. The interesting thing is not so much the business projections or the plan itself, but the core beliefs she had at the time about who she was and what she was seeking, and the way she still uses the plan. Now, whenever she finds herself stuck on a decision, lacking for motivation, or confused, she turns to that section of her plan as her self-guiding light, her foundation.  

Self-Awareness Strategy #11: Visit Your Values. Spend some time reflecting on the things that are deeply important to who you are, your core beliefs, and write them down. Your list doesn’t need to be a seventy-five-page manifesto. A short list of core ideas is often enough. Next time you’re faced with a tough decision or difficult time, pull out your list and use it to guide your next decision the same way von Tobel does. We tend to assume we draw on our core values or beliefs when faced with tough decisions, but in reality, we find ourselves reacting on a whim. By getting something written, you give yourself a place to go look, to slow down and visit your values more often.

External Self-Awareness

What it is: External self-awareness is our ability to see how other people experience us. This can be a tricky element of self-awareness because it means understanding how you actually come across to others (not just how you think you do).

External Self-Awareness in action: In a recent leadership study based on in-depth interviews with 125 leaders, the authors set out to learn how leaders develop over the course of their careers. One leader sticks out as a perfect example of the importance of the external side of self-awareness. David Pottruck began his career at Charles Schwab as the head of marketing. Being new, he convinced himself that he had to work as hard as possible to impress the people around him. He put in countless hours and held high expectations of the people around him. One day, Pottruck’s boss pulled him into his office and explained to him that other employees didn’t like him. They resented how he approached his hard work, didn’t trust him, and felt intimidated. All of this was going on, while in Pottruck’s mind he was winning them over through hard work. The feedback from his boss was that critical insight he needed to mold the way he balanced his work intensity with his approach with people. He went on to become the CEO.  

Self-Awareness Strategy #14: Seek feedback. Asking for feedback directly is one of the best ways to get honest opinions about your work and the way you come across to the people around you. Prepare yourself with specific questions for areas you can improve. When it stings, try your best not to be defensive or to deny any of the feedback offered. Pottruck could have easily turned on his boss and blamed his team saying they just weren’t willing to work as hard as he was, but instead he actually took the time to understand their experience, what his boss was saying, and to grow from it.

From Insights to Action. The challenge with self-awareness is that most everyone feels like they already are self-aware, but we all have major blind spots like Pottruck’s, or we forget to look deep inside, as Alexa Von Tobel does. Denial and frustration can be enemies to growing self-awareness, which requires admitting your shortcomings and living your values, both big and small. As you set out to learn about yourself, inside and out, make sure you do so openly and with self-compassion.

For additional TalentSmart articles, visit https://www.talentsmart.com/articles/.

The Power of Feedback, Especially Now

Few things are as costly as employees feeling disconnected from where they work, and with the sudden shift to remote work during COVID-19 this is a more pressing concern than ever. While remote work can be and often is a smooth and flexible process, it does present some legitimate concerns, especially when rolled out quickly with minimal training or preparation.

Research shows that remote employees often struggle to get information they need, they’re more likely to feel isolated, and they often feel that their remote managers are unaware of their needs. All of these issues become even more troubling when we consider that fifty percent of all employees say that they “rarely” or “never” meet with their managers one-on-one.

The good news for organizations and leaders of people is, by simply making one-on-ones the norm, performance increases and relationships improve. Regular feedback improves leader-follower relationships in three key ways:

Regular feedback reduces the power of emotions that get in the way. One of the most common and understandable uncomfortable feelings when it comes to feedback is that bosses fear speaking candidly. No one wants to tell their employee that if they don’t get their sales numbers up, they’re gone. By looking at the week-to-week numbers or performance together, you make the conversation around month-to-month or year-to-year more approachable and expected. Another fear is fear of emotions on the receiving end. Meeting consistently with someone who takes feedback too hard (i.e., they push back, get defensive, or seem completely crushed) will help reframe for them how to understand what the feedback means, what they can do, and guides them through their self-consciousness, fear of failure, and toward a place of receptivity and a willingness to try things differently.

Regular feedback is necessary to break through to people and influence performance. It’s nearly impossible to receive feedback once and immediately change for the better. Even talented employees need progress check-ins to see when and how they falter. It helps to think of frequent feedback as a best fit line. The line will naturally consist of dips in performance (i.e., as efforts slip or approaches are adjusted and tested), but the long-term trend should be positive. When feedback is inconsistent or nonexistent, the dips in improvement can lengthen or become the new normal.

Regular feedback builds and deepens relationships. While meeting one on one regularly may not always spark a beautiful friendship or mentor-mentee relationship, at bare minimum supervisors will get to know their staff personally. One-on-ones are an opportunity to discuss employee interests, motivations, style of communication, and long-term goals and desires. As rapport is built, employees feel more comfortable reaching out to managers for help, to share a new idea, to express a need, to speak up about problems they see, and to actively seek more feedback.  

From Insights to Action. “Out of sight” can quickly escalate into “out of mind” when it comes to remote work. By simply making feedback more regular, you can help build trust and dialogue around all of the uncertainty, change, and challenges swirling through the workplace right now.

For additional TalentSmart articles, visit https://www.talentsmart.com/articles/.

How to Self-Motivate Through Distraction and Change

Motivation tends to feel like something you either have or don’t you have, you feel or you don’t feel, but research shows that most issues of motivation are really issues of negative emotions.

As we’re faced with a task, negative emotions like anxiety, boredom, fear, self-doubt, frustration, and insecurity inevitably surface. Procrastination from work, whether by watching a funny cat video or by doing dishes, temporarily relieves you from those negative emotions. The problem is that the temporary relief feels good and it becomes a habit where you prioritize distracting yourself from your negative emotions over the work causing them in the first place.

Besides wasting time and stressing you out, procrastination has been connected to depression, anxiety, a decrease in life satisfaction, and cardiovascular health issues.

Astronauts and athletes have tackled procrastination. Here are two profiles of their creative approaches to stay motivated so you also can manage your negative emotions and stay on track, especially during times of heightened negative emotions.

A Time-traveling Astronaut

In Psychologist Adam Grant’s recent article, Grant interviewed the astronaut Scott Kelly to learn how he dealt with 340-day periods isolated in space. Kelly’s number one mental trick for self-motivation was he intentionally played with time. Notice how mental time travel helped him gain perspective on pesky negative emotions that would otherwise get in his way.

~Kelly turned to the future to envision positive outcomes. We can turn to the future for a long-term goal (like a promotion) or a short-term goal (like how we want the end of the day to feel). The future motivates us in the present by connecting our desired outcome to our current actions.

~Kelly turned to the past to look at good times and bad times. Reliving good times reminds us what we have to be grateful for, and reliving the bad times reminds us of our past perseverance.

~Kelly also turned to what he called an alternate present. By imagining our current life as a more difficult alternative, we can alleviate our current pain and lighten up for the task at hand. For example, if you’re down about working from home, you might imagine being in true isolation in space for 340 days trying to deal with issues like a broken toilet.

The Pain-Planning of Endurance Athletes

When it comes to pushing through indefinite, uncomfortable, and ever-changing situations, who better to learn from than endurance athletes who devote their lives to this highly specific type of pain?

~Set Realistic Expectations: Endurance athletes can’t envision a long race as simple. They have to put together a realistic expectation around the pain to come in order to set a doable pace and plan. Realistic expectations are essential when it comes to dealing with the natural highs and lows. A realistic expectation can help you work your way through days that feel like walking through wet cement, and they can help slow you down when you’re tempted to ride a productivity high and burn yourself out.   

~Break down your outcome: Runners break their training down day by day, their marathon down mile by mile, or their mile step by step.  Work can also be broken down into simpler parts. These smaller, more achievable goals allow for small victories. With each small victory, you replace negative emotions with positive ones. This alone can break the habit of procrastination which relies on you conceding to your negative thoughts or emotions.

From Insights to Action.

“I can’t blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I’ve spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I’ll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.”
-Colson Whitehead, Author

Distraction is inevitable and human, but motivation is ultimately about the long game, and about establishing the best day-to-day habits. Mental time-traveling and pain-planning will help reshape your mindset and get your self-motivating habits trending in the right direction.

For additional TalentSmart articles, visit https://www.talentsmart.com/articles/.