Emotional Intelligence a Top Skill for 2020

According to a report last month  by the World Economic Forum,  within five years over a third of the skills considered today to be the most important for the workforce will have changed. Emotional Intelligence enters the game and Creativity jumps in importance as things like Quality Control drop off (technology will increasingly take care of that).

That Emotional Intelligence and creativity are receiving proper attention (rather than being a fad) is music to my ears! Most of the clients I work with are constantly pushing themselves to sharpen the skills to inspire and motivate their colleagues and teams in the context of rapidly changing environments. They are dedicated to continually up-training and up-skilling.

Although taking time to invest in yourself might seem counter-intuitive in times of great turbulence and pressure, it is a critical ingredient for success. What are you doing to renew yourself and your skills? Are you driving the process for self-“Rinnovation”? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Executive Presence: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Creating executive presence – how well a person speaks, looks, and acts like a leader- is the big buzz in training circles these days. According to a new study by the Center for Talent Innovation, being perceived as leadership material is essential to being promoted into leadership positions, and executive presence counts for 26% of what it takes to get promoted.

But as I discussed in a recent newsletter, perceptions are often false friends. You can be clear on your intentions and still not be perceived the way you intended because your actions aren’t clear enough and not aligned with what you say.

When there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do – most people will pay attention to what we do. How well do we observe and read our own actions? Most of leadership training focuses on making us experts at reading other people’s actions and focus primarily on building communications skills. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said so eloquently:

        “Who you are speaks so loudly, I can hardly hear what you’re saying.

So how do you improve your executive presence?action speak louder

Executive presence begins in your head. It resides in how you think about yourself, your abilities, your environment, and your potential.” ~ Kristi Hedges, The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, Amacom, 2012

The best way to do this is to get meaningful and honest feedback and then act on it. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done as many successful leaders just don’t have anyone that they can speak to, in a safe and professional environment, who understands both complex business issues but also has the professional expertise of a coach…and this is too important to leave to chance or misbeliefs. At the risk of sounding self-promoting, this is where having an experienced, trusted mentor or skilled coach is crucial! They use their expertise and experience to help you understand how your actions are perceived by others and give specific and pragmatic tips on what to do about it.

What kinds of things are you doing to see yourself and your actions the way others do? How do you keep focused on how to re-invent your leadership behavior? 

Year End Thoughts

To me, the end of the year is always a time of taking stock – the highlights as well as the things I’ve survived (even if barely!). And it’s a time of connection, of re-engaging, even if only for once a year, with all those who mean something to me, who enrich my life.

This year, I have been lucky to have had fantastic work engagements in India, Dubai, the US, UK and Italy… and I have even managed to squeeze in some wonderful up-training, through the renowned Neuroleadership Institute, on the latest findings in brain-based coaching.

I am so excited and thankful to be doing work I love and with amazing clients. I’ve connected with incredible, powerful people who are constantly striving to cultivate and nurture their own light, their own natural brand of leadership. I am grateful to the generosity of those who have allowed me to share in their journey, to witness their creativity and to support them in their growing pains.

In the midst of year-end and holiday stress, I always like to have some “mantras” at ready reference to help me keep my sanity. They help me to focus my attention on what is important and to remind me to elevate the level of my daily thinking. This year, I thought I would share these with you. I hope you enjoy them.

Warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season and all the best for a joyful and successful 2016!

“ Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon”  Daniel Pink

“ Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”  E. B. White 

” The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”  William Arthur Ward

“ The Future depends on what we do in the present ”  M.K. Gandhi

Often to Move Forward, You Have to Let Go

move forward lowAs I train with my good friend Mauro Gumierato, a personal fitness and well being coach, (pictured here on the right) I am often reminded of some important lessons relevant to the work I do with clients. One of these is: often when you want to move forward, you have to let go. In the advice Mauro gives me on physical fitness and dexterity, I see many parallels and applications in my work on cognitive flexibility and agility.

Three Leadership Lessons from fitness

  1. When you are reaching for higher levels of achievement, you have to push away from your comfort zone and let go of that sense of security – In other words, take a (managed!) risk and trust that your training won’t let you down. There is no way to reach another level of achievement without moving from where you are and accepting that it might take a few tries, and even some pain, to get it right. This is absolutely true with personal growth and development.
  2. To learn a new skill, sometimes you actually need to throw away what you think you know and start from scratch – what you know might be outdated, might have gotten you where you are now, but not where you want to go, or, even worse, an impediment to the obtainment of your task (either physically or mentally). Sometimes you need to let go of the old and reach out for the new.
  3. For change to be sustainable you need to adapt, not just adjust. When it comes to motor skills adjusting is making temporary, compensatory changes to something you are doing at the moment; adapting is changing in the way you approach or conduct movements. The same is true for changes in behavior – particularly when what you’re looking for is real and sustainable transformation.

Moving on can be difficult. But remember – the focus is not on the letting go, it’s on the moving forward – on connecting with and achieving new experiences and skills in your life which make you stronger, flexible and agile. What do you need to let go to move forward?

Perception Bias: You’re Not Who You Think You Are

Hello everyone!  After a busy summer working with clients in the US, I am happy to be home! Reflecting on my summer, one topic kept jumping out wherever I went – perception: how others perceive us and how we can manage it, so…

How do People perceive you as a Leader?

Quite well, you think?  Well, most of us are likely operating under two flawed assumptions that:

  1. Other people see you objectively as you are.
  2. Other people see you as you see yourself

Neither of these beliefs is true!  Renowned social psychologist and Columbia Business School Professor Heidi Grant Halvorson has even written a book on it.  No One Understands You and What to Do About It(Harvard Business Review Press, 2015).  Research overwhelmingly supports it: You really are much harder to read than you imagine!  

Let’s look at why. Human beings rely on heuristics (quick rules of thumbs) to help the brain speed up decision making. As you give others (external) input, they have been rapidly “filling in” with loads of their own internal (and usually unconscious) information. I have run entire training sessions solely on the cognitive biases through which our actions and words are interpreted – but here are some of the top ones:

  1. Confirmation Bias. Overwhelmingly research shows that when people look at you, they see what they’re expecting to see. They hear what they’re expecting to hear. They seek (and will probably find) evidence that matches their expectations.
  2. Primacy Effect. First impressions disproportionately influence how we interpret and remember information.  People resist changing opinions once they’re formed.
  3. Stereotypes. Most people are biased, yet deny it. We are unconsciously influenced by stereotypical beliefs about gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, professions, socioeconomic classes and education. We categorize people on a host of dimensions, including facial features. It’s human nature. We cannot turn off this feature, but we can become conscious of it and make necessary modifications.
  4. Halo Effect. We tend to assume that people who possess one positive quality also have many others. For example, we often judge a good-looking person to be smart and charming, even without evidence.
  5. False-Consensus Effect. We assume other people think and feel exactly the way we do. We erroneously believe our bad habits are universal and normal. We also tend to believe that we have better values and are generally more honest, kind and capable than others (the false-uniqueness fallacy).

What’s the Take-Away?  How to manage other’s biases? 

Remember, you are NEVER a blank slate – even when you meet new people.  The more you can become aware of the biases and assumptions going on in listeners’ minds, the more you can make your intentions explicit and reduce the chances that people will misjudge you.  If you don’t tell people what they need to know, their brains will fill in the blanks, creating a personality profile that may or may not be accurate. Too often, I’ve seen this happen with the executives I coach.

To overcome this, work hard to:

  • Anticipate and reflect on listeners’ likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, so you better understand and manage what they might be projecting onto you.
  • Work on emphasizing your good qualities to benefit from positive stereotypes and halo effects.
  • Be strategic about the first impression you make.  Although possible, it’s hard work changing that first impression!

What do you think? I’d love to hear your experiences. 

Renewing Yourself: The Power of Play 

image003I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.” ~ Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, Penguin Books, 2009.

By now, most of us are looking forward to a much deserved summer break – getting away from overheated brains and serious work. Why is it that we need to wait for summer to play? What ever happened to unbridled joy in our daily lives? Remember the fun of play we experienced as children? 

Much of my work, particularly with those “higher up” in an organization, are discussions about how to keep innovating and renewing ourselves as leaders. We all start out in life playing quite naturally, having fun with whatever’s available.  But by the time we start our careers, we have learned to be serious, to squelch our natural drive for fun. 

According to Dr. Brown, the opposite of work is not play. Play and work are mutually supportive. Play is not the enemy of work, in fact, neither can thrive without the other. We need the newness of play, the sense of flow, imagination, and energy of being in the moment

What do work and play have in common? Creativity! – the key to creating new relationships, skills, and making things happen. Many clients talk to me about their overwhelming sense of responsibility and competitiveness which buries their inherent instinct for variety and challenge, eventually leading to stress and burn-out. Recognizing our innate need for play can transform performance and quality of life. When we stop playing, we stop growing, and we begin dying.

There is power in play, even for the most serious of careers – so let’s start playing, get our kids playing, get our partners playing … and see what future we can create!

Have a fantastic Summer,