Notice Your Resilience to Expand Well-Being

The good life is a process, not a state of being.
It is a direction, not a destination.
Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person

Give yourself one of the best gifts available – expand your resilience. Your well-being will benefit from the upgrade. Sustainable behavior change is a lifestyle change, not a whim. As you expand your resilience, your overall well-being will improve remarkably.

Noticing and managing our resilience calls for us to develop and regularly use the skill of mindfulness. Some might say that mindfulness and well-being are synonymous. Mindfulness contains the intention of the definition in the very word. While there are many more elaborate definitions, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California captures it well:

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Scientist and leading scholar in the field of positive psychology, Barbara Fredrickson reports that in their entire research program in resilience they found that the key active ingredient supporting those with higher resilience is positivity, which includes openness and a better ability to keep things in perspective and see the bigger picture. The concepts of resilience and mindfulness intertwine and support one another. When we apply the two our well-being improves.

A frequent challenge raised by our coaching clients relates to managing their resilience. They may talk about putting up with one challenge after another as a new program is being unveiled until they finally lose their composure. Or the challenge may be significant personal issues that are taking so much of their energy and drawing upon their flexibility dramatically that when one more thing happens – at work, at home or anywhere they become unusually inflexible, angry or just walk away leaving things unresolved.

Stephan (not his real name) is a good example. Most of the time, things are fine; he can manage work and personal demands. He has a good education, a reliable job with mid-management responsibilities, and a loving family. Just like happens to most of us, each of these good parts have challenges. His parents are in their 80’s and require a lot of attention. Recently his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his mom has arthritis to the point she can’t take care of him. His teenage children need a great deal of time. It’s hard, yet he keeps telling himself that in a few years it’ll be easier. For now, Stephan is committed to giving his all to helping his parents, his kids, serving at his church and then there’s his job. His position has a lot of stress with it and most weeks require 45 to 50 hours of work plus his commute. Usually he juggles everything well enough. Then his boss informed him that the big report he and his team have worked on for two months is needed in two days instead of the two weeks they were supposed to have to complete it well. Stephan hit the roof. He yelled at his boss, refused to meet the deadline. Told his staff to just quit and take the rest of the day off. It wasn’t a pretty picture. That was a few weeks ago. Coaching is helping Stephan work through the aftermath of his outburst, as well as what brought him to it. Our focus includes understanding his challenges and building ways to stay in touch with his resilience to guide his behavior.

Strategies for Expanding Resilience

You, just like Stephan, can choose from several strategies to expand and maintain your resilience. Six of the sixteen EQi skills particularly support resilience strength. Act now to support your health and well-being by following a resilience enhancing strategy such as:

  • Meditation.
  • Recognizing that you are a part of something purposeful that’s bigger than you.
  • Expanding your happiness through gratitude or embracing and valuing your connections with others.
  • Building your optimism by expecting what works to keep on happening and get even larger.
  • Embracing your Bigger Yes – by living priorities that call for time with loved ones, time to exercise, time for you – all which expand your stress tolerance capacity.
  • Perceiving yourself with healthy self-regard by being able to view your strengths. challenges, and neutral zones and feel good about who you are.
  • Exercising your emotional self-awareness by noticing your emotions, recognizing how you feel and why and managing your responses. Throughout the day seek to call forth positive emotions.

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, or adversity; it’s a form of buoyancy. Fortunately, your resilience can be expanded – it’s a personal skill that may have some components of genetic predisposition but can be influenced and grown as one of your most reliable assets. However, it does require continuous upkeep. Growing the skill requires awareness and practice. Your journey is one of developing new habits that may not only change your social and psychological take on life but may well improve your health as well.

Six Emotional Intelligence Skills

There is a strong connection between the strength of your resilience and 6 of the 16 skills measured by the EQi 2.0: stress tolerance, emotional self-awareness, self-regard, optimism, happiness and flexibility.

These EI skills are ones that are more self-oriented rather than other-oriented because resilience is an internal state. You’ve probably heard that you need to take care of yourself before you have the strength and resilience to take care of others well. The metaphor most call to mind readily is when oxygen is needed on an airplane you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you start helping others. You know why – you’ll black out quickly and be a problem rather than a help if you don’t start with your mask. Life is that way as well. Though it may be easier for some to focus on the tasks, including attending to everyone else’s needs, you will be better in all ways if you start with you first – and then remember to keep prioritizing your needs!

Barbara Fredrickson’s Research

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and Positivity, which we highly recommend, provides copious research on the beneficial effect of resilience and the field of positivity. Fredrickson speaks about changing people’s daily diets of positivity with the goal being to change what we notice and to influence the practice of our habitual positive and negative emotions. One effective strategy she emphasizes is loving kindness meditation. What’s different about Barbara’s work is that it primarily occurs in the laboratory – her laboratory and her joint work with many other leading scientists. The blessing of her research is she is documenting what so many coaches, trainers and others have believed to be true.

Research results by Barbara and her colleagues are documenting that there are improvements on cognitive, social, psychological and physical resources for people who use positivity and resilience enhancing practices. Whether you practice meditation or other resilience enhancing strategies, we encourage you to choose a practice or two from the list provided above or another resource you have and take good care of yourself.

 

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Emotional & Social Well-Being Supports Employee Engagement

interactionThe good news about our 2.0 world is organizations are finally getting it – that is they are recognizing that if they place their top value on building emotional and social well-being for their employees and teams, they will gain the business and financial values of increased and sustainable productivity, better decisions, loyalty and best of all trust among their workforce. Ok, they get it, but how do they DO it? It isn’t hard, yet it does require intentional commitment and follow through. Fortunately there is a road map, the powerful tools of the EQi 2.0® for individuals and the TESI®2.0 for teams are well researched assessments designed to measure and provide the path to building emotional and social well-being. These provide the data to implement a specific plan of action for individuals and teams.

Let’s take the case of Teresa (not her real name) who recently joined a mid-size successful law firm as a paralegal in the Environmental Division (ED). The ED has a managing partner, administrative partner, 10 attorneys and 5 paralegals. Teresa is excited, hopeful, apprehensive, and cautious. She is experiencing a normal set of mixed emotions as she starts this new position that could become a rewarding long-term career or a really difficult chapter in her life. It is very much in her best interest and that of the firm for this to work. Recognizing the investment they are making, the law firm has established a process to welcome and support Teresa’s success.

First, they used the EQi as a part of the hiring process to hire a person who would have high potential for success in this position. Once Teresa joined the firm she was given her EQi results with a coaching session by Abigail, an external consultant to their OD team. Teresa was guided to explore all skills of the EQi and to focus on a few that would be most helpful for her. Teresa’s happiness (scored at 90) is lower than she would prefer and she recognizes that her happiness has a global effect on her life, it affects the energy she has to do her job, her ability to connect with others, and how she feels about herself. Teresa and Abigail dug in to explore the well-being indicator in her report and seek useful strategies that Teresa could put into action. Happiness was originally described by Dr. Reuven Bar-On, the creator of the original EQi, as a barometer of emotional health and well-being and as an indicator of one’s entire emotional and social intelligence. The EQi well-being indicator emphasizes that four of the sixteen EQi skills are particularly interconnected to the dimension of happiness. Teresa’s found:

  • Her self-regard (95) was ok, but she would benefit by strengthening her sense of self-confidence. Teresa feels scared in her first position as a paralegal, but upon discussion she recognizes she has strengths to build on including her previous work experience.
  • Her optimism (110) was likely to be a healthy point of leverage in building her goals. However, she and her coach checked her reality testing (102) to make sure maintained good perspective and didn’t just look at the world with rose colored glasses.
  • Her interpersonal relationships (95) indicated that she longed to take time to develop more friendships. She’d focused on career and family and was truly feeling lonely for personal friends. Teresa recognized that a few close friends would make a big difference for her whole life, but she was worried that she just couldn’t invest the time. She was surprised that her coach would even suggest this was important, after all didn’t the law firm just want billable hours? It seemed like investing in friends would diminish her contribution at the firm. Teresa’s curiosity was definitely engaged.
  • Her self-actualization (104) was fairly strong and Teresa talked about how important it is to her to contribute to making the world a better place. This is why she chose to be a paralegal and work in environmental law. She would be supporting cases focused on water quality and hazardous waste management. She talked about her passion and excitement and demonstrated why this skill and her optimism are key components of her happiness.

Teresa and Abigail discussed a strategy, with Teresa taking the lead, on changes she was going to work on. First she knew it had to be small focused steps because she was already busy. She decided to build her self-regard by: 1) giving herself positive messages at least 5 times a day, 2) noticing what was going right, and 3) taking at least 15 minutes each evening to reflect and write down how she felt with the positive messages and what she did right during the day. She committed to doing this for 28 days straight, as Abigail emphasized that she’s building new habits supported by new neuronal pathways. She also decided to have a least one personal lunch or coffee

break a week that was just meeting with friends, not about business. Teresa will also do this for four weeks and then decide on next steps. She was intrigued with Abigail’s confirmation that the firm recognizes that people need connections and that folks who feel that they have a full whole life are better long term contributors to the firm and support their clients and co-workers more effectively.

Teresa was beginning to get the message that her new employer believed in her emotional and social well-being and was really pleased to learn that the investment wouldn’t stop with just her individual needs as she and her teammates in the Environmental Division were also supported in being a strong and viable team. The team would be taking the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey) in a few months and she’d be a part of taking the Survey, evaluating the team’s performance in skills such as motivation, emotional awareness, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Days were marked out on everyone’s calendars for once a month team building sessions where they would use the data from the TESI, connect it with their reflections on projects that were successful or challenged and intentionally keep building their skills to work together.

After the coaching session, Teresa felt hopeful and committed to being a productive member of the firm for a very long time.

Top 10 Reasons for Playing!

reasons to play

  1. It feels good and makes you happy!
  2. Happy is good! Good for your health, for your decision-making, for your relationships….. Heck, what isn’t it good for?
  3. It’s good for our world economy – a stretch? Maybe, but what about the recreation dollars we spend even if we’re just driving to a great hike in the forest and taking a picnic. And happy people have more capacity to slug through the difficult conversations to get to good collaborative decisions. Tell that to the G-20 – or even the G-7 leaders!
  4. We build resilience, defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and elasticity, as in the ability to spring back after things are bent out of shape. Resilience is enhanced through play, through relaxing and through nourishing reflecting. Play regularly to be prepared for life’s twists and turns.
  5. It makes other people happy.
  6. You can get good exercise and increase your cardio vascular functioning.
  7. Brain health and well-being.
  8. We satisfy our own developmental need to be creative and feel competent.
  9. We can be more creative while playing with novel possibilities in an environment where we can be flexible and relaxed.
  10. To interact and be reflective without it seeming so serious – “Hey, why did we miss that grounder when Holly hit it?” “What shall our team do next time?”

Play has been described as unplanned behavior, in other words activity that emerges and evolves spontaneously from within its own context. It occurs in a climate that facilitates creativity and innovation. Young children accomplish the majority of their most critical early learning through play. But guess what, adults learn best in the same sort of attitude — relaxed curiosity. We just don’t emphasize play nearly as much as can serve us. For children play is considered valuable because it develops their social relationship skills, helps build positive interactions between the child and their classmates, and provides the chance to let off a bit of steam (reduce or prevent anger). It also builds on their skills of sharing and taking turns. Isn’t this what we want for ourselves, our families and our teams? Of course it is!

At Collaborative Growth we’re declaring July as a great month for playing. We hope you take time to enjoy this beautiful month whether it’s quite sunny for you in the northern part of our globe or snow is whitening your world in the southern hemisphere.

We also want to express our gratitude for Freedom. In the United States where we live, July 4th is the day we celebrate our nation’s Independence. Let us all embrace freedom with our intentions that really includes liberty and justice for all to help build a world that works. Neurologists assure us that seeing requires believing so let’s join our combined vision in seeing a world that works for all!

Blessings and our thanks to all of you!

Marcia and James

Avoiding Emotional Pitfalls at Work

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below.

  • Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.
  • Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

trap-jump-pitfall

  • Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.
  • Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

people-puzzle

  • Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.
  • Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.
  • Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.
  • Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. People can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

angry-redhoop

  • Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.
  • Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

Manage Your Resilience Meter: Your Guide to Positivity, Productivity and Well-Being

resilience_meterppt_rev2Managing resilience in today’s fast paced world of high expectations is tough.  Change and challenge are often the norm whether it comes from a new program being unveiled, a complete reshuffle due to a merger or parents moving into a care facility.  Too often the challenges become just too much and frequently trigger inflexibility, feelings of overwhelm and loss of composure.

You can build your capabilities so challenging times don’t take you out.  Watch your resilience meter grow to full potential! Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills are fundamental to managing these stress points and maintaining health and well-being.  Six EI skills are pivotal to building your reservoir of emotional reserves: emotional self-awareness, self-regard, impulse control, stress tolerance, optimism, and flexibility.  A healthy use of these skills will build your positivity and create the leverage to promote success at the workplace and personally.

Resilience is of growing interest as researchers demonstrate its influence on physical and mental health, well-being, the aging process and overall quality of life.  Additionally there is growing recognition of the benefits to teams and workplace productivity with a resilient workforce.  There is also a connection with the willingness to take on risks and to explore creative options. If we feel more positive about ourselves and life, we have the energy to experiment.

You have many strategies available to help expand your resilience.  This article will provide tips and strategies as well as review some of the key recognitions about resilience and its connection with positivity.  The root for the word “resilience” is “resile,” which means “to bounce or spring back.” Thus a key part of the definition of resilience is to bounce back.  The definition has expanded to include the ability to contain challenges and to develop reserves that can be tapped into when one is faced with environmental pressures and demands.  When we speak of resilience, we are referring to the ability to keep things in perspective so that many potential challenges are simply taken in stride.  When a large challenge surfaces, there is likely to be stress, but the reserve strength built with resilience allows us to contain the issue rather than going down a negative and downward spiral that starts feeding itself.

Assets and resources within us, our lives and our environment facilitate the capacity for adapting and bouncing back when there is adversity.  Our resilience is likely to ebb and flow not only across our lifetime but even across the day or week if there is a lot going on.  Yet, the more habits we have developed to build and maintain our positivity, the less we will give in to negative emotions and the more we will intentionally seek positive emotions that will enhance our capacities.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, Crown Publishing, (2009) and Love 2.0, Hudson St. Press, (2013), has provided a great deal to help us understand the field of positivity, which is closely related to resilience.  Should you be working as a coach or team facilitator it’s likely you’ll use the two concepts interchangeably.  As a lead scientist in the field of positivity, Fredrickson demonstrates through her research and that of colleagues that living with a high level of positivity has measurably positive results.

Benefits of Positivity / Resilience

•    Psychological benefits include being more optimistic, more open minded and more willing to check out possibilities.  First, being positive feels good!  Being open minded is critical to noticing and considering multiple options to a challenge.  It means that money, resources, or possibilities aren’t left on the table because our vision is too narrow to see them.  Negativity constricts our thinking and our vision.  It’s costly!
•    Mental benefits include expanding awareness and mindfulness.  It opens our thinking capacity to new possibilities. With positivity we can be better at savoring what works instead of being focused on what doesn’t.  Right away you can see the difference in your stress levels and the toll taken when you are focusing on the positive compared to the negative.

•    Social benefits pay out at the individual, team and workplace levels.  With positivity we have more resilience. Emotions are contagious, thus sharing positive emotions and actions creates an upward spiral of expanding relationships, which then creates reserves for getting through hard times and conflict together.  Resilience is indispensable if collaboration is truly going to occur. There is also interesting research showing that when we approach people with an emphasis on positive engagement racial bias is reduced or disappears.  Positivity, p. 67-68. That has amazing potential!
•    Physical benefits include a higher quality of life and a longer one.  As Barbara Fredrickson writes “positivity is now linked to solid and objective biological markers of health.  For instance, people’s positivity predicts lower levels of stress-related hormones and higher levels of growth related and bond related hormones. Positivity also sends out more dopamine and opioids, enhances immune system functioning and diminishes inflammatory responses to stress.  With positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew.”  Positivity, pp. 93-94. Thus positivity results in lower blood pressure, less pain, fewer colds and better sleep.  Rest assured for this and the many other health benefits she cites, she backs her assertions up with research citations.  There is even research showing the power of hugs, wonderful, feel-good, authentically caring touch.  Now we knew that, didn’t we!
Three studies reported in a 2006 article on resilience and positivity later in life found that daily positive emotions serve to moderate stress reactivity and mediate stress recovery. They found that differences in psychological resilience accounted for meaningful variation in daily emotional responses to stress. Higher resilience predicted that negative emotions wouldn’t be as impactful, particularly on days characterized by heightened stress. Additionally they found that the experience of positive emotions functions to assist high-resilient individuals in their ability to recover effectively from daily stress. “Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life.” By Ong, Anthony D.; Bergeman, C. S.; Bisconti, Toni L.; Wallace, Kimberly A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 91(4), Oct 2006, 730-749.

Tips and Strategies
Use your emotional intelligence to grow your positivity and be more resilient.  This is an internal strength so the key skills to grow, which are found in the EQi 2.0 are: self-regard, emotional self-awareness, stress tolerance, flexibility, impulse control and optimism.  The key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance.

You can expand your individual resilience by:
•    Redefining productivity from working on emails to getting with someone
•    Prioritize meditation, fun and family
•    Recognize that you are a part of something bigger than yourself
•    Embrace your bigger YES!
•    Develop your 2% Solution as I describe in my book, Life’s 2% Solution.

Team resilience can be expanded by:
•    Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand because positivity supports deepening relationships.  Develop positivity deliberately.
•    Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team.  Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
•    Our sense of connection drives our willingness to be helpful.  This is the heart of collaboration.  Create connections, have team members work in small groups and then take time to reflect on the experience.  Build awareness of the interpersonal connections as well as of the objective details of the project.

Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then let us know your thoughts and additional pitfalls you see on our blog

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.

Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.
Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.

Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.
Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.

Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.

Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.

Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

How’s Your Resilience Meter?

resilience_meterGive yourself one of the best gifts available – expand your resilience. Sustainable behavior change is a lifestyle change, not a whim. That’s very much the truth for expanding your resilience. Scientist and leading scholar in the field of positive psychology, Barbara Fredrickson reports that in their entire research program in resilience they found that the key active ingredient supporting those with higher resilience is positivity, which includes openness and a better ability to keep things in perspective and see the bigger picture.

A frequent challenge raised by our coaching clients relates to managing their resilience. They may talk about putting up with one challenge after another as a new program is being unveiled until they finally lose their composure. Or the challenge may be significant personal issues that are taking so much of their energy and drawing upon their flexibility dramatically that when one more thing happens – at work, at home or anywhere they become unusually inflexible, emotional or just walk away leaving things unresolved.

Stephan (not his real name) is a good example. Most of the time, things are fine; he can manage work and personal demands. He has a good education, a reliable job with mid-management responsibilities, and a loving family. Just like happens to most of us, each of these good parts have challenges. His parents are in their 80’s and require a lot of attention. Recently his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his mom has arthritis to the point she can’t take care of him. His teenage children need a great deal of time from both he and his wife. It’s hard, yet he keeps telling himself that in a few years it’ll be easier. For now Stephan is committed to giving his all to helping his parents, his kids, serving at his church and then there’s his job. His position has a lot of stress with it and most weeks require 45 to 50 hours of work plus his commute. Usually he juggles everything well enough. Then his boss informed him that the big report he and his team have worked on for two months is needed in two days instead of the two weeks they were supposed to have to complete it well. Stephan hit the roof. He yelled at his boss, refused to meet the deadline. Told his staff to just quit and take the rest of the day off. It wasn’t a pretty picture. That was a few weeks ago. Stephan is working with the aftermath of his outburst, as well as what brought him to it, in coaching. Our focus includes understanding his challenges and building ways to stay in touch with his resilience meter to help guide his behavior.

Strategies for Expanding Resilience

You, just like Stephan, can choose from several strategies to expand and maintain your resilience. Six of the sixteen EQi skills particularly support resilience strength. Act now to support your health and well-being by following a resilience enhancing strategy such as:

  • Meditation.
  • Recognizing that you are a part of something purposeful that’s bigger than you.
  • Expanding your happiness through gratitude or embracing and valuing your connections with others.
  • Building your optimism by expecting what works to keep on happening and get even larger.
  • Embracing your Bigger Yes – by living priorities that call for time with loved ones, time to exercise, time for you – all which expand your stress tolerance capacity.
  • Perceiving yourself with healthy self-regard by being able to view your strengths. challenges, and neutral zones and feel good about who you are.
  • Exercising your emotional self-awareness by noticing your emotions, recognizing how you feel and why and continuing to call forth positive emotions.

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, or adversity; it’s a form of buoyancy. Fortunately, your resilience can be expanded – it’s a personal skill that may have some components of genetic predisposition but can be influenced and grown as one of your most reliable assets. However, it does require continuous upkeep. Growing the skill requires awareness and practice. Your journey is one of developing new habits that may not only change your social and psychological take on life but may well improve your health as well.

Six Emotional Intelligence Skills

There is a strong connection between the strength of your resilience and 6 of the 16 skills measured by the EQi 2.0: stress tolerance, emotional self-awareness, self-regard, optimism, happiness and flexibility.

These EI skills are ones that are more self-oriented rather than other-oriented because resilience is an internal state. You’ve probably heard that you need to take care of yourself before you have the strength and resilience to take care of others well. The metaphor most call to mind readily is when oxygen is needed on an airplane you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you start helping others. You know why – you’ll black out quickly and be a problem rather than a help if you don’t start with your mask. Life is that way as well. Though it may be easier for some to focus on the tasks, including attending to everyone else’s needs, you will be better in all ways if you start with you first – and then remember to keep prioritizing your needs!

Barbara Fredrickson

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and Positivity, which I highly recommend, provides copious research on the beneficial effect of resilience and the field of positivity. I’m blessed to be taking an online training with her. She talks about changing people’s daily diets of positivity with the goal being to change what we notice and to influence the practice of our habitual positive and negative emotions. One effective strategy she emphasizes is loving kindness meditation. What’s different about Barbara’s work is that it primarily occurs in the laboratory – her laboratory and her joint work with many other leading scientists. The blessing of her research is she is documenting what so many coaches, trainers and others have believed to be true.

Research results by Barbara and her colleagues are documenting that there are improvements on cognitive, social, psychological and physical resources for people using certain positivity practices. Whether you practice meditation or other resilience enhancing strategies, I encourage you to choose a practice or two from the list I provided above or another resource you have and take good care of yourself.

Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

Frequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Do you agree? Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below. Listen to our recent webinar on these pitfalls and then comment with your thoughts and additional pitfalls.

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.
Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

Pitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.
Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.
Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

Pitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.
Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. As we described in an earlier article, people can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.
Better EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

Take Your Team to the Oscars

The Help, Moneyball, and The Descendants – these Oscar nominated movies demonstrate ways of understanding team and individual emotional and social intelligence.  The Oscar nominated movies and some other great ones we highlight demonstrate interesting tips for team and individual awareness.  This is a great way to build team engagement and knowledge on how to improve skills.  It always helps to have a model so our discussion is organized around the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), which includes the seven key skills we’ve found teams need for building their ESI.

We list two movies for each of the 7 skill areas and discuss the first one.  We hope you’ll comment on our blog site and contribute to this fun learning opportunity for all of us!  We thank the many people involved in making these movies for the great entertainment and the remarkable ways in which your work teaches us.  We enjoyed the movies we are reviewing here and recommend them to you.

Team Identity:  The Help and Of Gods and Men

Team identity measures the level of pride each member feels for the team as a whole, and how much connection and belongingness members feel to the team.

The Help:  The team is composed of African-American maids in Jackson, Mississippi at the dawn of the civil rights movement. A plucky new college graduate who grew up there is horrified with the way her grown-up school chums relate to their maids. So she asks one to tell her story and eventually they all get involved, and what’s been going around for so long starts to come around at last.  The maids had always given each other emotional support; this project brought them together in an act of tremendous courage to have more of a sense of pride, possibility and certainly belongingness to their team.

Motivation:   Margin Call, Albert Nobbs

Motivation is a competency that measures the team’s internal resources for generating and sustaining the energy necessary to get the job done well and on time.

Margin Call: In this case the team is made up of professionals in a financial company who have just realized they are holding tens of millions of dollars worth of worthless stock.  They decide to sell it to their clients the next day in order to save the company. This is capitalism at its worst, and the few conscientious team members cannot change the self protection trend. At the end of the day the conscientious ones are unable to shift their corporate compliance habits, the result is disaster for the company’s investors.  This is a movie your team could see in order to strike up considerable discussion about appropriate motivation and to ask when do we stick with the pack and when do we break free?  It can be a great start to discussions about ethics and how to find win/win answers.

Emotional Awareness: I Am, Iron Lady

Emotional awareness measures how well team members pay attention to one another and demonstrate acceptance and value for one another.

I Am: Tom Shadyac, the highly successful movie director for Jim Carrey films such as Ace Ventura pet detective has everything and lives like it until he has a bike wreck and his life is in peril. He discovers that he’s gotten it all wrong as has everyone around him it seems, so he takes a film crew and begins asking knowledgeable people such as Desmond Tutu the Nobel laureate, Noam Chomsky the political theorist and Coleman Barks the poet and Rumi translator: “What’s wrong with our world?”and “What can we do about it?” Their answers are a consistent formula for living sustainably in relationship with each other and the environment.  Some of the key concepts in the film are: cooperation is in our DNA; the truth of who we are is we are because we belong, technology and the human narrative are beginning to come together; we are geared at a primordial level to feel what each other feels.

This is more a film about an individual leader than a team, but the ideas are ones the team can see and extrapolate concepts and values they want to notice and promote in one another.  Iron Lady is listed as the opposite of emotional awareness.  Margaret Thatcher is portrayed as paying primary attention to herself and unflinchingly adhering to the beliefs she developed as a child rather than learning and responding to new ideas and populations.

CommunicationWe Bought a Zoo, Beginners

Communication provides information on how well team members listen, encourage participation, share information and discuss sensitive matters.

 We Bought A Zoo: This movie tells the story of a major attempt to start over after the death of a spouse and mother. The hurting family leaves their old house, old neighborhood, old school, old job and buys a house in the country that is home to over 40 species of animals and an unusual assortment of people who take care of the animals.  The team becomes the father, the zookeepers and the two children, all learning how to work together to get this challenging small business into start up mode and to turn a profit. The father is the team leader.  He is now the employer of the zookeepers, the food and shelter sponsor for the animals, and the source of love and guidance for 2 children. Most of the movie he’s afraid he’s just about to let everybody down but he keeps taking his own advice to his lovelorn son: “20 seconds of insane courage will deliver something totally magical.”  Fortunately it works and the results are as heartwarming as humorous.

Team members can pick up lots to talk about in terms of which zookeeper or other team member they most identify with and how the different personalities help promote or challenge team success.

Stress ToleranceHappyThankYouMorePlease, Moneyball

Stress tolerance measures how well the team understands the types of stress factors and manages the intensity impacting its members and the team as a whole.

HappyThankYouMorePlease:  This delightful film will reduce your stress just by watching it. When 9 or 10-year-old Rasheen gets left on a subway by mistake a group of 20 somethings come together like an ad hoc team on his behalf. He didn’t know his parents or how old he was and was not interested in any more help from social services, but he turned out to be a great teacher of love just as life was providing some great opportunities for practice for his young adult care takers. For example, a geeky guy wants to develop a relationship with a woman who can’t grow hair because of a medical condition. She doesn’t feel worthy of his adoration but tells her friend who found the boy “Let’s be people who deserve to be loved.”  Part of the lesson is for everyone to learn to feel loved.

This is a great film to show a team with generational differences.  It’s a heartwarming way to appreciate the generation entering the workforce.

Conflict Resolution: The Descendants and Of Gods and Men

Conflict resolution measures how willing the team is to engage in conflict openly and constructively without needing to get even.

Of Gods and Men: In March 1996, an Islamic terrorist group kidnapped seven French Trappist monks from their remote monastery in Tibhirine, Algeria. They were held for two months and then killed.  At the heart of this atrocity is a tale of heroic faith, steadfastness and love, captured in the sublime film “Of Gods and Men.” It is perhaps the best movie on Christian commitment ever made.  This is a powerful movie and one of the best released in 2011 about real team work. The monks made a very difficult choice in the face of certain danger to stay together, practice their faith and be with their Muslim community.

These men were not shy with each other, they got angry, they blamed, they acted like victims, they wept, they hid, and they each eventually realized that they were expressing these emotions in response, not to the people and the world around them, but rather in response to their perceptions and judgments of that world. This recognition is what enabled them to fully surrender their lives to the service they provided the local community, and receive the spiritual grace that sustained them through the ending of their time on earth.

Positive MoodHugo, Midnight in Paris

Positive mood measures the positive attitude of the team in general as well as when it’s under pressure.

Hugo: This is an extraordinarily charming film about children and adults and how courage looks and feels and is practiced from both points of view. There are two small teams, one of children, one of adults.  Ultimately the two teams come together as one, but major challenges are faced first. It’s also a beautifully made movie.

Ask you team what elements of the movie help them have a sense of “can do” that they can bring back to their team.

Don’t forget – take your team to the movies.  Have fun and learn!

EQ 360 Builds Success, Prevents Derailment

Whether caused by blind spots, habits, or lack of awareness, failure to recognize how others experience the way we engage is a key contributor to leadership derailment.  When we don’t notice that we lose people’s attention because we talk too long or we scare folks away by being too demanding, we miss vital information.  Instead of recognizing the responses and making strategic changes the head this type of head in the sand leader keeps on keeping on right into a diminished career.  So how can this be prevented?  After all it is challenging to accurately discern how others are responding, and even harder to know what triggered particular responses from peers, direct reports or others.

A client we’ll call Melinda found an answer. She kept her job and is much happier now thanks to her working carefully with her EQ 360 results.  She heads a key program as senior vice president for a high profile non-profit.  She managed a department in charge of launching new programs and convincing key investors to fund her organization’s programs.  Her staff needed to be inspired and to receive detailed overviews on expectations and expected ways to engage in order to demonstrate the organizational mission.  She did this well.  However, when she reported up to the high profile board of community leaders, Melinda had lost so much credibility that the CEO thought he was going to have to let her go.  The board wanted big picture, quick and strategic feedback yet Melinda was giving them long winded analytical analysis that bored most and angered some.

The CEO wanted to keep Melinda but wasn’t sure he could. We used the EQ 360 to help her recognize her specific challenges and learn ways to change her habitual way of engaging. Board members, her boss, peers and direct reports all rated her and the results were included by each category so she could see who was perceiving success and where specifically people were struggling with her engagement. She needed to enhance her awareness of how she communicated to different groups and modify her approach accordingly. Key EI skills she needed to sharpen were her:

  •  Reality Testing (by expanding her political savvy and paying attention to how to communicate instead of habitually engaging with the same style with everyone)
  • Emotional Self-Awareness by recognizing that when she felt worried, she gave detailed explanations and further lost the Board.
  • Assertiveness by fine tuning her listening skills so she could be more effective with her assertiveness.  Melinda didn’t have any problem speaking up, but she too often wasn’t strategic in how she spoke.
  • Optimism by recognizing that when she started her 360 work she was feeling defensive and less than sure that she could make the changes and that was aggravating her didactic habits.  If she could trust in her many skills and tap into her flexibility, Melinda could make changes more effectively.

EQ 360 Assessment

The EQ 360 is an assessment in which an individual rates his or her own skills and others who know him or her in a variety of ways also answer the same questions.  The results graphically show how the individual perceives his or her skills in each of the 16 EI skills measured by the EQi and then presents a comparison to how others see those same skills. The results are shown by the different rater groups of boss, direct reports, peers, family/friends or others, such as clients.  The overall goal is to accurately understand one’s skills and how they are expressed and to have a similar perspective between the individual and the raters.  However, it is quite likely that there will be differences, and it’s possible the differences will vary between rater groups.  For example, the boss may be in agreement with the individual, the direct reports may rate him or her higher and the peers may have lower ratings in some areas.  The raters’ responses are reported with three or more to a group, except for those of the boss.  That confidentiality supports candor.

Value from a 360

The EQ 360 provides the opportunity for gaining considerable value.  How much is actually gained depends most on the attitude and willingness of the individual.  The capabilities of the coach and support from the boss and organization also make a difference.  The potential value of a 360 assessment used in the workplace can come from:

  • The opportunity for everyone to be more reflective: The individual receives considerable data that invites introspection and reflective awareness. Raters are asked to take about twenty minutes to answer the questions and that causes them to shift from day to day tasks and think about how the individual engages and displays skills.  Hopefully, the rater takes some time to reflect on what part of the engagement they are responsible for as well.  It is a two way street!  And finally if you have a leadership group each having their own 360 and then meeting to discuss what they have learned and opportunities, the invitation for deepening the reflective awareness is large.
  • Light is shined on blind spots: This is probably the best recognized value of the 360 by organizations.  We can easily move along in our lives thinking we’re doing fine while totally missing the mark with our direct reports, for example, and be incredibly wrong.  Melinda found that not only did she have a problem with the Board but that she had taken so little time to engage with her peers that they didn’t know her well. This resulted in mediocre ratings from them.  Coaching discussions helped her realize the value of working with her peers to herself and the organization.  This reframed “I don’t have time for lunch with Jose” to “I can’t afford to miss lunch with Jose.”  The blind spots can also be about behaviors.  Melinda may think she has great stress tolerance skills, but family/friends might report they miss her and are worried about her health because she works so much.  Direct reports might reflect she has low stress tolerance because they experience the anxiety that taking a new project on creates, and they are often given much of the work.  The resulting resentment from staff brings on a handful of other challenges.
  • Balancing skills to build congruence.  This is one of the most important benefits of the EQ 360.  The 16 skills reflect important information on their own, but no skill is an island.  Every skill is more powerful when exercised in context of highly related EI skills.  For example, the effectiveness of assertiveness is tied to skills in empathy, impulse control and optimism.  For more information see Marcia’s article on The Four Corners of Empathic Assertiveness.
  • Rater group congruence: If direct reports, peers, the boss and others have considerably different views of an individual’s performance, it’s a problem.  Success in an organization is a multi-dimensional endeavor.  The 360 points out problem areas and supports strategic focus in building relationships.
  • Horizons are broadened when the leader takes time to look at feedback from people he or she works with regularly, consider the information carefully and prepare a focused response.

The EQ 360 should always be used for the right purpose, which is for individual growth and it requires a trained coach who will help sort through the information and guide the person in their growth process.  Most importantly, the individual needs to bring a willing attitude to the process.  Willingness to learn and make a few strategic changes can result in phenomenal career benefits.  It did for Melinda.  She expanded her mindfulness, carefully prepared for Board meetings and practiced how to respond at the level they expected.  She built relationships with her peers and found they had much to share and she enjoyed her work more because of the valuable relationships.  Melinda’s boss expects her to be a vital part of the workforce for a very long time.