Monday, 25 April 2011

So, you want to be emotionally intelligent?

You could spend fairly sizeable chunks of your money in testing your quotient of emotional intelligence.  Or, you could take an on-line test for free which will give you some idea of where you stand in the EI charts but this type of ‘free’ test is usually nothing other than an enticement to buy something else. 

So, how can the average Joe (or Josephine) undertake a fairly reliable though admittedly unscientific, test in order to gauge where they’re at?

Simple!  Follow the instructions below:

Find a space where you can think without interruption or distraction.  Chose a place where you won’t be disturbed for about 20-minutes.  Have a pen and paper close by and relax.  Clear your mind of all thoughts.

Now...  Chose one person with whom you are familiar with on a personal basis.  This person must be someone with whom you’ve either worked with, worked for, or have been taught by etc.  It could even be a parent if you’re really stuck.  However, above all things, this person must have left an indelible positive impression on you by the way that they’ve conducted themselves in the past.  Think of the fine examples they’ve set.  How they’ve looked after people and how they’ve acted as a great role model to you.  Keep this person in your mind for at least 5-minutes or so.  Run through your memory bank of times when they really stood out.  When they really impressed you to the point when you thought “Wow!”  “I wish I was like that.” 

When you’re ready, write down adjectives you would use to describe this person to someone who had never met them.  Single words you’d use to describe their greatness.  Make a list of about 5 to 8 words.  When you've finished, set the paper aside and prepare to relax again.

This time, with your mind cleared, start to think of a person who has left the worst possible impression on you from a role-model perspective.  The anti-role-model if you will.  As before, think of the times that this person has made you angry, disappointed, frustrated, maybe even close to tears (or worse).   

When you’re ready, grab your pen and paper and start to compile your list of adjectives that you’d use to describe this person to a third-party.  Go for about 5 to 8 words, same as the last time.  When you’ve finished, put the pen down and set the paper aside. 

Now, just spend a few moments thinking about the differences in the two people you’ve thought about.  You’ll have fond memories and feelings towards the positive role model and will undoubtedly be feeling more than a little bitter about the negative person that you’ve forced yourself to remember.  It’s important right now to try not to dwell on the negative person.  After all, this person was an idiot.  And you don’t need to be wasting your time and energy on idiots.  You won’t get the time back and you’ll just feel depressed.
Now, look at the two lists that you’ve written.  Chances are the words you’ve chosen are opposites of each other (or very similar to opposites).  As you look at them again I’m sure you’ll begin to think of more words to write but there’s really no need.  You’re work here is almost done!

It’s safe to say that all of the positive adjectives, attributes, labels – call them what you will – are emotionally intelligent traits and characteristics. 

Your next task is to rearrange the positive adjectives that you’ve compiled into an order of which holds the most importance to you.   So, for example, if you’ve written ‘honest’, ‘friendly’ and ‘empathetic’ you need to re-write your list starting with the attribute that holds the most value to you at the top and work your way down.  Once you’ve completed this part of the exercise, you now need to ask yourself in all honesty, if you possess any of these attributes. 

Now, grade each of the attributes (out of 5 – with 5 being the highest) how ‘honest’, ‘friendly’ or ‘empathetic’ you really are.  So, you may score your level of honesty as a 5 (well done!); you may have awarded yourself a 3 for empathy (now you know there’s room for development to the power of 2) and so on.  The idea of course, is to identify the attributes and values that you share with your positive role-model and see where the room for development lays.  Once you’ve finished marking your list you must now make a solemn pledge to yourself that you will make conscious effort to reach a grade 5 in all of the attributes – starting with the ones at the top of the list as those are the ones that you’ve decided hold the most value.

And that’s it!  I did say it was simple didn’t I?

Not only have you produced your list of emotionally intelligent attributes, you’ve also set yourself a positive challenge to develop yourself in these areas.  Furthermore, you’ve also identified a person from your life that has influenced you and undoubtedly has influenced others because they were or are highly emotionally intelligent.  I know it sounds a little corny but next time you’re in a dilemma about how to behave or react to an idiot; ask yourself ‘What would my positive role-model do in this situation?’

Oh!  And about the list of negatives from that idiot you’ve resurfaced form your past? (or maybe present!)  Well, here’s what you do.  You look at the adjectives on that list and swear to yourself that you’ll always make a conscious effort never to act like that or become a replica of your anti-role model.  And once you’ve read it and made your promise to yourself – rip it up and throw it away.  You don’t need it.  After all, it’s nothing more than an idiot’s handbook.  And you my friend, are no idiot!

Wishing you all the very best, in everything that you do.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

“If I’d wanted to be popular, I’d have joined a boy band.”

So went the saying that was used with abandon by so-called people managers during my former career.  Statements like that and the other usual one-liners such as, “I’m not here to be popular” or “I’m not here to make friends.”

But what are they really saying each time they say these things?  That they’re ‘professional’.   That they’re tough?  That they’re fair?

It has been said that there’s no lonelier place than that occupied by the leader.  Because sometimes, leaders have to be brave, give bad news and make tough decisions.  They have to be able to have those courageous conversations; so, in order to protect themselves; some feel it necessary to give a prior warning or a constant reminder of their position of authority; that they are not here to make friends or to be popular.  That they are here to do a job and sometimes doing the job means that sacrifices have to be made – and that those sacrifices can be human (not in the literal sense of course!).

But for me this whole thing is unnatural when it comes to effective or authentic leadership.  And this is why:

In his critically acclaimed book ‘Motivation and Personality’, Abraham Maslow produced his ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ pyramid which provides a straightforward pictorial theory of what Maslow considered to be the layers of basic human need.  Each layer of need must be fulfilled before the individual can advance to the next level.  Maslow’s model is shown below:

At the third level, Maslow identified that we all desire a sense of belonging.  That we possess a need to be identified as a member of something.  Be that a family, a circle of friends, an association, a club, a boy band even!   

One only needs to witness a major sporting event to see this principle in action.  Spectators or fans will adorn themselves with their team colours to affirm their belonging to one and all.  The camaraderie that goes with being a loyal supporter, the singing and chanting of club songs that they’ve all learned, the shared ecstasy of victory and the crushing depression of defeat that only a fellow supporter would understand.  Humans are social animals after all.  So why would someone who has accepted the responsibility of leadership appear to go out of their way to distance themselves from the rest of the pack – the very pack of which they are the leader?  Doesn’t this go against Maslow’s theory?  And more importantly; can an unpopular leader - lead effectively if at all?

Maslow’s fourth level is ‘Esteem’.  Having accomplished the previous level of ‘Belonging’ Maslow said that in order for the individual to meet their esteem needs they must believe that they have secured the respect of others.  Furthermore, the individual must also have developed a strong sense of self belief and have their esteem-needs have been met by recognition of their own accomplishments.  Whilst it is arguable that the individual concerned may genuinely feel that they have ‘arrived’ by virtue of the fact that they are in-charge of others, how does this measure up to what we know of emotional intelligence?  To be truly emotionally intelligent the individual must be aware of the impact of their own behaviour on the people that they are leading in addition to the impression they leave on their peers.  For someone to consider it appropriate to say “I’m not here to be popular”, must recognise the negative effect of such a statement and in turn, be aware of that negative impression they have made.  If not then they are by definition, emotionally unintelligent.

To conclude, it is my belief that those making bravado-statements regarding their lack of care toward their own popularity are kidding themselves.  Despite the external persona these people may wish to display, there’s no getting away from the fact that all leaders like to be liked; especially by those whom they lead.  Every people manager wishes to consider themselves to be a good leader.  And all good leaders are popular with their followers. For followers will only follow people to whom they are attracted and who they believe will look out for them.   

So carefree nonsense statements about popularity are merely a mask to either hide under confidence in their own ability to lead or  to give the impression that they are strong and courageous leaders who will take no prisoners in order to achieve the task.  The worse case scenario is that they think that they are leading when in reality, they aren’t really leading at all.  For what they are saying and displaying are the polar opposite characteristics of what makes a good leader.

I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts.

Wishing you well in all that you do,


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Family... The toughest management Job in the World!

I’ve been involved in some challenging situations in my time.  For example, during my military career, I’ve been shot at on numerous occasions, survived a helicopter crash landing and had quite a number of near misses.  I was once even taken hostage by a local militia group.  All fairly stressful I’m sure you’ll agree.  But nothing comes close to my latest challenge...

I’ve been given the responsibility of caring for my three-year old son and have assumed the role of housekeeper whilst my dear wife has been incapacitated.  “This should be a breeze.” I told myself.  How wrong I was!

I’ve never seen the movies ‘Kindergarten Cop’ or ‘Daddy Day Care’ but I can immediately relate to the concepts behind them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute saying that men can’t manage their children as well as women can.  That would be a slur on stay-at-home Dads and House Husbands the world over; but my new-found responsibilities have thrown me new challenges; despite my knowledge and experience of leadership and management.  And at times I admit it’s been almost overwhelming.

The thought that such a little person could be even more demanding than the most disgruntled employee was beyond my expectation.  He’s an only child so it seems that his only source of entertainment is frankly, making my life a misery at times.  There’s literally no escape!  Not even during the most private of moments when you’re trying to answer the call of nature only for the door to burst open and he’s stood there asking for his play dough or worse, attempts to sit on my knee when I’m mid... Well, you know what!

Of course, there’s very little chance of reasoning with him.  We’re stuck at the Parent-Child mode of transactions.  I can tell him not to do something because it’s dangerous, like wanting to play with a bottle of bleach or mess about with the kitchen scissors and he gets it; but only for a second and he’s off to perform another equally hazardous stunt with a live cable or his latest pursuit of ‘fridge climbing’.  If it wasn’t for his back catalogues of ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’ I think I’d be close to being certified by now.   

So I sit alone at night, when he’s finally gone to sleep, thinking of ways to communicate with him at a level that he understands.  I don’t really appreciate him trashing the beds I’ve just made or flicking strawberry yoghurt at the dog and the television.  How do I get through to him?  What are the salient points in effective communication have I learned and even preached over the years can I employ in these situations?

I guess the answer lays in prioritisation and empathy.  He has priority in all things.  His needs come first because he’s three-years old and can’t yet comprehend or compromise.  I need to always remember and understand that!  So Adair’s ‘Individual Needs’ circle from the Systems/Functional Approach to Leadership model is the only thing that I can call upon.  I can’t sit at my desk and work or network or blog all day.  I have to ensure that his need for stimulation is catered for and that we use the time wisely because we’ll never get it back and because we’ll both learn things through the process.  If he makes a mess, I’ll just have to tidy around him or wait until he’s gone to bed and clean up.

On the up-side I’ve taught him to catch a rugby ball and how to handle a tackle.  He can now belch with the expertise of a Dock Worker and can kick a ball straight with both feet.  I’m very, very proud.  

But I have to admit it’s getting easier with practice.  And in reality, it’s me that’s doing the learning more than he is.  I have to learn to tolerate and understand his situation and his limitations.  Like anyone ‘in-charge’ of people should do.  And best of all, I now fully appreciate and can now claim to be sufficiently qualified to empathise with my wife and full-time parents everywhere. 

So, hats off to those engaged in full-time parenthood and to those juggling childcare with work commitments, I salute you!

Best wishes,


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Every good Cowboy looks after their horse.

For a while, during the early stages of my military career, I lived by the principle of R.H.I.P - an acronym for ‘Rank Has Its Privileges’.

In a nutshell, this principle gave me the self-awarded ‘right’ to act like an idiot and abuse my position.  It meant that I had first choice of whatever was on offer over those that held a junior rank to my own.  I could walk to the front of the queue for food or whatever was available on the basis of my seniority and status.  I was clearly oblivious of the impact of my behavior; especially in-terms of my leadership profile.  My credibility as a leader must have diminished each time I pushed my way to the front.  I’d hate to think what those unfortunate people behind me must have been thinking and still shudder to this day to think that I once acted like that.  Completely bereft of emotional intelligence and completely self-absorbed.  A top-of-the-class, first-rate idiot!

I behaved like this because my peers did.  The majority of us ‘with rank’ did it.  It gave you the green light to act with impunity.  We could justify it because we’d had it done to us earlier in our careers, many, many times.  But in reality, there is no excuse or justification for such disrespectful behavior – no matter what or who you are.  In fact, the more ‘senior’ you are the lesser the argument holds up.

I’m glad to say that with changing attitudes, greater social awareness and a more comprehensive understanding of subjects such as authentic leadership and emotional intelligence; there are less incidences of this sort of behavior in today’s modern British Military, although doubtlessly in some places, with some people, it still happens from time-to-time. 
But leading with emotional intelligence is not a new phenomenon.  Quite the opposite.

In the famous ‘Art of War’ Sun Tzu (circa 6th Century BC) was reported to have been quoted as follows: 

For them to perceive the advantage of defeating the enemy, they must also have their rewards.”

Could this possibly be one of the first ever documented examples of employee reward and engagement?

Of course, there are many recordings of emotionally intelligent leadership that span the centuries but if I can indulge myself and reproduce my favorite citing it has to be this one:
It dates back to the Second World War and comes from a British General William Slim (later Field Marshall The Viscount Slim KG. GCB. GCMG. GCVO. GBE. DSO. MC and subsequently the 13th Governor General of Australia) addressing his officers following a particularly lengthy and bloody jungle battle in Burma 1942.  Slim came through the bush and saw his exhausted men still working hard post-contact with the enemy.  He noticed that some of the officers did not appear to be working as hard as many of the private soldiers and was acutely aware of how this would be viewed by the non-commissioned ‘Tommy’.
Slim knew that this apparent lack of sense of duty being displayed by some of his officers did not set the example of leadership that he knew must be portrayed at all times in congruence with the responsibility of ‘being in-charge’ of people.  Slim was said to gather his officers and say:

“I tell you, therefore, as officers, that you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done those things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will bust you in front of your Regiments.”

Slim clearly understood the value of the ‘Psychological Contract’.  That un-written mutual expectation that subordinate workers will go the extra mile for the leader who shows empathy, investment, care and consideration.  Provided of course, that the leader keeps their end of the bargain.  It's no wonder that Slim's private soldiers affectionately referred to him as 'Uncle Bill'.

I’ve never understood the surprised reactions displayed by people in authority when they find that their workforce is unhappy and then claim that they were unaware of the apparent problems that existed.  Having been fed this information and then to deny that there is a problem at all is even more unforgivable.  Surely to lead people effectively you must be aware of their needs and make efforts to cater for them?  

Maslow’s Hierarchy is very clear.  People need to feel that they are genuinely being appreciated for their efforts.  They are more than just human resources; they are people with hopes and dreams just like their leaders have.  It’s all too easy for leaders to forget what it is like to be taken for granted, to forget how they felt when it happened to them.  All too easy for leaders to view their workforce as mere non-human pieces of equipment that when considered, should be simply grateful for having a job in the first place.  Attitudes like this will only result in dissent and people voting with their feet when the opportunity presents itself.  

There is a saying that we have probably all heard on too many occasions, it is similar to the RHIP principle, and that is “I’m not here to be popular.”  Wrong!  An unpopular leader attracts no followership other than destructive dissent.  Unpopular leaders are not upholding their share of the contract.  Unpopular leaders aren’t leading at all.  They are simply being accompanied on their journey by passengers waiting to get off at the right stop.  Popularity in this sense is born from respect.  Respect that has developed because it has been reciprocated.

So the message is; look after and nurture your workforce, set good examples, show that you care – even if it’s just by saying ‘Thank you’ and meaning it!  Be aware of the needs of those employed to support you.  Uphold your side of the contract.  Reward and recognize your ‘Tommy’.  Feed and water your horses otherwise your journey will surely end and if your head is deep in the sand at the time then you might not even see it coming – at least not before it’s too late.

If you continue to live by the principle of R.H.I.P, you had better prepare for your vision to ‘R.I.P’.

With best wishes in all that you do,