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Testing for Emotional Intelligence – Again

May 10, 2016

Filed under: Coaching,Management,observations — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 11:51 am

I’ve written several posts on emotional intelligence, but many people are still confused by the concepts of self-awareness, self-efficacy, and  emotional recognition.

A recent client brought the issues into sharp focus. She is a young woman, who graduated from college four years ago and has had a number of short stints (a year or so) at just-above entry-level positions at Bay Area firms.

Her most recent, was a one-year contract job which concluded four months ago.

She had asked me for help in reviewing her resume and standard cover letter to figure out why she had not been able to find a new job.

She had been offered jobs, but felt they would not provide the salary she needed. She had recently concluded that, “The market has changed. If you’re not an engineer they just feel the supply of people for administrative positions, or social marketing is just so large they don’t have to pay anything.”

She insisted that she was not looking to make a fortune but just enough to support herself and maintain the apartment she rented after she was in her contract job for a few months.

She may be right about the job market, but having lived in the Bay Area for 20 years, I don’t think so.

The job of a good coach and career counselor is to help clients see things from a different perspective.

Could it be that my client was so emotionally unaware that she could not step back and look at the facts from a different point of view. This is the key to one aspect of emotional intelligence: understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.

I suggested she ask herself the following questions:

Why was she able to find positions, but unable to find long-term success?

Was she mistaken that she had a chance at a long-term position at the company when she rented a San Francisco apartment?

With unemployment in the Bay Area and in the nation, continuing to be very low why would there be a sudden flood of folks for the positions she sought?

Was it possible that firms offering her positions really didn’t want her to accept the jobs?

Would it be worth taking a lower salaried position in the hopes that, after a while, you could prove your worth and earn a raise?

These were not comfortable concepts for her to consider. Suggesting that maybe the problem was on her end and that she needed to make some  changes  was not an option.

Emotional intelligence is, in part, the ability to question your beliefs and consider that there is something you might need to change. Perhaps you are not the perfect employee, perhaps its not ‘office politics’ that stalled your career, perhaps there’s a good reason that contract position didn’t turn into a full-time job?

Whether you answer the questions honestly is a true test of your emotional intelligence.

 

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The Cognitive Prism and Emotional Intelligence

December 30, 2015

We all see things differently. Not literally – when the sun shines we pretty much all see it the same way – but emotionally.images

Our opinions, world view, emotional triggers are all a function of a complex cognitive prism that colors how we see the world.This prism is created both from our personality  and the events that shape our lives: the old nature vs. nurture debate that’s been going on for years.

I’ll let the psychologists figure out which is more dominant, but from a coaching standpoint, they combine to  help us create a view of the world that is unique.

What seems to make perfect logical sense to one person, is patently absurd to someone else. What seems like a logical assumption, which become the basis of a decision, seems obvious. In truth, it’s a coach’s job too help clients see that there might be some other interpretations.

Recognizing alternatives is one facet of emotional intelligence. Self realization helps us understand that there is a cognitive prism filtering every bit of information coming into our brain. Understanding the biases that are inherent in the prism, helps us understand why others disagree, and finally, taking steps to correct the distortions of the prism helps us grow.

In truth, many people don’t really want to make changes, but the real key is understanding that there may be a bias your view of the world. You can decide if adjustments are necessary.

Dealing with your our prism is key to your happiness, your interaction with others and every aspect of life – both at home and at work. This is emotional intelligence.

I was reminded of this prism a few days ago when I was working with a high school junior who was trying to figure out ‘the rest of his life’ during our 45-minute phone call. I was trying to help him decide where he should apply to college and what careers interested him.

Many young people have a wide range of interests and have a difficult time separating a career from a crush on a favorite teacher. The young man I was assisting had a range of interests that was even wider. He had always been a voracious reader and is familiar with topics ranging from history and religion to politics, economics and engineering.

For him, narrowing the list had become almost impossible, so he had decided to use income as his measuring stick. As he told me,”I really like history and enjoy reading everything I can find, but the only job I would probably ever get is teaching, and I know that doesn’t make that much money, so I think I’ll just consider that a hobby.”

He also ‘knew’ that engineers have the potential to make more money so it seemed logical that engineering was the best choice because at least his starting salary would be higher.

He could see no purpose in getting a liberal arts degree. Beyond the notion that an undergraduate degree limits your employment options,  he needed some facts to go with his assumptions.

I suggested that before our next call he do a bit of research.( If I just told him the answers he wouldn’t believe me anyway)

I gave him two weeks to answer the following questions:

What percentage of new employees in high tech had degrees in the social sciences?

What is the average lifetime earnings of a social science graduate?

What percentage of social science majors go on the get an advanced degree?

I am hoping that the answers will help readjust his prism and help him understand that some of the assumptions he was making were not based on reality.

If he still insists that an engineering degree is the only option, I certainly won’t try to talk him out of it, but he should  know all the facts before he makes his decision.

Next time you have a decision to make ask yourself what underlying assumption you might would to re-evaluate.

 

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Emotionally Intelligent Interviews

May 17, 2015

In the last few years emotional intelligence has gone from a consultant’s buzz word to bonafide skill that employers value when they make a new hire.

In many cases it may be the key characteristic that separates one candidate from another.emotional-intelligence-graphic

Emotional intelligence covers a wide range of characteristics, but they are all classified as ‘soft skills’ that can be difficult to quantify. They include self awareness, and self efficacy, but also includes empathy and a range of talents that allow you to connect with your fellow employees.

Emotional intelligence is a key component in your ability to work well and communicate with others.  It’s recognized as a key strength for good management.

The ability to understand your employees and know how to motivate them is often the difference between managing and leading.

I mention all this because mastering emotional intelligence is not easy. While books have been written on how to learn the basics, there is a significant body of opinon which suggests that emotional intelligence is something that cannot be taught – either you have it or you don’t.

Personally, I believe you can teach EI, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of skill people acquire fully through classroom instruction.

Why is this imporntant for your career? Because if you don’t at least understand some components, you may find yourself asking, “Why didn’t I get the job, I thought the interview went great.”

The biggest challenge for most people is self awareness. I have had many clients who don’t have a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. Even if you work for a company which does annual performance reviews, and you have a good manager who explains what you might do better, it’s always easier to blame someone else.

Office politics, prejudice, managerial incompetence are always easier to see than your own faults. You can’t depend on friends and loved ones to explain what’s wrong and if they do, it comes with a good deal of emotional baggage.

I recently had a new client complain to me that he, ‘just couldn’t get past that first interview for a new job.’ He couldn’t understand why, even though his wife had been telling him, apparently for months.

He is very competent in his field, but the funding for the project he was working on was running out and he had to find another position. He explianed all this is a monotone voice, with no espression other than resignation. He had, what psychologists call, a flat affect. No emotion, no enthusiasm and certainly not the kind of personality that would make employers want to add him to their payroll.

He told me that his wife had pointed out his lack of enthusism, but he chalked it up to marital issues. When I confrmed what his spouse had told him, he was shocked.

He’s a research scientist and doesn’t really understand why he needs to have the kind of enthusiam that I seem to be suggesting, since his work is pretty solitary, but I tried to convince him that it makes a difference to the person doing the hiring.

We’ll see where his coaching leads, but as a former hiring manager, I can tell you that self awareness is important. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses.

It works on the other end to – you have to know what you’re good at, but I’ll take that up in a future post.

There are host of other concepts that contribute to emotional intelligence. Author Daniel Goleman has made a career out of explaining the characteristics. I would refer you to his books on the subject, or you can just call me next time you can’t figure out why you didn’t get that new job you wanted, EI may be the answer.

 

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Can This be Right?

August 31, 2011

Filed under: Coaching,Management — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:21 pm

During a recent coaching session, my client, gave me a copy of her most recent performance review saying, “I need help fixing this.”

While she was rated exceptional in several areas, her supervisor said that her employees found her “curt, and abrasive”  and they felt unappreciated. She runs a group of about 20 in a facility with about 100 employees. They have a matrix organizational chart so each person may have responsibilities to several managers.

She said that she had asked her supervisor for specific examples he could not provide any.

To say she was perplexed was an understatement, especially since this was the first time in 4 years, she had gotten this kind of feedback.

At first, we discussed how managers are often not the best judges of their own performance, and then I asked if she could think of any instances that might have led to the criticism. She could only cite one fellow manager who she admitted she had “issues” with, but  said she had never heard any of her group even mumble anything about her management style. (NB: She holds weekly status meetings with the whole group and meets regularly with direct reports.)

She admitted she was very confident and could be blunt but she didn’t sense any problems.

We went through her daily and weekly routines. I tried to help her analyze her interpersonal contacts, and offered some suggestions about how she might make some changes, but I had to admit, I was a bit perplexed.

After spending a  number of hours with her, and reviewing how her department worked and her interactions, I couldn’t figure out what her boss was getting at either. She is direct, but after 4 years, with minimal turnover, employees usually come to understand a manager’s communication style and adapt to it.

We even spent some time exploring whether she was miscast as a mid-level manager and was more suited for another role outside the company.

As we talked, over several sessions, I could not find any patterns in her presentation that was anything but professional, knowledgeable, confident and caring. She didn’t strike me as the kind of pathological, egotistical boss that fills the pages of most management textbooks.

She wasn’t familiar with many of the terms of Emotional Intelligence, but she seemed to have a good sense of the tools and was already using some.

In the end, I tried to assure her that she was on the right track and while she could make some changes in listening and trying to be attuned to the needs of her staff, maybe the best option was to just assume her boss was basing his critique on bad information, or on a single example. Possibly, he was just wrong or more euphemistically, ‘ill-informed.’

Three weeks later, she learned he was being eased out of his position, so maybe, there was something else going on.

The lesson: I would never ignore what’s on your performance review, but if it doesn’t ring true, you may need to question some of the underlying assumptions and decide for yourself if changes are warranted.

 

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What’s Important in Business

June 13, 2011

Recently I helped to host a career networking night for my Alma mater, Bucknell University. We do an event twice a year at interesting locations around the Bay Area and focus on career advice for alums.

Amy Klement, Vice President Omidyar Network

Last week’s gathering was at The Bechtel Corporation,   where Peter Dawson, (CFO) and his wife,  – parents of a current student  – sponsored the evening, featuring the Dean of the College of Engineering, Keith Buffinton as well as 1996 alum, Amy Klement.

Amy focused on her career path, at Paypal, EBay and now as Vice President, of Omidyar Network. To say her  career has been on the fast track is an understatement. But after listening to her talk, it’s easy to see why she has been so successful.

She is human, genuine, honest and real – all qualities that are is short supply at most businesses today. She understands that  her Emotional Intelligence has been the key. It’s also a point that most most people simply don’t get.

Every six months another book comes out about emotional intelligence, and, as Amy points out, executives claim that it is more important than traditional I.Q., but most businesses are still filled with executive who have very little of it.

I’ll leave a more complete explanation for later posts, but I think Amy’s 20 minute talk is worth listening to.

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Test Your ‘Face Reading’ Skills

For many folks, emotional intelligence equates to empathy. In reality it is much more. But empathy is an important component. And part of empathy is the ability to ‘read’ the expressions of others.

Neuro-scientists tell us that we have specific neurons which allow us to look at someone and understand what they are feelings. Peop0le who can do this well, according to the scientists, have more of these neural endings and are more empathetic.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the research is that it is cross cultural. In other words, regardless of your ethnic background, the emotions displayed by the human face are the same in say, the United States, Japan, China, or the Middle East. Happiness, for example, has a universal set of facial characteristics.

If you want to test your skill the Center for Greater Good at University of California at Berkeley, has put out a new little quiz. Take a minute or two and see how you do. Then drop me a note and tell me if you think it was accurate. But remember, another component of Emotional Intelligence is self awareness – the ability to look at yourself objectively.

As the center says, you can improve your score over time with practice. Your ability to read the faces of others can come in handy in any situation where you deal with another human being. Which is just about all day, every day.

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