Keeping It Cool in the Face of Hot Conversations

Keeping It Cool in the Face of Hot Conversations

We offer a five-step process that helps you manage conflict in a constructive way. Feedback from clients tells us that this process is helpful both at work and at home. The five steps will be introduced with an example from my 6 year-old great nephew, Jaden, because it is both elegantly simple and very real. When I tell this in workshops it always strikes a huge chord.

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What Does Emotional Intelligence & Diversity Have To Do With Engagement?

Organizations spend huge sums each year measuring employee engagement and then attempting to design strategies to increase it. So what gets employees to commit, to give discretionary time and energy, to throw themselves whole heartedly into their work? What we are really talking about is motivation, or what Frederick Herzberg defined years ago as psychological commitment. A review of current research by our colleague Ken Nowack, Ph.D. of Envisia Learning, reveals that the most important factor in employee engagement and satisfaction is based on the relationship they have with the leaders of their organization.

Leadership is key and especially impactful when the leader is the immediate boss as can be seen in the following:

  • 80% of turnover is directly related to unsatisfactory relationship with one’s boss. (Saratoga Institute)
  • The number one reason people leave their jobs is because of a “bad boss.” (Gallup Organization)
  • Poorly managed work groups are on average 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well managed ones. (Gallup Organization)

This is where emotional intelligence and diversity play a role. Leaders who exhibit emotional intelligence have the skills to develop positive and productive relationships with their wide range of employees and those relationships are the fundamental factor in gaining commitment. The four components of Emotional Intelligence & Diversity can be seen at work in the behavior of effective leaders.

  1. Affirmative Introspection Self-awareness, the ability to acknowledge one’s strengths and weaknesses and work on self-improvement enable a leader to be approachable and open to feedback and to model learning and growth. Rather than taking a “that’s just how I am” stance, a leader who is introspective can admit, as one of our clients did, “If my behavior is problematic for others, it becomes problematic for me.”
     
  2. Self-Governance Effective leaders engage people because they are able to manage emotions rather than be controlled by them. They are not stress carriers who explode and vent, rather they acknowledge their feelings and those of their employees. They understand the losses people experience when there is change and they help them get through these rough times without writing them off as resistors. Because they maintain their cool, they help employees feel secure in times of turmoil.
     
  3. Intercultural Literacy Leaders develop strong positive relationships with employees because they can “read” them accurately. They understand the reasons for their behavior and feelings and can respond with empathy. A powerful bond is forged when employees have the sense that their leader gets them and can respond with compassion.
     
  4. Social Architecting Finally, leaders with emotional intelligence know how to build inclusive environments where people can blossom. They give honest feedback in helpful ways and deal with problems and conflicts effectively. They involve people so they feel a responsibility to building their own work climate. Most importantly, they develop inclusion through their own welcoming behavior and through the organizational policies and practices they institute.

The relationship leaders build with employees is key to engagement and leaders with emotional intelligence have what it takes to build powerfully good ones.

What Does Emotional Intelligence Have to do With Diversity?

When we first created our Emotional Intelligence and Diversity model and published our four workbooks, we could see the invisible question mark on peoples’ foreheads. What did these two different arenas, Diversity and Emotional Intelligence, have to do with one another? Yet it was our insight that there is a powerful connection between our emotions and how we react to differences that served as the catalyst for our model. It was clear to us that differences stimulate emotional reactions. Rare is the person who is neutral in the face of differences. They can excite and interest us, triggering curiosity, fascination and the motivation to learn more. On the other hand, they can upset and irritate us, stimulating annoyance, frustration and fear.

 

Emotional Intelligence and Diversity

1. Acknowledging Emotional Reactions
Recognizing and dealing with these emotional reactions to differences is at the heart of being effective with diversity. Acknowledging the feelings stimulated by differences is the first step and the introspection that leads to self-knowledge is a fundamental part of EQ. Beyond admitting our emotional reactions, we need methods to deal with them to direct their energy and power in positive ways and emotional intelligence gives those skills.

2. Dealing with Ambiguity
The endless differences diversity brings often present confusing and unclear situations and difficult dilemmas. There are few always and nevers, rights and wrongs when it comes to knowing how to deal with differences. Another way emotional intelligence helps is by giving us the ability to deal with this ambiguity.

3. Developing Empathy
Emotional intelligence also helps us develop and demonstrate empathy, perhaps the most crucial skill in dealing with differences. Not only does walking in another’s shoes enable us to experience and show understanding and compassion, it builds connections that allow relationships across differences to grow.

4. Decreasing Bias
That leads to another key role EQ plays in dealing with differences. It helps decrease bias. Contact theory has shown that when people connect across differences, knowledge is built. However, knowledge is not enough to counter bias. It is the reduction of anxiety that reduces prejudice, not the acquisition of knowledge. Lessening the fear of the other and calming the fight flight response in the face differences are emotional intelligence competences.

5. Building Inclusive Environments
Finally, dealing effectively with diversity requires the ability to create inclusive environments whether in relationships, work groups or organizations. Attending to the feelings and the feedback of others, being able to relate to different personalities and making all feel welcome are emotionally intelligent behaviors. As we always say, “Diversity is a reality, inclusion is a choice.” Emotional intelligence gives us the behavioral keys to inclusion.

The Magic of Emotionally Intelligent and Diverse Teams

What does it take to create exceptional teams that are also transformative, stimulating, synergistic, and high performing? Such teams are comprised of individuals with great emotional intelligence. The question is, what is emotional intelligence and how do we incorporate it into the team culture? Emotional intelligence is a skill in using emotions to communicate, motivate, inspire, and resolve conflicts. Learning this skill can benefit you in your personal and professional relationships. It is also a crucial segment in creating transformative team experiences in diverse teams.



The principle goal of any team is to accomplish its task objectives. It does so through the dynamics of individual and group participation. However, the results may be hit or miss. The Emotional Intelligence and Diversity (EID) approach contributes to accomplishing the task by isolating and systematically teaching its four elements to develop the human infrastructure.

The four key elements that EID builds on diverse teams are Affirmative Introspection, Self-Governance, Intercultural Literacy, and Social Architecting.

I. Team members use their AFFIRMATIVE INTROSPECTION skills by spending time to get to know each other at a deeper level. They have a profound knowledge of their motivators, basic needs, gifts and limitations and they use this knowledge to bring their best selves to
accomplish the task. As a result, they become a highly synergistic team. Additionally, Affirmative Introspection helps team members appreciate and value individuals’ similarities and differences and celebrate each other’s contributions.

II. Team members use SELF-GOVERNANCE skills to develop resilience and navigate the changes that occur in their lives. In dysfunctional teams, when members are confronted with major stressors, they tend to pull away or blame one another. However, when teams use Self-Governance skills, they become resilient and manage to view these defeats as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. Ironically, difficult circumstances bring emotionally intelligent members closer because they feel supported and safe. They are certain that their
friends are there for them during hardships.

III. Team members use INTERCULTURAL LITERACY skills to develop empathy and bring diverse individuals together. Empathy is a crucial element as it requires the ability to understand the motivation, skills, and perspective of another individual in order to really engage in synergistic and creative endeavors. This has tremendous benefits in a global economy. Increasingly, our world requires us to value and leverage our diverse personalities, backgrounds, and life experiences.

IV. Team members use SOCIAL ARCHITECTING skills to communicate and resolve conflicts in respectful ways. This skill is important for teams to develop as they seek a unified vision in which each member feels engaged, included, and fully present.

It is an exhilarating experience for leaders and team members to see a team perform in an emotionally intelligent manner. When using the EID approach, members learn to have great respect for each other's ideas and contributions. This allows and encourages members to continue providing feedback and sharing information with each other. Within that supportive environment, teams will be able to achieve transformational learning and thrive.

The Expectations Game: Achieving Balance for Emotional and Mental Health

Managing expectations is a huge factor and key skill in maintaining one’s emotional and mental health. This very significant lesson hit home years ago when writing my dissertation on stress and change. The questionnaire I administered on the primary sources of work stress had two clear winners: expectations of self and expectations of others. Not long after that, the late Dr. John E. Jones, a brilliant thinker, writer and mentor, introduced a model of anger he co-authored which clearly states that the trigger in anger is always an unmet expectation. This gave me lots to think about because while the downside of having expectations is apparent, it is also clear that they are a necessary part of life and play an essential role in achieving goals and creating positive change.

Since expectations can wreak mental and emotional havoc and since they are also critical for accomplishment and satisfaction, the central question focuses on how we learn to use them for good without getting trapped, and how to find the joy amid this ever shifting expectations game. Rasheed Ogunlaru has a wonderful response to this conundrum. “Live your life, sing your song. Not for expectations. Not for the ovations. But for the joy of it.” It is our hope that the three ideas we offer can help you experience resilience, growth, satisfaction and as Ogunlaru suggests, joy.

View your expectations as your lodestars. Viewing expectations as your lifelong companions accompanying you on all of your life’s journeys can help you gain a more even perspective. They are a normal part of life like the air we breathe and they can serve the function of guiding, inspiring and teaching you. Looking at them in this vein, with less judgment and pressure attached to the outcomes and more matter-of-factness to the whole process, makes them less demanding and detrimental. Expectations just are, and they can be friends, motivators and teachers if used in a healthy way. Mark Twain very cleverly said, “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” Even if what we get is weather, they can still contribute as lodestars as long as we do not bemoan what we get.

Be flexible – It is the key to helping expectations work for you. Brandon Sanderson in The Way of Kings, perfectly captures the essence of this second idea. “Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them the more likely they were to crack.” Having expectations as lodestars but not as definitive, must-have destinations is helpful. As you live, plan, dream and create visions, your expectations often change for many reasons. Letting them go, or changing shape without being judgmental and harsh about yourself regarding these changes, is a healthy and effective way to learn a “go with the flow” philosophy. When all the messages from the universe are saying “Change your expectations and rethink them,” hanging on to them or criticizing yourself because you want change is not wise. Being flexible is. Pat yourself on the back for noticing the clues; for taking in new information and for actually using it. And finally, kudos to you for recognizing that expectations are a necessary starting point but are not the destination itself.

Create a non-judgmental philosophy of balance that you actually live. Welcome your expectations as a sign of vitality, energy and even passion for many of the things you want to experience or accomplish in life. For your final gift to yourself regarding expectations, acknowledge that both you, and those from whom you expect things in various parts of your life, are human. You will not always come through and neither will your colleagues, family members, friends, neighbors or others on whom you have placed expectations. We are all human and usually trying to do the best we can do. Jodi Picoult hits the nail on the head when she says in Nineteen Minutes, “There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.” We think she is onto something here. Both are good options under different circumstances. It is important and necessary to hold self and others accountable for results as you learn, adapt and attempt to improve your reality. It is equally important to have some patience and benevolence toward self and others as real life sets in and remember that not all expectations can or should be met. Balancing focus and flexibility is a winning combination that leads to greater acceptance of what is. Knowing when to push and fight for something and when to let life be what it is falls under the heading of wisdom and I love the simplicity of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”