Tag Archives: Emotional Intelligence

The Language of Leadership in the 21st Century

I’ve always loved language. Admittedly, my facility in it is sadly limited to English, a few French words and phrases, body language (on a good day) and oh yes, a little pig Latin. But, what I love about language is its power to shape ideas, create images, evoke emotion and give birth to new habits and traditions.

In organizations, language also has the power to determine what matters. For instance, the language of the 20th Century stressed, among other things, the importance of control, competition, individual targets, winning, losing and results. And while many of these words allude to activities that continue to be important, there is other language creeping into the 21st Century landscape that will affect our behaviour and change the way we go about things.

To some, this language is associated with the softer side of life. In the past, It has often been derided and dismissed as being too ethereal or without merit in the workplace. But, as this new century unfolds, language like this will re-shape what matters and reveal its harder edge as we put it into practice.

So, what specifically am I talking about? Well, no doubt you will have heard and used the words. But because I often think it’s easy to use words without really understanding what they mean or how they might be used in any sort of practical way, I thought I’d have a go at bringing them into the light if only for the sake of provoking your own thoughts about their applicability in these highly challenging times. Words, after all, have a way of being open to interpretation and I’m sure you will have yours. But, for what it’s worth here are mine:

The first word is Empathy. To me, empathy in action looks like this. You and I are sharing our viewpoints over a particular issue. It is a difficult conversation. What I’m hearing from you sounds foreign and unlikely and yet I want to make sense of what you are saying. So I stop. I let my ego and my belief that I am right go, and I step into your shoes. I do that by asking questions and exploring the issue from your perspective. I seek to see what you see. In so doing I search for what you might be feeling and when I find it, I begin to understand what it’s like to be there. In short, empathy is about understanding. But just to be clear, it is not necessarily about agreeing.

Here are some other key words that come to mind:

Inclusion is about creating an environment where people feel they belong; are valued and respected. Including people means asking their opinions frequently; trusting them to take the lead in situations where their strengths will better serve the purpose; acknowledging their contributions sincerely and often.

Self-awareness is about knowing our own strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and attitudes well enough to understand our impact on those around us and how effective, or perhaps ineffective, it is in certain situations.

Cultural awareness is about the values, beliefs and perceptions that are part of the organization and the people who work in it. Organizations with an enduring culture will be ones that align their activities and practices with their values and beliefs. These values and beliefs are brought alive through action and thought; in their approach to the customer; in their hiring practices and in the kind of business they choose to conduct.

Diversity is about achieving a real appreciation for the heterogeneous nature of the world and it’s people. To me, embracing diversity means appreciating, understanding, valuing and using our differences to enhance the work and create something greater than we might otherwise do by behaving divisively and out of ignorance or fear.

Openness is about being truthful and giving people the information and resources they need to do their jobs. It also reminds me of the critical need to be receptive to new ideas from a variety of sources and people. In the last century, information was often used as a power tool by a few against the many. Today, I think that power is at its most effective when it is collectively held and willingly shared.

Adaptability in this century will be key to not only successful organizations but ones that simply seek survival as well. This is about learning to accept change as an every day occurrence as opposed to an event that must be planned and carefully managed. It speaks to the necessity to be continually reading, questioning and challenging the current environment. Today becomes yesterday in the blink of an eye. I think that those who learn fast and change faster will do better in these times than those who don’t.

Collaboration speaks to the need to work together for a common purpose. The 20th Century organization was rife with silos and walls that provoked, or perhaps encouraged, internal competition and rivalries. Now it’s time to build bridges between people and lines of business; to eschew hoarding behaviour and learn to share ideas and resources for a purpose that will be of service to everyone involved

These are just eight words that I think, when put into action, will define leadership, and organizational life, in the years to come. There are, of course, others. But, my point is that the more we use this language, and seek to understand its meaning and application, the better equipped we will be to meet the challenges that this century presents.

What do you think? What words come to mind for you when you think about leadership today? What do they mean to you? How will they affect the way we work?

Note: This post was originally published in October 2010

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Filed under Building Relationships, Change Management, communication, Leadership, Leadership Development, organizational Development, Organizational Effectiveness

Building Awareness ~ Lessons from a Dancing Bear

It was James Thurber who said, “Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness”  This started me thinking about  how important awareness is in leadership and in life.  And, it reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago about building awareness in organizations.  So, as a refresher, here it is  again.

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The other day I came across this little film clip that was, I gather, designed to draw our attention to the need for vigilance on the road.  It made me think about how easy it is to miss what’s going on, even when it’s right in front of us. Please watch the film.  It takes less than a minute. Honest.

How’d you do?  Did you get the number of passes right?  I did.  In fact, I felt quite   proud of myself until I realized what I had missed.  I was too busy concentrating on getting the numbers right to notice.  It happens.

This concentration on one thing to the exclusion of everything else happens to leaders too and yet I think we know that a leader’s job is never about just one thing.  It’s about a whole whack of things that go on around them all of the time and often at the same time.  Consequently, building awareness about themselves, their environment and those around them is a pretty big deal.  And, it’s a big deal that often makes the difference between success and failure.

The truth is, that while a few people may be particularly gifted with a keen sense of awareness, most of us need help.  Blind spots abound.  So what to do?

Well, whether you are working on improving your selfcultural or social awareness, it seems to me that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole company to build awareness and to use what comes from it for the benefit of everyone involved.

Practically speaking, leaders who know the value of building awareness tend to do these four things to encourage and grow it in their organizations:

Invite: We are each provided with one pair of eyes, one pair of ears and one voice.  It only makes sense to invite more eyes, ears and voices to participate in achieving clarity of purpose and a common understanding of what’s important and why.  Multiple observations contribute to the formation of a shared picture and the awareness of the organization as a dynamic body, always changing and moving toward the accomplishment of shared goals.

Inquire:  Sometimes it is simply a matter of admitting when we don’t know something and asking others to help fill in the blanks.  This is particularly true when it comes to building self-awareness.  Enlightenment in these areas admittedly can be painful at times but also self-affirming. And, the truth is, the more we know about ourselves the better able we are to navigate the rough and the smooth without having to spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about ourselves.

Include: Often, it is tempting to gather around us only those who think like we do.  We like it because well, it just feels more comfortable.  But, building awareness in organizations is not about comfort or even being agreeable all the time.  It’s about getting a grip on what’s real and about creating depth of understanding that not only strengthens the organization but also the people it serves.

Intuit: Ah yes, the third eye…okay maybe not… but intuition often plays a part in building awareness.  It is sometimes not what is said but what is not said that seems the most obvious.  While operating from intuition alone can be a dangerous thing, there are times when those gut feelings serve a very useful purpose.  In fact, combined with inquiry and inclusion, it is a very powerful tool.

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The bottom line is this:  One person cannot see everything.  Building awareness in organizations must be a collective effort with participation from many and diverse people. Leaders who value the eyes, ears and voices of those around them will be unlikely to miss the moon walking bear too often.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?

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Leadership & The Destructive Nature of Emotional Stupidity

Aristotle once said, “Anyone can get angry. That’s easy. But to get angry in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time and with the right person…that’s not so easy”

I was reminded of this the other day when on television, I, along with countless others witnessed this:

It appears that the man, a minor league hockey coach, deliberately trips two boys on the opposing team resulting in one of the boys sustaining an injury.

There are many theories about what happened here, including the coach’s claim that his foot ‘slipped’.   There is further film showing the man ‘flipping the bird’ toward a group of parents in the stands who were showing their outrage. To date, the incident is under police investigation.  The coach is disgraced and now likely suspended or unemployed.  He may also be charged with felony assault. And, it is possible that the minor hockey league has also sustained a blow to its own reputation.

This is a prime example of what can happen when we allow our emotions to run amok.

Some say this man was provoked, pushed beyond endurance.  None of us knows for sure. But, from a leadership perspective, there are some things I think we can reasonably conclude:

Role modeling cuts both ways

It was reported that boys on both teams were trading insults throughout the course of the game.  This coach was apparently a popular target. While it was no doubt highly frustrating for him, it was also entirely possible that his own behaviour gave the boys the unspoken permission they needed to respond in kind.

Lesson # 1 ~ If you want people to behave well and follow the principles of fair play, be clear about what those principles are; ensure there are consequences for failing to adhere to them; and above all, be meticulous about following them yourself.

Self-management is critical to successful leadership

No matter what the provocation, indulging in hissy fits in the presence of others is just wrong.  It serves no useful purpose except to ensure that your working environment will increase in toxicity each time you allow it to happen.

Lesson # 2 ~ Leadership is not about you. Get over yourself.

Respect is hard earned …and lost in the blink of an eye

This coach may well have many grievances to report about players and parents alike.  Some of his complaints might even be well founded.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, it was his job to provide leadership to those boys; a framework of acceptable behaviour that would help them grow to be good men.  He failed.  And, somewhere along the line, they gave him some very poor marks for it.  Whatever respect he may have earned as coach of his team, quickly dissolved in the time it took for him to lift his foot and upend two unsuspecting players.

Lesson #3 ~ Think before you act…or live to regret it.

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There is really no happy ending to this story except perhaps if this coach decides to change something about himself as result of the consequences he is bound to suffer for having behaved so badly.

Could it happen to any one of us?  We’d like to think not, of course.  But, before we get too judgmental or complacent let’s remember the last time we leaned on our car horns and said some colourful things to the person a couple of cars away who just cut us off.  We get angry.  It happens.  But being aware of our own triggers and managing them is important, not just for our own well-being but to ensure that we do not sabotage what we spend so much of our valuable time building.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

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Emotional Stupidity & Some Thoughts On What to Do About it

The other day, I witnessed myself having a particularly spectacular, um, brain fart. It tends to happen when I am attempting to work with anything electronic or mechanical for which I have virtually no aptitude, or patience.

I was rearranging a room.  This required moving all of the computer equipment to another location, unplugging everything and then plugging it back in again.  It sounds easy doesn’t it?   I expect that to a lot of people it is. But, somehow I got all mixed up among the various wires, plugs, power bars and extension cords and lost my Internet connection. Amid the mounting pressure, I fussed and fumed and completely lost my focus.  Why would the green light on the Airport Express Thingy not come on, I demanded, to no one in particular?

Eventually, I called the young man who had helped move the furniture and asked him for some thoughts.  He coached me over the phone.  Were all my connections properly attached to the modem?  Check. Were my extension cords viable? Check. And so it went, but to no avail.

Finally, he agreed to come over and take a look. He arrived with a new extension cord in hand, (just in case) looked at my Airport Express Thingy and, simply plugged it in.  The green light went on and the internet connection was instantly restored.

To his credit, the young man did not laugh at me, (well not in my presence anyway).  And I, feeling very sheepish indeed could only laugh at myself.  But it set me to thinking about the myriad of things that create pressure for leaders every day and how important it is to find ways to remain calm in the face of them.  Looking back, I expect that had I not allowed myself to get into a complete lather, I might have noticed that the Airport Express Thingy was unplugged.  But, I didn’t… so I didn’t.

If you are a new leader, you may wonder why it is so important to remain calm when you don’t feel calm.  Well, first, as illustrated in the story, allowing ourselves to get our shorts in a knot distorts our vision and keeps us from accomplishing what we set out to do. And second, people will be watching. Leadership involves role modeling. People will watch and will find permission to conduct themselves in ways that align with the leader’s behaviour.  So, if you allow yourself to get bent out of shape, it seems reasonable that others will allow themselves the same opportunity, accomplishing nothing.

So, the question is, how do we avoid this kind of emotional stupidity and stay calm when the pressures of the day start to pile up on us?  Well, in light of my recent experience I have had a chance to think about that a bit.  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Stop and Take a Breath

If I had stopped and walked away for a while and focused on something else, I might very well have come back to the computer connection task with a mind clear enough and emotions settled enough to see what I was doing wrong.

Note the Triggers

If I were to be truthful, I know that whenever I get involved with anything that requires assembly, I’m going to experience stress.  It just seems to be a trigger for me.  So, perhaps the next time I engage in work of this kind, I will bear it in mind and be a little more patient, not only with the task but also with myself. Noting the triggers that set us off has a way of minimizing frustration and the irrational behaviour that often stems from it.

Maintain a Sense of Proportion

I don’t know about you but when I get stressed over something, that something has a way of getting blown up beyond all reasonable proportion.  Things that were a nuisance before somehow morph into something bordering on catastrophic.  I’m thinking that I could avoid this in future simply by reminding myself that there is a solution to just about every problem and if I can’t see it there is bound to be someone who can…which leads me to the next point.

Engage others in problem solving

Sometimes we just get too close to a problem to be able to see a way around, or through, it.  This is when building relationships with others who are willing to help and advise us becomes very handy.  Luckily, in my experience, people actually want to be a part of solutions.  Often, it is just a case of asking them.

So tell me, what sets you off?  How do you manage it?  What happens to you when you don’t?

 

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Taming the Inner Mule

The other night I was reminded how stubborn I can be at times. Yep. Really.

I was watching the evening news with my husband and he asked me to change the channel so he could watch the national, rather than the provincial, news.  I said, “This is the National News”.

He said, “No it isn’t. Lloyd Robertson is on the national news and I prefer listening to him over the other guy on channel three”

I said, “ Well, this is Lloyd Robertson’s program.

He said, “ No it isn’t but if you think so, you must be right”

Suffice it to say, after a  few more seconds of an “It is so! It is not!” kind of exchange, I discovered I was wrong, but not before I had dug in my heels and clung to my view of things until it sounded somewhat reminiscent of this:

Of course our “discussion” was not quite as strident as the one portrayed, but the point is, I believed I was right and clung to that belief as if it were a baby cub and I, a mother lion.  Luckily, this kind of intractability does not happen in our house too often, but when it does, everything seems to shut down until we discover where the error in thinking lies. And, until a correction, and an apology, is made.

Stubbornness is an insidious thing.  It can creep up on you and before you know it there is an enormous barrier between you and another person, or you and a bunch of other persons.  In leadership, it is also a destructive thing that closes the door on creativity and serves to frustrate and exclude people whose potential contribution is often ignored or discounted.

Let’s face it; we all like to be right.  If it were possible, we would all like to be right all of the time…but it’s not.

So, what to do?   Well, a good place to start is by looking in the mirror.  All of us are stubborn at some time or another.  It’s not that rare.  But, here’s the thing.  If we are leaders of people we cannot afford to luxuriate in the illusion that we are always right.  Getting married to our own ideas to the exclusion of others is an appalling waste of everyone’s time and talent.  And really,  failing to tame the inner mule comes with the high cost of lost opportunity and damaged relationships, which could be more than we are willing to pay.

So on those occasions when we notice ourselves digging in for a session of  “Yes, it is. No it’s not” Let’s do three things.  Stop…even if it is in mid-sentence.  Step Back…create some space in the dialogue long enough to take a breath. And Listen…focus on really understanding what is being said and pretend, for a moment that the other person actually might know what s/he is talking about.

By doing things as simple as that, our chances of discovering a plethora of useful and creative perspectives that will serve the collective purpose will be that much greater.

What do you think?  When was the last time you dug in your heels and started braying? What was the result? How can leaders keep their inner mules from getting in their way?

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The Language of Leadership in the 21st Century.

I’ve always loved language.  Admittedly, my facility in it is sadly limited to English, a few French words and phrases, body language (on a good day) and oh yes, a little pig Latin. But, what I love about language is its power to shape ideas, create images, evoke emotion and give birth to new habits and traditions.

In organizations, language also has the power to determine what matters.  For instance, the language of the 20th Century stressed, among other things, the importance of control, competition, individual targets, winning, losing and results. And while many of these words allude to activities that continue to be important, there is other language creeping into the 21st Century landscape that will affect our behaviour and change the way we go about things.

To some, this language is associated with the softer side of life.  In the past, It has often been derided and dismissed as being too ethereal or without merit in the workplace.  But, as this new century unfolds, language like this will re-shape what matters and reveal its harder edge as we put it into practice.

So, what specifically am I talking about?  Well, no doubt you will have heard and used the words. But because I often think it’s easy to use words without really understanding what they mean or how they might be used in any sort of practical way, I thought I’d have a go at bringing them into the light if only for the sake of provoking your own thoughts about their applicability in these highly challenging times.  Words, after all, have a way of being open to interpretation and I’m sure you will have yours.  But, for what it’s worth here are mine:

The first word is Empathy. To me, empathy in action looks like this.  You and I are sharing our viewpoints over a particular issue.  It is a difficult conversation.  What I’m hearing from you sounds foreign and unlikely and yet I want to make sense of what you are saying.  So I stop.  I let my ego and my belief that I am right go, and I step into your shoes.  I do that by asking questions and exploring the issue from your perspective.  I seek to see what you see.  In so doing I search for what you might be feeling and when I find it, I begin to understand what it’s like to be there.  In short, empathy is about understanding.   But just to be clear, it is not necessarily about agreeing.

Here are some other key words that come to mind:

Inclusion is about creating an environment where people feel they belong; are valued and respected.   Including people means asking their opinions frequently; trusting them to take the lead in situations where their strengths will better serve the purpose; acknowledging their contributions sincerely and often.

Self-awareness is about knowing our own strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and attitudes well enough to understand our impact on those around us and how effective, or perhaps ineffective, it is in certain situations.

Cultural awareness is about the values, beliefs and perceptions that are part of the organization and the people who work in it. Organizations with an enduring culture will be ones that align their activities and practices with their values and beliefs.  These values and beliefs are brought alive through action and thought; in their approach to the customer; in their hiring practices and in the kind of business they choose to conduct.

Diversity is about achieving a real appreciation for the heterogeneous nature of the world and it’s people.  To me, embracing diversity means appreciating, understanding, valuing and using our differences to enhance the work and create something greater than we might otherwise do by behaving divisively and out of ignorance or fear.

Openness is about being truthful and giving people the information and resources they need to do their jobs. It also reminds me of the critical need to be receptive to new ideas from a variety of sources and people. In the last century, information was often used as a power tool by a few against the many. Today, I think that power is at its most effective when it is collectively held and willingly shared.

Adaptability in this century will be key to not only successful organizations but ones that simply seek survival as well.  This is about learning to accept change as an every day occurrence as opposed to an event that must be planned and carefully managed.  It speaks to the necessity to be continually reading, questioning and challenging the current environment.  Today becomes yesterday in the blink of an eye.  I think that those who learn fast and change faster will do better in these times than those who don’t.

Collaboration speaks to the need to work together for a common purpose.  The 20th Century organization was rife with silos and walls that provoked, or perhaps encouraged, internal competition and rivalries.  Now it’s time to build bridges between people and lines of business; to eschew hoarding behaviour and learn to share ideas and resources for a purpose that will be of service to everyone involved

These are just eight words that I think, when put into action, will define leadership, and organizational life, in the years to come.  There are, of course, others.  But, my point is that the more we use this language, and seek to understand its meaning and application, the better equipped we will be to meet the challenges that this century presents.

What do you think?  What words come to mind for you when you think about leadership today? What do they mean to you?  How will they affect the way we work?

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More than One Way to Skin the Cat – Leadership Style Part III

In addition to the Command and Control style, there are a number of leadership styles that Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee unearthed in the book, Primal Leadership, Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence.

And therein lies the rub, as they say…first because we all have a pre-dominant leadership style which also becomes our default style when we are stressed or excited or both; and second because we don’t always know when to use what style.

This is my interpretation of Mr Goleman and company’s view of a variety of leadership styles; the characteristics of each; and when it’s appropriate as a tool to maintain what he refers to as a positive emotional climate.

Style Characteristics When appropriate
Visionary
  • Emphasis on moving toward a compelling future vision
  • Focuses on the big picture but brings it down to the ground to allow people to see where they fit
  • Provides motivation for people to move forward and structure for people to work within
When changes require a new vision or clarity of purpose is needed.

A highly effective style

Coaching
  • Emphasis on maximizing individual and team potential
  • Communicates genuine interest in people
  • Works tirelessly with people to extract their best performance
  • Engenders trust
At times when followers want and need to improve individual and team performance

Another highly effective style.

Affiliative
  • Emphasis on creating and maintaining harmony
  • Values people and their feelings
When rifts occur in teams and during stressful times to strengthen relationships

An effective style when used in combination with others that ensure that tasks are accomplished

Democratic
  • Emphasis on democracy and consensus building
  • Values input from others
  • Invites discussion and debate
Works well in combination with visionary style.

Has a positive impact but can delay decision-making

or lead to poor use of time

Pace-Setting
  • Emphasis on setting high standards with little direction or support
  • Can focus on outcomes or “bottom line” issues excluding the larger vision.
Works well when all people involved are highly motivated and skilled needing little direction.

Is often used inappropriately and can leave followers feeling poorly prepared or too driven.

So, you decide.  Are there other styles as well as the good ol’ command and control and the ones just described?  Is it possible to develop skill in all of them?  Does it help just to be aware of them and of our own pre-dominant style? Is there something missing?  What do you think?

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Know Thyself Part II – Smart Emotions

So! Emotional Intelligence!   If you are unfamiliar with it, I strongly advise that you explore it because Emotional Intelligence is a critical component of good leadership.

Very basically, The Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EI) allows you to identify, understand and manage your emotions and use them to create rich relationships in your organization and, of course, in other areas of your life too.

The notion of Emotional Intelligence began as far back as the 1930s but it stayed pretty much in the psychologists’ world until the mid 90′s when Daniel Goleman made it popular through his book, EI: Why it can matter more than IQ

After that, the idea of Emotional Intelligence moved from its fuzzy place in psycho-babble land into the mainstream where leaders and others everywhere found it to have some very real, valuable and practical application.

In a nutshell, EI helps us to examine and understand ourselves on four fronts:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Management

When leaders are self aware it means that they have a pretty good handle on how their emotions affect others; their strengths and limitations and; their ability to accept challenges with confidence.

Leaders who self-manage well are generally controlling their more disruptive emotions and impulses.  More specifically, when crises happen, people who have the ability to self-manage well, do not panic or put everyone else in a tizzy. And believe me, that is something to strive for!   Among other things, Self management is also about transparency.  That means that they are clear about their feelings and actions and ‘fess up when they mess up.

Leaders who are socially aware, demonstrate empathy for others; are usually good at picking up on things like atmospheres and body language and; appreciate and use diversity positively.

Finally, leaders who manage relationships well tend to be good at motivating and inspiring others.  They maintain a positive influence on the people around them and take a genuine and active interest in their development.  Good relationship managers are also good at leading people through change and managing conflict.  And they are collaborators and team builders extraordinaire. Whew!

Okay, so the number of leaders that excel in all these areas is rare indeed.  So don’t panic.  But, the EI Quotient gives us a benchmark for goal setting and improvement. And that can only be a good thing.

So how Emotionally Intelligent are you?  Check out this web-site and for a small fee, you can find out!

Here’s the link Have fun!  It doesn’t hurt a bit.

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Know Thyself – Part I

This week, I’m going to play with the notion of Self-knowledge as a critical component of good leadership.  Some might call this navel-gazing.  Some might be of the opinion that they know themselves well enough, having lived in their own skins for however long.  But to me, you can’t hope to be a good leader unless you are fully aware of your impact on the people and environment around you.

In other words, before even considering leadership style or the skills required to be a good leader, you need to first establish and confirm for yourself, who you are and what you have to offer as a human being.

So, how well do you know yourself?    When was the last time you really examined your thoughts, motives, and emotions to the extent that you know how you influence what goes on around you?

Questions, Questions, Questions…and the answers are not always staring us in the face but, there are numerous ways to get some insight into how we are… as others see us.  Some are more useful than others

To my mind, there are two pieces of work in particular that have proven invaluable in the area of self-assessment.  Click on the links to learn more about them.

Emotional Intelligence and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator

On Wednesday, we’ll explore the concept of Emotional Intelligence and I’ll point you in the direction of a pretty good self assessment web-site to check out.

In the meantime, I leave you today with the thought that receiving feedback about yourself, (no matter how potentially useful it might be), is only useful if you choose to believe it… and then do something with it.

With that in mind, here’s Something to readTurning Feedback into Change Joe Folkman, Ph.D.

Oh, and just for fun check out The Who.  They don’t seem to know themselves.


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