Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want to know the Real Basis for Emotional Intelligence?

Want more engagement with your team?

Been told you could be more empathetic?

Wondering what Emotional Intelligence even is?

If you know what emotional intelligence is skip the first sections and jump to the tool and tips.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

EI (or EQ) is the overarching term to describe four concepts: the ability to know one’s emotions, manage one’s emotions, understand the emotions of other people, and manage relationships with others. As the English Oxford Living Dictionary defines it: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically”. The concept was popularized in the 1996 book Emotional intelligence by Daniel Goleman, still a great reference to this day.

What is Emotional Intelligence in Leadership?

EQ in Leadership is about knowing and managing one’s self enough to influence, motivate, connect and inspire others. It’s the soft skills or people skills needed to interact with others.
Some clients have asked “isn’t this manipulation?” The Oxford English Dictionary says manipulate is: “handle or control (a tool, mechanism, information, etc.) in a skilful manner. Control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly.” So, yes, it is manipulation. And, so what? If you get what you want while being yourself AND the other person is treated well, with full permission to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and has their needs met, what does it matter? The issue is the intention behind the interaction; if it’s to influence for good reasons, then OK; if it’s to influence for unscrupulous, evil, bad reasons, then it’s not OK.

The Foundation for EQ is….

Emotions. The clue was in the title – EMOTIONal intelligence.

Humans are emotional beings. The part of our brain that deals with emotions (limbic) is the first port of call for all nerve endings entering our brain through our spinal cord. Nerve impulses hit the “emotion” part before getting to the prefrontal cortex where reason and executive function happens.

Feelings in the Workplace

People say that business isn’t personal, that it’s rational and fact-based. And emotions are present at work every day.

Organizations want and even foster emotions at work – emotions such as: calm, optimistic, positive, engaged, energetic, confident, trusting, passionate, enthusiastic to name just a few.

Yes, that list is a list of emotions that companies have in mind when hiring, when considering promotions, wanting in and for their people.

So Why Are Emotions Denied by Many in the Workplace?

I believe it’s because of FEAR (which is a feeling). Many of us aren’t taught about emotions or feelings either from our upbringing or our schooling. When we aren’t comfortable with something, it’s hard to be with it. We don’t know what to do when someone expresses an emotion.
A coaching client of mine was beside himself when a direct report cried in their 1:1. He wanted the crying to stop. He was so uncomfortable with it he lost the idea that a direct report was feeling so bad that she was in tears. Once we reviewed the feelings wheel and the content in this article he felt better able to handle it the next time. He revisited the situation with the direct report and helped her learn what was behind the emotion. Interestingly, he found out the tears where frustration and anger at a colleague stonewalling a key project. He never imagined this was the issue.

How to Use Emotions at Work

Emotions are data. Just as sales, staff turnover, and market research are all data. The data needs to be analysed to become information that you can then action. Say your company is below the sales target this month. You analyse the data to determine what’s causing the low sales number until you identify the root cause, so you can find the appropriate solution and act on it.

And emotions are the same. They tell you something. The emotions we think of as “positive” are emotions we feel when our needs are being met. The emotions we think of as “negative” are emotions we feel when our needs are not being met.

Same for other people. When someone is engaged and attentive, a need of theirs is being met (they are intellectually stimulated, hopeful about an idea, or being valued for example). When someone is frustrated, a need of there is not being met (they are not getting the answer they want, or fast enough for example).

Practical Tips for Emotions at Work

  • Get yourself a ‘feelings wheel’ like the one in this article to use to accurately name or label the feelings/internal emotions you are feeling. Of note, feeling dismissed, feeling undervalued, feeling attacked, feeling excluded are not feelings. They are thoughts. They are judgments or evaluations or opinions. Focus on the feeling itself, that’s where the data is. The judgement is not necessarily accurate and it’s most probably not helpful. This is the work of Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg if you want to learn more.
  • Reflect on what your emotions are at various times while working. What is the information in that emotion? If it’s ‘positive’ your needs or wants are being met – what are those needs? If it’s ‘negative’ your needs or wants are not being met – what are those needs? The more comfortable you are with your emotions the more comfortable you can be with others’ emotions.
  • If you have unmet needs, what are all the possible ways of getting those needs met? How do you want to proceed to get those needs met? Or recognize that need doesn’t have to be met?Ask others what they are feeling. Help them identify the real feeling they have rather than their judgement. Help them see their needs – whether met or unmet for their self-awareness. Other people always have emotions, they are there whether you ask about them or not. Better to ask and have them out (good or bad) so they can be enjoyed or released.


What are you feeling after reading this article?

What might your people be feeling in their lives? In their interaction with you?

What might be helpful for you and your team to have greater success, agility, resilience and satisfaction?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help you motivate, influence and inspire your people.

Wellbeing Versus Workload? Doesn’t have to be One or the Other.

Too much to do not enough time? I’m feeling this as I write because I’m trying to get everything done before taking time off work for vacation/annual leave. I’m not the only one. A recent UK-wide study by YouGov found ¾ of ALL UK adults have felt so stressed at times in the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope¹. Another study conducted by leading UK universities found 2/3 of people working in health and social care are overwhelmed and at risk of burnout². Research in the USA found similar results across a multitude of industries and professions.

In the past week alone 12,100 google searches have been conducted in the UK for the word OVERWHELM. Add in all the variations of overwhelmed, overwhelmed at work, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, burnout and it’s 10’s of thousands pf people researching it and those are just the people who taking the time and have the headspace to google it.

One of my clients has a team working in Ukraine. Yes, they are still working there 2 months after the start of the war. The day before our coaching session my client was handling the disruption in work caused by the shelling in the area where most of his team were situated while making sure his team was safe, their families were safe, and arranging if anyone now wanted to leave while managing his stress, fears and work requirements. Gratefully I’m not dealing with life and death as many of my clients are at this time.

Importance of Wellbeing at Work

The above stats underline the requirement for organizations to focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Decades ago wellbeing in the workplace was about gym membership benefits, health insurance, medication plans etc. A company was deemed to be progressive if the benefits extended to onsite gyms and benefit coverage for massages. It was all about health in terms of physical health. Later wellbeing extended to employee assistance programs to address some of the mental and emotional things that people face.
Now it’s about body, mind and soul – holistic wellbeing to not just cope or avoid burnout but to enjoy, contribute, be fulfilled in the way that’s best for the individual. It’s about supporting people to be authentically themselves (diversity, equality and inclusion is an aspect of this) and to be resilient to the scale and pace of change in today’s world. It’s dealing with people as full human beings and not just their head and hands who do tasks at work.

Leadership Challenge

For some in leadership positions this evolution and the current reality are obvious, and for others it’s a difficult transition. Some just want people to come into work, get the work done well and go home. There’s a discomfort around “understanding peoples’ needs and feelings,” making sure others are feeling ‘ok,’ being mindful in how work is delegated rather than just assigning tasks. This challenge can be met with better emotional intelligence (EQ). Knowing yourself and then knowing others, so you can manage the interaction to be win-win.

Wellbeing + Workload – Not a trade-off

The people are the key to getting the work done; an organization can’t succeed without productive people and for sustained productivity, people need to be healthy and well (holistically across head, heart and hands).

People + Wellbeing = Productivity

The biggest thing is to be in dialogue about this exact thing – how do we achieve our goals while looking after ourselves and others? It’s not a question of prioritizing one over the other. It’s about working in a ‘healthy’ way within a wellbeing culture. A leader’s thoughts need to be oriented around “I want you to be yourself, I can’t do it without you, your total wellbeing is key. What does that mean and how do we facilitate it?”

Tips for Working in a Wellbeing Manner

1. Be Courageous – have the courage to have the conversation about the work needs and human needs. In fact, courage is needed for each of the following tips. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s feeling the fear and proceeding despite it. This requires self-management in emotional intelligence terms – feeling it and speaking up anyway.

2. Acknowledge Emotions– Stress is present in the workplace; the issue is to what degree? Behavioural science tells us that some amount of stress is needed to perform, it creates the energy to follow through and act, it motivates. When it’s too much it becomes counterproductive. Talk about how people are feeling sometimes. The feelings are there (‘positive’ and ‘negative’) whether we talk about them or not. Having people share their emotions can alleviate the pressure or in the case of ‘positive’ emotions make the environment better.

3. Simplify – Challenge what work really needs to be done. Are we focusing on the right things to make a difference and be successful? Question old processes, practices or expectations? This takes courage especially during change – it often feels safer to continue doing what has always been done. Are there new, faster, more efficient ways of doing some of the work? Ask because you might not know, and others might. This is vulnerable and hence takes courage as there’s a fear of saying ‘I don’t know’ in an organization and being judged poorly for it. This also included reducing the reliance on the volume of emails people send, and the amount of inefficient and needless meetings – complaints from pretty much everyone!

4. Learn how to say no or ‘set boundaries’ – what do you do when you’re being asked to do too much at work or you just have too much work to do? You talk about it in a respectful, professional, transparent manner. Tell people that consequences of taking on another task or project so choices or priorities can be clear. This touches on all 4 quadrants of the EQ model – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social management.

5. Foster individual resilience – promote self-awareness, reframe failure or mistakes to learnings, adopt a growth mindset, be connected to others for support and perspective, watch when your stress moves from optimal to overload, talk to others about how you feel. As part of resilience, healthy lifestyle routines are mandatory such as: eat healthy food, create good sleep habits, exercise regularly, avoid or limit alcohol, sugar, and excessive screen time, undertake regular health checks, practice some sort of mindfulness and relaxation, be in nature, have friends/family around you and enjoy some fun.

6. Ensure the practical wellbeing fundamentals are in place – ensure fair pay and benefit structures; environmental aspects such as accessible, good food onsite, physical spaces are ergonomic, legal/reasonable working hours are enforced, fitness in supported, employee assistance programs are robust and known, career development is cultivated, employees have a voice through some forum.

7. Be a values and purpose led leader (if not organizations) – be open and engaged in two-way conversation, behave in accordance with the company values and mission, encourage and role model a good personal/professional balance, create autonomy for people to do what they do, belonging and connection. Humans are social creatures and since we spend most of our waking hours at work this connection needs to be authentic and positive.

What one thing in this list could deliver the biggest improvement in your wellbeing?

What’s the leadership challenge you’re facing?

What support could you have to help your own productivity and resilience?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to you can optimize your wellbeing and workload and/or that of your people.

¹ https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

² https://www.ulster.ac.uk/news/2022/may/uk-wide-study-shows-health-and-social-care-workforce-working-longer-hours-with-two-thirds-feeling-overwhelmed-and-at-risk-of-burnout

EQ Leadership Formula Model

What can the dinosaur extinction teach us? Read here.

I’m always fascinated to hear what CEOs have to say about leadership – when they pull back the curtain and reveal their thoughts and feelings, what’s going on behind the scenes for them.

Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company, talked of dinosaurs!

Asked how different he is as CEO compared with 30 years ago when he was studying finance and accounting at university he says: “Hopefully that version of me is now quite different— and not only in that timeframe, but also between now and 2017 when I took on this role. Being able to take in new situations and reimagine and reinvent yourself, to me, is part of life. The alternative is ossification, and that’s not a good thing. It didn’t help the dinosaurs, and it doesn’t help us.

I’m in the process of reimagining myself. I’ve accepted I’m a writer (an award-winning business book helps 😉). I am not a video presenter, I don’t like doing videos and I’m pushing myself to embrace that for an upcoming event I’m doing with @Sue Belton. It’s having me stretch myself with practical things such as smile more, pause, don’t talk to fast, look at the camera, and remember you’re co-presenting. It’s having me challenge my beliefs and work through my preferences for static, quiet activities.

Reinventing, and at least reimaging, one’s self is fundamental to the Self-Awareness portion of Emotional Intelligence. It starts with knowing yourself and your emotions. Understanding yourself will help you know the aspects of yourself that serve you and those that don’t. The ones that aren’t serving you anymore might point to a risk of ossification.

The key tip to doing this is booking time with yourself regularly. This is called leadership reflection time. In this time ask yourself some of the following questions:

• What’s needed from me now? This might be related to a specific situation or individual or in your role.
• What feedback have a received recently?
• What feedback should I seek out?
• When did a have a strong emotional response? What
• What skills, qualities or characteristics are my strengths that I can leverage even more?
• Given where I want to go as a leader, where do I need to stretch or grow?

Want to avoid extinction?

Have you found yourself stuck in your ways?

What changes or new situations are you facing?

If you or your people are avoiding Difficult Conversations join us on our FREE Masterclass “How to have Difficult Conversations in the Workplace.” Reserve your spot NOW here

What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

What’s the Problem? You’re not Discussing the Problem!

Are you putting off having a difficult conversation?

Have you avoided talking to someone because you were scared to do it or afraid of their reaction?

Has someone complained to you about another person, instead of talking to the person directly?

You’re not alone.

80% of people are shying away from at least 1 difficult conversation at work according to a poll from VitalSmarts¹. If you read that statistic and thinks that can’t be right, here’s another research result. According to Inc.², 7 in 10 employees are avoiding difficult conversations with their boss, colleagues, and direct reports. Other studies show similar results, the clear majority of people avoid having conversations with other people. I sidestepped these talks in my corporate life sometimes, it felt too awkward to face things head on. My coaching clients often label these “Difficult Conversations.” Funnily, when we label them difficult, they often become difficult, even if just in our minds.

What’s the definition of a difficult conversation? It’s a conversation where differences appear to exist between the people; needs, wants, expectations or opinions might differ; emotions are heightened; or there’s a fear of emotions coming into the situation. They are difficult because of the emotional element.

The problem goes further than just avoiding having the “difficult” conversation; people go to extreme lengths to avoid it! That same VitalSmarts’ research reported people waste time and energy to dodge those conversations, to the point of quitting their jobs!

Instead of having that difficult conversation, people will:

• Avoid the other person at all costs (50%)
• Dance around the scary topic whenever they speak to the person in question (37%)
• Consider quitting their job or taking a different job (37%)
• Quit their job (11%)

HRMorning³ reported of an online poll that found 85% of people have problems dealing with a problem in the workplace immediately. What they did instead of dealing with the problem was:

• ‘ruminate’ about the issue (61%)
• complain to co-workers about it (41%)
• feel angry (34%)
• do extra/unnecessary work to avoid dealing with the issue (32%)
• avoid the person involved (29%)
• ‘talk around’ the topic (24%)
• feel sorry for themselves (20%), and
• drop hints to the individual involved (20%).

None of these things are productive, in fact they are counter-productive, negatively affecting productivity.

If people are avoiding the other person or dancing around topics, how productive is this in the workplace? Collaboration and interaction are needed in most jobs to deliver the required business results. If someone is avoiding another person because of a difference in opinion or expectation, is the business getting the best results? Are people contributing their best ideas and coming up with the best solutions? The answer most certainly is NO. If people are quitting their jobs to avoid these conversations, what’s the cost in recruitment fees alone? There must be a better way.

Good news – there is a better way. Stay tuned.

¹ Reported in Crucial Learning by Brittney Maxfield October 2019
² Inc. Most People Handle Difficult Situations by Ignoring Them — and the Fallout Isn’t Pretty by Michael Schneider August 2018, research by workplace resource start-up Bravely.
³ HRMorning: The hidden cost of delaying those ‘difficult conversations’ by Tim Gould 2010

Photo by Yan Krukov

What do you want to do with your one wild & precious life?

What do you want to do with your one wild & precious life?

I was reminded recently of this line from the poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver. We do only have one wild and precious life, which is a big lesson from the last 2 years (don’t worry this isn’t article about the pandemic).

Think back to a time that you amazed yourself. When you surprised yourself with something you could do or something you achieved. Pause here because I’m sure there’s at least one thing, and probably lots of things, where you’ve gone outside your comfort zone or what you thought you were capable of. It might be something you trained or prepared for, it might be something that happened spontaneously. I invite you to stop reading and reflect please – a moment for which you are proud of yourself.

It might be running a race, having given birth (a friend’s contemplating this as her due date looms ever nearer), landed your dream job, created works of art, gone open water swimming in winter (that’s on my weekend’s agenda, crikey) or solved a Wordle in only two tries (I think first try is just a fluke).

For me it’s having written and published my book! I’m acknowledging it because it’s the two-year anniversary of its launch. My how time flies. More time will fly by, what do you want to create for your wild and precious time?

I didn’t set out to write a book. I took a 10-day book proposal writing challenge offered by a book coach to see if my idea for a book had any merit. After 10-days my completed proposal excited me, ignited the possibility of a book, motivated me to think “what if?” The book coach, a brilliant marketer as well, offered me a discounted book writing boot-camp course. I took that and never turned back. In some ways I just followed her process which lead me to the professionally edited, first draft of a book, my book.

Two years later I am an award-winning published author, gobsmacked to write that. I don’t say it to brag. I say it as evidence you too can do something you didn’t plan on or think you could. The next two years are going to pass regardless of whether you create something wild and precious or not, so what if?

Do you ever imagine what if?

Are you wondering is this it or what’s next?

What’s one thing you’d dare to dream of for yourself?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.

Setting Annual Goals? How To and Why It’s Important.

Annual Goal Setting? How To and Why It’s Important

Executives and managers are talking about annual objectives for next year. I’m working with a leadership team on their kick-off for the year – aligning behind the strategy, goal setting, and identifying tactics to achieve those goals. I’ll also be working with my business partner on our goals for next year – both as individuals and as business partners. We’ve been defining our vision and annual objectives together for years now.

This exercise is appropriate for work or life goals, for organizations or individuals.

Why Is Goal Setting Important?

You might be wondering what all the fuss is about in terms of annual objective setting. Why should you bother? Here are a few reasons why having goals and objectives is important:

• Gives us something to measure performance and success against,

• Creates accountability within ourselves and externally if necessary,

• Helps organize time and resources in a consistent direction,

• Focuses all involved towards a specific area,

• Provides motivation and a sense of achievement,

• Triggers new behaviours,

• Grows confidence as we progress towards them, not just when we achieve them,

• Promotes positive mental health.

Year End Review

If you didn’t read my previous blog about conducting a year end review, do that step first by clicking here, Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review. It’s hard to decide where you are heading if you don’t know where you are currently!

How to Set Annual Goals

These initial questions are different than your typical business projection exercise or creating a list of ‘to-dos’ (there are less creative questions/more direct at the end 😉). The idea is to envision success and then work backwards to identify what needs to be done to achieve it. This is how most organizations do their vision to goals process. Be specific about your goals – think about how you will measure your achievement of them as well as what they are.

• Imagine it is January 2023 (yes, one year further in the future). Reflect back on the past year, what would make you proud to have accomplished? Think of all aspects of work and life. This focuses on the DOING of the year, what you do and what you accomplish.

• From that vantage point of January 2023, looking back on an incredibly fulfilling and successful year. Feeling that pride and satisfaction, write a letter telling the story of how you made it happen. Write it as though your accomplishments were in the past, avoiding statements like “I will” or ‘I intend”. Get as specific as possible including your insights, ‘ahas’ (learnings), and milestones. Who did you become? How do you feel? Make it as exciting and vivid as possible. This focuses on how you are BEING during the year, how you feel and engage, how you want to BE to achieve what you want to achieve.

• What work goals do you want to accomplish? What are your boss’ goals and hence which cascade down to your area of responsibility?

• What are your financial goals for the year? How much do you want to make? What effort is required to do that? What investment or retirement or spending priorities do you have for the year?

• What relationships at work and personally do you want to create or foster?

• How do you want to feel physically, emotionally, spiritually?

• What aspects of your health are important to continue or improve?

• What personal qualities do you want to lean into more?

• What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals? Rarely do people look at ‘subtraction’ when they consider a change and it’s often a necessity. In today’s life you’re already busy with lots to do so don’t think about just adding more on. Think about how you can simplify. And what you give up might need to be a belief or mindset?

My goals for next year will be defined specifically on 7th January when I do our annual goal setting/’way of being’ exercise with my business partner. Some on my list to be fleshed out will be:

• Getting my award-winning book out to more people as the stories about how it’s helped people are so satisfying for me, win-win (number and ways of doing that tbd in January),

• Delivering our EQ Leadership Training to more companies (specific # tbd with my partner),

• Having even more fun and laughter in my life,

• Continuing my walking challenges, with one being more of a long-distance, multiple days walk in the countryside,

• Keeping up my French language lessons to hit 800 consecutive day learning streak.

If time and money were no object, what would your goals be for 2022?

What support would help you to achieve it, or some initial part of it?

What small step could you take towards that goal?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review.

Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review

It must be that time of year – as numerous clients have brought it to our coaching sessions – annual objective setting, defining strategies and goals for next year. It’s great to have goals; organizations need objectives to measure performance and success. Goals help both individuals and business focus in a specific area, provide motivation and a sense of achievement. Psychologically goals trigger new behaviours, can focus the mind and life, provide motivation, grow confidence and are good for our mental health.

Before defining next year’s goals however, it’s best to reflect on last year. This reflection is good for a personal end of year review or an organizational end of year review.

Year End Review

Looking back on the prior year is necessary before creating next year’s objectives. It’s hard to get to a destination if you don’t know where you are starting from. Additionally, it will increase your motivation, provide context for the next year, and result in learnings to take forward. As John Dewey, the famous American philosopher, psychologist, educational reformer said:

‘We do not learn from the experience.

We learn from reflecting on the experience.’

The mere act of going through something does not create learning, fulfilment or growth. It’s through the act of reflecting on it, making meaning from it that allows us to feel satisfied, to learn, to grow and to understand all the ins and outs of that experience. It’s as if you try to go through a circus fun house blindfolded. You’ll have an experience, it just won’t be that fun or engaging with no lessons learned other than don’t do it blindfolded again.

Best Year End Review Examples/Questions

Answer each question in as much or as little detail as it serves you to do. Start by looking at your KPIs (key performance indicators), or metrics. Look at your diary to remind you what happened chronologically. Review your photos to remind you of your experiences. Pull out last year’s goal sheet. If you don’t have one, then do this exercise and the exercise from my next blog to have one for next year. Your child has a report card, shouldn’t you?

• What were your goals for the year? Celebrate those you achieved (builds motivation). What were the lessons from those you didn’t (creates learning and self-compassion)?

• What were your highlights from the year? Your biggest wins or achievements, the discoveries, milestones, adventures, joys, fun, celebrations, and/or opportunities that you want to remember. What are you most proud of?

• What were the qualities or resources that helped you towards those highlights?

• What were the challenges, issues, frustrations and disappointments this year? What are the lessons from those? What do you need to let go of or forgive yourself for in those?

• What were the qualities or resources that helped you overcome those challenges?

• What have I learned this past year? About yourself, your team, the business, competition, the client, the organization? Some prompts might be: “I realized how much I care about…”, “I now believe…”, “I understand why…”

• What new or existing relationships did you foster or develop?

• A legacy or purpose type question: How specifically did you make a difference in the/your world this past year?

• If you want to engage the right-side of your brain (creative not logical): If the last year was a chapter in the book of your life, what would you call it? What image or metaphor would you use for last year?

Personal Year End Review

All of the above questions apply to individuals as well as businesses and organizations. We have KPIs or metrics in our personal lives – income, weight, work/life balance, happiness, stress level, # friends, # holidays, etc.

Think about your all aspects of your life – authenticity, career, family, friends, significant other(s), health and wellness, purpose/contribution, financial, spiritual, fun, passion, physical space.
You can also do this exercise as a family (or team) reflecting on the achievements and learnings of the group as well as each individual.

What would you celebrate from the last year?

What did you learn in the last year – about yourself, leadership, life, business?

What does this reflection prompt for you about next year?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.

Photo by Marko Klaric from Pexels

Show, Don’t Tell - top skill you learned at 5 years old!

Show, Don’t Tell. The top presentation skill you learned in nursery school but have probably forgotten. How to use it effectively now.

Want to ensure people understand what you’re communicating?

Worried about presenting especially virtually?

Want to know what you learned in nursery/kindergarten that would help your presentation skills?

How to Improve Presentation Skills

Whether virtual or face-to-face presentations, the secret is exactly what every 5-year-old learns in kindergarten or nursery school. Remember Show and Tell? You show something – an object – and tell people about it. I brought my older brother into class once as my ‘object’ and told my teacher and classmates about him. Others brought pets, souvenirs from holidays, a favourite toy.
We showed something and talked about it. The children were engaged, asked questions, fun and enjoyment ensued often. We’ve lost this as adults, especially in a business or organizational context.

How often do you go online or into a boardroom and someone shows you a 20-page PowerPoint presentation full of words, graphs, charts, data? I went to one recently on empathy and it started with the definition of empathy – a great start honestly – except the presenter talked from the moment the slide appeared to the time they clicked to the next. What do I focus on? Reading the text? Listening to the speech? Overload!

Words are words whether they are on paper or verbal. Humans can’t process simultaneous auditory (verbal/spoken) and visual presentation. I’ll repeat that – sharing both written and spoken information at the same time overloads the listener, it’s too much info to take in at the same time. Many people think that if they show the words and say them, it positively reinforces the message.

It’s the opposite.

The Rationale for Good Presentations Skills

Research shows the seeing visual text and listening to audio text at the same time – words on a screen while the presenter is talking – “increases the cognitive load, rather than lessening it.” (Citing the Kalyuga Study, one research example).

Talking and showing text at the same time is called the Redundancy Effect. It overburdens the brain’s working memory by having to focus on two things rather than just one so has a negative impact on understanding.

It’s suggested by researchers including John Sweller and Kimberly Leslie that it would be better for people to close their eyes to the visual stimuli and just focus on listening to the audio in terms of learning or comprehension. Imagine though closing your eyes in a meeting or presentation, people would accuse you of sleeping or failing to pay attention.

They contend that it would be easier for students to learn the differences between herbivores and carnivores by closing their eyes and only listening to the teacher. But students who close their eyes during a lecture are likely to called out for “failing to pay attention.”

Tips for Effective Online Communication

There are many simple tips to effective online communication or virtual presentation skills:

• Use a relevant picture or visual rather than text if you’re going to speak over it, a picture helps people visualize your message, so it complements your words.

• Limit the amount of information on each slide. It’s not about the number of slides in your presentation, it’s about the amount of information on each slide.

• Use a variety of tools to keep people engaged not just PowerPoint. Use polls, music, the chat, breakout rooms, storytelling, and ask questions to involve others.

• Encourage people to stand up or move around, not just sit glued to the screen.

• Tell people to manage their volume especially if you speak loudly. The audience can forget they control the volume of the speaker and can complain after the fact.

• Be energetic and animated as you want to convey passion through the size of a screen.

• Fluctuate your volume, tone and pace of speaking as that helps people stay engaged, monotony can be dull.

• A leader’s presentation should tell a story with an opening, the detail and a conclusion.

Leadership Lessons for Good Presentations

As a presenter the onus is on you to communicate well, it’s not on the audience or recipients to create the understanding.

• Learn what you do well in terms of presenting and where you can improve. Leadership requires reflection and growth mindset to innovate and improve. This holds true for your presentation and communication too.

• Leaders provide vision and context for information – ensure you communicate the bigger purpose or strategic link for your material.

• Ask a thought-provoking question that has the audience reflect, potentially with regards to action you want them to take based on the presentation topic or about the impact of the presentation on their responsibilities.

What impact do your presentations or general communication have on the audience?

What could you do differently to ensure your message is understood?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help yourself improve your communication to motivate and influence others better.

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Leadership is BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

Good Leadership is About BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

What is leadership? I’m asked this question often and the term is explained in many of the London Business School programmes on which I coach.

Leadership is about exciting others to higher levels of performance,
to get others to do what they need to do and ideally
to get them to go the extra mile in what they do.

The last day of a leadership development programme on which I coached has participants draw an image of what their current leadership is and an image 2 years from now of what their future leadership vision is. Who do they want to become as a leader? One participant articulated his growth edge beautifully:

I want to BUILD capability of others and NOT BE the capability.

This is so true for so many leaders. They get promoted because they are good at what they do and when they are promoted they no longer do what they are good at, instead they are expected to lead others doing what they used to do. A CFO (chief financial officer) no longer does spreadsheets and accounts, a CFO leads others to do that work. THE CFO’s role becomes influencing others to do their jobs well.

When’s the last time you excited someone to outperform you?

Can you say you’ve been excited by others to go the extra mile?

How confident are you that your team’s capability is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

What is a Leadership Role?

Any role can be a leadership role. This might be controversial, and I truly believe it. Any role requires leadership. So often when people hear the word leader they think of the person at the top of an organization, the one who is so often out front. This is often the public leader or the one featured in the media. Yet there are so many more leaders that are needed to supply any product or service.

The Co-Active Training Institute has a model of leadership ® with 5 dimensions of leadership.

Leader in Front – this is the person on the stage, and a ubiquitous example would be Steve Jobs of Apple, he was clearly the leader in front at the various product launches. This can also be the leader of a meeting, running the agenda. This is the person that engages and activates others, not necessarily the one with all the answers.

Leader in the Field – this often arises opportunistically. It’s when someone is just part of a group or gathering and they sense that leadership is required, they step in and lead. Often, it’s instinctive for them such as when there’s an emergency and someone just takes charge.

Leader Beside – this is the type of leadership that happens in business partnerships or in a marriage. My business partner, Sue, and I both lead our EQ Leadership Training business. We both co-deliver our training, side by side, for our participants. From a business perspective, she often does the marketing and client relations and I do programme design, financials and business acumen. This is collaborative, open and mutual.

Leader Behind – These are all the unsung heroes that make things happen behind the scenes. They see and sense what is going and serve in a way to bring something to fruition.

Leader Within – This is the foundation for all other leadership styles. This is about leading oneself. It’s about knowing oneself and having agency and self-determination. Think of anything you’ve had to get done, it starts with motivating yourself to perform. It’s about being yourself and acting in pursuit of your goals and dreams and in accordance with your values.

By the mere fact we are responsible for all our actions and reactions, we are all leaders and can step into any of the other 4 leadership dimensions when we sense it’s needs and choose to do so. This model shows how agile leadership can be, how non-hierarchical or role-dependent it is.

What is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership requires self-awareness and conscious choice which are the first two cornerstones of emotional intelligence (EQ). Effective leadership of others starts with leader within, leading one’s own self. Then leadership requires building the capability in others, so they can perform at their highest potential.

1. Have a goal, dream, or objective. What’s the reason you are doing what you are doing? Know where you want to go. For companies that’s often having a vision or mission statement. For someone running a meeting it means having an objective for the meeting and knowing the outcome you’d like to achieve.

2. Choose the impact you want to have in a given situation. How do you want others to feel? How can you contribute to that experience? I often ask people “what impression do you want to have” in a meeting or situation. Not in terms of putting on a performance, rather in terms of what qualities, skills or attributes do you want to demonstrate. How do you want to come across that’s genuine for you?

3. Know what excites others. If leadership is about exciting others, then you need to know what motivates or excites the people you are wanting to influence. Some people are motivated by money, status, group affiliation. Others by personal development, not working alone, power, autonomy, recognition, stress avoidance, or structure. How do you position things to others in ways that honour their motivational preferences?

4. Find “right”. When trying to motivate someone, find the things they do right and ensure you acknowledge them. Learn a feedback model that can build confidence by acknowledging what people do well and that builds competence by helping them to improve where necessary. The COIN model here is a good one with examples to both positive/appreciative feedback and constructive/developmental.

5. Be overt and transparent. When you are building someone’s capability, tell them that’s what you are doing rather than doing it by stealth. Position their growth opportunity as just that, an opportunity to develop and potentially advance (if that’s of interest to them). Make it aspirational. And share your experience of when you had to learn this same thing to normalize it and remove any negative judgement.

Leadership is about exciting people to perform, consistently and to as high a standard as necessary. That means leading yourself, and any number of other people as required. The opportunities might be obvious of when you need to lead (a meeting, your team’s performance) and there will be other times when you choose to lead from the field or behind. Be intentional about when you are the capable one and when you are needing others to be capable.

What might be possible if you could excite and lead others to do more?

Do you want to improve your leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help build others’ capabilities.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Raise your Head above The Parapet? Lesson on Risk Taking

Raise your Head above The Parapet? Lesson on Risk Taking

Is this a good idea?

Do I risk raising my head above the parapet?

What will others think or say?

I felt this way two years ago as I was working with my publisher on my book. Who did I think I was to be writing a leadership book? Was this book even a good idea? Would it help people? What if no one reads it? What if it doesn’t sell? What if people don’t like it? And so many more questions and doubts.

I thought writing the book was hard, then I thought the editing process was hard, then I thought the design and layout was hard. In the end the hardest part was putting it out in the world – putting myself up for judgment – and not the good kind of judgment. I had the fear that it was a bad idea, it not being relevant, being ignored or worse maybe being criticized or ridiculed.
And I did it anyway. That old book from the 80’s, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, was my mantra when I was anxious and doubting myself.

Risk Taking in Business

This same trepidation about taking risks shows up in organizations. This was the discussion of a coaching group I led last week off the back of this question in their 360 reports “Willingness to be the only champion for an idea or project.” There was discussion about the reluctance to speak up in a high-pressure meeting for fear of making a mistake, looking stupid, or becoming a target. CEOs have the same fear of making a mistake (it’s the #2 fear behind fear of being found incompetent) from research by Roger Jones reported in Inc.com.

Calculated Risk Taking – Why is it important?

Organizations need risk takers – not foolish, impulsive risks – rather intentional and purposeful risks. Every organization claims innovation is a key strategy they need to succeed, to keep ahead of competition, to serve clients well. True innovation does not happen without taking risks. The key is calculated risk taking to mitigate any potential issues and increase the likelihood of success.

How did I Overcome the Fear and Take the Risk?

What I did to navigate the fear over writing and publishing my book are the same things you can do in organizations.

Identify why it matters to you. When you have a bigger WHY it’s easier to overcome the fear and doubt. Remind yourself why this idea or project is important to you and to the organization. Write it out, or draw it, post it close by to give you a vision. Putting my message out into the world mattered because it had practical tips for results-driven leaders that are actually simple. It mattered personally to me because the journey of being more motivating and inspiring rather than so task-focussed was my journey.

My book writing journey started with a 10-day book proposal writing programme offered by a book coach. The programme was designed to produce a proposal for my book for a publisher or literary agent. Writing that proposal felt a bit like the cart before the horse. Upon completion of that proposal I was more committed to my book than before. While articulating the audience for my book and the main ideas of my book in that proposal, it crystalized the vision and benefit of my book and that there was an audience for the models, tools and tips in my book.

Have support. I had the support of a book coach and was part of a book-writing group that supported each other through the process. They gave me input on the book content and also on my fears and worries. They shared their concerns which made me feel better about my feelings. We were a community of support, ideas and encouragement for each other which fuelled us forward. Find people who can support you with the content of your idea and with the encouragement to take a risk, people who believe in you and your ideas.

Realize it’s a process. Take one step, the first step. People often get overwhelmed when they think of the WHOLE, BIG PROJECT. Instead, think of one step you can do to advance the idea. Electric cars for example didn’t just materialize overnight, they were broken down into a series of steps, more accurately many series of steps. Focus on the step that is in front of you and take it one at a time.

Feel the fear. Emotions have information that can be valuable for us to know. When you feel something, notice the emotion and name it (there are many emotion wheels on-line to help you articulate the names of emotions as we aren’t taught emotional literacy at school). What is the message or information in the emotion? That emotion is data for yourself. For example, anxiety can mean you need more support or input to proceed. Frustration often means you have an unmet need so identify that unconscious need and ask for it to be fulfilled.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Risk Taking

In organizations and even in families or volunteer groups, calculated risk taking is made easier if you build psychological safety. When there is psychological safety there’s the belief that one can speak up without risk of punishment or humiliation. You can create this by:

 Inviting questions and soliciting differences of opinions (eg. If you knew we couldn’t fail, what would you try?).

 Promoting self-awareness so people are aware of their impact, potential biases, and triggers.

 Offering multiple ways for people to input – verbally in a meeting, in the chat function of a VC, on post-its that are anonymously collected.

 Showing concern for people as people as it demonstrates your interest in them holistically and not just on the work-side.

 Shutting down gossip, backstabbing, and ridicule whenever it appears makes people know you have their backs.

Sticking my head above the parapet and publishing my book was worth it – this year my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, won The Business Book Award for Business Self-Development!

What could you create if you raised your head above the parapet?

What impact could you have? Or others in your team?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help yourself and others take risks for greater innovation, trust and performance.