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Using Social & Emotional Intelligence to Adapt in Times of Uncertainty

By DeVry University

August 31, 2020
43 min read


  • Bob Biglin, CEO & Senior Partner at The Center for Advanced Emotional Intelligence

  • Elise Awwad, DeVry University Vice President of Strategic Enrollment

Social and emotional intelligence can help us to adapt and thrive in an era of uncertainty and complexity. In this Future-Ready Skills session, Bob Biglin and Elise Awwad discuss questions like “what is emotional intelligence,” explain why emotional intelligence matters and more. Plus, you’ll learn how productive relationships set the foundation for adaptive teams and why continuous learning will be an integral part of careers in the coming decades thanks to technological advances.


Video Transcription

Elise Awwad: Good afternoon and welcome back to DeVry University's Future-Ready Skills and Inside Look. This day's agenda was created with you in mind, whether you're looking for a new career within your current organization or for a new opportunity all altogether. The information you'll hear this afternoon is meant to help provide you with the tools you may use. To start our afternoon session, I'd like to welcome Bob Biglin, CEO of the Center for Advanced Emotional Intelligence.

Bob and his team partner with senior leaders and their organizations to help them build thriving businesses and high performing teams. At AEI, he integrates his 30-plus years of experience as an operating executive with formal study as a coach and organizational consultant to help his clients develop greater self-awareness and also identify how to best leverage their strengths and to build and mobilize strong, resilient high-performing organizations. We ask that during the session, if you have any questions, please use the chat to enter those, and we will get to them later on. Bob, thank you so much for joining us today.

Bob Biglin: Thanks very much for having me, Elise. I'm glad to be here.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Elise Awwad: Absolutely. Thank you. We hear a lot about the concept of emotional intelligence these days, but I think it's probably best for us to begin with this just this basic question of what is emotional intelligence and how do you really define it.

Bob Biglin: Sure, absolutely. And I think you're right. There's been an explosion of the concept of emotional intelligence over the past 20 plus years. I did a quick search on Google this morning for the term “emotional intelligence” and got 278 million results. So it's clearly something that is capturing people's attention. So while there's a lot of various kinds of definitions around emotional intelligence, they're really variations that all are built around four common themes or building blocks. Why don't we just talk about those?

The first of those is self-awareness, and that's being able to recognize and understand our own emotions. So to be attuned to what's happening inside of us, the emotions that occur within us, especially in different situations, and to really understand them, understand what drives them and how they're affecting us. Self-awareness lies at the heart of the EQ. It is really a primary skill.

The next is self-regulation, and that's the ability to effectively manage our emotions and to redirect disruptive impulses or emotional responses. A way that we like to think about this aspect of EI is that self-regulation is about making conscious choices about our behavior as opposed to our reactions happening purely as a habit, an unconscious habit.

The third component is empathy, and that's the ability to understand the emotions of others, to understand what they're feeling, and to be able to read that accurately. And then to use that knowledge to work skillfully in our interactions with them. And then the fourth major component is relationship management, social skills. And broadly, it's about being able to build and manage productive relationships with others, finding common ground and rapport, and to be able to sustain those relationships through all kinds of different conditions.

Why Emotional Intelligence Matters

Elise Awwad: So 278 million results broken down into four primary components. Thank you for doing that for us. I guess the next question is, why is it important to us? Why is emotional intelligence important to us both professionally and in our personal lives?

Bob Biglin: Sure. So I mean, we are at our core social beings. Although each of us may have unique preferences in how we engage with the world, how we interact to engage in other people--a good example of that would be whether you're prone to extroversion or introversion--the reality is that our relationships with other people play a huge role in our happiness and our success in life. And the easiest place to see this is in our personal lives; our relationships with our family and our friends are usually the most important relationships in our lives.

So emotional intelligence helps us to effectively nurture and sustain those relationships. That same concept applies in our professional lives. Over the past 20 years, we've seen the nature of work change in many ways, and we now have a predominance of teams that are in the workplace and the increasing importance of working in a team setting and also the idea that both as individuals and in teams, continuous learning plays such a huge role in our ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Both of those things have really made emotional intelligence very fundamental skill for success. And this applies even in roles that previously we might have thought of as being very solitary, right? We have this sort of a caricature almost if you will, from old Hollywood movies of the coder, right, with their head down in the cube, sort of cranking away. It’s dark all around them except for the glow of the screen, and the reality is, that's exactly what it is. It's an old view of what that world is like.

We heard from a couple of speakers this morning, so John Higginson, who's the CTO of Groupon, talked about the role of agile teams in software development. And so even in things that might have been more solitary, we see a lot of team activity going on. So the ability to manage relationships, cope with the challenges of an increasingly complex operating environment, understanding our own emotions, managing our emotional responses, and working effectively with other people--they've just all become critically important skills.

Building Your Social Intelligence

Elise Awwad: Great. You actually brought up some really good points. Managing relationships is a fact of life, both personally and professionally. You can't avoid it. It really is regardless of what your role is in your organization. You mentioned that EQ is a building block for social intelligence. Can you tell us a bit more about that? What role does social intelligence play relative to emotional intelligence?

Bob Biglin: So we define social intelligence as the interpersonal competencies that help us to be successful in our interactions with other people. Social intelligence is really just an extension of many of the same concepts which we are focused first on ourselves as individuals, and it builds it outward into how we interact with others. So it includes things like being aware of the social dynamics that might be at play in groups, understanding social norms in organizations. Some people might refer to this as having organizational savvy or a little bit of street smarts about how things are done around here.

Listening well. Listening well in small group settings, large group settings, and in one-on-one interactions and being attuned to the emotional state of your colleagues. This is also really particularly important for people who lead teams. Emotional and social intelligence is really behind concepts like social or emotional contagion, right?

So at one point or another, we've been in situations where we've experienced how someone's influences can influence our own emotions or the emotions of a group, and you might have worked in a team like that where you might have that colleague who comes into every team meeting, and they're smiling, and they're upbeat, or they might be the person who is just never dissuaded when a challenge comes along, and you'll often hear people describe them as being infectiously happy or the person who has that resilience that seems to just sort of wash over into the rest of the team.

And you may have also had that experience where you see the other side of it that person who might be perpetually pessimistic, or maybe they got a really short-fused temper. What do we end up doing? A lot of times, we might try to steer clear of them even when that might not be the best strategy to be taking for the success of ourselves or our teams, but they negatively impact our mood, and that makes it really challenging to interact with them.

So a lot of these things are not necessarily conscious choices that we're making either, right? They're responses. They're biologically, neurologically driven by how we're interpreting and processing the emotions that we see and experience in other people. So going back to this idea of the building blocks of emotional intelligence, this really comes back to why at the individual level, self-awareness and self-regulation are so important, especially as you move into larger and larger team environments.

Creating High-performing Teams

Elise Awwad: Yeah. I think we can all reflect on that, especially around being aware of social dynamics in specific settings we've encountered in the past. So many people work in organizations these days where work is organizing the various types of teams. Can you talk about how emotional intelligence and social intelligence fit into a workplace that's heavily team focused? You did touch on this a little bit, but can you go a little deeper?

Bob Biglin: Sure. It's probably best too to think about a good concrete example of that. So a few years ago, Google conducted what's now a pretty well-known study called Project Aristotle, and they wanted to determine what factors were most important for their highest performing teams. This is an organization that is very data-driven, right? They're very focused on quantitative evidence. So they structured a very rigorous and very quantitatively driven study of team effectiveness, and it lasted three or four years. And if you dig into the details behind it, the first part of it was them going back over 40 years of academic papers to try to look for common themes and figure out the things to look for, right?

So exactly what you would expect from an organization like Google, right? Super rigorous. Very, very scientifically driven. And what they discovered from all of that work was that one of the most important contributors to high performing teams was psychological safety, and that was a big surprise because they had gone into some of this expecting that they might find evidence that would make high performance dependent on things like the skill and expertise of the team members or the skill and expertise of the team leader, how effective the team leader was at providing clarity or how well they communicated.

Those things were certainly important, but they were ended up being completely overshadowed by psychological safety. And the findings from the Google study, interestingly enough, had overlapped very nicely with the work that Dr. Amy Edmondson at Harvard has done about this and she's written research and written extensively about this, and about the role of psychological safety and innovation and learning and team performance.

And why is that important? Well, it creates an emotional environment for people to express themselves without fear of reprisal. It helps them experiment, learn, communicate with trust, essentially bringing all of themselves and all of their skills and all of their talents into a team setting. So people who work in teams with high levels of psychological safety feel that they can be themselves. They can bring all of themselves into what they're doing.

We look at emotional intelligence in organizations, and we think one of the primary roles is it helps maximize trust and commitment. Why? Well, trust is built on positive and productive relationships, the consistency of our experience with those relationships, and on our shared values. So if you think about all of that as it relates to working as a member of teams, but also how organizations have become collections of interrelated teams, I think emotional and social intelligence plays a very important role in helping people function effectively, adapt to a lot of changing circumstances to help them learn individually and together to grow and to perform at really high levels.

Responding to Change

Elise Awwad: Great. So I'm going to pivot just a little bit to something that's very real to pretty much everyone that's listening, everyone out here, right? So we've all been dealing with the enormous disruption caused by the coronavirus over the past few months, and you talked a lot around the concepts of emotional and social intelligence. Can you talk about how that can help us better cope with what we're dealing with?

Bob Biglin: Yeah. So clearly, everything we've experienced with COVID-19 has brought huge levels of disruption, and uncertainty, and anxiety. And interestingly, it's happened on a global scale. It hasn't been something that's isolated any one individual organization or group. And all of that taken together leads to a lot of stress and puts huge challenges on our resilience and our adaptability.

At the individual level, I think this is a great example of where it's very important to be aware of what your own emotional response is to uncertainty and disruption and to help you sense when you need to pay closer attention to what your own emotions are, recognize what those anxieties are and use that knowledge to help us find some of the coping strategies that are going to work best for each of us. Some of us were raised under this mindset of suck it up, keep your head down, keep pushing, right? That was what I had with my parents. And tenacity...

Elise Awwad: Oh, I've heard that too.

Bob Biglin: Right? Tenacity, it's a really important trait. It's very important to success. Angela Duckworth at University of Pennsylvania has done enormous amounts of research around the concepts of grit and tenacity. So we absolutely know that's important, yet understanding and accepting the emotions that we're experiencing can actually help us craft better strategies to be tenacious and adapt and thrive. So we don't want to be ignoring what's happening with us, but we want to be able to acknowledge that and to work with it and to work with it as a part of how we're responding to what's going on around us.

The Role of the Leader

Bob Biglin: As a team and as an organizational leader, clearly understanding how the situation impacts a lot of the stakeholders that you deal with, your employees, your customers, your suppliers, your community partners is critically important. One of the things that's been very, very striking to us, and we've really seen this over the past couple of months, is to see how much public discourse is happening around the role of empathy for leaders in this crisis.

We've seen lots of examples of organizations and individual leaders displaying empathy through their communications, through their acts in ways that we just simply hadn't seen before the crisis. So in some ways, I feel like we've been reawakened to the role that our own humanity plays in our organizations and in our society. What have you seen, Elise? What have you been observing within yourself and within your organization?

Elise Awwad: I'm really glad you actually asked that because I was going to chime in here. I've been connecting the dots throughout our conversation, and the impacts of COVID-19 have certainly taken a toll on society, and you could see it in our interactions professionally, personally. When you talk about the role of empathy for leaders in crisis, which you just mentioned, that has been a very real observation at DeVry University and within our organization.

For example, I lead a team of colleagues here at the university who have had their lives disrupted due to childcare needs and school closures. And watching the challenges of being a parent, a teacher, an employee, we've really empathized with our colleagues at DeVry and have really leaned in on ensuring we're flexible with schedules and checking in proactively to see how they're doing. They may not be talking about how they're feeling.

So I think it's important as leaders that we do check-in and especially being in this environment of remote, right? Everybody's used to sitting in close proximity in an office or at one of our campuses, and we do operate heavily in a team environment. So being remote has also been a challenge for colleagues, and whether it's at DeVry or any organization, I've talked to peers of mine who have felt the same way. You feel sort of isolated, and it's been quite a challenge.

So spending time with people and working side by side with people still, even if it's through Zoom like we're doing today or any type of platform virtually. And I will say we've made a concerted effort to keep them connected virtually and honor our meeting cadence, albeit again behind a computer screen. We've seen these same challenges at the student level as well. Our students are feeling the same thing, so we we've done a really nice job of instituting more flexibility in the classroom environment while keeping them connected via live meetings and live course times.

So if you really take a step back and think about how we've truly transformed our operations in such a short amount of time while keeping our pillars of care for colleagues and students in place, it's truly amazing and sort of highlights what you were describing in terms of humanity and its role on organizations in society.

Rethinking the Way We Work

Bob Biglin: We've seen that from a lot of clients—a common conversation we're having is people are just surprised at some of the actions that have emerged organically from within the organizations where previously people might have not necessarily waited for direction, but where things may have been more centrally directed, and they've seen a lot of these initiatives pop up. And some of them have been around how do we take care of our teammates better, how do we help organize resources for parents of young children at home. I have high school kids. They're going to be certainly much more self-managing than some of my colleagues who have first, second graders, kindergarteners at home, right?

You think about education for them in which the classroom experience and the social experience, they're building social intelligence. That's what kids are doing when they're in school. It's one of the many things that they're doing, and that plays such a huge role for them as a part of their education. So yeah, the stresses are enormous.

Our founder has a quote that I think really is exhibited by what we're seeing right now. He says that the ability of leaders to adapt to change is largely an emotional challenge, not an intellectual one. And I think that's something that we can clearly see in everything that's happening around us. Intellectually we all know it's important for us to not be clustered together because this virus can get passed around.

We need to restructure how we work. We need to do things like physical distancing and wearing masks if we're indoors in proximity to people, whatever those things might be. So we understand the intellectual side of that. And yet at the same time, we're all feeling the impacts of that, whether it is social isolation, particularly challenging for people who live alone; whether it is the not being able to see friends or family or visit parents who may be in a community care facility, all of those things. So the challenges, really, in many ways, are much more emotional than they are intellectual.

The Impact of Technology

Elise Awwad: Yeah. We talked about the criticality of keeping people connected virtually during the pandemic, and it actually did spark another question. So while technology has played a dominant role in professional and personal lives, especially nowadays with the coronavirus, which has really emphasized this. How, or really what can I take from what you've shared about EQ and SQ that will help me make better use of technology? What should I be thinking about?

Bob Biglin: It's funny. I think about if the pandemic had happened ten years ago in an era before we had really high-quality video conferencing and collaborative tools, I think many organizations would have struggled to adapt to any kind of remote working at all. But this widespread deployment of technology and especially these communication technologies, has completely changed the game in how we're able to communicate. We get much closer to a face-to-face interaction than we have.

One of the challenges that always existed with phone conversations and earlier in my career, I worked in a couple of roles where I was dealing with international teams, and sometimes the only way we were able to connect with each other would be over telephones. The problem is it has a lot of limitations. A large part of effective communication is non-verbal. And we're processing visual cues much faster than we're consciously aware of. A lot of that is happening subconsciously, and that influences how we experience a conversation and how we interpret how the other person is responding with us.

And so, on one hand, video conferencing has provided a real visual component that was missing, and that's important, but it's also important to recognize that some of the limitations of that, and you've talked about them a little bit: there's just something about being in the room with people in which we get that resonance that occurs in a face-to-face and in a live setting with each other.

In terms of things to think about, though, just because we're not in the room, it's important to remember that these concepts of how we show up are just as important over a video call as they would be if we're in person. This is particularly important for team leaders or organizational leaders to remember. You want to be able to both strike the balance between communicating frequently and authentically with your teams, especially if they're really expressing concerns, fears, anxieties about what's happening and yet at the same time, it's also important to be able to model that confidence and that courage that's so important in helping us navigate a crisis like the one that we're dealing with right now.

And so I think for many teams and organizational leaders, they've got a double challenge on their hands, which is they're dealing with a lot of these same issues as an individual and yet at the same time, they have these other responsibilities that come with their position as a leader of teams, and it's something to really think very, very clearly about.

Expanding Your Tech Know-how

Bob Biglin: If you look beyond communications, there's also this aspect of being a user of technology. For some people, adopting a new technology can be very fun and exciting. And for other people, it's the most maddening and frustrating experience in the world. I'm sure you've got folks in your personal network that you can see on both sides. I have an 80 plus year-old aunt who's always ready to pick up an iPad and try a new app.

I actually have friends in their 30s and 40s who get as frustrated as anyone with new technology. So I think it's really important for you to understand what my own relationship with technology and be aware of that. And if adopting new technologies or trying to work with a new way of communicating is something that is frustrating or challenging to you, look to your network, look to those relationships. We come back to these relationships again.

Who’s that person who seems to do really well with that? Who's someone who can help you with that? And then to also just give yourself a little bit of a break. It's not going to work perfectly. Pick it up, try it and then figure out, "All right. It didn't work perfectly this time. I'll try it again. I'll ask for help." Right? Because it just become something that is actually integral to what we're doing.

Interestingly, if you extend beyond the personal use there, I think there are a lot of interesting lessons that are coming out of our experience right now for the people who design and develop technology. And in particular, understanding people's emotional and social responses to the adoption of new technologies, which is really a response to change, might help them improve the user experience and also improve adoption around that.

That actually came up this morning in the conversation with Dr. Arno, right? He talked about this vignette of Steve Jobs working with Nicholas Negroponte at MIT, and Steve was insistent that the underlying technology was important, and Negroponte was saying to him, "No, the user interface is it. That's going to be your key difference in adoption." I think we are so adept at working with what are, in general, really well-developed user interfaces now that we actually have a very high set of expectations around that.

But for the people who are developing and deploying technology, empathy for the user is a really key component of that, and it's an underlying concept that sits behind a lot of the steps behind design thinking principles. So those are just a couple of examples of how emotional and social intelligence would play into technology for us as users, but also as the people who develop and deploy this.

Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Elise Awwad: Yeah, thank you, Bob. Very helpful. And we're hearing more and more about AI, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. How does EQ connect to the growth of these technologies?

Bob Biglin: So again, I would extend the idea that I was just talking about there. A lot of focus and a lot of the things you read about AI and I'll really classify artificial intelligence to really be a lot of the various components underneath it like machine learning and deep learning. It's been very heavily focused around the technological challenges, and rightly so, they are enormous for some of these applications. Think about the self-driving car, for example, right? We get in a car, and it is something that is actually relatively intuitive if you've been driving for a bit.

Yet, the trying to perfect a self-driving car and to try to make it safe and certainly accurate getting you to your destination, where you want to be, not someplace else, that's something we take for granted, but it's proven to be hugely challenging. And so there's always going to be this human component. It's always going to be very present in what we do, and a major concept behind that is this concept of trust. Behavior on social understanding is going to play an increasing role in the development and the advancement of AI.

And why is that? Well, we really are trying to engage people to use a technology that is very complex and that the average person is simply not going to understand. So you really have to find a way to establish a level of trust for the public to widely embrace and support a lot of these technologies, right? And there are some things that are core to that, right? One of them would be having a very effective code of ethics. Something that's accountable, it's transparent, it's fair, and it's human-centric. And a great example of that where we're seeing this play out right now is in the area of facial recognition.

Right now, we've got low levels of trust. There are a lot of growing concerns about facial recognition. People generally don't trust the validity of the algorithm because we see these stories about the error rate around it and the misidentification rate. Every time a story pops up that someone was potentially arrested or accused of something because they popped up on a camera and the facial recognition algorithm got it wrong, it's just going to dig that further in a hole and make it that much harder.

And I think in addition to that, there's not a transparent process for addressing errors. A lot of this goes back to this question of uncertainty. Uncertainty naturally causes a lot of emotional anxiety for us, and that's going to be a very, very critical component of it. So I really do think this concept of behavioral and social understanding is going to continue to be a very, very critical component as we look at bringing a lot of these very, very advanced technologies into a more present part of our daily life.

And there are areas where there's huge good that can be done there, and a lot of those examples were in Dr. Arno's discussion this morning. Everything from being able to interpret a scan with the same accuracy in a small rural hospital as you could in a big city research center, to being able to more effectively manage people's medications and the like. So there's a lot of good to come out of it, but the human component is going to absolutely have to be centered to this.

Tips for Adult Students

Elise Awwad: Great. As you know, here at DeVry, our university serves a large community of adult learners. So how does this apply to them?

Bob Biglin: So returning to school as an adult is, I would say, both exhilarating and intimidating. I know, I've just done it within the last five years. I've stepped back into the classroom for the first time in a couple of decades, and I think that it's particularly true when someone is managing multiple responsibilities, right? They've got a full or part-time job, caring for family members. I mean, I wouldn't be surprised to find that a large number of your students are raising children, caring for aging parents, working full or part-time, and pursuing their education. That's a lot. It's a lot to manage, and it has the potential to create a lot of stress.

So if we go back to these ideas of self-awareness and self-management, I think it's really important to be aware of your own emotional response to stress and to help develop strategies that work for you. We work with a very wide range of clients, and we are always talking about stress management and stress awareness. The important thing is not to say this is a checklist of what to do. It's really to understand what works for you individually. That might be a fitness program. It might be a meditation program.

It might be you take a walk with no technology, no phones, no nothing for 45 minutes a day, whatever that happens to be. And importantly, we're always asking the question, what support can you get from your family and your trusted friends? One of the things you're trying to do is to ensure that you're maintaining a healthy emotional state for yourself so that you can manage these competing demands. And why do you want to do that? Because you really want to maximize the benefit of this very important goal you set for yourself.

There's been a lot of fair amount of work done around adult learning and adult learning theory. And there's Jack Mezirow was a sociologist who was probably a pioneer in this going back into the '70s. One of his theories was that for adults to learn, they really have to face what he described as a disorienting dilemma. It's some sort of challenge, and it's a challenge that in working through it, it challenges maybe the assumptions that they had about a situation, and it helps them change their frame of reference.

As they go through that process, they build the knowledge that helps them address that, and that becomes a platform for growth, right? So you have this sort of disorienting dilemma that has a bunch of anxiety that's with it. It moves into a phase of learning, and it moves into a phase of growth. So in many ways, learning can have some negative emotional effects, especially if somebody's already operating with a very high-stress level.

So I think one of the things that's really important is helping adult learners stay focused on their broader goals. We tend to get motivated, and we get very strongly attached to a particular objective or a mission, so helping people stay focused on what that broader goal is but then also really establish the personal support structures that are important to help them get through that process of dealing with the dilemma and the learning phase.

So if you step back and then think about this, how does all that fit into these concepts of emotional and social intelligence we've talked about? They're based in relationships, right? In this case, they could be relationships with professors, fellow students, advisors, family members, or maybe that critical friend or group of friends. They're the people you rely on to get you through some difficult times and who celebrate successes with you.

Thriving in the midst of Change

Elise Awwad: Great. Thank you. That was very helpful for me, and I'm sure our students that are listening as well. In returning to the themes of change and uncertainty, which you just mentioned a bit ago, what can we do to improve how we cope with this?

Bob Biglin: Again, this underlying theme we've come back to again and again throughout this discussion is the importance of your relationships. We've got a relationship to manage with ourselves. Sometimes not the easiest one to manage by the way. We have a relationship to manage with those around us, and I think really focusing heavily on those two relationships are important. We talked a lot about the role of self-awareness and taking care of yourself. I think that is a very important thing to focus on as we're dealing with a lot of this change.

This change in uncertainty is not really moving quickly towards any resolution, obviously. So I think that being able to step back and remind yourself that you've been pretty successful so far getting through this and to actually view how you've been resourceful as an individual with this to remind you. We've actually done reasonably good so far here, and we've got a lot of tools to be able to work with.

A lot of times when we're working with clients, we'll find that they've got this inner critic that seems to be relentlessly sort of chattering away in the back of their head, and we like to remind them that sometimes it's good to maybe listen a little bit to the inner critic for some perspective, but let's not become over overly dependent on it.

Sometimes you’ve got to shove that inner critic back into the box for a while. If you're a member of a team, your teammates are a real source of help for you, and you can be a source of help for them, and that applies to your family as well. So checking in with people, checking in with family members, checking in with teammates. We're all suffering from these bouts of video conference fatigue. I have days where I may be on a video for nine hours a day, and that can get a little bit maddening. But at the same time, there is still a positive benefit to making those connections, and there's a positive benefit for you, and there's a positive benefit for them, and it's not just feel-good stuff. There's some real biology behind this.

What happens is we feel positive emotions and what that does to our physical state and in our neurological state. If you're a leader of a team, we talk about some of these things already. One of the most important things you can do is to communicate with your team frequently and authentically, and you spoke about that. You spoke about that in terms of the work that you're doing with some of your colleagues.

You know, this concept of being able to communicate authentically, I think, is particularly important because what you're trying to do is you're trying to share what you're experiencing and being clear when you maybe don't have answers. And that can have really positive benefits for the team because it can help build trust with you but also let people understand, "Hey, Elise is experiencing a lot of the same things that we are here. I'm not alone in this, right? There's something about bringing us together and recognizing that we're all in this, we’re all experiencing some very, very similar things.”

Celebrate Your Wins

Bob Biglin: I'd also ask, we're having this conversation with clients, which is to look around because there's a real strong likelihood that your team has responded to COVID-19 in some pretty extraordinary ways. We've heard stories from people saying, "Oh my gosh, we accomplished something in six weeks, which would have taken us 18 months before March.” It's been unbelievable. So look around. What are some of the accomplishments that can be celebrated and recognized? I think one of the things that is easy to get in the habit of is we're moving so quickly from day to day, from task to task, that we often forget to stop and actually step back for a moment and celebrate some of the big accomplishments that happen.

It doesn't need to be anything overblown, but to really acknowledge that is important because it feels less like this sort of never-ending treadmill, but we actually can say, "We did something. We did it together, and here was the result for that." So think about that, but also look around and look at your organization. Where did leadership emerge unexpectedly? We've heard that story. This team came up with this idea. We would have never expected it would have come out of that corner.

Break Away from Old Assumptions

Bob Biglin: And I also asked people to think about what assumptions used to drive how you ran your team or some of the key principles that you operated your organization with, and how they've been rendered or relevant. Probably the biggest one is this idea that we can work remote. We know of a couple of organizations that said, "We will never go to remote work ever and actually lost talent over that because people were looking for flexibility. And then suddenly when their governor or health department said, "You will not go into the office," they worked remote.

Now, some of those teams are potentially not going to go back to the old model that was there. So that's probably the most obvious example, but I think if you were to look around the organization, ask yourself what are some of those sacred cows that we used to think that would never change that have just been put out the pasture now? What are we going to be able to do different? What have we learned from all of this?

Don't Forget to Pause

Elise Awwad: Yeah. And I think some of those examples you gave are spot-on for anybody, right? Especially around this concept of you have to be in a building to get your job done, and you can't do it from home, right? I mean, when you were forced to do that, you're starting to see people thrive in that environment. So really good. And I like the idea of celebrating the wins. I always say that. I think that's really important, especially when you're dealing with this crisis and change and just all the negativity coming at you. Celebrating wins is really important, so thank you.

Bob Biglin: It's almost always the one that actually gets dropped.

Elise Awwad: Yeah.

Bob Biglin: It requires a really intentional effort, and why? Because we all tend to be focused on, "Okay, we got that. Now, what's coming next?" Actually, it's important. It's important to pause and to recognize that and to recognize the people who contributed most to that. That's one of the big things that are there. Then the other thing I would say, and we've spoken about this in a couple of the earlier questions that you raised, Elise, is we should never forget to be asking what we're learning from this.

Elise Awwad: Yeah.

Bob Biglin: The difference between those organizations that are adapting quickly and effectively and doing it sustainably are the ones who are asking “What have we learned from this and how do we apply what we're learning to what comes next?” So it's not just about doing it and taking it off the to-do list. It's actually doing it and saying, "Okay. What have we learned in the process of doing this, and how does this help us with whatever we're doing next?"

Explore Resources on Emotional Intelligence

Elise Awwad: Great. And it looks like we have some questions in the chat which we can go to now really quickly. We have a question from Aman I, who wants to know about any book recommendations around this topic of emotional intelligence? What do you recommend?

Bob Biglin: So I would say probably one of the best starting points is to go back to the book that started it all. That was probably the beginning of those 278 million Google results, which is Dan Goldman's book. Originally written in 1995. It's had multiple reprints since then, which is usually a pretty good indicator that something has got some enduring value to it.

You know, Goldman lays out--what that book really did is, it actually took some research that was done in the decade prior to that by two psychologists. Peter Salovey, who's currently the president of Yale and John Mayer, who's at the University of New Hampshire, and later Peter Caruso, who really first identified these ideas as emotional intelligence.

And what Goldman's book did is actually convert that into language that the broad public could understand. And he lays out a very compelling case and pulls together some really fascinating research that talks about how emotional intelligence relates to success not just in a professional setting, but actually in a life setting. And there is other research by a number of other sort of key pillars in that field who've actually tracked things like happiness and satisfaction as it relates to E, and not surprisingly those people with a high level of EI tend to have much higher rates of success and happiness.

So Goldman's book is probably the first place to start, and there's a series of others that are out there. One called Emotional Intelligence 2.0, which is kind of an extension of that, but I would strongly recommend that as a good place to start.

Supporting Teams in a Remote Work Environment

Elise Awwad: Another question here from Eric Y is, "How can a work from home team maintain that team feeling?"

Bob Biglin: I'd say think about how your team works and how they get together. What can you take from the cycle and the cadence that you had as a team before we went into work from home, and how do you adapt that? We were working with a client who had one of their teams very early on in the process was very, very early back in early March, within a week or so of going into quarantine, and someone on that team set up their first virtual coffee hour.

And now, they become a lot more prevalent. People thought the virtual coffee hour, the happy hour. But that was one thing that just sort of emerged from the corner, and it turned out to be something that was very enduring. We have another client that we work with that actually used one of their Slack channels, and they set up an idea exchange if you will about things to do that could help each other either work better from home, and there was a separate Slack channel that was helping families deal with some of the issues that were there, and the one rule is that we're not here to talk about work. This is how to help us as team members.

I thought that was very interesting. They were very clear to put a delineation around that. And it turns out it is thriving. They're getting massive amounts of traffic. So what's interesting about both of those is that when we ask them questions about, well, not just how did it come about, but why do you think it's working and a lot of the times what they'll say is, "Well, these were conversations we used to have in the office, or they were conversations we had over happy hour, over coffee or whatever."

They just really figured out how to pick up and move them. What I will say is that trying to do this requires a lot more intentional effort. You actually really need to think more actively about it. A lot of times when we're in a physical proximity to each other, a lot of these social interactions happen out of serendipity or just because we run into each other or we have a conversation, and that's much harder to do obviously for obvious reasons, when you're doing things virtually and remote.

So what I would say is look for those opportunities, be intentional about it and try to find the cadence that works for you and your team. Not everybody is ready to say I want to commit to a virtual happy hour every Friday morning at 10:00 or Monday morning or whatever you're putting together. People could be exhausted from it, but ask them, ask the team. What works for them?

Becoming a Better Leader

Elise Awwad: Yep. Get ideas from the team, and we've actually done that too. We've done game nights with the team, virtual happy hours as well. So it's been good. I like those recommendations. Here's another question from Michael R. So this is around being a natural-born leader versus a self-made or taught leader. Can someone be taught to be a better leader? And maybe just talk about that, in the intersect between that in EQ.

Bob Biglin: Yes, absolutely. We spend a lot of time actually helping people develop leadership skills, and I tend to believe that all of us, in one way or another, are born with some trait or some unique strength or gift that helps us lead effectively. I think one of the problems, and this has really run rampant over the last 30 years, and it's been particularly problematic with the rise of the hero CEO who splashed across the cover of Forbes, right?

If I were to go do that Google search on leadership, I'd probably get 400 million results out of it. There's this been this sort of crazy frenzy around trying to find the single theory of everything as it relates to leadership, and that's not really the case, right? We find that exceptional leaders are really combining three things. There's a combination of their intellect, so their raw gifts that they have and how they think in their cognitive skills.

That combined with their emotional skills and their social skills, and their values. And the combination of those three things often define exceptional leaders that we see more than anything else, not whether they follow a particular style or otherwise. Now, the question was raised about can we learn it? I'd say actually we're always learning it, and what we find is that the people who have most success at leaders are constantly learning.

And this is one of the things that has proven particularly challenging for some leaders, especially people who are maybe further along in their career is that they've gotten to a point of success by following a particular formula where they've got a set of tools that they use, and suddenly the context that they're operating in is completely different.

And now, those secrets to success, that secret sauce that worked for them for 10 or 15 or 20 years now doesn't work anymore, and those folks are the ones who are hitting the wall because they're finding that “I've got nothing else to go with here” because they haven't been building some of that adaptability and resilience. I would say that yes, it's absolutely possible, and most leaders have a combination of some innate things that they're born with, but they do a lot of learning along the way.

A lot of their leadership skills develop through their interactions and their partnerships, and the mentorship that they have with other people. So please don't believe that you may not think that I have been born with leadership skills or otherwise. My view is that that's not true. And we've seen plenty of examples of people, and we've seen plenty of examples for different personalities. Again, I'm going to come back and pick on this issue of extroverts and introverts for a second because there's this natural belief that, "Wow, someone is an extrovert. They're a natural charismatic leader."

Well, there's actually quite a lot of academic research that shows that the charismatic leader is not always the best leader in all situations. And while charisma in certain limited situations might be an important component, that alone does not decide a leader. There are many, many, many more skills. If you look at, as we talked about, things that have been changing in the work world, this focus on teams and the focus on the interactions amongst teams and this idea of teams of teams. What's really, really going to be a game-changer are those people who've developed those social skills to be able to operate effectively in an environment like that that is very, very team focused. So yes, you can absolutely learn those skills, and I would argue that all leaders and the really good ones are consistently learning over time.

Increasing Your Self-awareness

Elise Awwad: And there's actually two questions here that go hand in hand, so I'm going to... Miguel R and Eric Y, both asked questions a little bit differently. Miguel asks, "How do we be more emotionally intelligent?" And then Eric, "What are some tools to use to act in a more emotionally intelligent way?"

Bob Biglin: So one of the first things is to really try to better understand yourself. I know that that probably sounds a little bit nebulous in some ways, but there's this... we've talked a lot about the idea of being aware of yourself and looking for that self-awareness, but one of the things that we work with clients on all the time is to find someone to help you do that. It's fine to do the introspection, but you can't have the introspection on its own.

You need some of that external input to help you calibrate how you're doing in the world. You can talk to colleagues for that, you can talk to family around that, and there are some better strategies for doing that than others, right? So one of the things I wouldn't suggest is to go to a good friend or otherwise and say, "Hey, can you give me feedback on X?" Because all of a sudden now if I were to say to you at Elise, "Elise, can you give me feedback on X?" You're thinking, "Hmm, well, I really have these ideas, but do I really want to give him that feedback? And what's his reaction going to be?"

So Marshall Goldsmith is probably the world's most renowned executive coach, and he uses an idea called Feed Forward, and I really, really like it because it focuses on what you were really working towards. The feedback is always retrospective. There's not always a lot that you can solve about what's happened in the past. Of course, if you've behaved in a way that's pretty egregiously, one of the things you need to go do is go back and repair the damage from that. But if it's something like, for example, Elise, if I were to say to you, "I would like feedback on my presentation skills. You were in my last presentation, weren't you, Elise? You know, how did I go?"

Elise Awwad: It was excellent.

Bob Biglin: You might think to yourself, "Boy, it was really appalling. How do I tell him how to do that?" So a different strategy might be for me to come to you and to say, "Elise, I'm working on trying to improve my presentation skills, and in particular, I'm trying to make sure that I'm clearly communicating the message with the right amount, but not too much information. Could I ask you over the next six months as we're going through our team meetings, could we just get together for 10 minutes after our group meeting and you provide me your perspective on what you observed? And just tell me how did it hit you as a participant in that?"

So this idea of Feed Forward is really thinking about what's my objective for the future, and who can I engage to help me with that process? And I share that because that definitely applies to how you can help build your emotional intelligence, right? You can work with colleagues that you have. You can work with your spouse or your partner and have them help you work on those areas that you think you need to improve upon. And then clearly there is seeking some professional help with that.

So you might want to actually go out and ask your HR business partner to help you with a 360 or go get a professional coach to help you with that. But there's some things that you could actually do on your own without spending any additional money on that to use the networks and the relationships that you have right now. And then certainly reading and doing a little bit of background reading on some of these topics is good.

I know earlier today, a couple of the speakers actually, and I'll go back to Dr. Arno's session from this morning, talked about a whole host of online resources that are out there, and there are some great courses that are out there online. Coursera has a couple of them that are focused around emotional intelligence. I think there's one or two on edX. They're also great resources, and they're totally free.

What's nice about them, and I'm thinking of a couple in particular that are on Coursera, is that they take you through some personal reflective questions that help you think about your values as it relates to your behaviors and to help you get a better sense of calibrating how you're presenting in public and how you're interacting with other people. So I would say it's a combination of all of those things. I hope I answered this question.

Final Thoughts on the Future from Bob Biglin

Elise Awwad: Yeah, thank you. And we do have more questions, but we only have a couple of minutes, and I wanted to give you an opportunity, Bob. First of all, thank you so much—really good information. I want to give you an opportunity to give those listening to any final thoughts that you may have before closing the session.

Bob Biglin: Sure. I guess what I would say is that the change in disruption that we're experiencing now may be unique in its intensity, but it’s part of a much larger trend of these persistent cycles of change, and they're happening more frequently. They're happening closer, and in some ways, they're happening with more intensity.

The problem with that is that it's challenging many of the management concepts that we've been using for the past 50 years. Right? We’re really... a lot of our organizations are run using industrial era principles and concepts that were set up when everything was about efficiency and scale and not necessarily about managing knowledge, and that's really what we're doing now, right? The future for us is about how to most effectively manage knowledge.

So adaptation and continuous learning are going to be behaviors that we need to really develop intensely and to practice in the coming decades and going back to that earlier question about leaders being born, or the real leaders are learning, and they're learning all the time about themselves, about their organizations, everything.

So we know that that learning requires a lot of emotional courage, and that comes from having a deep understanding of ourselves and an accurate understanding of our social surroundings, and that's where emotional and social intelligence is the foundation for this. So while we're always going to be grappling with new technologies, market disruptions, changes in our work environments, these concepts are timeless.

EQ and SQ are timeless, and they serve as very grounding foundation to help us navigate through this. We have a set of phrases that we like to talk about, right?

Emotions change at the speed of impulse.
Intellect changes at the speed of thought.
Values change at the speed of trust, and
Cultures change at the speed of shared values.

Emotional and social intelligence are at the core of all of this. So that's how I would close today. Thank you very much for inviting me to join you. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you and engage with the audience. Hopefully, this has been useful and helpful to everybody who's been listening in.

Elise Awwad: Absolutely, Bob. Thank you so much for your insights on being mindful of our own emotional intelligence and its role in teams. You gave us so much to think about. I can't wait to go back and listen to this recording and take notes. We appreciate you spending time with us today. We really do. So thank you.

Bob Biglin: Thank you.

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