Archive for the ‘Topic – Emotional Intelligence (EI)’ Category

Rapid Lava Learning

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Mile 180. Lava Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon. One of the most notorious, if not the most notorious, rapid on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  A snarling, noisy cauldron of churning waters intent on devouring anything or anyone who doesn’t show any respect – and some who do.

For those people like me rafting the 225 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this is one of the white water highlights. For the guides taking us down the river, this is also a highlight – but even more so a challenge. They know the risk of the boats capsizing, together with the risk of serious injury (or worse) for themselves or their charges if the relevant respect is not shown. They also know that reputations are won and lost on the few seconds taken to navigate Lava Falls. YouTube logs many guides’ attempts to negotiate the rapids – often the ones that didn’t go according to plan.

I had already witnessed our guides ‘scouting’ (this is where the guides leave the boats and walk ahead an up so that they can look down on the rapids to check the prevailing conditions) previous challenging rapids and seen indications of the seriousness and perhaps mild apprehension with which they approached them – tones of voices became more serious, then, as they stood over the rapids the tightening of already recently tightened life-vest straps.

Different guides displayed different signs, and I was particularly impressed by one of the guides in terms of her skills in these situations. Kiki is a woman in her mid-twenties who has guided many parties and regards the Grand Canyon – and in particular the Colorado River – as her home.  She has also never capsized a boat on the river – although she has taken quite a few unintentional swims through rapids – but is aware that capsizing is likely to happen at some point.

I was interested in her approach to navigating Lava Falls and she was kind enough to spend some time discussing it with me the evening before we “ran Lava”.

There were several points of particular note.

Kiki said that Lava Falls enters her consciousness early on in the trip (although the Falls are not negotiated until around Day 12), and often prior to the start of the trip. She described experiencing short “adrenalin bursts” on these occasions in anticipation of the Falls. When I asked how she reacted to these, she explained that whenever she experienced this, she would visualise the Falls and her anticipated route through the Falls (the preferred route can alter depending on a number of factors, but mainly on the water level of the River). Kiki found this a useful process in both making use of the adrenalin burst and in meaningful preparation for the rapids.

She then described how the guides would discuss the Falls the evening prior to running them, and how on the actual day of the event as she approached the Falls she would start to experience some nervousness and anticipation. She recognised that whilst these emotions were understandable, they were also potentially unhelpful, so she recognised and dealt with them.  She achieved this by discussing information and factual aspects about the Falls with her passengers. She explained that this helped expel the unhelpful emotions and focussed her on the cognitive task in hand in a helpful manner.

Having scouted the Falls and returned to her boat to run the Rapids, Kiki described how she monitored her breathing. She recounted how if she then felt apprehensive at all, she would take deep breaths – for two reasons. Firstly because it helped her to refocus her energy and ensure she was in the best physiological state to negotiate Lava, and secondly for a very practical reason – if she did capsize or go for an unintentional swim she would have plenty of breath! The importance of this last point was illustrated by one of the other guides who explained how they were thrown out of their boat, spent 38 seconds underwater in the clutches of the Colorado and were then spat out 25 yards from where they went under.

Finally, Kiki explained how she reflected on her approach, line and skills after the event – considering what went well and what, if anything she could have done differently – thus maximising her learning for the next time.

The majority of people reading this will not be river guides, but the approaches, behaviours, processes and practices that Kiki so effectively uses are instantly transferable to other situations – she demonstrates a use of Emotional Intelligence beyond her years in recognising and managing her emotions, she understands and applies the principles of being focused and managing her breathing, and she makes the most of every experience by implementing the Experiential Learning Cycle.

Whilst I have written about them before, I think this is a really helpful and practical application of these theories, and it demonstrates how versatile and effective they can be in supporting effective performance – whatever the context.

If I had been training as a river guide, the discussion we had would also have been a good illustration of NLP Modelling. If you want to identify and fully reproduce the detailed skills of a successful person, it is insufficient purely to watch their behaviours – you need to fully explore and comprehend their thoughts, mind-set and emotions in order to achieve their level of excellence. Due to the breadth, depth and quality of information gleaned, the process also accelerates a person’s learning.

And how did we get on? All the oared boats made it through, but the lighter (and more likely to capsize) paddle boat didn’t make it. It capsized, throwing out all seven occupants, however, four climbed on top of the overturned raft to row it through “Son of Lava Falls”, and the three others swam it – with one of the occupants receiving a minor head injury which looked a lot worse than it was due to the amount of blood he lost. A reminder of the power of Lava Falls and the need for the preparation and skills Kiki displayed.

Paul

 

Re-United – the 1992 Committee

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

© Reuters

Music bands reform on a reasonably regular basis – usually with the aim of making as much money over as short a period of time as possible. As I write this, Fleetwood Mac are soon to tour with Christine McVie back in the line-up, re-creating the band as it was for the Rumours album, and there is talk that Oasis are about to reform after five years apart. Similarly, Monty Python are taking the same approach in July this year – quite openly with the exactly same financial objective – with their “One down, five to go” shows.

And in the same way that Monty Python are down to 5 out of its 6 members, through the sad death of Graham Chapman, Manchester United’s  Class of ‘92 are too, but in a different way. Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt have bought Salford City FC, keen to offer support to a local football venture, whilst David Beckham is creating a different vision in Miami.

More immediate than that, however, is their re-united presence at Old Trafford. The short reign of David Moyes is over and Ryan Giggs is in charge. Phil Neville – one of Moyes’ assistants – has been retained; he’s not to blame apparently, he can’t be – he’s a part of the Class of ’92 – what is now being referred to as the 1992 Committee. Paul Scholes has returned this week, too, and Nicky Butt is more involved. That only leaves Gary Neville, but he may well be there commentating for Sky whilst also being part way through his football coaching badges.

The scene is set – for a thunderous atmosphere at the game against Norwich later today. But the logic and theory for such an atmosphere doesn’t add up – it is completely irrational. Giggs has far less experience as a manager than Moyes, and is apparently not being considered for the permanent role. His lieutenants do not have much more experience. So what do they have? They have three things.

Being the 1992 Committee. They are that home grown crop of players who were central to United’s successes between roughly 1995 and 2010. They are the history that the supporters yearn for – they played completely differently to how Moyes’ teams played. They are seen as the saviours – both potentially on the pitch and because the rumours are that they are leading a bid to buy Manchester United back from the Glazers. In the week we have celebrated St George’s Day, they are returning to slay some dragons.

Symbolism. Giggs moved his pre-match press conference back to the time and place that Sir Alex held them. The news channels were running a picture of the four of them together – Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville and Butt – there could have been more as there are more coaches (for example, the goalkeeping coach who has been retained as he has helped De Gea considerably). But just the four in the photograph.

Use of Emotional intelligence. When exploring EI in speeches, I often use Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day monologue, or some of Barak Obama’s, but what about Ryan Giggs’ press conference?

“I am proud, I am happy and a little nervous” (Self-awareness).

“My mind-set is on Norwich first and then the remaining three games”, and It’s been a frustrating season and I want to end it on a high” (Self-management).

“I can’t wait for Saturday – I know the place will be rocking and know the fans will be behind us” and “My philosophy is the Manchester United philosophy,” (Social awareness).

“I’d like to thank David [Moyes] for giving me my first chance in coaching” and “I trust the players, I know what they are capable of and I want them to go out and show it against Norwich” (Relationship Management).

He was clear and passionate about what he wants to achieve: “I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo and be brave, with imagination, all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player. I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player”.

Whatever happens during the game, the atmosphere and build up will be electric. Not for any rational reasons – purely for emotional ones. It will demonstrate the power of emotion attachments and symbols. Who knows what the result will be – I don’t (and I have published this before the game) – but it has huge potential based on emotional motivation.

Will it be another example of how dreams, potential and belief can be brought to fruition in completely irrational ways?

My son was in a class of 18 two weekends ago at St George’s, the FA HQ. He was on a coaching course. When the un-named guest speaker arrived, it was Ryan Giggs – to be assessed for his UEFA ‘A’ Coaching qualifications. (As an aside, I wonder whether he will have been more nervous for that or his first game in charge?).

I asked Alex whether he said anything to Giggs at the end of the session; “I just shook his hand and said that I hoped he got his goal for the season … (Giggs is the only person to have scored in every season since the Premier League was introduced in 1991) … and he said that it would be good but he was running out of games”.

Perhaps, just perhaps …

Paul

Manage your performance – then manage others’

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

In my last post I explored the concept of the importance of managing ourselves when managing a potentially challenging performance conversation.

Here are the tips I promised to help if you are one of those people who think they could do with a little more positive belief!

Breathe – “take a deep breath”, people sometimes say when about to undertake a new or challenging situation … this is because breathing is at the core of effective performance. As soon as we lose our usual breathing pattern, it has a negative influence on our physiology, our posture, our feelings, our ability to perform. If you feel you are losing it, take a deep breath!

Count to 10 – And then they say, “Count to 10”. This can help if you are experiencing unhelpful emotions – anger or frustration for example. Concentrating on a cognitive task can help re-focus your thoughts and regain composure.

Smile more – when I coach people for job interviews, one of the behaviours I ask them to experiment with is smiling – from an hour before the interview. Smiling activates different emotions to frowning, and so will make a person feel more positive. Do you have a (clean!) pen or pencil nearby? If so, put it horizontally between your lips. Now do the same with it between your teeth. What is the difference? French researchers found that when people watched comedies with pencils between their teeth they found them funnier than when people watched them with pencils between their lips – the former making them smile, the latter giving them a sadder expression. Simple facial movements, but they can have a huge effect on the rest of you.

Take control of your self-talk – don’t tell yourself something is going to go wrong – tell yourself it will go right!.  And do you use the word “try” when you tell yourself you are about to do something? If so, you are possibly going to stop yourself before you start.  When Yoda, the small and strange Jedi Master in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, is training the young Luke Skywalker, he sets Luke numerous challenges and tests to help build the boy into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  ”No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Tell yourself you will do it – as opposed to telling yourself you will try to do it. Create your own history with positive self-fulfilling prophecies, and in order to do this …

Visualise yourself succeeding – you need more than talk. Picture yourself and hear yourself performing well in the situation you face. Experience the positive feelings this generates. Practice this and relatively quickly a person can turn a situation they are concerned about into a situation where they see themselves performing exceptionally well – and then they stay synchronised and carry it through on the day. If you would like more details on this technique, please let me know.

But a word of warning – these techniques take a little time to perfect. Don’t practice them for the first time at the workshop, practice them beforehand. Find out what works for you. Develop them to meet your own needs.

Manage your own performance – and then manage the performance of the other person.

Do you have any other techniques that work? If so, please let me know.

Paul

 

Managing your Performance – what do you believe?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I have recently been delivering some Performance Management Workshops. They have been designed to help managers address difficult conversations more effectively, and to equip managers with more skills to improve staff performance.

Delegates have been directed to some excellent models, theories and reading materials prior to attending the workshops.

What I have noticed, however, is that the majority of such theories and models address how to deal with the other person – and pay little or no attention to how the manager manages their own needs. From my experience, managers often know these theories, but are not as effective as they could be in implementing them due to their own levels of confidence.

This happens to a lot of people in such situations – and in similar ones such as job interviews and presenting to audiences. But it doesn’t need to be like that. If you are such a person, these two posts will help you.

Take yourself back to the last time you dealt with a potentially challenging performance management issue (or job interview, or presentation, etc), what were you thinking to yourself immediately beforehand? Perhaps it was one of the following:

  • I have to do this
  • I think this isn’t going to go well
  • I need to do this
  • I want to have a go at doing this
  • I will try and do this
  • I am going to do this effectively

Often our beliefs will become ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’ – we talk ourselves into a belief and that’s what happens … and then we say to ourselves, “there, see, I knew that is how it would turn out”. You need to approach such situations truly believing the last statement – you are going to deal with the situation effectively.

This is what top sports people do – they visualise themselves winning, or scoring the penalty; they convince themselves they will achieve what they need to.

What they say to themselves immediately before performing will relate to the final one of the six statements. And this is where you need to be.

The boxer Muhammed Ali was one of the greatest exponents of this. He would undertake research on his opponents, discuss the information with his team, plan how he wanted the boxing match to go, and ultimately predict his winning round. Not only did he convince himself of this, he would also tell the press and his opponents what round he would win in. He would put his predictions into poems, which made them more memorable – for both him and his opponents – and more newsworthy for the journalists. Many of his opponents were unable to disregard this information – the result being that more often than not Ali won in the round he predicted.  He wrote his own script. And you can write your own scripts.

What Ali did was to gather information, analyse it and make predictions based on this (using his IQ) and then make those predictions a reality using his Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quota (EQ). Effective managers understand the need for and ability to use their Emotional Intelligence.

Ali was also obviously attempting to negatively influence his opponents – you will not have opponents in your situation, so it may be that a Winston Churchill quote works for you – “Do something about the things you can do something about – and then go to sleep”. What that quote does is capture where your energies should be when addressing what could be a challenging situation with a work colleague. Too many people think (and worry) about what the person we are due to meet may say, think or do. This is often unhelpful as all they end up doing is thinking about the worst case scenarios – and in turn work themselves up even more! Concentrate on what you can do something about.

There are 4 key aspects of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

– and whilst all are important, the key requirement for many people when dealing with a challenging situation is the aspect of Self-management.

Within the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Bradberry and Greaves, Self-management is summarised as:

  • The ability to use your awareness of your emotions to stay flexible, and direct your behaviour positively
  • The ability to tolerate an exploration of your emotions, understand the breadth of your feelings and allow the best course of action to show itself

Without effective Self-management, a person is unlikely to function effectively – and this will impact on all the other aspects of EI.

How do you manage yourself in such situations? What techniques do you use?

In my next post, I will give you some tips on how you can be more positive in such situations – and so improve your performance and effectiveness.

Paul

 

A New Year State of Mind

Monday, December 31st, 2012

As we head towards the start of another year, many of us will make resolutions as to what we will do differently over the coming months or year, or what we will seek to achieve. I wondered how many people who set themselves New Year’s Resolutions actually achieve them?

American research from the University of Scranton found that 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, 17% make them infrequently and 38% never make them at all. 8% of this total population group said that they were successful in achieving their Resolutions.

As an aside, I found these statistics interesting in relation to Shelle Rose Charvet’s Motivational Traits theory. One of the Traits – Direction – relates to whether people are motivated by having an objective or avoiding problems – whether they are ‘Toward’ or ‘Away From’. In other words, are they motivated by a carrot or a stick. Her research found that approximately 40% of the population are ‘Toward’, and approximately 40% are ‘Away from’ with the remaining 20% being a mixture of the two – these figures have some resonance with the findings of the University of Scranton.

Returning to Resolutions, according to Wikipedia, “a 2007 study by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bath involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year’s Resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying ‘lose weight’), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends”.

So, if setting goals only makes a difference for 8 – 12% of the population (based on these studies), what might be a more universally productive approach?

As I was contemplating this, I recalled some statistics I use when delivering sessions on Emotional Intelligence (EI). According to Travis Bradberry, we experience 27 emotions an hour, 456 each day and so over 3,000 a week. How much notice do we take of this information?

A four year old child laughs 300 times a day, yet a forty year old laughs only 4 times a day according to this blog. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but there are other similar such statistics available – and you only have to spend some time with people of those ages to know that children laugh and smile more than adults.

Perhaps New Year could be about re-connecting with fundamental skills – skills that perhaps we think we use but which really we have let slip. Skills we used far more effectively as children.

And then I saw this book that our son bought for Peta this Christmas – “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith.  What a great book.

Early in the book the writer provides a list of ideas for the exploration of our world:

  1. Always be looking (notice the ground beneath your feet).
  2. Consider everything alive and animate.
  3. Everything is interesting. Look closer.
  4. Alter your course often.
  5. Observe for long durations (and short ones).
  6. Notice the stories going on around you.
  7. Notice patterns, make connections.
  8. Document your findings (field notes) in a
    variety of ways.
  9. Incorporate indeterminacy.
  10. Observe movement.
  11. Create a personal dialogue with your
    environment. Talk to it.
  12. Trace things back to their origins.
  13. Use all of the senses in your investigations.

If you are one of the 90% who doesn’t use New Year’s Resolutions, or who sets them and doesn’t follow through, perhaps using this template could be an alternative approach to being more effective in the New Year?

Happy New Year!

Paul

Person Centred Facilitation

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

When I trained to be a trainer – over 25 years ago – I was  very lucky that the course I went on was ahead of its time. It had a far  greater focus on the intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills and  facilitative skills of the trainer than other courses around at that time. It was  in many respects also a coaching course – before coaching was really spoken  about. Yes, I was very lucky.

And one of the foundation stones for the programme was the  work of Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987), whose work I have briefly referred to once  before (‘Problem person’ paragraph). Rogers (above) was an American psychologist who developed what  was known as the “person centred approach” and was one of the founder  of the “humanistic  approach” to psychology. His approach is underpinned by three pillars.

The first is the Realness in the facilitator of learning. This is all about the facilitator being real, being genuine. It is the most fundamental of the three pillars. Where the facilitator is genuine and open, they will enter into a far more meaningful relationship with the learner. The lack of a front or façade will help the learner gain more from the relationship. Practical benefits of this are that the learner is more likely to be open with the facilitator and co-learners, more likely to be honest about their weaknesses and more likely to accept feedback. All of which will bring about greater growth.

The second is Prizing, acceptance and trust. This is a set of attitudes that stand out in those who are successful in facilitating learning – it is unconditional positive regard for the learner. Rogers said, “I think of it as prizing the learner, prizing her feelings, her opinions, her person. It is a caring for the learner, but a non-possessive caring.” I think this last sentence fits very well with the Kahlil Gibran passage I focussed on in my last post. The ‘acceptance’ aspect relates to the learner being a separate person, having their own rights, values, desires and goals. And if the facilitator has a belief that the other person is trustworthy, there will be the required level of ‘trust’.

The third and final pillar is Empathic understanding. This has been developed further since Rogers’ work into a fundamental aspect of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Where a facilitator can listen effectively and comprehend the other person’s reactions from the inside, they will be far more sensitive to the person’s individual needs. This significantly increases the potential for a greater depth and breadth of learning –due to learners feeling valued and appreciated, not judged or evaluated.

I continue to use these three pillars to underpin my approach when I train, coach or facilitate. They are non-negotiable.

Furthermore, it is not possible to tell whether they exist within someone from a CV, qualification or tender. And so this is why whenever an organisation is hiring such a person to touch its staff, it should at the very least meet the person – even better is to witness them operate.

Rogers sadly died whilst I was undertaking my 11-week residential training course, however, the brilliance of his work lives on and I and many others attempt to bring it to life on a daily basis.

Paul

Split your personality – improve your performance

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

One aspect of self-development that I have been working on with a number of individuals recently has been the aspect of how we do not always operate as ‘one’.  There are aspects of ourselves that we don’t always understand or access.  Failing to access such information stops us from being as effective as we could be.

This post develops the themes of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Emotional Intelligence (EI), so you may find it useful to access my previous blogs on these subjects prior to, during or after reading this post – links to which are through the theory titles above.

As a trainer, when facilitating a group, and someone (we will call them Sam) makes a comment, I sometimes think to myself, “What a daft thing to say”, or “Do you realise what you have just really said?” These are critical thoughts emanating from my Controlling (Critical) Parent ego-state – my beliefs and values. Up to that point I had been thinking and speaking from the Adult ego-state – my rational and objective thoughts. It is generally accepted that adults learn most effectively when the facilitator is non-judgemental (Malcolm Knowles, Andragogy), so I know that I’m best not to externalise my judgemental thoughts.  I also know that Sam has missed the point and so needs to consider their thoughts and other points of view. So, I say to the group, “What are anybody else’s thoughts on what Sam has just said?” This will then generate a conversation with other members of the group addressing the matter, with Sam being far more likely to openly listen to their peers rather than my views – be they from the Adult or Critical Parent ego-state. And I have maintained, and possibly improved, my relationship with Sam.

In that short scenario, in Transactional Analysis (TA) terms, Eric Berne (founder of TA and photographed above) would say that I had been operating in two different ego-states – the ‘Executive’ and the ‘Real Self’.  At the start of the scenario, my ‘Executive’ and ‘Real Self’ were at one, but when Sam made the comments that led to my Critical Parent thoughts, the two split. My Critical Parent ego-state was my ‘Real Self’, but my Adult ego state retained ‘Executive’ power. This enabled me to be as personally effective as possible, and to assist the delegate as effectively as possible – as my ‘Executive’ ensured that my Adult ego-state was used in my external transactions.

The challenge, often, when we are exercising both ‘Executive’ and ‘Real Self’ is that there can be incongruence in our gestures, behaviours, mannerisms, etc.  These can be confusing to people if we do not monitor them carefully. If, for example, I was shaking my head as I asked the question, “What are anybody else’s thoughts on what Sam has just said?”, my ‘Real Self’ would be being demonstrated through my body language – and the Adult ego-state would not have full ‘Executive’ power.

This also links with the Personal Competence aspect of Emotional Intelligence. In order to achieve this successfully, a person needs to be aware of their emotions and then use them in order to stay flexible and understand themselves more effectively. This entails experiencing and noting our Child ego states (feelings driven), and then considering – from our Adult ego-state – what we can learn from our Child.

Many people are unaware of this division in themselves, and so cannot take advantage of it. Hence why some people – not through choice – ‘wear their heart on their sleeve’

Have you ever written an email when you are angry or upset, and then put it in the Drafts box, returned to it later and then thought, “Did I really write that?”. Most people then ‘tone it down’ before sending it and thank or congratulate themselves on putting it in the Drafts box in the first place – internal discussions between the ego states.  This situation occurs when you have written the email in your Parent or Child ego-state, and when you have returned to it you have re-read it in your Adult ego-state.

What I have been working on with these individuals is enabling the two to occur simultaneously.  People who can identify the ‘Executive’ and the ‘Real Self’ develop a system which is a bit like gauze or a dam. They have the ability to alter the thickness or denier of the gauze to externalise to others more or less of the ‘Real Self’ dependent upon what is appropriate. Using the dam metaphor, they can open or close the dam to let as much or as little of their ‘Real Self’ into the outside world as they want. As it is practiced and mastered, the person can then achieve this in increasingly challenging and stressful situations.

How do you separate your ‘Executive’ from ‘Real Self’?

When have you used it to great effect?

Paul

Songs in the key of life

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I have been doing a lot of coaching recently. In fact, I have done very little over the past year, and then about 15 coachees have all come along at once (whilst the content of the last sentence is accurate, my dad – if he’s still reading – will think it an exceedingly good joke! I suspect others may not …)

The coachees are all senior leaders and chief executives from both public and private sectors, and from across four different organisations. Having a number of coachees like this has enabled me to look at some of the themes and discriminators across the group as a whole. They are predominantly my own personal musings as it would be wrong to talk about the majority of my thoughts and conclusions here. One aspect that I do feel comfortable mentioning, however, is that of Emotional Intelligence (EI). I have been reminded of how effective people can be when they use it.

I have seen EI explained in a number of ways, however, the one that works best for me is that contained in The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. They use a four-box model which I have always found easy to understand and explain.

The first two boxes relate to Personal Competence:

  • Self-Awareness – Do you understand your emotions, do you understand your tendencies in given situations and are you able to stay on top of your usual reactions?
  • Self-Management – Can you use the awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and deal positively with situations, are you able to explore your emotions to understand yourself better? (this also links to my last blog post on the Adult Learning Cycle).

The other boxes relate to Social Competence:

  • Social Awareness – Can you accurately pick up on the emotions of others, understand what’s happening for them and interpret others’ feeling even when you are experiencing different ones?
  • Relationship Management – Do you listen, do you use your emotions and those of others to manage interactions and do you value your relationships?

One aspect of my musings was as to how I personally achieved the Self-Awareness aspect. It was prompted by one of those times when someone compliments you on something and asks you how you do it and you don’t really know that well. Does it happen to everyone, or is it just me? Anyway, it got me thinking.

And I spent a lot of time thinking about the songs I sing and hum to myself. I have worked out that they fall into four categories.

  1. I think of a song I like, and sing it to myself
  2. It was the last song I heard on the radio, in the supermarket, on my MP3, etc.
  3. I sing a song because something non-emotions based has prompted it (i.e. when I turn the engine off in my Ford Ka having left the lights on, the car makes a warning noise exactly like the first note of the Beach Boys ‘Sloop John B’, and off I go! …)
  4. I am singing the song as my emotions have chosen to tell me to sing the song, and if I listen to it, it helps me understand where I’m at or what I’m feeling.

Regarding Point 4, for example, I know that when I find myself singing or humming Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, there is some situation that has been going on for a while and has sapped my energy – so much so that I have become almost oblivious to the situation. The song reminds me of this, I identify the situation and do something about it. The song reminds me of my responsibility. On my recent birthday, I heard myself singing the Robbie Williams lyrics, “I hope I’m old before I die” – not a song I can recall singing at other times – and when I came out of a recent coaching session where the person was doing everything too fast, I found myself singing the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics, “slow down, you move too fast”, over and over.

I believe it’s one part of me giving another part of me messages, through my emotions – and listening to and interpreting them increases my self-awareness.

I am, however, left with a question. Is Point 1 really a grouping, or should it be part of Group 4 – and it’s just that I haven’t found the meaning for anything that I put in Point 1?

Does this happen for you, or is it just me? What do you think?

Paul

Need help getting off the fence?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Indecision has been the theme of this past weekend. It reminded me of the French proverb, “Between two stools one sits on the ground”. It also reminded me of the Turkish proverb, “He became an infidel hesitating between two mosques”. I couldn’t decide which one to use …

The effect of indecision on us and those we manage or interact with can be immense. This was powerfully expressed by William James when he wrote, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual” (The Principles of Psychology, 1892)

So, if you want to improve your decision making or think you have a tendancy to procrastinate (and if you can’t decide, then perhaps you have!), here are some tips that will help you:

1. Give yourself enough time to obtain and consider all the information. If you don’t give yourself enough time to do this you are more likely to make a poor quality decision, or miss the opportunity to make a decision. Train or bus, bus or train … – spend too much time thinking about it too close to the time, and you’ll probably miss them both.

2. Don’t think that there is a right and a wrong option (or options). By thinking in terms of ‘right and wrong’ we can put pressure on ourselves – unnecessarily. Usually there are pros and cons to each option, and one may be better than the other or others, but they are not generally right and wrong. If something is that obvious that one really is right and the others are wrong, it’s usually fairly obvious to us.

3. Take time out to consider what you need to achieve. When we are managing projects or teams, it is easy to get involved in day to day matters and not take time out to think more long term. By considering your vision, your aims, your objectives you have then got something to consider decisions against – and it makes them a whole lot easier to take.

4. Don’t worry about the decision. If you have considered all the information available and made a rational decision, you have done your best. And if it turns out not to be the best decision due to additional information becoming available, it was still the best decision when you made it. And you may well be able to implement an amended decision – most decisions are not final.

5. Avoid perfectionism. Easier said than done! Often in early life we have been programmed by our parents and carers to be perfect – they do it with the best of intentions but it can become unhelpful for us later in life. In Transactional Analysis (TA) the theory suggests that we have 5 possible behaviour drivers – one of these is “Be perfect”. You don’t have to be perfect or make perfect decisions. If this is a particular issue for you, tell yourself that you are good enough as you are – this is the antidote to “Being Perfect”. And if you use these tips, your decisions will be good enough.

6. Communicate clearly with yourself. You have thoughts and feelings. When considering all the information and options, you need to be objective and rational. And when we are considering which way to turn, we have internal discussions.  Those internal conversations need to be clear and not clouded by fear of making the wrong decision, or other negative emotions. Writing down your thought processes can help to ensure you have the most productive internal discussions possible.

7. Follow your intuition. Be in contact with and use your feelings – this is sometimes referred to as being Emotionally Intelligent (EI). Those of us who do not use our Emotional Intelligence will generally make less effective decisions than those of us who do.  Our brains are wired to make us emotional beings, and the experts suggest we experience more than 450 emotions each day – how much notice do you currently take of that information? If it feels right, it probably will be right.

8. Cut your teeth on small decisions. Try out these techniques on small decisions. This will help you work out what works for you and what may not work – and what might need more practice. By using the process in less important scenarios, it will be easier to use the process in more potentially difficult situations.

Have a go. See what works for you. Or do you have any other tips that have worked for you?

Paul