Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 3

October 16, 2014

EQ IQCan emotional intelligence be learned?

Seabiscuit was just a broken down horse incapable of winning until someone saw his potential and developed it through training. It was only then that he became one of the greatest racehorses in the history of racing. The trick is to be able to identify individual potential and develop it with effective techniques. But how do you teach something like empathy? We have developed a methodology targeted for the construction industry called “Emotional Intelligence – Foundation for Your Future”. It was co-developed with Kate Cannon, a pioneer in the field of emotional intelligence.

After the initial EQ evaluation and feedback, we begin with a half-day program where each participant creates detailed, individual development plans. The participant targets specific competencies based on their future needs and then chooses development strategies from different categories depending on their learning style. They also create plans for mental and physical peak performance that are tied into their emotional plans focusing on nutrition, exercise, and stress management. We utilize many different types of exercises and development ideas and use various media such as books, fables, movies, television, magazines, operas, plays, and websites.

We also emphasize the day-to-day application of this learning and provide inspirational quotes for each competency. In addition, we build in many levels of accountability. In a group setting, everyone has an accountability partner. They also provide me with accountability partners above them, beside them, below them, family and friends, and clients. After the six month mark, I call these accountability folks to see if they have seen any changes.

These are all powerful ways to keep the learning in the forefront, but the key to this learning is in the follow-up and coaching. We contact individuals every three or four weeks to check on their progress, offer encouragement, and provide coaching. We also do at least one face-to-face coaching session during the program. Without this individual coaching and follow-up, the participants tend to set aside their development plans. But if they know they will be re-evaluated and that someone will be checking in with them every few weeks, they are much more likely to work on their development plans and create fundamental behavioral change from within. One participant said this about the process, “I thought that people are who they are by their mid-twenties. I definitely feel that people are capable of significant change.”

I love to tell the story of Bryan, a superintendent in his late thirties with an anger problem. He told me that this problem had troubled him since he was young, and that if I could help him find a way to control it, he would be most grateful. This issue showed up in his EQ-i®. He had low emotional self-awareness along with high assertiveness and low impulse control. His low emotional self-awareness didn’t allow him to feel himself getting angry, and eventually, with his low impulse control, it just boiled over.

The first thing we did was work on his emotional self-awareness. I suggested that he try to become aware of where he felt anger in his body and identify it as early as possible. We also worked on basic breathing and meditation techniques along with centering techniques to help with his impulse control.

I gave him a book to read and told him that it may be a little “out there”for him, but to try and find something he could relate to. In the process of reading the book, he found a centering technique that worked for him. He created a focal point by putting a photograph of his two small girls on his mobile phone. When he felt himself getting frustrated, (with greater emotional self-awareness, he felt it in his body), he excused himself from the situation, took ten deep breaths, flipped open his phone, and looked at his little girls. This allowed him to decompress and control his anger.

In his words, “Leaving a bad situation, even briefly, has allowed me to not act in anger or impulsively.” He improved his emotional management and changed his behavior, making him a more effective leader. With this shift, he has learned to listen more without being so reactive. He told me that the people who work with him have noticed these changes. As he puts it, “Listening, not reacting to people I encounter has led to a more positive approach to my professional life.” In addition to improved leadership skills, there has also been an improvement in his mental and physical performance. He is less stressed and better able to handle difficult situations without compromising his health.

Even if the scores from the EQ-i® do not increase; there still can be some very useful information for the participant. Annelise, a purchasing manager from Denmark, decided to work on her social responsibility, which was relatively low. Eleven months later, at the end of the program, when she took the EQ-i® again, she found that her social responsibility score was even lower. Interestingly enough, her self-actualization, happiness, and optimism had increased dramatically.

When we discussed these numbers, I asked her why she chose to work on social responsibility. She told me that she believed that it was the right thing to do, that she thought her family and friends wanted her to spend more time with them. I asked her if she had spent more time with family and friends in an effort to increase her social responsibility. She replied that she had not. She told me that work had been particularly hectic, and she had been working non-stop since the beginning of the program. She usually worked alone rather than in groups or teams. She also indicated that she felt a little guilty for working so much.

I asked her if she enjoyed working and she responded by saying that it was the most important thing in her life. She loved the challenge and felt that the company needed her during this particularly difficult period, which made her feel valued and important. That was the reason for her significant increases in self-actualization, happiness, and optimism. I suggested that perhaps this second evaluation revealed that during this period in her life, her work, which gave her great joy, was something that she would do well to focus on. In addition, since she worked alone, this way of working did not contribute to increasing her social responsibility. This conversation was a great relief to her. Perhaps all she needed was permission to enjoy her work life without guilt. So, in this case, although the competency she had originally chosen decreased, the results of the second EQ-i® gave us some real insights into the direction she wanted for her personal and professional life.

To sum up, people do learn about themselves and shift behaviors that are troubling by working on specific emotional competencies.  They actually learn these emotional skills, which are not only reflected in the numbers on the re-test, but in the comments of accountability partners who have actually seen the changes.

Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 2

October 9, 2014

EQ IQIs there a correlation between emotional intelligence and performance?

I facilitated a program for a top 100 contractor based in the southern United States using emotional intelligence as a foundation for leadership development. After the managers were evaluated, I ranked their interpersonal scores (empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationship skills) from the highest to the lowest. This company had their own ranking system in order to identify their star performers, the ones who contributed most to the success of the company. The astonishing fact was that the company’s overall ranking and the ranking of interpersonal skills correlated almost one-to-one. This told us that the managers who had the best interpersonal skills were also the company’s stars. They were the managers involved in the most profitable projects who contributed the most to the company’s bottom line.

Multi-Health Systems has a program called Star Performer where companies look at the EQ-i® profiles of their star performers for particular departments or positions and determine with statistical accuracy which emotional competencies are essential for high performance. Then it is just a matter of recruiting, hiring, and training for those competencies. The drawback to this approach is in the performance criteria, which must be objective. For sales, performance is objective and clear. For project managers, it is less clear. You may have a high performer that loses $100,000 on a project that would have lost $1 million. Or you may have a low performer that makes $500,000 on a project that was supposed to make $1 million.

But if you can decide on some fairly objective performance criteria, it soon becomes clear which emotional competencies are required for that level of performance.  And think about where the industry is going.  Project delivery methods are moving toward more collaborative environments:  IPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  Disney now has a LIPD (Lean Integrated Project Delivery) method of project delivery.  With these more collaborative methods, it takes a different set up skills to be successful. According to a recent ENR article, the Construction Industry Institute recently did a study and found that “working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute.  If you want a high level of performance on your projects, perhaps it is time to start paying attention to your project teams’ emotional intelligence.

Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 1

October 2, 2014

EQ IQIsn’t this just another one of those personality profiles?

Invariably, program participants tell us they’ve already taken all of these kinds of tests and that this is nothing new. Many of them have taken the Myers-Briggs or the DISC test. There are literally thousands of these tests on the market today. Most are based on preferences – you know the types of questions – would you rather read a book or sail a boat? For people with low self-awareness, this can be very informative and fun, but most of these tests are rather limited for detailed, personal development.

For those who are somewhat self-aware, these tests are merely confirmations of what they already know. In fact, the common response is, “Yep, that’s me. So what?” It is my belief that personality tests, without some kind of context, are limited in their application to personal development. When you take a personality test, you put yourself in some general state of mind. But the choices that you make on those tests may change based on the circumstances. I may be more of an introvert in my personal life, but at work, I’m an extrovert. So how do I answer those questions? Sometimes I would rather be the center of attention, and sometimes, I would rather be alone. They very rarely capture the true nature of the person. These tests simply can’t capture the complexity of a human being.

This approach to development using personality types is very prevalent in the training industry. Participants take a test to find out their “type”. Usually there are three other “types”. You are either a color or a number or a quadrant or an animal. Then, they teach you about the other three “types” and how to get along with them. This approach is limited at best and can be dangerous. First of all, human beings are far more complex than a single “type”. Second, unless you carry the tests around for everyone to take, it takes empathy to determine what the other person’s “type” is. And empathy is not our best emotional competence. In fact, for most groups, it is the lowest score. Third, for some people, this is a real copout. They will stereotype people into whatever “type” they determine and treat them a certain way, which may or may not be correct.

Once you develop your emotional skills, you will be able to deal with any type of person in any situation. You will have the self-awareness to know how you are feeling and how you are being perceived and the empathy skills to know how they are feeling. These situations are dynamic. They can come up in an instant. Isn’t it better to have good fundamental emotional competence to work from rather than rely on a set of “rules” for certain “types”?

A construction company I worked for used the DISC profile for all of its employees. DISC is a test that indicates the following personality archetypes:

¥          Dominant tends to be direct and guarded

¥          Interactive tends to be direct and open

¥          Steady tends to be indirect and open

¥          Compliance tends to be indirect and guarded


As it turned out, 80% of the people in our construction company were “Dominants”. What does that tell you? Most people in the construction business have a dominant style. They tend to be direct and guarded. Didn’t we know that already?

Myers-Briggs, another personality test, indicates the following traits:

¥          Extraversion versus Introversion E or I

¥          Sensing versus iNtuition S or N

¥          Thinking versus Feeling T or F

¥          Judging versus Perceiving J or P


When you take the test, you are given a Myers-Briggs Personality Type. But what are you supposed to do with that information? There are some Myers-Briggs modules on team-building and how to deal with other Myers-Briggs types, but how do you know the personality type of everyone you encounter? One company made everyone put their Myers-Briggs profile on their coffee cups, but this concept was a miserable failure.

Let’s a look at another case study, a thirty-year-old financial consultant who could not keep a job. She was a top of her class MBA from an Ivy League school and her IQ was 138. Most of the time, she was hired on the spot. But she went through six jobs in four years. One of her clients actually brought a lawsuit against her.

Her EQ-i® (Emotional Quotient Inventory) showed “a very high independence score and a very low interpersonal relationship score suggests that she is a loner, perhaps due to a serious inability to relate to others. Moreover, her difficulty in empathizing with others contributes to this inability to relate to people and to feel part of the larger social context.”

When this woman took the Myers-Briggs, she was an ESFJ (Extraverted Feeling with Introverted Sensing). But the results of the Myers-Briggs gave her little information about why she could not hold a job. After taking the EQ-i®, she could target specific areas for development that helped in her pursuit of a career.

With personality tests, your results rarely change throughout your life, and if they do, it probably has more to do with the context in which you took it. You may shift slightly as you age. The other problem is that there is no clear path to development. If you are an ESFJ, do you want to become an INFT? And how do you do that exactly? What are the development strategies to get you there? There are none. Simply knowing yourself better does not create behavioral change that you need to be able to attain your goals. We say it over and over in our courses: Awareness alone will not change behavior!

The EQ-i® is a very different tool. It measures specific competencies such as empathy, assertiveness, and problem solving skills. It is very dynamic and reflects what is going on in your life and work at the time. If you are going through a difficult time, it will be reflected in the scores. This is much more valuable information. And when you look at that snapshot and where you want to be in the future, it becomes extremely practical. Then you choose areas to develop, and a detailed development plan is created utilizing specific development strategies. There is practical application, measurement, and improvement. This creates fundamental behavioral shifts. Personality tests simply do not do that.




Zen and the Art of Dementia

September 25, 2014


Scan 2014-8-21 0019-1


There are many horrible things about dementia and my mother’s mental and physical decline.  She can’t walk any more.  She sleeps most of the day.  She can’t remember things.  She still remembers me and my brothers, but can’t remember details of her life and the other people in it.  She can’t carry on detailed conversations any more.   That is the downside of dementia.

But there is something else that we are experiencing with this decline.  With dementia comes a send of mindfulness.  Mom is totally in the moment.  She is not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.  Each week, my brothers and I meet for brunch, then stop by Quick Trip to buy Mom an ice cream.  When we arrive, she is so happy to see us.  Genuinely happy.  In the moment.   There are still glimpses of the mother I grew up with, and those glimpses are always “in the moment” moments.

She still can be very funny, cracking jokes here and there, playing off something that we said.  Mom and Dad were always having fun.  Check out the picture to the left.  When she eats her ice cream, she is totally focused on it, telling us how good it is and savoring every bite.  She eats it like a child with simplicity and full engagement.

But the most astounding in the moment moment is when there is music in the air.  There is a church group that comes once a month to her assisted living place, and they always start with several hymns.  When they try to hand Mom a hymn book, we tell them that she doesn’t need it.  She knows every word to every verse to every hymn they sing.  Of course, she grew up in the church and played piano for years.  And that part of her brain is completely intact.  When the music starts, she is completely in the moment, singing not only the words, but the harmony.  Wow!

I could dwell on the loss of Mom’s memory and her physical decline or I could be in the moment with her and cherish those “in the moment” moments.  It’s a decision.  And this not only goes for my time with her.  This goes for all of the folks I come into contact with every single day.  Are you in the moment, fully engaged, fully present with the people you come into contact with?  Or are you checking your phone, your texts, Facebook, email, or some other technology that only pulls you away from the present?  The choice is definitely yours.

Never Underestimate the Impact You Have On Others Part 2

September 18, 2014

sad man


I heard the news this week that a friend of mine from high school had died.  His name was Terry Bryson.  In high school, Terry was teased a lot.  He looked like Barney Rubble from the Flintstones, so everyone called him Barney Bryson.  He hated that.  He would get angry.  He would lash out.  He started drinking heavily in high school.  I saw him drunk at parties on more than one occasion.  That’s what killed him.  At the end of his life, he was homeless and living under a lifeguard stand on a beach in Florida.  The authorities said that is was death by alcohol.  Although I wasn’t close to him, I was deeply saddened.

It made me think.  I felt ashamed that I had teased him along with the others.  I don’t blame myself for his death.  Everyone has choices.  But I keep wondering if someone had showed him some kindness, if someone had made a connection with him, if someone had taken some interest in him, would his life have turned out differently?  Simple phrases like “You’re not good at math.” or “You’re not very pretty.” or “You’ll always have big hips.” can shape how we think about ourselves and how we interact with the world.  So again, I ask you the question, “What impact are you making on the people you encounter every day?”  Do you lift them up, encourage them, help them move on from a difficult time?  Or do you criticize? Make fun?  Show them anger?

This is one of those things that is simple, but not easy.  We all have bad days and we all have our stuff and we all get off track and trample our fellow man at times.  But you can get back on track.  You can turn this around.  You can create impacts that have ripple effects far beyond what you can ever imagine.  And all it takes is one positive encounter with another human being.  Go forth and find that person today.


Experience Versus Transaction: Use the Latest Neuroscience to Be Wildly Successful

September 11, 2014

positive emotional experience


One of the mantras in our leadership courses and companies where we work is “experience versus transaction”.  What we mean by that is defined by this question.  Are you providing to your clients a positive, rich emotional experience?  Or are your interactions transactional, stuffy, and all business?  If you lean more toward transactional, you may be in trouble.

Since most buying decisions are based on emotions and memory (see the books Thinking: Fast and Slow/Kahneman and Habit/Martin), it is vital that you create positive emotional experiences and memories on your projects and with all interactions with your clients and other project stakeholders.

What kind of emotional experiences and memories are you creating in your offices and on your present projects?  Are your interactions filled with animosity, conflict, and anger?  Are they filled with the stuffiness of just getting the business done?  If the answer is yes to either of these questions, then you can bet that you will not be highly considered for the next project.  Picture these two actual scenarios from my experiences with two contractors:

Scenario 1.  I walk into a contractor’s office.  The receptionist doesn’t look up.  The walls are bare.  The furniture sparse.  Finally she looks up and says in an exasperated way, “What do you want?”.  I cheerfully say, “I’m here to see John.”  She says nothing and calls John.  I sit back down and wait in a shabby chair with a stained coffee table in front of it.  Finally, after ten minutes, John enters and takes me down the hall to a conference room.  The halls have grey walls with no color.  There is no sound.  No music.  Nothing.  It’s dead.  As we pass employees, they don’t look up, don’t say hello, don’t acknowledge my existence.  We arrive at the windowless conference room. It has grey walls and horrible furniture.  The walls are adorned with Successories posters that say things like “There is no I in Team”.  “Do you want some coffee?”, John asks.  “Sure.” I say.  “Kitchen’s down the hall.”  So I walk down the hall and pour a cup of coffee into a Styrofoam cup, pick up one of the two cardboard canisters (sugar and “cream”) and pour the powdered “cream” into the coffee.  The coffee is cold and the “cream” clumps in the cup.  I pour the coffee down the sink and return to the conference room.  We immediately start the meeting.

Scenario 2.  I walk into a contractor’s office.  The receptionist looks up, walks from behind the desk, puts out her hand and says, “You must be Mr. Darnell.  We’ve been expecting you.  Welcome!  Please have a seat and John will be here in a minute.”  I sit in a beautifully appointed lobby in a wonderful chair.  In front of me on a coffee table is a book of this company’s projects.  I leaf through it.  On the walls in the lobby and in the halls are paintings from local artists.  John enters after a very short time and welcomes me.  We walk down the hall.  There is beautiful music playing softly in the background.  Everyone we come into contact with looks me in the eye,  greets me and welcomes me.  We walk into a beautiful conference room full of windows and light.  It has artwork on the walls as well.  I sit down on an Aeron chair.  In walks two assistants with silver trays. One tray has a silver coffee pot with a silver creamer and silver sugar bowl.  “Coffee?” John asks.  “Yes, thanks.”  He pours me cup and I put real cream into my piping hot, rich, black coffee.  The second tray is filled with cakes, cookies, and petit fours.  After some coffee and cakes, we spend a few minutes talking about my travel, accommodations, and how I was enjoying their beautiful city.  Then, we start the meeting.

Which company would you rather do business with?

For these interactions to be successful, you have to make sure that your people have high levels of emotional intelligence, especially in the interpersonal skills.  They have to relate to people in a positive way.  That is what we teach.  It is a teachable, learnable skill.  So why aren’t you focusing on your people, their emotional intelligence and creating positive emotional experiences?

Of course, this not only applies to business.  What if you lived a life that took every opportunity to create a positive emotional experience for everyone you come into contact with?  What would that world look like?



You Are What You Experience: Things That Surround Us Shape Who We Are

September 4, 2014

best in childrens books


I recently came across a series of books at a used book store called Best In Children’s Books.  As a kid, I remember receiving these books each month and devouring them in a matter of hours.  I bought the entire series and started looking through them again almost 50 years later.  When I started going through these books, something clicked inside me.  All of the things that I love, that I spend time with, that I work on for hours, that bring me great joy are all in these books.  I am a mechanical engineer and environmentalist, a published writer, a published poet, a musician, and an avid reader.  I love animals, I love history, I love to travel to other places, and I love to experience new things.

When I took a looked at the contents of these books (see the table of contents to the left), I noticed that they always had some great fiction (Alice in Wonderland), some poetry (Three Little Kittens), an article on science and technical things (The Sun Keeps Us Warm), an article on animals (America’s Lake and River Fish), something historical (Val Rides the Oregon Trail), something environmental (Plink Plink, which is about water conservation), and at the end of each book, something about other countries (Let’s Visit Brazil).  Some of the other books had articles on music and biographies of historical figures.  Wow!  Every single volume was filled with all of the things that are a part of my life today.

It made me realize that my young sponge of a brain was soaking up all of these images, words, facts, and photos that later influenced my life and work.  So what are we exposing our young kids’ minds to these days?  You will have to answer that one for yourself.  But know that whatever it is, it will likely shape who they become.

This wasn’t a scientific experiment.  It was just an observation.  What we dwell on, what we inundate ourselves with, what we spend our time doing each day really does make a difference on who we are and who we become.  That’s true for anyone at any age.  So what do you spend your time doing?  Do you watch a lot of television?  Do you work too much?  Do you spend your time in a negative state of mind?  Whatever you are doing, you are creating your future, so choose wisely!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,314 other followers