Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 1

January 30, 2017

empathy

Isn’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.


Miraculous Meditation

January 23, 2017

meditation suit

When I do these leadership programs, the participants always ask me,  what’s the one thing that I could do that would make the biggest difference?  I understand the question.  We are all busy.  We can’t do dozens of things.  We can’t commit to an hour in the gym, seven days a week.  We can’t go on a sabbatical for a month.  So what is that one thing that can make a huge difference?  It’s meditation. We strongly emphasize this in our courses.  In order to create well-being, in order to be productive, in order to tap into that higher power, we must have reflection time each day.  It doesn’t have to be long.  It can be as little as 10 minutes.  But it has to be consistent.  I probably average four to five days a week where I sit down and be quiet and not do any planning or worrying or problem solving.  Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that anyone who is trying to attain personal mastery should practice some form of meditation.

Studies have shown that meditation increases focus and changes physiology.  It reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases DHEA, the “youth” hormone.  It relaxes you.  It increases problem solving.  It increases your energy levels.  Harvard Medical recently found that regular meditation actually changes the expression of genes and lengthens the telomeres.  Shortened telomeres indicate aging.  So it actually reverses the aging process.  So if it does all of these amazing thins, why doesn’t everyone do it?  For some it seems too “new age”.  For some, it seems cult like.  They think that it conflicts with their religious beliefs.  But think of it as just an exercise in concentration.  You can apply your own belief system to these techniques so that you are comfortable with it.

Here is a very simple meditation technique:

Take a deep breath in.  Breathe out and think the number one.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out again.  Think the number two.  Breathe in again.  Breathe out.  Think the number three.  Breathe in a fourth time.  Breathe out and think the number four.  Then start again at one.  Other thoughts will enter your mind.  Politely dismiss them and go back to breathing and counting.  Do this for around 5 to 10 minutes.  Set a timer if you need to.

You will no doubt find this hard at first.  But the more you do it, the more you will be able to focus.  Not only during the meditation, but in all areas of your life and work.  You will be more relaxed, more resilient to stress, and you will have more energy at the end of the day.


Things I Learned from the Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference

January 16, 2017

Celebration Community Cheerful Happiness Success Concept

This was a post from several years ago and is so much more relevant now:

Yesterday I was on a panel discussion at the ENR Groundbreaking Women in Construction Conference in New York.  It was a great experience for me.  A couple of things that really stuck out:

1.  This was the first time EVER that I was in the minority.  And I mean THE MINORITY!  There were probably five men there out of 300 attendees.  It was a very different feeling.  I never felt out-of-place really, but I did feel outnumbered.  It was a little intimidating.  I finally felt what it must be like for women and minorities at a normal construction conference filled with mostly middle-aged, white men.

2.  I experienced bathroom discrimination for the first time.  I say that with tongue planted firmly in my cheek.  How many times do we men sail in and out of the bathroom at intermission or the seventh inning stretch while the line at the women’s bathroom snakes around the corner for miles?  There were so many women and so few men that they actually put a sign over the men’s restroom that said “WOMEN ONLY”.  I had to go down two floors to use the bathroom.  What a shift in perspective.  Women probably get really frustrated by those long lines and think to themselves, “When are the mostly male architects going to wake up and put in twice as many stalls in the women’s bathrooms?”

3.  Women interact differently than men, at least in construction and engineering.  Men will gather and greet with a cool and somewhat forced confidence.  The interactions are low-key and low energy and the topic of conversation is mostly about business.  When a large group of women interact, the energy is amazing!  It is palpable.  The room is buzzing!  They are animated and talking and exchanging business cards and discussing lots of different things, including non-business topics.

4.  Women have some of the same issues as men.  There are some difference such as childcare that are quite different for men and women, but what I took away was that the skills for a woman to be successful in the construction industry are exactly the same skills that men need.  It’s just in a different context and should be taught in a slightly different way to address their specific needs.  Leadership, presence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence skills are at least a part of those success factors.  Individuals will likely just be working on different areas.

I look forward to more of these kinds of conferences and hope that other industry organizations will reach out and invite this group to the table.  They deserve a seat at that table.

Check out my ENR Viewpoint article on diversity:

CLICK HERE

Also, I am in the process of finishing up my latest online course on diversity and inclusion as part of the Total Leadership Library. Click here for more information on that.

 


Second 10 Rules for a Successful 2017

January 9, 2017

Man changing his mood

As I said last week, I predict that 2017 is going to be an amazing year for all of us.  I received such great response from the first 10 rules, I wanted to share the second 10 most common coaching notes that I give to folks in the AEC industry.  If you follow these rules, I can guarantee that your 2017 will be even more successful.

1.  Make your questions to statements ratio 3:1.  This will help you make the conversation about the other person.

2.  Practice “loving kindness” meditation every day.  This is a Buddhist thing.  For every person you encounter, in your mind, wish them happiness and send them loving kindness, especially those people who are making your life difficult.  You will be amazed at the result.

3.    Truly listen and understand instead of formulating the next thing you are going to say. This takes some practice, but is well worth it. Your relationships will flourish.

4.  Try this compassion exercise.  Think of someone you are having difficulty with, then make these statements with them in mind:  Just like me, this person has known loss.  Just like me, this person wants to be and do his/her best.  Just like me, this person wants to be connected with other human beings.  Just like me, this person has struggles.  Just like me, this person has weaknesses that may hold them back.  Just like me, this person wants the best outcome.  Just like me, this person is a flawed human being.  After this exercise, re-evaluate how you see this person.

5.  Never use logic to try and convince someone to think differently about their emotional response.  This never works.  Never.  Engineers are notorious for this.  You send an owner a change order request and he/she is furious.  So you naturally pull out plans and specs and the contract in order to show them the logic behind your change order request.  And they get more angry!  What’s that about?  You can’t logic your way out of an emotional response.  You have to address the emotion!

6.  Keep an eye on how you breathe.  Your mind goes as your breath goes.  Many of us restrict our breath through stress and tight clothing and use the top 25% to 33% of our lungs.  This reduces oxygenation of the blood and creates “chattering monkey brain” where you can’t turn your mind off.  Throughout your day, remind yourself to take deep, slow breaths and reset.  You will be amazed how your concentration and focus increases and you will feel much better with more energy at the end of the day.

7.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Whatever it is you want from someone, you must ask if you are to receive it.  Whether it’s a raise, a position, a favor, etc, if you don’t ask, you will never receive it.  Tim Ferris has a great way to practice this.  Next time you get coffee, try to negotiate 10% off the price.

8.  Have a plan A, B, and C.  Plan A may be go to the gym daily.  Plan B may be to go to the gym three times per week.  Plan C may be to walk 10 to 20 minutes each day.  If you are all or nothing, then your progress will be sporadic.  If you did walk that 10 minutes each day, it would be much better than going to the gym for a week straight and doing nothing for the next two months.

9.  Put your phone down.  Our phones are actually addicting.  I mean physically addicting.  Dopamine is released during our phone sessions and oxytocin (the connection hormone) is released during our social media binges.  If you make it a habit to put your phone down and truly connect with others, you will be amazed at how great your life will become.  And don’t ever look at your phone while driving!

10.  Read a book a week.  Or if that’s too much, read a book every two weeks or a book a month.  Read fiction, non-fiction, novels, poetry, whatever you can get your hands on.  Your horizons will be expanded and your knowledge will be increased.  And new ideas and creative approaches come from all of those disparate ideas combining in your mind to form new ideas.  The more stuff floating around in there, the more chance you have of combining them into a new way of thinking or being.

If you want a deeper dive on many of these subjects, check out our Total Leadership Library!  All of our courses on emotional intelligence and critical people skills are now online.  Click here for more information.


Top 10 Rules for a Successful 2017

January 2, 2017

Man changing his mood

I predict that 2017 is going to be an amazing year for all of us.  I wanted to share some of the most common coaching notes that I give to folks in the AEC industry.  If you follow these rules, I can guarantee that your 2017 will be even more successful.

1.  Avoid the use of I, me and my in your conversations.  Minimize your self references.  This forces you to make it all about the other person. Also, make your questions to statements ratio 3:1.  Ask a lot of questions and listen!

2.  Avoid starting questions with the word “why”.  It sounds like an interrogation, and the other person will likely be put on the defensive.  Find a way to ask the same question with the other reporter questions:  what, where, when, how.  And “What the hell were you thinking?” doesn’t count.

3.    Beware of REF (Resting Engineer Face).  The most popular coaching note that I give is to simply smile.  I know it’s tough.  But it puts people at ease and opens them up.  It also reduces your stress.

4.  It’s not about the information.  It’s about making a connection with others.  Instead of a transaction, try to create a positive emotional experience.  Whether it is your spouse, your kids, or the person at the grocery store, this makes your encounters with others much more meaningful. Also note that you cannot logic your way out of an emotional response. Don’t even try.

5.  Try this empathy exercise:  Get rid of the kids for a while, sit your spouse down and ask them to tell you about their day.  You can’t offer any suggestions, comments, or criticisms.  You can’t tell them what they should have done.  All you have to do is listen and try to determine what emotions they were feeling throughout their day.  And that is the only comment you can offer:  “That must have made you feel . . . ”

6.  An old man told me before my wedding a sage piece of advice:  “You can be right or you can be happy.  And the choice is yours.”  Think about this one.  Many folks in the industry have a need to be right and they sacrifice relationships as a result.  Can you let some things go?

7.  Whenever anyone gives you advice or a comment or criticism, just say thanks.  Nothing else.  Just thanks.  Then, think about the advice.  And remember, if you meet ten asses throughout your day, then you are likely the one who is the ass.

8.  Build in personal reflection time EVERY DAY!  This can be prayer time, meditation time, quiet time, vision time or whatever you want to call it.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it should to be consistent.

9.  Lighten up.  Don’t take things so seriously.  This too shall pass.  In the movie Stripes, there is a soldier who tells everyone he will kill them for any minor infraction.  The Sergeant tells him,  “Lighten up, Francis!”

10.  Spend more time with your spouse, kids, and pets.  Check in with them often.  Don’t sacrifice you or your family for work.  Remember, when most people are on your death bed, they rarely if ever say, “Gosh, I wish I could have worked a little more!”

If you want a deeper dive, check out our Total Leadership Library!  All of our courses on emotional intelligence and critical people skills are now online.  Click here for more information.


Why Project Relationships Go Horribly Wrong and How to Prevent it

June 7, 2016

a skyscraper with glass walls and the reflection of landmarks on the opposite side

“Building is the quintessential act of civilization.” Tracy Kidder

Think about it.  If three people washed up on a deserted island, the first thing they would do is collaboratively build a shelter.  Unless, of course, the three people were an architect, owner’s rep, and contractor.  Then, they would have to wait for two lawyers to wash up on the beach so that they could proceed with the project.

There is a project that I read about recently where the parties involved hate each other. I don’t say that lightly.  You can tell from their comments that they truly loathe and despise each other.  Here is a link to the ENR article titled  A Hospital Job Dispute Reaches Fever Pitch:

http://enr.construction.com/business_management/project_delivery/2015/0918-A-Hospital-Job-Dispute-Reaches-Fever-Pitch.asp

How did this project get to this point?  Could the parties involved have seen this coming?  How did they begin the project, and more importantly, what can you do on your projects to avoid such a fate?

We have created a program called connEx, which creates high performing teams who care about each other’s personal and professional success and well-being.  Click here for more information.


Some Solutions to the Workforce Development Crisis: How to Attract and Retain the Very Best People

May 24, 2016

Group of workers at a construction

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” Anne M. Mulcahy

 

Workforce development has reached a crisis level. The number of projects moving forward continues to increase, and worker demand (labor and management) continues to rise. That, along with the dwindling workforce, is already negatively impacting the industry. If we don’t take concrete steps now, this workforce development crisis has the potential to cripple the industry.

There are many factors that have created this crisis.   Krantz’s job ranking survey regularly ranks construction jobs at the bottom. Our industry image is not good.  It is viewed as dirty and difficult.  We don’t treat our workers as well as other industries do, and we don’t offer very many befits like paid vacation and healthcare.  We also have an issue with diversity and inclusion.

There are some very good long term initiatives such as the ACE mentor program and outreach to high schools.  But what should companies do in the short term?  Consider the fact that to fill a position, it costs anywhere from two to three times the annual salary.  For someone making $75,000 per year, that’s $225,000!

There are some very concrete steps companies can take to attract and retain the very best people:

  1. Let them control their own destiny:

If you want to attract and retain people, give them as much autonomy as possible. Give them the ability to set their own work schedules and work the way that they want to work. This may be difficult with some projects, but there is always room to experiment. Many companies are toying with flexible work hours and ROWE (results oriented work environments).

  1. Provide a Clear Career Path and Training to Get There

All workers, especially young workers, want a clear career path and the resources to attain the skills to be able to make it happen. If your company doesn’t have clear career paths for all employees, and the skills training needed to travel along those paths, this is the time to implement a program. If you are an individual, and your company doesn’t have this career path/training in place, let them know that it is important to you. Get the ball rolling and ask them to provide it. Obviously, they value training or you wouldn’t be enrolled in this course!

  1. Make Sure Employees Know Your Why

Employees, especially younger ones, want to have a sense of purpose in their life and work.

What is your company’s purpose? What is the project’s purpose?  Do you articulate that and communicate it clearly on a regular basis?  Every company and every project has a purpose.  Tap into the purpose with your employees.

  1. Make Their Lives Better

This is a simple concept, but perhaps not that easy. If you make your employees’ lives better, they will be more loyal to your company. So how do you do that?  There are two areas that we see that can make your employees’ lives better.  1.  Improve their finances.  Hire someone to come in and help people set up budgets and pay off debt.  2.  Improve their health and well-being. Start a wellness program (formal or informal) and help them to be healthier and happier.

  1. Create a Fun Place to Work

I usually get pushback from this concept of creating a fun place to work. To many people in the AEC industry, work and fun just doesn’t go together. So what can you do as an individual and a company to infuse more fun in your work, on your projects, and in your offices? Put in games, have contests, have laugh time, start every meeting out with something fun, and promote and encourage fun ideas of team, collaboration, and play.

Some of these ideas are pretty far out for folks in the AEC Industry.  But if we don’t start embracing these kinds of changes, this workforce development issue will only worsen. Embrace these new ideas. Company leaders tell me that they can’t try the flexible work initiative because some people will just sit at home and watch television. So what they are doing is punishing the 90% who will actually honor this open way of working. If you are a company, push the envelope and start trying these new ideas. If you are an individual, be strategically subversive. Try some things and see if you get a good result. When you do, share it with the company.

Whether it is for you, your company, or for the AEC industry, how we attract and retain people to the industry is vital to our livelihoods and the very industry in which we work. It’s time to take some action.

I have a personal story about recruiting. My nineteen-year-old nephew had dropped out of high school. He wasn’t a good student in the traditional sense, and he didn’t like school. He had no intentions of going to college. But since he was a small child, he loved trucks and big equipment.  He said he wanted to be an equipment operator. I told him he should probably get his GED before trying to go to operator’s school. (Most of those schools require a high school diploma or equivalent.) He took the GED several times, but couldn’t pass the tests. He soon started working as a bus boy for minimum wage. He gained weight. He was depressed and languishing in a low paying job.

I asked him if he would like to start as a laborer on a construction project until he could pass the GED. He said he did. I made a call and got him a job with Batson Cook in Atlanta—making double what he was making as a bus boy. As soon as he started working, he knew that this was his calling. He loved going to the project each day. He’s a big, strong kid and very conscientious and reliable. And they loved him. He is very smart, and very capable with equipment. It’s intuitive for him. Whenever they had trouble with a piece of equipment, he could figure out what was going on. It’s a shame that our education system doesn’t recognize that kind of “smart.”

In just over six months, they gave him a raise, and there was talk of making him a foreman. My guess is that there are tens of thousands of young people out there in the same boat, who would love to be part of this wonderful business. All we have to do is reach out to them.