Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 4

April 11, 2017

collaborationIsn’t this just another management fad?

I have given much thought and introspection to this question. As a matter of fact, I considered this possibility when I first started this work. But after seeing the results and seeing the supporting data, the answer to this question is a resounding NO! The shelves are filled with thousands of self-help books for managers. And many of these books contain good information. So, why do management fads come and go like the tides?

Because there is a fundamental flaw in their application. They pile generic information on top of generic problems without regard to the individual. No matter how good the information is or how valid the approach, without addressing the fundamental emotional makeup of the individual, the application of this information may never take place.

Every company we have worked with agrees that communication is essential in the construction industry. Companies spend millions of dollars on training to give their people better communication skills. But because of the typical EQ profiles of most people in the construction industry, they are often incapable of applying this training. If they have high assertiveness, independence, and self-regard, and low empathy and interpersonal relationship skills, they will likely come across as someone who doesn’t listen, won’t ask for other’s opinions, and does whatever they think is best regardless of any group input. You can put that person in a communication seminar or buy them books to teach them how to communicate, but it is very probable that they will still be unable to communicate effectively when the seminar is over.

If someone has high reality testing and problem solving along with low flexibility and optimism, they may have issues concerning change. This person will have a very rigid approach to life and work. This person can go to a seminar on change management or read a book like Who Moved My Cheese?, but his lack of flexibility usually prevents him from truly embracing change. He will have difficulty in the construction industry because of the constant change, but if his flexibility and optimism are increased, he will be much better able to deal with this issue.

Using emotional intelligence as the foundation for development programs is a different approach. Instead of starting with a particular area of training such as communication or team building, we address the fundamental emotional developmental needs of every individual. Then we address these needs with specific, targeted learning modules. By addressing the emotional competencies first, the participants can develop the emotional makeup to be able to apply the concepts of the learning modules. All future training can be related back to the employees’ emotional intelligence development plans, which also make any subsequent company training more effective.

As Lisa Fanto, the the Vice President of Human Resources for Holder Construction Company put it, “I’ve been in and managed corporate education for a long time, and I’ve seen all of the fads du jour come and go and suffered through many of them. This is the only thing I’ve seen ever in my career that actually changes lives. I know that sounds dramatic, but it does. It actually changes people. And in order to change the way people manage, you have to change the way they live.”

Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 3

February 13, 2017

Angry businessman ready to fightCan 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 EI 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 week to check on their progress, offer encouragement, and provide coaching. We also do several 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, 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 2.0®. 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.

The first course in our Total Leadership Library is an introduction to emotional intelligence where learners take our Ghyst EI test and create detailed development plans that create positive, lasting change.  Check out the Total Leadership Library and what we offer at:


Emotional Intelligence Questions Answered Part 2

February 6, 2017

construction problems

Is 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, ILPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  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.

The Emotional Side of Marketing (Part 4 of 4)

September 9, 2015

Being different,taking risky,bold move for success in life - Concept vector graphic. The illustration shows orange fishes moving together in one direction while blue fish taking a risky different way

“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” Coco Chanel


I recently was engaged by a well-established, top 200 contractor. They were great builders, but when they hired a firm to get the pulse of owners in the area, the results were surprising to them. All owners admitted that they thought that this company built great buildings, communicated well, and were technically excellent. They also stated that this company wasn’t as good with relationships, were difficult to work with at times, were not as fun to work with as their competitors, and the owners rarely heard from them between projects. They now are strategically focusing on the human side of this equation and teaching their employees basic emotional intelligence and relationship principles.

A couple of the top managers from this company awaited the return of one of their executives from a meeting with a potential client. When they asked him how it went, he replied, “We Brent Darnell’d ‘em”. In other words, he used all of the principles we talked about and applied them to this client meeting. He made it all about them and did not tout schedule, price, or quality. It went very well. They tell me that now BD doesn’t stand for business development. It stands for Brent Darnell. They have found out two very important things:

  1. Every company comes to the table with schedule, price, and quality. It is not really a competitive advantage. It is the price of entry.
  2. When you compete on price alone, you become a commodity, but if you create a positive experience for that client and really pay attention to your customer service, they are much more likely to choose you, even if you are not the lowest bidder.

This company is a believer. They implemented these concepts recently on a $45 million project that they were chasing. They were third on price, so they went into the presentation focusing on connecting with the selection committee. They must have done a pretty good job because they were awarded the project. Since then, they have created such close connections with the company that they have been awarded a total of almost $80 million worth of  work without bidding.

Explore how to create a positive emotional experience instead of a reliable transaction. Think about all of the ways that you can create these experiences. Tap into the intangible, emotional side of business to make your company stand out. Of course, your people will have to be trained on how to carry this initiative out. They must hone their empathy skills so that they can truly understand what is important to the project stakeholders. But once they start taking this concept and running with it, you will start to see miraculous changes internally and externally.

You will find that you are no longer competing on price alone because there are more criteria to choose from. Why do you think some owners choose on price alone? It’s because they think that you every contractor there will be the same pain in the ass as any other contractor. But what if they loved you? What if they couldn’t imagine their lives without you? That is another criterion, and the short list for those projects are very small.

So, if you want to differentiate yourself, if you want to make your competition irrelevant, then pay attention to the emotional side of marketing.


The Emotional Side of Marketing Part 2 (of 4)

August 25, 2015

Hand elevates half of a sliced head with brain inside

“And of course, the brain is not responsible for any of the sensations at all. The correct view is that the seat and source of sensation is the region of the heart.”  Aristotle


There is a great book called Habit: The 95% of Behavior That Marketers Ignore by Neale Martin. Martin’s work is based on Daniel Kahneman’s work.  Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics by studying the neuroscience of how people buy stuff.  Both of these books further reinforces this concept that people buy based more on emotion, memory, and ease than any other factors. And yet, what do we do when we present for a project? We focus on our resume, the experience of our project teams, the site logistics, the schedule, and the budget. We say that we will build the project with good quality and safety. Blah, blah, blah. You and everyone else.

According to Martin, your customer is looking for shortcuts to good decisions.   There are two basic ways that the brain approaches thinking and decision making: Martin calls these two separate areas of the brain the habitual mind (System 1) and the executive mind (System 2). Think of a video of a baby laughing. Your response is from your habitual mind or subconscious. You don’t have to think about it. It’s an automatic response.

Now try to solve this in your head: 578 X 634 =

You are now engaging your executive mind (System 2) or the prefrontal cortex. And it’s hard. It takes effort. It takes energy. It takes glucose, a precious commodity for the brain.  You probably gave up pretty quickly with trying to solve that equation in your head.  The brain is pretty lazy.  When faced with this type of brain work, the brain usually reverts to some other state that involves less work.  That is one of the reasons some owner’s choose contractors on price alone.  It’s easy.  Low number wins.

On a personal level, think of mayonnaise. If you don’t like mayonnaise, think of peanut butter. What is your brand? Is it Kraft, Hellman’s, Dukes’, Miracle Whip, Blue Plate? Do you look at the price when you purchase it? If there was a mayonnaise beside your brand called Jerry’s Mayonnaise, and it was 50 cents cheaper, would you buy it? Of course not. That purchasing decision is based on emotion and memory. You probably grew up with that mayonnaise and maybe remember a wonderful home grown tomato sandwich slathered with the mayonnaise.

Our mantra for companies who embrace this work is that you must create a positive emotional experience instead of just a transaction. So what kind of emotional experiences are you creating in your offices and on your projects right this very minute? What do people feel when they walk into your office or the job-site trailer? What kind of emotional connections are you making with your outgoing messages? Most outgoing messages I listen to are pretty horrible. Some messages are an electronic voice that says the number. I always redial those thinking that I have reached a wrong number. Is your outgoing message transactional or connecting?  What kind of emotional connections are you and your folks making with project stakeholders as you read this blog?  Are they contentious?  Adversarial?  Filled with anger or other negative emotions?  Keep in mind that whatever emotional state they are currently in will affect their future decision to work with you and your company, whether they are consciously aware of it or not.

Stay tuned for a compelling story about The Tale of Two Offices next time in Part 3!

The Emotional Side of Marketing Part 1

August 19, 2015

Attractive builder is showing okay sign with happiness. He is smiling and looking forward with joy. Isolated on background and copy space in left side

“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” ― John Keats

One of the mantras in our programs concerns how people make buying decisions.  And this may surprise you, but most purchasing decisions are made using emotion, memory, and ease of the decision than anything other factors.  Note:  IT’S NOT PRICE!  The mantra is:  How do we create a positive emotional experience instead of just a transaction?

Are most of your project chases based on price alone? Have you cut your overhead and profit down to next to nothing and still find it hard to compete? Do you find it hard to differentiate your company in this highly commoditized market? Do you think that owners only look at price? If this is the case, then this chapter is vital for you and the future success of your company.

The first thing we must look at is how people make buying decisions. And although many contractors tell me that the buying decision is made on price alone, they are simply wrong. I know. Just keep reading.

At a recent AGC meeting, two large owners representatives (Disney and MD Anderson Cancer Center) were asked how they chose contractors. The contractors in the audience had their tablets and pens at the ready. They were going to find the magic formula, that one thing that would differentiate them from the competition. Was it fee below a certain percentage? Was it resume? Was it schedule compression?

To everyone’s shock and amazement, they both said that, “It was just a feeling that they had during the interview process.” They could tell which project teams would work well together and with them. They emphasized that if you are in that room for an interview, you were capable of building the project. So it really comes down to those intangibles of relationship and emotional connection.

The latest neuroscience bears this out. Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel prize winning psychologist who studied why people buy stuff. And what he found out was a little shocking. Purchasing decisions, whether they are for products or services, are formed in our subconscious or System 1 mind. The System 2 mind is the cognitive part and has very little input into decision making.

More on those two systems in part 2!


What Do the Top 400 Contractors Know that You Don’t Know?

July 2, 2015

Business Man and giant Pointing Hand

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford


I just reviewed the latest Top 400 Contractors in Engineering News Record and found out that I have worked with 11 of the top 50 contractors.  I’m pretty proud of that fact.  I’ve worked with some amazing companies.  I think these successful contractors have figured out something that other contractors have not figured out.  It boils down to a three main things:

1.  They Embrace Technology: These companies have seen the future and try to remain on the cutting edge of technology.  There are amazing things afoot and if you are just now starting to think about technology and your business, you are WAY behind.

2.  Know that Collaboration is the Key to the Future:  Even construction owners are beginning to realize that collaboration is really the way to go.  They are starting to drive these processes.  Design/Build, Design Assist, Lean, IPD, ILPD are all project delivery models that are here to stay.  We are figuring out how to execute them in the best possible way, but in time, these delivery methods will be the norm.  It will just be how we do business.  There will still be room for Design/Bid/Build models, but they will be fewer and fewer as time goes by.  Collaboration is the future for the industry.

3.  Focus on People:  These companies know to do their best to provide to their people everything they need to be successful.  They give their people the resources to improve themselves and their lives, to cultivate mastery in all areas of their lives that are important to them both professionally and personally.  These companies know that they must exhibit a true sense of caring toward their employees, to embrace them as human beings and to provide for them and nurture them as best they can.  They know that diversity and inclusion are vital to the future of the industry.  By including everyone in this future, they are ensuring that this industry can be sustained.  They also know that diversity makes for a stronger company with better ideas and more innovative ways of doing business.

For those of you who are interested in thriving, take a look at these three things.  The train is leaving the station.  Will you be on it?  Let me know what you think!