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 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 Problems with Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and How to Overcome Them

June 18, 2015

Dude x 9 the builders at puzzle construction site.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller



The big buzz phrase in the construction industry is Integrated Project Delivery or IPD.  Disney has a concept called ILPD or Integrated Lean Project Delivery.  This uses not only a collaborative approach to projects, but also uses the Last Planner System and Lean concepts to eliminate waste, focus on adding value, and continuously improving.  Everyone on the project signs an integrated form of agreement that commits to shared risk and reward and cooperation throughout the project.

This is a very good concept that is getting a lot of attention.  There are incredible success stories and stories of unmitigated disasters that have used the IPD model.  So what is the secret sauce?  What contributes to success as opposed to failure?  My gut feeling is that the people dimension of this process is a critical factor to its success.  Take a look at the typical emotional profile for a large group of folks (over 500) who manage the construction process:

average EQ for third edition-graph only


As you can see, the relatively high scores are self-regard, independence, assertiveness, stress tolerance, and reality testing (black/white thinkers).  The relatively low scores are impulse control, flexibility, emotional self-awareness, empathy, interpersonal relationships, and social responsibility (the ability to work in groups and teams).  This is a bell curve distribution, so 100 is the mean.  Let’s put it this way.  This group of construction managers couldn’t get any of the interpersonal skills to the mean.  That means that all of the interpersonal skills are BELOW AVERAGE!

This does not bode well for collaborative project delivery methods.  We must address these emotional competencies first.  Then, we must cultivate the relationships and create trust.  Then, and only then, can we properly plan the project.  We have a program called Beyond Partnering.  We developed it because we found that our leadership programs created a lot of trust and close relationships that increased the effectiveness of project teams.  So we do our normal program spread out over time, we just do it in the context of a project.  The tag line for Beyond Partnering is “You have to build the people before you build the project.”  If you would like more information on this approach, email me and I will send you our Beyond Partnering outline.

The Secret of Life: What ONE THING should I focus on?

June 5, 2015

Meditation illustration

“Meditation is a way for nourishing and blossoming the divinity within you.” ― Amit Ray

Take a look at this video from the movie, City Slickers:

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.  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.

Harvard Medical School recently completed a study on mediation.  The study published in May in a prestigious medical journal showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress.  This means that meditation actually helps prevent autoimmune diseases and inflammation that is linked to many diseases.

As if that weren’t cool enough, regular mediation actually lengthens the telomeres on our genes.  These shoelace-like structures shorten with age.  So meditation is a bonafide way to reverse the aging process!

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 and more resilient to stress.

I have created a guided meditation CD that takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by visualizations.  If you are interested, you can contact my Executive Assistant, Casey at casey@brentdarnell.com.  We should have it on the store on brentdarnell.com very soon, but we can find a way to get it to you if you are interested.

You can also check out my book, Stress Management, Time Management, and Life Balance for Tough Guys if you want more information:


Let me know if you want to learn more about meditation and the various techniques.

Innovate or Die!

May 28, 2015

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein


Albert Einstein was a pretty smart guy.  And HE said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  He told an interviewer that he came up with the Theory of Relativity by imagining himself riding on a beam of light.  In this highly competitive market, companies must innovate or they may not be around much longer.  Does your competition suck?  Probably not.  Can you win projects and market share on your expertise and resume alone?  That may have been true 10 or 20 years ago.  But not today.

Think about it.  The only two things you have that differentiates you from your competition is your people and innovation.  I talked in previous blogs about paying attention to companies that are thriving in this economy.  Google, Apple, Zappos, and Cisco all invest a lot of  time and energy on two things:  1.  Making sure that their people are engaged and excited about what they are doing.  and 2.  Creating an atmosphere of innovation.

How do they do this?  The first thing is to pay attention to the needs of the employees.  They continuously talk to employees about how they appreciate what they do.  Managers walk around and interact and get to know the employees and their passions, likes, dislikes, and motivations.  Secondly, they create a climate where innovation is rewarded.  There are no bad ideas.  Everything is considered.  They don’t negate new ideas.  They embrace everything as a possibility and discuss the options.  They create an environment where people can come together formally and informally to share ideas and thoughts on how business is done and how to make it better.   Employees are taught to silence that inner critic and managers are taught to say “yes, and” and “thank you”  instead of “no, but” and “we tried that before in 1980 and it didn’t work.”

What is the atmosphere at your company?  Is it open to new ideas and innovation?  We all must think very differently to survive.  Early designers of flying machines used movable wings because it emulated a bird in flight.  But it wasn’t until the paradigm was shifted with fixed wing aircraft that manned flight became possible.  There are artificial hearts that emulate a real heart with chambers and a flow of blood that causes a heartbeat.  But the latest innovation in that arena is an artificial heart with continuous flow.  There is no beat.  It is a simple pump that continuously flows the blood through your body.  This paradigm shift is leading to very efficient and simple artificial hearts.  But it took someone to look at the way things were being done and say, “What if?”

What is your expertise?  What are your people’s talents?  How can you leverage that in a business setting to create new revenue streams?  Don’t think about how you’ve always done business.  Think about what value you and your people bring and see if that is applicable in other areas.  Get a group discussion going and brainstorm this concept.  You never know where it will lead.

Team Transformation: Use Your Social Connections to Create Lasting Change

March 26, 2015

Man changing his mood

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl

Check out the book, Change Anything by 5 different people.  It’s an empirical study of how people create change.  What are the factors involved?  They narrowed it down to three:

1.  Personal

2.  Environmental

3.  Social

Each one has a  motivational component and an ability component.  You have to be motivated to change, then attain the ability to do so.  You have to take personal responsibility. Jesus asked one person, “Do you want to be healed?”  Then you have to create the environment for change.  Don’t buy a bunch of snacks at the grocery store and think that you can use your will power to not eat them.  The last part, and I think likely the most important part, is the social aspect of change.  Let people in your life know what you are trying to do.  Build in the accountability, connection, and encouragement.  We have found that we get much better results with groups than we do with individuals.

We work not only with emotional intelligence, but mental and physical peak performance.  It all works together to create amazing, lasting changes personally and professionally.  One recent group of 21 top leaders lost over 200 pounds as a group and significantly increased their emotional competence, especially their interpersonal skills.

A couple of the guys decided to bring their family in on the fun.  As a family, they decided on some goals and put them into a spread sheet. One of the guys called it The Family Smackdown.  It was a competition.  The family members who did the most activities over an eight week period won cash prizes.

The items were:

Sleep (7 hours)

Water (8 glasses)

No sugar

No junk food

Fruits and vegetables (2 servings each)


Scriptures (15 minutes) and two prayers

No eating after 9 pm

Act of kindness

It energized the family and helped the participant and his family members to make those positive changes.  And these initiatives tend to linger long after the end of the program.

There is a friend of mine on Facebook who I have known for 30 years.  One day, she put on Facebook that she was going to start walking.  She wrote every single day after she finished her morning walk and created quite a following.  Some days, there were more than 50 comments, encouraging her and reinforcing that behavior.  And she kept walking.  At the one year mark, there were over dozens of people who commented on her status, encouraging her and congratulating her.  One person gave her a very expensive pair of walking shoes as a gift for making the one year mark.  She lost a lot of weight and her outlook has totally changed.  She now helps to plan reunions and travels with a group of women she reconnected with on Facebook.  Would she have attained these results without that social aspect?  Perhaps.  But it is a powerful testament to adding the social into any change endeavor that you have.  She has inspired many others to walk.  And another friend who has encouraged her has put on Facebook that he is going to quit smoking.

Change is hard.  Period.  And we need all the help and encouragement we can get.  So accept the personal responsibility, create that environment for change, and get as many people in on the process as possible!

Managing Uncertainty on Construction Projects with Applied Improvisation

January 8, 2015


I just read a report prepared by McGraw Hill titled Managing Uncertainty and Expectations in Building Design and Construction.  It was very informative.  Check it out:


What struck me the most about this report is the approach to mitigate uncertainty.  These are the basics:

1.  Imperfection is inevitable.

2.  Change orders are not inherently bad.

3.  Looking deeper at Owner-driven causes of uncertainty.

4.  Start early, integrate quickly and work together as a whole so you know what you’re getting into.

5.  Communication, collaboration and integration: early, open and often.

6. Managing risk through contingencies.

7.  Benefits of technology.

Most of these could be a handbook for applied improvisation. Applied improvisation takes improvisational exercises and applies them to business, learning, leadership, and life.

Here are the basic rules of improvisation:

1.  Everything is an offer. Use whatever you have.   This relates directly to numbers 1, 2, and 6 above.

2.  Listen.  This relates directly to numbers 2 and 7 above.

3.  Make the other person look good.  This relates directly to numbers 3 and 5.

4.  Adopt a “Yes, and . . . ” attitude.  Always explore “What if . . . ”

5.  Learn to fail, learn, and be better.  This relates directly to numbers 1 and 2.

Applied improvisation is all about learning to deal with the uncertainties of life and work and can be directly related to the uncertainties on any construction project.

If your project team learned these basic techniques, they would be much better equipped to handle the uncertainty on their projects.  For more information, contact me.