OK, Now Even the Harvard Business Review is Hopping on the Emotional Intelligence Train

August 30, 2017


I’ve been doing emotional intelligence work in the construction industry since 2000.  Think back to the year 2000.  What if I came into your office or on your project back then and talked to you about emotional intelligence and how collaboration and trust is really the best way to approach projects?  What would you have said?  You probably would have thrown me out of the office or jobsite trailer.  Now it seems that every single conference I go to from Construction Technology (AGC IT) to Owners (CURT and COAA) to Sustainability to Construction Research (CII) to Lean (LCI), to academia (PACE at Penn State and Auburn), EVERYONE is talking about collaboration, relationships and trust as foundation for great projects.  The research at CII and Penn State and LCI bear this out.  Relationships are drivers of project performance.  And now we are scrambling to find a way to impart these emotional intelligence and people skills to our people because, let’s face it, it’s not our best thing.

I recieved an email from the Harvard Business Review recently.  The title was How to Be Human at Work.  Here is the text:

Introducing the HBR Emotional Intelligence Series, a new line of books that provides smart, essential reading on the human side of professional life. Each book offers proven research showing how our emotions impact our work lives, practical advice for managing difficult people and situations, and inspiring essays on what it means to tend to our emotional well-being at work. This specially priced four-volume set includes Happiness, Resilience, Mindfulness, and Empathy.

You know you have been legitimized when the Harvard Business Review pays attention to it.  You know it is a hot topic.  Click Here for the ad for their emotional intelligence books.

Emotional intelligence first came to the forefront in the 90s.  Why hasn’t it gone away like so many other management fads?  I think it’s because neuroscience is verifying what we intuitively know to be true every single day.  Our emotional states affect our well-being, our problem solving, our creativity, our ability to be in relationship, and our success or failure in life.  Isn’t it about time you took a hard look at this phenomenon?

If you want to take our free Ghyst Emotional Intelligence Test, please Click Here.

If you want more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our Total Leadership Library.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  



Why Most of Your Projects Suck and How to Un-Suck Them

July 26, 2017

Tracey Kidder said, “Building is the quintessential act of civilization.”  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:


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? There is a link to a white paper and other resources at the end of this blog, but here is a recap:

Step 1: Get as many people involved in the process as soon as possible from owners to facilities folks to end users designers to contractors to trade partners to materials vendors. Get them in a big room.  Build a sense of team and trust and collaboration.  Note:  This cannot be done in a day.  One day “partnering” sessions are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. Lean, IPD, ILPD Design-Build, and other collaborative project delivery methods are perfect for having a framework to achieve this.  Forget IPD-ish.  Just do it!

Step 2:  Make this focus on team, relationships and trust ongoing.  Every meeting should start with the team stuff.  Bring folks in to reinforce team and collaboration and communication and trust throughout the entire project from inception to demolition.

Step 3:  Give everyone tools in order for them to achieve their peak level of mental, physical, and emotional performance.  Think about it.  We throw people in a big pot that has high stakes and crushing stress without any tools and expect them to perform like a well-oiled machine. This is ludicrous.  And they don’t get enough sleep, eat crappy food, and have really poor health habits during a demanding project.  As part of your ongoing team building, have discussions about stress and nutrition and sleep and other things that will inhibit performance.  Give them the tools they need to succeed.  It also creates a sense of connection and team because everyone is looking out for each other and their well-being.

If you want more free information and resources, download my white paper that includes two of my bestselling books and another white paper on how to build the people before you build the project.  It will give you the tools you need to make your next project a huge success!  Click here to download the white paper.  

And if you want even more resources on emotional intelligence and all of the critical people skills your folks need to succeed, click here  for information on our online courses called The Total Leadership Library.

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.

How to Create Sustainable Change: Have a Plan A, B and C

July 10, 2014

changeAt the beginning of our programs, all participants create development plans.  Many times these plans are grand in nature.  I’ve seen things like “I’m going to run a marathon.”  or “I’m going to do an Iron Man Triathlon.”  or “I’m going to work out EVERY DAY!”  These are amazing goals to have.  And I applaud these participants for allowing themselves to dream big.  At the same time, some of these folks are starting from nothing.  They are doing no exercise at all and yet their goal is to do an Iron Man.  For those folks, we tell them to start small and always have a plan A, B, and C.

Plan A may be to train for the Iron Man.  Plan B may be to run three times a week.  Plan C may be to walk every day for 10 minutes at lunch.  Another example is:  Plan A is to work out every day.  Plan B is to work out three times per week.  Plan C is to do 25 push ups in the morning.  While these lofty goals are admirable, sometimes they can be discouraging.  When the participants don’t accomplish these goals, they feel like failures.  And they are not failures.

Real, lasting, sustainable change comes from tiny things done consistently.  If you can choose to eat right most days, if you can commit to walk for 10 to 20 minutes most days, if you can commit to meditate or manage your stress well most days, you are going to create some amazing, lasting changes in your life.

So have those lofty goals, and always have a plan B and C to fall back on and do those consistently.

Things My Dog Taught Me: Rely on Your Inner Strength

May 15, 2014

Ginger 09


My life feels like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities:  “It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.”  In many ways my life and work are the best it’s ever been.  I have plenty of work and more work coming.  I don’t work too much.  I have moved my home office and now have a real office to go to each day.  I feel good physically.

But in some ways, my life is not so good.  My mom is in decline and I will likely lose her sooner rather than later.  And with any adversity like that, there are two emotional competencies that usually decline rapidly:  emotional self-awareness and impulse control.  The emotional self-awareness declines and I “check out” emotionally.  This is not good for my wife, my family, and sometimes my clients.  And the worst part is that I tend to use most of my energy to make sure clients are happy, which leaves little energy for family, especially my wife.  It’s not fair for her, and she and I are struggling with it.

The second area is impulse control, specifically with eating.  When I am stressed, I tend to eat a lot.  And I eat a lot of carbs and sugar.  This is not good for me or those around me.  I tend to zone out even more and have these highs and lows.  It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions and energy.

So how am I coping with all of this?  I’m doing the things I need to do to be fully present and aware of what’s going on around me.  I try to stay in the moment.  Sometimes I’m successful.  Sometimes I’m not.  I try to take care of myself and meditate daily, get an occasional massage, go to some movies, turn off work and focus on my wife and all of the things at home.

But the one thing that gives me the most hope, that helps me the most is something I learned from my dog, Ginger.  When she was in decline, she stayed strong.  She had such a vibrant soul and an inner strength, it was inspiring.  It still is.  I know I am strong.  I have that inner strength.  I know that I can deal with anything that life throws at me with courage and hope.  I feel like Ginger is watching over me somehow, encouraging me and letting me know that this too shall pass.

There will always be good times and bad times.  It’s understanding the transient nature of life and relying on that inner strength that keeps me going.  If you have a story of courage and inner strength, I would like to hear about it.

How to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

March 27, 2014

old person healthyJust read a great book called The Blue Zones.  The book is about lessons from people who have lived long lives.  Here are the basics:

Move naturally:  Bring movement into your life. This doesn’t have to be iron man triathlons or marathons.  I’m talking about walking.  Make it a point to move every single day.  Check out this video called 23-1/2 hours:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F5Sly9JQao

Know your purpose:  I recently talked to a woman at my mom’s assisted living place who was 102 years old.  She was still extremely sharp.  When I asked her the secret to such a long, healthy life, she said she always had a purpose.  She devoted herself to teaching and education.

Kick back:  You must learn to relax.  Recent studies on meditation revealed that this act of initiating the relaxation response actually changes the expression of your genes and increases the length of your gene’s telomeres. What this means is the even if you have a genetic predisposition to diseases like cancer or diabetes, you can change the expression of those genes and prevent that disease.  And it all starts with relaxation.

Eat less: Most folks eat around 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day.  These folks who live a long time eat around 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day.  Just be mindful of watch you eat.  I’m on weight watchers now and it forces me to rethink what I eat.  I’ve almost cut out snacking because it just costs me too much.

Eat less meat:  I was a vegetarian for a dozen years.  Although I’m back to eating meat, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  And with weight watchers, all fruits and vegetables are zero points!

Drink in moderation:  There are studies showing that alcohol in moderation is good for you.  The key word here is moderation.  Excessive drinking is harmful.

Have faith:  Belief in a higher power is a big key to emotional resilience and reduction of stress.  When you decide that you are just along for the ride, you can enjoy life more.

Power of love:  Love is essential for your emotional, physical, and mental well-being.  It’s no accident that married people live longer.  Cultivate love in your life.  Forgive those loved ones that may have wronged you in some way and re-establish that love relationship.

Stay social:  Many studies back this up.  People with good social networks live longer, healthier lives.  Creating and cultivating those networks takes a lot of time and energy, but it is well worth it.  Don’t wait until you retire to establish these networks.

So there you have it.  Very simple (but sometimes not easy) ways to increase your lifespan and health.

Meditation Part 5: Guided Meditation Helps Seattle to Win the Superbowl

March 20, 2014

This is the last blog for now on meditation.  See the past blogs for other types of meditation. There are many types of meditation.  Golf can be meditative. Walking, swimming, or music can be very meditative.  You have to find what works for you.  Here is another meditation.  It’s called a guided meditation.  It takes you through a progressive relaxation followed by a visualization.  Remember the Seattle Seahawks?  They used meditation and visualization to help them win the Superbowl.  You can use it to create powerful changes in your life.  There are thousands of guided meditations out there.  Find out what works for you.  Please don’t do this while you are driving.

Guided meditation:

Here is the story on the Seahawks:


meditation seahawks