The EQ Factor

Navigating through the emotions around Lean changes


  • Empathy: This is the ability to recognize and respond to other people's emotions. Unfortunately, our unconscious or instinctive behavior to feel does not automatically lead to conscious empathy. Instead, empathy must be carefully banked and fueled through role modeling, reinforcement and practice. For Pat, empathy for Susan (Team Leader) should include sensitivity about her concern around leading a team and getting off to a positive start. She would want to have issues identified but not play referee.
  • Mirroring: This means reflecting the other person's gestures, body language, voice tone and intensity so they feel comfortable just using their natural style.
  • Paraphrasing: Repeat the important content back to them so they know you are listening and getting the heart of the issues. Try to mention the feelings they must be dealing with based on the facts. Study a feeling word list to become more proficient at this skill.
  • Discovery: Open-ended questioning around their opinion, need, feelings and beliefs. For example, "Can you tell me more about that point?"
  • Spotlighting: These are meant to eliminate misinterpretations. The listener has a narrow set of response options. Pat could have narrowed the range of options for the team. He could have stated, "So what you are saying is that if we do not have the art changes for the labels by Monday, we will delay the production date by one month. Is that correct?"
  • Sharing: To articulate your empathy, share your own brief story that relates directly to theirs and tie it back with compassionate statements. Be careful not to offend others. Pat could have said, "I know that our label changes inside the frozen time period have lead to some schedule attainment issues. Has anyone else observed this as an issue? (Check for acceptance.) If you all agree this is a concern, I volunteer to lead a sub-team to address label development timelines to promote development in accordance with the overall project timelines."

Ask yourself:

  • When in a conversation, do I visualize their story and feel their intensity?
  • Can I respond to their story without giving advice?
  • Do I take on an achievement orientation and adapt to change?

Q4 — Relationship Management

An old Paradigm states that emotion is weakness. This is false. A strong EQ gives us insight and energy. It provides the basis for reliable decision-making. EQ allows us to be as impulsive as we want to be, but still enables us to delay gratification when the consequences are undesirable and/or painful. Consequential thinking is key to evaluating our thoughts and re-choosing our actions. One key mechanism to develop and monitor consequential thinking is our self-talk. Self-talk is the very powerful voice in our head that can either help or hinder our actions. Critical moments are situations loaded with emotion during which we are challenged to make a pivotal choice. We can respond with any of the four response choices, but each has a consequence.

There are many reasons why executives sometimes go passive and avoid confrontation. They fail to deal with a performance issue because of fear of lawsuits, reluctance to hurt another's feelings, time-consuming documentation and fear of retaliation.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I handle risks?
  • Can I manage through disruptions and tense moments?
  • Do I know when I am in "critical moment"?

Commit to Worthy Goals

Worthy goals activate all of the other elements of EQ. Through our goals, our missions and our acts of human kindness, the commitment to emotional intelligence gains relevance and power for improving the world today and tomorrow. Just as our personal priorities shape our daily choices, our goals shape our long-term choices. A worthy goal provides a measure for your daily actions and invites your best self to step forward.

Lean is about seeking to deliver new value-added products, differentiation and innovation. In the process of doing so, we can encounter unmanageable stock-keeping unit (SKU) proliferation. This is one area in business that can highlight a disconnect between Marketing and Operations. Adding without deleting from the mix can result in lower product distinctiveness and differentiation and lead to lost market share. In addition, we expend additional efforts and incur costs to develop, produce, inspect, release and store these products. In developing our business goals we need to add statements about alignment, balance, SKU rationalization and responsible risk taking.

In the EQ Blunder, Pat should have approached his team with what I call an "attitude of gratitude." If he displayed optimism, humility and open-mindedness, he could have emotionally navigated through the meeting. He wanted to be seen as the "problem solver" but instead became the impulsive side tracker.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know my social limitations?
  • Do I know when not to interject opinions?
  • Do I have a strategy for selecting short, medium and long-term goals?
  • Can I manage through disruptions and tense moments?
  • Do I review my goals regularly?
  • Do I know how my customers feel about my service and character?

EQ and Leadership

Great leadership requires both strong intellectual ability and strong EQ skills. Managers may find themselves winning battles but losing the war. To be a strong business leader, one should know how to articulate emotions and not be threatened by differing opinions. EQ leaders invite feedback from everyone, never hide the truth, acknowledge the realities, commit 100 percent to the tasks, own their circumstances and avoid traps to spiral into negativity. They tend to show compassion, rather than to be demanding and intolerant. Their staff is treated with respect and they inspire others to do the same. Leaders know what motivates their staff and will adjust their management style to the unique values and motivations of others. Leaders are aware of their own feelings and go beyond logic and intellect when making decisions.

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