YOUR 3 COURSE MEAL IN EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Every year in a small ski town in Switzerland the worlds political, academic and business elite meet to discuss the most pressing issues, trends and opportunities our society is faced with.

Last year emotional intelligence took centre stage at this exclusive event. Why? Because our future may depend on it.

As advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics continue to evolve at an unprecedented pace, to the point where an estimated 40% of current jobs will be replaced within the next 20 years through the actualisation of this technology, the ability in humans to demonstrate their human uniqueness/difference (in order to stay in power and control) is critical and one of the leading ways on how to do this will come through developing ‘us’ with higher levels of emotional intelligence (EI). 

One such element will be to improve our ability to know when to make decisions based on intuitive feelings rather than learnt rationale (this is where technology tends to not do so well).

This can be particularly challenging when in a leadership position and there is a large amount of responsibility on you to make the right decision. Most of the time the ‘data/rationale’ backed option will be the right decision. However, every now and then there comes a time where things just don’t quite ‘feel right’ even though the data is saying otherwise and you need to make a decision. This is where having a higher level of EI can make all the difference.

So the inevitable question I hear you asking is ‘How do I develop a higher EI?’

And just like almost every other skill, EI is something that can be learnt through consistent focus and action. 

It is also like eating an elephant. Way too big to eat in one sitting, but through small bites you can get there.

Therefore, here’s my suggested first 3 course meal to satisfy your immediate EI appetite.

ENTRÉE – HUMBLE PIE

Just like Eggplant and anything. Ego and EI don’t go well together. Therefore, I would recommend you take a few bites of some good ol’ humble pie first, of which is best served up by someone else.

Ask those closest to you some hard hitting self-reflection questions to gain an understanding of where your EI level is right now. Some of these questions may include:

“On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate me as a listener?”
“1-10, how would you rate me at handling pressure?”
“1-10, how intuitive would you rate me?”
“1-10, how empathic am I?” 

In fact, how you initially respond to these answers will also tell you a fair bit about your EI. Did you at first feel defensive, curious or understanding?

Full acceptance of how others see you is a big first step in the development of EI. It creates space for acute learning and discipline.

MAIN – SPICY TUNA ROLL

When ever I eat sushi three things usually happen. 
1. I put too much wasabi on
2. I then look around around to see who might be looking at me while my head is about to explode, and then
3. Reach for the jug of water to ease my burning throat.

Happens every time and yes I’m now going to use this unfortunate reoccurring experience to explain how a similar process can be used to developing a higher EI.

First you need that wasabi hit. Something to snap you out of your usual state.

Do this by setting up some alerts on your mobile that will ‘go off’ and interrupt you at random times throughout the day.

The objective here is to break you out of your natural state and make you aware of how you feel or how others may see you at that exact time.

Now that you’ve broken your usual state of consciousness and it feels like the back of your throat is about to come out of your nose. What generally happens next? Yes, you look around to see who might be looking at your red face. 

This is what I like to call the ‘Look around state’ and a fitting question to ask yourself at this time is, Right now if the people around me were to describe me, what would they say?

Once you’ve written that down you can now save yourself and reach for the water which consists of two questions.

How would I like them to describe me?

Maybe the answer is calm or confident or focused. What ever it is, this answer prepares you to take action and answer the next question.

What can I do right now to change how I was to how I’d like them to see me as?

In other words, it’s time to drink the water. This could be to change your posture, rephrase an email you were typing, give a quick compliment. It just has to be something small that is inline with the state and character you’d like to be or have others see you as.

DESSERT - BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING

Your last course is a reminder to keep things simple and enjoyable. Just like Bread and Butter pudding. Mmmmmm :) 

The most effective type of new skill development is through small consistent actions done over an extended timeframe. As mentioned above, simply schedule a variety of alerts in your phone to do a similar sequence of actions over 21 days and you’ll start to notice a considerable difference in how you approach your work, people and even life.

Lastly is to make it fun and enjoyable. How can you make a game of it? Have your team contribute and start internal communication updates on the progress of the team’s development. The chances of ‘sticking to it’ increases dramatically if you’re having fun while doing it.

Well I hope you enjoyed your meal. I’m now off to get something to eat for myself…

THE BETTER TRAP

I see the 'better' trap happening all the time in business, music, sports and even with myself, where what originally lead to the success was following who we are.

Then we get into this world of 'I've gotta do/be better now' so we start to look at what else is popular and 'working'.

By all means we should always continue to read, learn and research. But then the crucial part comes in running it through the 'internal gut filter'.

If it doesn't sit well, don't do it. If it does and makes your soul sing, then take action.

This can often be really hard to follow as the 'better' option can be very attractive.

From my own experience when I've chosen the 'better' option knowing it didn't quite sit well with me, it has eventually lead to unfulfilment.

Where as when I followed and listened to who I am, even if that meant temporary pain, it has lead to happiness.

Practise being more 'you'.

- Luke McLeod

THE MYTH OF LOST TIME

You know that saying ‘You can never get time back’.

Well I think it’s a poor excuse. You can.

Let’s prove this mathematically first. Let’s say you’ve ‘lost’ a collective 100 hours over the last year doing ‘stuff’, when you wish you had spent the time on something more valuable.

Here’s what you need to do. For the next 100 days wake up ½ an hour earlier and go to bed ½ an hour later.

100 hours last year x doing nothing = 100 hours of lost time.  

100 additional hours over the next 100 days x doing productive things = 100 hours of time back.

Thus getting that time back. Wooo!

Now let’s talk about another way you can do this. It’s not quite as logical or as true as the above example, but it is as equally important and worth elaborating on.

It’s the ‘what are you doing with your time right now?’ and ‘what to do with the time that’s ahead of you?’. Yeah we’ve all heard it before. But if we’ve heard it so many times, why do we keep messing it up?

Now before I get into some of the things I recommend around this. I want to mention that the reason why I’m writing this post is that I got frustrated thinking that I had lost time and wanted it back!

So please don’t take this as a sermon, but more of as an affirmation that hopefully brings a bit of time back into your lives like it has for me.

1. Nail the number one rule on Time Management
Take the time to plan out your time.

So simple and powerful, yet so few of us do it consistently. Notice the addition of the word ‘consistently’. I think a lot of us do this now and then, however it is those that do this religiously that reap the real rewards.

Take an hour every Sunday night that begins with the question “What will I achieve this week?” is a practise you need to start ASAP. Again, notice the wording, I didn’t ask myself what I wanted to achieve, I deliberately asked what I will achieve.

Do not underestimate these seemingly small adjustments in words.

At the next stage of this process is where I also think a lot of us can get it wrong. We immediately dive into the ‘to do’s’ for our working world. Not considering the other areas of our lives that are equally as important. E.g. our health, relationships, family, friends, mindset, contribution etc.

To help you with prioritising what you will achieve in the week in all these areas there are another two important and complementary questions you should ask yourself at the beginning of this planning hour, which are:

‘What is important to me?’ and ‘Will it will make me a better person?’

Now you’re ready to get meaningful work done. This one hour a week with these questions could save you hundreds if not thousands of hours over your lifetime.

2. How you start your day is how you start your life
I can’t quite remember where I read or heard this, but I love it.

That every new day is a new beginning to my life. What is done, is done and what will come, will come and the ‘all we have is now’ quote being the truest truth of life.

Therefore the time you spend at the beginning of your new life every day then becomes quite important.

The most powerful way I’ve figured out in starting the day/my life is connecting to the higher presence. Call it God, Mother Nature, Allah, whatever, the most important part is connecting with it. By becoming more connected, you become more effective.

I do this through meditation. Some people do this through exercise. However you do it is fine, the important part is just making sure you plug into it.

It’s like connecting your sail to the mast of your ship first. If you don’t do this before your journey, your sails are just going to flap around madly in the wind and you’re not going to get anywhere or achieve anything.

Connect first and you’ll achieve so much more in less time.

3. Spending time doing nothing on something great is better than spending time doing lots of things on nothing
Yes you read that correctly. Let me explain further.

There are two types of ‘nothing’. The first is the meaningless type. The type of things that bring little value to you and no value to others, e.g. checking your Facebook every half hour, watching TV, carrying papers from one side of the office to the other in order to ‘look busy’.

You’re doing things, but you’re really spending that time on ‘nothing’.

The other type is what a lot of people mistake as nothing, but it is often everything and that is thinking.

Sometimes I sit at my desk and just think. When I’m doing this I often have people come up to me with a kind of shocked ‘why aren’t you working’ look and ask “What are you doing?”, to which I reply “thinking”.

They see me as doing ‘nothing’, whereas I’m doing exactly what I feel they should be doing more of. Thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, action is incredibly important, however I can say for sure that your actions will become more powerful, meaningful and effective if there is strong thinking behind them.

Never feel bad about deep strategic and meaningful thinking. I feel an hour spent doing this is equal to a hundred hours of doing ‘that’.

Time is incredibly precious. It is limited and sacred. It is something that has always been there and will continue to be. The great news is that you own it and you can certainly get it back.

Time to give time the time it deserves!

- Luke McLeod

CHANGE YOUR LANGUAGE - CHANGE YOUR CULTURE

I've primarily written this article for Business Owners/Leaders & Managers)

I never quite understood why working towards completing something by a particular date/time is called a ‘Deadline’? When in actual fact what you’re doing is the complete opposite. You’re bringing something to ‘life’ by that particular date/time.

I feel it has something to do with a deeper ingrained way with how we’ve come to approach work. Simply put, fear driven. “If you don’t complete this by then, then you’re dead’. This is obviously an extreme way to put it, but the sentiment is the same. Do this, by then, or else.

Take a moment to think about what’s probably going through the head of the person that has just heard this, “Thanks Boss. That makes me feel really motivated to start work on that straight away... Not.”

Even just saying the word ‘deadline’ to myself I can feel a little spike in my stress levels. Yet so many workplaces use this as common language. We should be very careful of the words/language we use around the office. Trust me, it matters. A lot.

Our unconscious relationship with words certainly affects our level of output. Take another word for example, sales.

As a business owner you might have a positive reaction to this word, however 97% of employees have a negative response to this word.

Let’s do a quick exercise. What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of the word sales? I’m guessing a lot you said something along the lines of pushy, yuk, greasy, car salesman. Now if your thinking this, imagine what your staff are thinking when you say “Ok team. This weeks SALES target is X”

I would highly recommend you take some time to review the language that is used in and around the workplace. This could even be something you get the team involved in. Write a list of all the words that you feel may or do have a negative or even uninspiring correlation with them. Then get creative with replacing these words/phrases with other more positive/interesting ones

I recently did this with a client and here are just a few of the changes we made:

Deadline > Lifeline

Sales > New Friends

Project > Adventure

Target > Nirvana

Report > Manifesto

Office > The Hive

The real benefit of doing this is that it begins to create a unique culture. It may be a little awkward or even humorous at first, but once the entire team gets behind the changes you’ll start to notice this new empowering/creative vibe start to develop.

There is one last thing worth noting here when it comes to changing language that is equally important, and that is the intention and tone behind the words.

Even if I did start to use ‘lifeline’ instead of ‘deadline’(which would be a great step), if I said it in a contradicting, forceful manner it actually becomes worse than the original, as you’re now coming across as inauthentic. Which breeds a whole lot of downhill cultural habits, like gossip, resentment and laziness.

Therefore, language must go hand-in-hand with honest intention. If you get this mix right, the culture changes can be quite significant.

- Luke McLeod