Didn’t Your Mama Teach You That?

senior bald man in yellow shirt asking what's going on

By Rev. Dr. David Galloway, Galloway Consulting, Atlanta, Georgia

Emotional Intelligence is a shorthand way of talking about how you get along with others. There’s lot more to it, but bottom line, it’s about how you bring the person you are into interaction with the people you deal with in business, your work environment, your social community, and even your family.

I use Emotional Intelligence in my consulting work with leaders. I have talked about it in lectures and teachings. The coaching I provide and the training I do begin and end with an appreciation for the role of Emotional Intelligence. It is the “grease” that makes thing work well and move smoothly at work and home. Finally, I use a heaping, helping load of Emotional Intelligence in my life, just getting through the work of the day and the tender of the night.

Thankful to my Mama and my grandmother for teaching me the basics of Emotional Intelligence, they trained me in how you treat other people with respect, as fellow human beings that have inherent worth. That notion of dignity and worth is forged into the Baptismal Covenant I signed onto when I aligned myself as a follower of Christ. And even the country I call “home” asserts from its very beginnings that all people are created equal, endowed with rights, even though we are struggling still to make that real in our common life. So Emotional Intelligence is sewn into the fabric of our life, in the principles we say we honor and the values that inform us.  I have been able to refine that attitude and those skills in the years beyond the training my family, tribe and country gave me, but it really comes down to how you regard and treat others, just like my Mama told me in the beginning.

Didn’t your Mama teach you that? Or somebody else with some common sense? The answer I get from many people I work with is “No”, either formally or by the testimony of their actions as they struggle to get along. They seem baffled by the most simple interactions that some people do simply, natively.

Let me give you a flesh and blood example.

I was doing a consulting gig at a healthcare system in a large Northern city. This system was bleeding financially to the point that their viability for the future was in question. The leadership team had a Chief Operating Officer (COO) that was famous for his financial shrewdness but was infamous for treating his staff badly. This reputation had gotten legs, making its way to the group of Catholic nuns who ran the board of this hospital. The Sisters felt that this man did not understand nor represent the mission of the hospitals in his demeanor. When I arrived, the board of nuns was contemplating his future and was discussing the need to “redirect his career”, or in common speak, fire him. As  he was providing a much needed eye to the bottom line, I offered to coach him, hoping to offer him a choice of treating his people with more regard.

And so with the Sisters sponsorship and his agreement, I entered the scene as his coach. While the work was framed in terms of leadership coaching, I was basically working with him in the area of EQ, that is, Emotional Intelligence, which focused on how he interacts with his co-workers.

Basically, my work with him was about a mindset shift, plus some immediate feedback around the way he led meetings and interacted with peers and direct reports. He actually was a great guy underneath his professional, brusk persona, learned in business school and groomed in executive training. I was hoping to transform his way of seeing the people in his field of being and alter his mindset from a typical business-utilitarian view of people into a more empathetic perspective, with the valuing of his co-workers as people, not mere cogs in his machine.

My intervention and input provided new options for how he might do his job, widening his repertoire of skills in terms of leadership. The feedback I was able to give to him as I shadowed him in meetings held up a “mirror” so he could catch himself and “see” how he was interacting in the moment. This magical combination woke him up to a new way of being a leader in the organization, of treating people as real peopole. The proof of his personal transformation was in the results as he turned around his 360 evaluations, with his coworkers experiencing him as a new person who treated them differently.

A magician never reveals the “trick” of his magic, but here it is. Truthfully, he had been suffering from a limiting belief system, given to him at business school. There, he had been given an image of a COO as being a person without a heart. He was natively a good man, so all he had to do was to realize he could treat people with respect and still drive for metrics and accountability. This was such a relief for him to discover that he could be himself and still make his productivity goals. The result was that of a much happier work place for him and his colleagues. His coworkers were pleased, the Nuns were thrilled, and he was more satisfied with his role in the organization.

Truth is, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is at least as important as cognitive ability, usually measured as IQ. The good news is that EQ, unlike IQ, can be trained and increased with attention to that dimension of a person. I use an amazing assessment tool to give a baseline of what is the current capacity a person is bringing to the dance. From that starting point, we begin a process of training in which the person attends to his interactions with other persons at work or in relationships. An added 360 component, which adds an assessment by one’s peers, can add a powerful reality check and a measure of progress in one’s EQ development.

Emotional Intelligence has been on the business scene since 1995 when psychologist, Daniel Goleman, wrote a book on how our emotions show up in our business and work. Now an accepted concept in business schools, EQ has been studied and received attention by academics and practitioners who are interested in how this dimension of human capacity can increase effectiveness, and therefore productivity, resulting in a very real impact on the proverbial bottom line. At the Clergy Coaching Network, we are exploring ways in which Emotional Intelligence can enhance the effectiveness in the leadership of clergy.

Emotional intelligence looks specifically at the self perception of the person. It concerns how the person regards oneself, including an awareness of both strengths and weaknesses. EQ refers to how aware one is of one’s emotions, what’s going on internally as one enters the scene of planning and interaction. And , EQ is interested in the orientation one has as to one’s continuing development and improvement.

This sense of self is expressed to the outside world in the form of observable emotions within the context of relationships, both at work and in personal relationships. One’s assertiveness and independence is noted as well as how one shows empathy for the perspective of others, and to groups one is in, such as a team.

Further, emotional intelligence looks at the way in which one make decisions in terms of problem solving and reality testing. Notably, one’s impulse control is in play as decisions are made and actions are executed. How do you do what you do?

Again, the encouraging news is that one’s EQ can be increased with attention to certain dimensions of your self and ways of relating with others. If you are interested in Emotional Intelligence and how it plays into your work or in your relationships, I recommend an accessible text, The EQ Edge, by Steven Stein and Howard Book. If you are wanting to work with someone in the context of coaching, contact me and I be happy to help you increase your awareness of EQ and assist you in your development. It can make a world of difference.

If your Mama didn’t teach you, the good news is that Emotional Intelligence can!

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