Purpose Drives Performance

In Leaders Worth Following I wrote, “in times of trouble, true leaders provide both comfort and challenge…. They blend head and heart to be trustworthy, courageous, and authentic – to take care of their people and walk together toward a compelling purpose.”

I’d like to emphasize the power of that purpose – it builds trust.  Not just internally, but externally as well.  Leaders with purpose, who build organizations with purpose, have a unique level of transparency and direction:  Their work is FOR something, and people can see and feel that.

Take Triodos, an alternative bank in Netherlands and branches in Spain and Britain, which invests in green, social, and cultural projects.  They have a clear, compelling mission that they live.  In times of challenge while most banks are struggling, Triodos experienced a five times increase in deposits last month.

Managing director Oliver Marquet’s explanation is they are clear about what and why they do:  “Transparency is absolutely key and explains why we hold on well in crisis.”  I suspect the transparency is driven by that clear purpose – one that also creates optimism and hope for employees and customers.

The article in Reuters today “Ethical banks win new customers” also gives the example of the Ecology Building Society in UK, whose deposits are doubling.  The bottom line: these small, purpose-driven organizations are more trustworthy because they care.


Left Kuala Lumpur today for Macao – then took the ferry to Hong Kong.  Am I in a James Bond movie or what??  Only this time the bad guy has an evil plot to create a world where people are cogs who shop instead of talk, and drown their loneliness in mindless TV and brutal escapist games.  Oh wait – that’s not fiction… And I’m not quite a tall as James Bond, nor do I like martinis.  Ah well.

Is “exotic” a feeling?  Today’s travels feel exotic – and also remarkably easy, especially with such great colleagues in all these places.  It’s such a gift to be able to adventure around the globe and see people deeply committed to helping people wake up and care.  We have challenges everywhere – but we also have allies.

Hong Kong is a perfect place for an emotional intelligence revolution.  It’s a bustling, magnificent, diverse city where people are moving fast.  Full of entrepreneurs and great food – all packed together.  What an amazing world we live in!

Apricot Jam in KL

I’m in Kuala Lumpur eating breakfast in Times Square looking out over the city.  All week I’ve been eating spicy Asian food, and today I take some toast with apricot jam.  Taking a bite, I’m swept into homesickness and longing for the green gold fields and laughing children of home.  Amazing how our senses and emotions are so intertwined, so visceral, and so unexpected.

Success & the Business Case for Emotional Intelligence

A completely revised and updated Business Case for EQ is now available for free download.

The new Business Case for Emotional Intelligence lays out a compelling array of research projects linking EQ and EQ skills to business success.  But what about you? How do you define success, and does emotional intelligence have anything to do with it?

Think of 3-6 people you know that you consider successful. Maybe they are not “100% successful,” but each has some part of success well dialed.

  1. What are the key elements of success? What qualifies someone to be on your list?
  2. For each person, list their key strengths: Beyond luck and circumstance, what knowledge, attitudes, or skills sets this person apart? How many of these are linked to emotional intelligence? Without using names, post your answer to this question in the comments, below!
  3. What parts of list #1 do you aspire to? What parts of list #2 will help you get there?

This article appeared as a VitalSigns for EQ – one of Six Seconds’ great newsletters.

EQ Reflection: Monuments

Due to the foibles of flight schedules, I had some unexpected downtime in DC, and found myself wandering the Mall. I don’t think I’ve been here since I was in eighth grade, and it made a very different impression on me now. I suspect that the first time, I was much more concerned about the pressing matters of who I’d sit with on the bus, and what those girls were whispering, and when we’d be able to shop for trinkets that made us feel somehow more complete.

Now walking through these monuments I thought about the sweep of history. About the times of great challenge when exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope. About Martin Luther King Jr standing on this very place, his magnificent voice booming over this wide arcade and around the globe. Giving himself utterly to a higher purpose, his message echoing through the hearts of those for, neutral, and even opposed, calling something deeper in them.

And in that same park, stones with golden signatures from the Declaration of Independence. People standing up for something “impossible,” something bigger than their own gain — and in so doing galvanizing hope and reverence and the power of human spirit. Again, in giving to a larger vision, these leaders opened a door wide enough for allies and enemies alike.

Sprinkled though this garden are monuments to wisdom and to sacrifice. It’s so difficult to tell in the moment-to-moment of our daily lives, but in the sweep of history it becomes clear. Great purpose requires the most exceptional commitment, but there’s a razor-edge between sacrifice for pride and sacrifice for promise.

On a more personal scale, I finally saw the Vietnam Wall — it wasn’t here when I was a boy-hoping-to-be-a-man. I thought of Hank, my father, and how many of these shipmate’s names were carved into his heart as indelibly as they are carved into the granite. I thought of all these other men who’s names are carved in the granite, who now might be grandfathers too.

In the brilliance of this monument I couldn’t help but see generations reflected in the stone. The passing crowds of all ages, bright colors dancing on the wall. Some faces closed in loss, some somber in reflection, others chatting about the pressing matters like who they’d sit next to on the bus… Then finally I willed myself to look at my own reflection in the stone, and thought of the legacy of war and how it’s a part of my own story. I could see myself through the names of those who died so far away fighting for a myth of pride and arrogance and fear.

I wondered what kind of monument we will make for the women and men fighting today. I wondered if those who toil in the marble corridors of power take time out to look over at this somber granite and consider the way their choices will reflect outward in the lives of ordinary people, into the faces of future generations who walk by remembering. It’s so easy to point a finger at “them,” but if I’m going to learn something here I recognize I also need to look at myself in this wall.

Here we are in an era of upheaval, with fear and uncertainty rampant, with nearly desperate problems on every side. Perhaps the most profound challenges humanity has ever faced. What can I do, one ordinary man, amidst all the difficulties we face? Isn’t there a new hero who can save us?

Perhaps in times of greatest challenge it takes both the most ordinary and the most exceptional women and men stand up and stand out, not for themselves but in service of hope.

In the past, we’ve needed someone stand on the marble steps and call forth our commitment. Perhaps today’s challenges will also require us each to do so. There is a quiet voice of wisdom that dwells in every one of us, but it is easily shouted down by the clamor of what we each want now. That quiet voice of wisdom speaks quietly through a feeling of what’s truly precious — we know when we are in integrity because we feel it.

So where do we find the wisdom to step out from those compelling immediate concerns of daily life and to commit to something larger? This commitment is not comfortable, it’s much easier, and perhaps even more in our nature, to attend to the “seat on the bus matters” rather than the “sweep of history matters.” In either case it’s emotion driving us, but perhaps there are multiple voices of those feelings. For example, fear can sweep us unconsciously into matters of unimportant urgency, into a bid for comfort. But if we use emotional intelligence and look deeper, that same fear can tell us something truly vital is at stake.

When we do get that deeper insight, we also get an important benefit. Emotion is information, and it is power. When we tune up our awareness and attend to what’s truly important, we liberate the energy of those strongest of convictions. Then we can use the power of our feelings to commit, to sacrifice for what matters.

Perhaps in a hundred years there will be a new monument here, not commemorating a great woman or man, and neither honoring lives cut short, but reminding future generations of how people like you and I did what was right. About how we shifted our attention away from comfort and convenience and toward the survival of our communities. Away from being right over others and toward caring-in-action. Away from taking and toward healing our shared home.

Are you ready?

Behavior or Deeper?

fireworks_water.jpgOur society, especially in business, seems fixated on “behavior” as a magic solution.  For example, recently I was talking to a potential client about a leadership development program and he wanted to know what “EQ behaviors” the participants would learn.

Talking about the behavior is an easy short-hand.  We want leaders to be proactive, to engage, to give feedback, to listen, to hold people accountable, to execute.  All behaviors that sound great on the surface – but  the HOW is essential… and maybe even more essential than the behavior itself?

My belief is that we need to look more deeply at what DRIVES the behavior.  One can execute a certain behavior in so many different ways – and thereby create completely different results.  Just imagine all the ways one could say the words “thank you.”  If the underlying feeling is gratitude the same words have a totally different impact than if the underlying feeling is irritation.  Thus the emotion that’s “beneath the surface” drives the result.

Emotional intelligence lets leaders see beneath the surface of their own and others’ actions.  To focus on the HOW – on the alignment between the behavior and the underlying intention.

Emotional Intelligence Helps NFL Players “Win at Life”

“We’re learning that emotional intelligence is an important ingredient in helping professional athletes live healthy and successful lives”
– National Football League Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw

A study of retired NFL players and EQ compares players’ emotional intelligence with life success — including good health, positive relationships, avoiding drug/alcohol use & violence, financial strength, and quality of life.  Among the 30 athletes we studied over 60% in the variation of these important factors are predicted by emotional intelligence scores.  So there is a massive correlation between high EQ skills and life success.

This is an important study because NFL players are extremely influential as role models – and despite their incredible success in making it to the top of the  game, there are so many struggles off the field. We can now pinpoint specific, learnable skills that will make a difference for these guys – for life.  While the NFL is a very big, economically driven business, the growing interest in emotional intelligence could be a sign of commitment to the larger impact of the sport in our society.

Rational Thinking = Better Decisions? Not.

A new study released in Applied Psychology found that people with a highly rational thinking style actually became more biased as the stakes went up.  The authors suggest that in an escalating situation, the highly analytical thinkers were less able to tune into the dissonance that would cause them to challenge their own assumptions.

In other words:  They ignored the feeling that they were on the wrong track.

The common view is that we need to be rational to make optimal decisions, but it’s just not true.  The last century has been driven by this paradigm and the results are clear – while we have incredible technical excellence, we are failing as a species.  My contention: “Analytical = Better” is one of the most pervasive and destructive myths of our era.

If wisdom is to be found, it is not within the paralyzing prison of logic alone.

Source: Kin Fai Ellick Wong, Jessica Yuk Yee Kwong, Carmen K. Ng (2008) “When Thinking Rationally Increases Biases: The Role of Rational Thinking Style in Escalation of Commitment,” Applied Psychology 57 (2) , 246–271  (Article Abstract)

Intelligent About Emotions

After finishing the “Emotoscope” ap for Facebook I was shaking dust from my brain to come up w/ another fun way for people to learn about feelings. Said to Patty (my wife), “How about a cool online EQ jeopardy game?”

istock_000002420436xsmall.jpg“Boring” – she said it more delicately. “I mean, what would you ask?” **

Emma (8) is listening in (as usual – big ears!!) and pipes up, “jealousy?”

Right on! “What is jealousy?” I continue to Patty, “Or how about ‘ a little anger + sadness’?” Blank look from Patty, Emma again:


Whoa! Emotional literacy in action.

And not enough. Maybe being intelligent about emotions is the foundation. Then the graduate course: to be intelligent with emotions.

** in defense of Patty: her point was that this game has only “right/wrong” answers and our learning philosophy commits us to deeper forms of reflection