Neural Networks Blog
Many times it has been suggested to me that great leaders do not need Empathy or perhaps it is best not to have it. Surely, a great leader needs to have a bit of bastard in them. I am sorry to disappoint those of you who might agree with this view. Top leaders have an Empathy score up to three standard deviations above the mean. This means if 100 is an average empathy score on an emotional intelligence test, then top leaders will score up to 130.
Because empathy is the engine behind collaborative relationships, the efficiency embedded in resolving conflicts, and averting the possibility of misunderstanding.
On an even broader level, empathy is the engine behind good design. If you want to create a product or service that goes beyond your customer or client's expectations then have an empathic person on your strategy team.
Understanding someone else's perspective is at the heart of empathy. It is not sympathy, or feeling sorry for someone, nor is it agreeing with someone's opinion. It is fundamentally being willing to understand someone else. You can then either feel what they feel, or not. But at least now you are in a position to help them solve a problem, heal a relationship, or present information in a way that works for them.
Empathy takes courage.
Here are some techniques for building your Empathy.
Practice using open-ended questions. Open-ended questions keep other people talking, giving you a better chance to understand their thoughts, feelings or opinions.
Make sure your questions avoid judgment, don’t lead the other person to a particular response, and can’t be answered with just one word.
As an example:
Someone says "I find the lack of communication in this organisation really frustrating."
Potential open-ended questions to gain a greater understanding of their situation:
- Can you tell me about the most recent time when you found there wasn't enough communication?
- What were the implications of this for you?
- Do you feel there is anything you could have done to improve the situation?
- What in particular makes you feel frustrated?
Reflective listening means you are able to accurately summarise the content and meaning of someone’s thoughts or ideas, including any feelings that may have been expressed explicitly or implicitly. Don’t just repeat what the person says, instead, paraphrase it so the person knows you really listened.
Example: The Help Desk don’t seem to be responding fast enough to my technical issues. They don’t understand the impact it is having on our customers and my ability to provide service if I cant access the system. This is a regular occurrence and they are treating it like a new request every time I log a call. Why aren’t they investigating the bigger issue?
Reflective listening response: You sound really exasperated with the Help Desk and upset that you aren’t delivering the service level you want to.
Obviously, you would also determine a course of action once the situation and associated emotions had been acknowledged and understood.
The true test of empathy comes when you apply Reflective Listening in situations where you completely disagree with the other person. Instead of trying to explain or argue your own perspective, focus on understanding the other person’s view. This is the time to put your own perspective on hold and truly listen. This is a critical skill because then you can resolve the issue or disagreement in a much more mutually productive manner. If you truly understand where someone is coming from you can then consider the best way to resolve your different perspectives.
Good luck trying out these techniques to help you build Empathy.
If you would like more information on how to build Emotional Intelligence within your organisation feel free to contact me and stay tuned for the next article.Rosalinda
Director Neural Networks Consulting
03 9555 7955
What is Assertiveness?
Assertiveness is one of those components of emotional intelligence that can actually be viewed negatively by some people. It all depends on the social or cultural messages that we receive regarding being assertive. Assertiveness done well, which means nicely balanced with Empathy, can be exceptionally powerful in the workplace and also on an individual level.
Many people have problems saying "no" and this results in them being overloaded and potentially more stressed than they need to be. Other people don't like to 'rock the boat' so they go along with a project or plan that really doesn't meet the needs of the business and has negative implications for their work. Imagine in both these situations if the person was able to say what they really thought? Individually, they are likely to feel less stressed and emotional and also the business will gain something from their perspective.
Assertiveness has three components - being able to express your feelings, expressing a thought or belief about something, and standing up for yourself. It is defined within the EQ-i 2.0 model as "The ability to clearly express your feelings (warmth, frustration, anger) and thoughts openly (i.e. voice opinions, disagree and take a definite stand even if you have something to lose by doing so). Assertive people are not over controlling or shy, they are able to express their feelings (often directly) without being aggressive or abusive."
So how can we develop this critical skill?
Firstly, you need to be able to recognise the difference between being assertive, aggressive and passive. Take a moment to think through the last time you had a conversation with your Manager or one of your Direct Reports where you weren't assertive (but needed to be). Did your behaviour more accurately reflect an aggressive or passive response? And what were the implications?
So let's start with the basics. A journal. You may already have done this exercise if you read my previous article on building emotional self-awareness. At least three times per day on four different days fill in a form to chart your response in meetings or interactions where you COULD have been more assertive. Some examples are provided to help get you started.
|1/5||Exec Meeting||Passive||Have been given responsibility for a project which isn’t really within the scope of my role and I don’t agree with the approach. I am likely to do a half-hearted job which will affect my career aspirations.|
|3/5||Mtg with Direct Reports||Frustrated/Annoyed/ Aggressive||Couldn’t hide my frustration from my Direct Reports at the sales targets being missed again. I didn’t say anything directly but they could tell from my body language so they are now avoiding me.|
|4/5||Interaction with peer||Passive||Thought I had subtly gotten my point across that they couldn't have access to my resources but I was wrong when I saw them chatting with one of my direct reports and getting her to do some of their work.|
We also need to consider the following questions:
- Being appropriately assertive sometimes results in the other person becoming aggressive. How does the potential for such a reaction influence your willingness to be assertive?
- What is it about being assertive that you find challenging?
Please think about and write down your responses to these questions. It is important to build awareness about why/when you are choosing not to be assertive especially when it is to your detriment.
Giving feedback requires us to be assertive and often we avoid it as we are concerned about the other person’s reaction or that we might hurt their feelings. Providing feedback is critical for others to improve their performance and also to ensure expectations are clear.
The best way to give assertive feedback is through "I" messages. This is how you construct them.
"I feel [insert emotion word here] because [describe the behaviours of others or a situation that made you feel this way] and the effect on the business is [describe the impact]."
Practice making and delivering your own "I" messages and make note of what works and what doesn't work. Alter your approach appropriately. It is best to always try these things out in less important situations in the first instance.
Fake it until you make it
This is a well used and effective strategy. There are three steps that I find are best put together to make this work.
Firstly, it is important that you develop some awareness regarding your level of assertiveness and in particular the movie that you play in your head when you decide not to stand up or put forward your opinion when it would be beneficial for you to do so. Understanding why you hesitate being assertive provides you the opportunity to exam your motivations and consider how useful they are ("not very useful" might be the answer). Also, when have they been useful and so why do you continue to be passive in situations where you would benefit from more direct action?
Secondly, consider someone close to you at work who doesn't seem to have any issue with being assertive. What is it that they do? Take note of how they approach direct conversations or stating their opinions. If you know them well enough I would recommend that you talk to them about the movie they play in their head when they are being assertive and see how it differs from yours.
Then armed with this information you are ready to plan for a time to try out being assertive. The key is to pick something fairly unimportant in the big scheme of things. For example, try it during a team meeting where you usually wouldn't say much at all. Try to speak up at least once and state your opinion (at the appropriate time). Watch the reactions and see how it feels. You might feel nervous and anxious but that is the 'faking it' part. And the more often you practice being assertive especially where there are few implications or consequences, the easier you will find it and the less stressful it will be for you.
Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing! You might find it flows into your personal life so I recommend you talk to your partner/family about what you are trying so they don't get a shock when you are more constructive or give them feedback you wouldn't usually do.
Good luck trying out these techniques to help you build Assertiveness in a constructive and non-offensive manner.
If you would like more information on how to build Emotional Intelligence within your organisation feel free to contact me and stay tuned for the next article.
Director Neural Networks Consulting
03 9555 7955
The EQ Edge, Steven J. Stein, Howard E. Book
The Student EQ Edge, Steven J. Stein, Howard E. Book, Korrel Kanoy.
What is emotional self-awareness?
It is certainly considerably more comprehensive than its name suggests. We have all had it happen. We’re feeling vaguely excited or somewhat down but cannot pinpoint an exact cause. Perhaps slightly anxious without a tangible reason. If you can understand what causes your emotions you have the opportunity to change your reactions to events.
Emotional self-awareness is made up of four experiences which can be described as follows:
Firstly, it involves understanding what emotion you are experiencing, and secondly, being aware of your emotion in the moment (not minutes or hours later as you reflect on what happened in ‘that’ meeting). It is knowing what triggers different emotions in you, and finally, understanding the impact of your emotions on others.
Potentially, you could be good at one of those components and not skilled in the others.
Emotional self awareness provides one of the basic building blocks of emotional intelligence. For example, imagine a person who is not assertive. To overcome the challenge of speaking up, they first need to understand what causes the challenge.
But can you have too much emotional self-awareness?
Well developed self-awareness is exceptionally beneficial. However, if it is not balanced with other components of emotional intelligence such as impulse control or reality testing, some people may experience intense reactions to circumstances that others would respond to more mildly. Having said that, if we lack emotional self-awareness, we are captive to our emotions and the behaviours they produce without clear knowledge of the cause or the intensity.
So how can we create this critical skill?
Let’s start with the basics. A feelings journal. At least three times per day on four different days fill in a form to chart your feelings. Some examples are provided to help get you started.
|1/4||Exec Meeting||Anxious||Presenting a business case that will be closely examined|
|3/4||Mtg with Direct Reports||Frustrated/Annoyed||Staff are not meeting their targets, again.|
|4/4||Interaction with peer||Excited||Likely to be asked to be involved on an interesting cross department project|
Then ask yourself the following questions:
What is the ratio of positive to negative emotions?
How do you think this affects you throughout your day?
What other patterns do you see in your journal? Look for types of situations or certain people that trigger similar emotions – think about what you find.
Which emotions are most easily triggered for you? Explain why you think this occurs?
Another way to build emotional self-awareness is through considering your Hot Buttons.
The feelings journal will have given you some insight into these. They could be:
- Lack of fairness
- Feeling judged
- Lack of respect
- Sensitivity about some aspect of who you are
- Perceived issues with integrity
- Values conflicts
- Feeling that others aren't seeing the big picture (limited)
Take a moment to list some of your hot buttons then answer the following questions.
Think about the last time at work when you felt really angry. Identify the two or three buttons that could have been "pushed" and list them.
Analyse what happened once the button got pushed.
- Did you withdraw?
- Lash out?
- Become stressed?
- Demonstrate frustration through your body language or facial expressions?
Describe both your internal feelings and your external behaviours.
Name two specific things you could have done to manage your emotions or behaviour better.
What will need to change for you to be able to handle the situation differently the next time your anger hot button gets pushed?
What can you do now to prepare for that?
The last method I propose for developing emotional self-awareness is a little more involved. It is called the ABCDE Exercise and looks at the impact of thoughts on emotions and behaviours. Below I provide an example of what is involved.
A = Activating Event: I received feedback from my Manager that my business case for more EFTs was rejected by the Executives.
B = (Irrational) Belief: The Executive don’t value the work that I or my team do at the frontline of this business
C = Consequences of the irrational belief:
Emotional: Angry, frustrated
Behavioural: De-motivated, take it out on team members
D = Dispute (the irrational belief): Perhaps they have other plans for dealing with the large workload other than increasing staff numbers. Maybe my business case wasn’t written in a way that was compelling enough for them to take action or wasn’t detailed enough in describing how difficult the situation is at the moment.
E = (new) Effect:
Emotional: Feel less angry and more determined
Behavioural: Ask for specific feedback on why business case was rejected. Consider options and other avenues to achieve outcome.
Now it is your turn!
Think of a time when you may have overreacted in a situation. Complete the ABCDE Exercise for this event.
Once you have practiced this approach a few times, you will notice that you are more able “in the moment” to reflect instantly on your reactions. Particularly if it is a similar ‘hot button’ that is being pushed on a regular basis.
This is building emotional self awareness and I congratulate you on wanting to hone your skills.
If you would like more information on how to build Emotional Intelligence feel free to contact me and stay tuned for the next article which will focus on Assertiveness.
Director Neural Networks Consulting
03 9555 7955
The EQ Edge, Steven J. Stein, Howard E. Book
The Student EQ Edge, Steven J. Stein, Howard E. Book, Korrel Kanoy.
Heard the term Emotional Intelligence but not really sure how it relates to you?
Wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to developing your EI?
Great news! Emotional Intelligence is not fixed. You can get better at it with targeted development as well as experiencing a natural improvement with age.
Apparently we get wiser as we get older and this is reflected in our level of emotional intelligence overall. However, if there is a particular component of emotional intelligence that you really would like to improve, you can!
For example, you can:
- create greater self awareness,
- improve your communication,
- increase your assertiveness,
- develop more empathy for others,
- exceed at problem solving,
- and handle stress like a professional.
If you have never really understood all the different components of emotional intelligence, the model below will help you immensely.
Now that you have a better understanding of what makes up emotional intelligence, let’s talk about how you work out where you need development.
Of course you can always contact me for an EQ-i 2.0 assessment. Alternatively, you can take some time to consider where you sometimes get unstuck in the workplace. Which situations do you know you could handle better?
- Do you hold back in meetings when really you should be putting forward your opinion? (Assertiveness)
- Are you reluctant to discuss with your team how they might be feeling in relation to operational decisions that are impacting on their work? (Emotional Expression)
- Do you make rash decisions, in the heat of the moment, that you then have to fix or regret? (Problem Solving and Impulse Control)
- When you arrive home from work is your emotional state uptight and you take it out on your significant other or whoever is around? (Stress Tolerance and Emotional Self-Awareness)
These are some obvious examples. Your particular situation may be more subtle. Please take some time to write down what transpires for you that you know you could do better. Review the wheel and work out which area it falls under.
Over the coming months, I will be writing articles that include strategies for developing each of the EQ-i 2.0 subscales.
If you can’t wait that long, please give me a call and we can discuss other options.
Good luck with your personal development.
Director Neural Networks Consulting
03 9555 7955
‘Emotional Intelligence’ is a term that was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, why it can matter more than IQ, published in 1996.
A common definition, ‘emotional intelligence’ is "a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain social relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way".
Why do we need this “set of emotional and social skills”?
Firstly, people with a healthy level of emotional intelligence are more resilient, optimistic, stress tolerant, better leaders, and have greater success in the workplace than those with high IQ alone.
Secondly, emotional intelligence is associated with innovation and creative thinking. Individuals with good EQ are able to evaluate problems objectively, assess risks and have the determination to take action. They will also be aware of how their decisions impact on others enabling an opportunity for greater buy-in and change management.
But the really good news?
Every emotional intelligence competency, including the innovators drive to achieve, can be taught.
Neural Networks Consulting are certified facilitators of the Gold Standard emotional intelligence tool, the EQ-I 2.0. We would welcome the opportunity to talk about how emotional intelligence can help your people grow and develop.
It was brought to my attention by some very dear friends that I can be particularly unobservant when it comes to details in my personal life. There are certain things that I don’t seem to notice. Lucky my friends take me the way I am and aren’t offended by things about their lives that I might miss. Such as the new campervan in the driveway.
It made me think. Why is it that some people are more attuned to the detail and able to really see or hear what is going on, notice the small changes, pick up on nuances? I discussed this with my colleague, Dr John Gora and his perspective is that I do spend a lot of time in my own head, much like most people.
The result of being so much inside your own head, listening to your own thoughts and reactions or planning what you want to say next, means that you miss out on what other people are actually saying. Quite often you ‘fill in the gaps’ of what they are saying and hear what you want to hear, or what you expect to hear as you move on in your mind.
Let’s consider how this plays out in a contact centre environment. Your team have likely heard every story under the sun from your customers. This puts them at a high risk of skipping over the details of what the customer is actually telling them this time and instead, make assumptions or fill in the gaps. The key is to ensure that your people are able to stay present and in the moment with the customer so they can pay attention to what is actually being said. They need to be able to put aside what they might want to say in order to wait for the customer to finish. When we don’t stay present and focus our attention this is when miscommunication occurs or mistakes are made especially when our assumptions turn out to be wrong and we miss opportunities to open cross sell conversations.
Being present comes more naturally to some people than others but everyone can learn how to do it. We call it being in “uptime” and it is something that we teach many of our clients. I find I am much more able to apply it to my work life than my private life, as demonstrated by the conversation with my close friends.
I am sure you are interested in having your team be more attentive and present with your customers in order to ensure there are fewer mistakes, better communication and they are opening as many opportunities as possible. Not to mention that listening is critical to outstanding customer service.
We can increase your call centre ‘uptime’ – call us on 03 9555 7955 and ask to speak to John or Andrew.
We have analysed and used a large number of tools and assessments over the years at Neural Networks Consulting. One of our favourites is the OMG Sales Evaluation that not only measures your sales ability but also the associated mindset strengths and weaknesses that are required to excel in a sales role. Included in this suite of assessments is an Express Screen that adeptly determines whether an applicant is suitable or not suitable for any sales role that you advertise. Following is an excerpt from a PhD Study that was conducted regarding its validity.
In the mid 2000’s, the Objective Management Group (OMG) gathered predictive validity information for the Dave Kurlan Sales Force Profile’s assessment of Hire-ability among applicants for sales positions. The sample was drawn from employers who had requested the testing of 500 candidates for evaluation of their appropriateness in sales during the hiring process.
One year after hiring, these employers were sent a questionnaire which asked them to indicate how many hires had been retained for the past year, whether they had been recommended by OMG or not, and one year performance outcomes.
As shown in the Table below, 96% of the candidates who were recommended were retained for at least one year and 92% of those were performing in the top half of the employer’s sales force.
Alternately, only 25% of the candidates who were not recommended had been retained, and of those only 2 (33%) ranked in the top half of the sales force at the end of a year.
Table 7: Results of Predictive Validity Assessment
|Number of Candidates Tested||500|
|Number of Candidates Recommended||273|
|Candidates Recommended and Hired||129|
|Ranked in Top Half of Performers after 1 Year||112 (92%)|
|Candidates NOT recommended but Hired||24|
|Ranked in Top Half after One Year||2|
|Ranked in Bottom Half after One Year||4|
|Quit or Terminated||18|
What this tells us is that using the Express Screen assessment as part of your recruitment process for any sales based role in your organisation is a large predictor of sales success.
We don’t need to know the exact figures that relate to the cost of hiring non performers or dealing with staff turnover to know that the cost of hiring a top performer is a better option
If you would like greater assurance that the sales people you are hiring are going to perform and help you meet your targets then contact John or Andrew today (03) 9555 7955.
© Copyright Dave Kurlan 2003-2014. Neural Networks Consulting (03) 9555 7955
I don’t know about you, but every time I come back from spending time in the United States I am significantly disappointed at Australia’s level of customer service. The difference is jarring.
I am one of those people who believe in cultural differences and being authentic. Australians definitely have a different way about them and that is ok by me. I don’t expect the same type of service but I do expect the same level of service. The overall lack of responsiveness and the sense that the customer service agent doesn’t really care feels discordant for me.
When you talk to people in the States who provide service they say it is because they work for tips and so they have to do a good job. I’m sorry, this is no excuse for poor service from Australians. Just because the individual you are servicing is not the one paying you doesn’t mean you don’t do the best job that you can. Your employer is paying you and basically you are admitting to not doing your job thoroughly because they aren’t watching.
Customer service plays a key role in selling as well. Customer service agents have a job to solve a customer’s problem and do it in such a way that the customer forgets about the problem they had and remembers only how well and painlessly their problem was solved and how nicely they were treated in the process. When this isn’t done well, the customer service team has just succeeded in UNSELLING the customer.
You may be ok with your customer service team delivering a mediocre level of service because that seems to be what we accept in Australia, but can you really afford for them to be UNSELLING your customers?
If you want to create raving fans, let’s chat about how we can transform your service team standards while still maintaining the authenticity of the Australian culture we work within.
“They have improved to the extent our competitors are asking what is going on and what our secret weapon is.” Prue Horne, Human Resource Manager, Vantage.
(source: Management Today June 2014, p. 30)
We were delighted to receive an article from one of our clients, which highlighted them as a case study for improving Customer Service in the June edition of Management Today. The Vantage Hotel Group runs a chain of 11 community-based pubs and the 9/11 bottle shop chain across Tasmania.
Incorporating our expertise in reading people and the psychology that underpins customer service, we tailor made a service program that got to the heart of ensuring a great experience for everyone who came through their doors. It also provided personal development for their people.
We ran the program as a ‘train-the-trainer’, which means that Vantage continues to train their staff in-house, further building on their customer service expertise.
“The results were striking. Takings for the hotels business escalated straight away and the business is growing. Hotel results have climbed steadily since October, consistently exceeding revenue and profit targets in gaming, bar and bistro.
Vantage Group hotels have also significantly outperformed the Tasmanian gaming network during this period.
‘The hotel results have all improved and they have improved significantly. They have improved to the extent where our competitors are asking what is going on and what our secret weapon is. Our hotels are outperforming all the others in the gaming network and the results have been sustained’.”
We are excited by their success and flattered that our program is their ‘secret weapon’.
If you would like us to help you create your own secret weapon, call Andrew Simpson or John Gora on 03 9555 7955.
I take the opportunity to learn from all our clients. Although I am often considered an ‘expert’ in my field, there is certainly room for more professional and personal development on my behalf..
Recently I have been working on a cultural diagnostic for one of our medium sized clients. This diagnostic has revealed some interesting things about the organization (of course) but more importantly is has given me pause to consider the following question..
How much influence can a middle management team have within an organization with a laid-back CEO and infighting amongst the senior executives?
This is not an uncommon situation. Quite often we find CEOs who have been promoted due to longevity or technical expertise, not for leadership capability. If they have not had the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, these CEOs can take the option of being mates with their executive. The likely results are power plays, the blame game and political sabotage within the second level. Without boundaries, we start to push the envelope…. Some more than others.
So what does this mean for the next level down? I have been witness to a number of scenarios, the most common of which is the development of alliances in order to protect themselves from above. The middle managers come together to create a barrier between the executives and the operational staff. The key issue with this is that it inhibits the ability for the organization to deliver on its strategies. This is because of the lack of trust, lack of clarity and communication issues that occur between the different levels of management. Oft times the middle managers determine the ‘real’ organization strategy through their actions.
All organization cultures can be influenced by anyone within the organization so long as they have the right approach, alliances and skills. A great CEO can change an organization just by being appointed, as can a poor one. Working as a middle manager in an organization with lack of trust and clarity of communication requires immense influencing skills and so long as there is a desire for the greater good this can go a long way to decreasing staff turnover and increasing profitability.
We all have a choice as to who we are when we show up for work in the morning. Are you a middle manager operating with integrity and authenticity?
When I was at the Melbourne Zoo the other day, I had an interesting conversation with one of the Zoo Keepers. It prompted me to think about leadership and how many of us run on instinct as compared to strategic leadership.
The Zoo Keeper explained to me that Penguins operate mostly on instinct. They don’t pay attention necessarily to the others in their group but respond to their environment based on their instinct. The group of fairy penguins that I was watching had to contend with two divers cleaning their tank so they were avoiding the water. Their instincts told them that something big and black in the water was dangerous. And to make matters worse, another zoo keeper was attending to their dry land habitat forcing them to choose between the shore and the water. They were stuck, diving in and out of the water.
Elephants on the other hand, learn from the matriarch of the herd. She teaches the younger members of the tribe what she has learnt through a lifetime. Which plants are edible, which animals to fear, the best path to the waterhole. The elephants integrate this with their own experience.
You can see where I am going with this.
As a leader, you are a role model for future leaders. Through your experiences, you will have developed a particular leadership style. It is important for all of us to enhance our leadership skills and ensure that we are strategic in our approach. Consider that your staff will be integrating your learnings and demonstrated behavours with their own views of the world.
Operating based on our reactions is likely to result in situations where we are stuck between a rock and a hard place, making work and creating flurry. We have all been in situations where we have had a knee-jerk reaction to a situation and ended up worse off for it. So let’s leave that for the fairy penguins because they are much cuter than us, and opt for the strategic leadership of the elephants and develop the leadership culture that you want to see for your organisation.