Tag Archives: Emotional Intelligence

Performance Transformation, LLC™ Launches Business Acumen Coaching For HR Professionals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Talent Management has fast become the strategic differentiator in today’s global business environment. Human creativity and collaboration are now the primary drivers of value creation placing HR at the epicenter of cultivating competitive advantage.

VENICE, Fla. — Peformance Transformation, LLC™ announced today the launch of their latest professional development service, Business Acumen Coaching for HR Professionals. The educationally-based approach is designed to cultivate and enhance Human Resources professionals’ competencies to align with the demands and opportunities of the New Economy.

“Companies can no longer afford to view HR as a cost center,” commented Terry Murray, founder and Managing Partner of Performance Transformation. “The fact is, no other function within the business organization has changed so dramatically, and in such a short period of time, as the Human Resources department. Competencies must expand accordingly and in ways that are non-traditional from the historical role HR has played in business.”

The evolutionary development program focuses on instilling and enhancing skill sets that support strategic thinking and processes, talent management, and change management as well as incorporating the use of Big Data and predictive analytics to optimize and align talent development with business strategy. The approach also imparts Emotional Intelligence competencies that contribute to positive relationship management, leadership and communication skills. While highly innovative, the approach is not theoretical; it is grounded in tangible business objectives that fall within the perview of the HR professional. Doing so delivers a clear return on investment for the program.

“The source of value creation has shifted,” added Mr. Murray. “All companies have access to similar natural resources, economies of scale, information technology and quality processes. What they don’t all have access to is talent. How that talent is secured and managed will be the strategic differentiator going forward. HR is now at the epicenter of this challenge.  The transactional and risk management activities the HR function has been charged with over the past thirty years have provided little opportunity for these professionals to prepare for this new frontier. Our approach addresses this gap.”

Recent studies indicate chief executives and corporate officers are looking for more from the HR function. A major study published in the June edition of the Harvard Business Review® revealed corporate boards believe their companies are scoring an “F” in talent management.  Another study published in July, by the magazine The Economist®, revealed similar concerns of CEOs. Their findings revealed only a bare majority of chief executives believe their head of HR is a key player in strategic planning, yet 70% of them wanted to see their HR executives taking a more active role. Unfortunately, a credibility perception still lingers throughout many leadership teams.

“There’s a trust gap around the strategic planning table,” said Terry. “The research indicates that while a majority of chief executives are satisfied with their HR leader’s management of the HR function, most don’t believe they’re achieving a similar level of performance in the more strategic areas of succession planning or developing key talent. Significant concerns also arise surrounding perceptions of the alignment of talent management with business strategy.”

“Part of the problem is being exacerbated by talent management software companies. They all claim to have the magic bullet solution, but automating fragmented processes is not the answer. A shift in perspective must first take place followed on with deeper insights into the mechanisms of value creation. Without these two steps preceding automation, a lot of money and worse, a lot of time, time that can’t be recouped, will be wasted.”

Performance Transformation is unique in that the company is perhaps the only leadership and strategic development firm that integrates discoveries from the neurosciences with a predictive analytics platform. The combination creates a pipeline for a continuously improving flow of business intelligence to emerge, leveraging Big Data for the optimization of human capital and talent management.

“We’re very excited to help usher in this new era for HR.” added Terry. “Actually using advanced analytics and Big Data as part of the delivery process in the coaching immediately acclimates the professional with the tools they’ll need to master going forward.”

For more information, please visit Performance Transformation’s website or call (941) 485-7428.

© 2013, Performance Transformation, LLC™.  All Rights Reserved.

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Experts Discuss the Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Business and Education on The Gail Shane Show

I recently had the privilege of co-hosting The Gail Shane Show on WSRQ – Sarasota with, of course, Gail Shane.  The subject of the program explored the critical role Emotional Intelligence competencies (Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Social Awareness, Relationship Management skills and Empathy) have on creating and sustaining competitive advantage in business, education, and in our own personal lives.  We were fortunate to have on our panel neurosurgeon Dr. Ravi Rao, the author of “Emotional Business: Inspiring Human Connectedness To Grow Earnings And The Economy, Becky Canesse, CEO of Just For Girls, and Dr. Jennifer Rosenboom, the Principal of the Just For Girls Academy.

I’ve edited the podcast replay into three segments, which you can listen to by clicking the audio players below:

Segment One ~ Dr. Ravi Rao and Terry Murray discuss the neurology of human emotions, leveraging neuroscience to develop engaging and inspirational leaders, and how organizational  mastery of our emotional landscape contributes to competitive advantage, engagement, productivity and business performance (13 minutes).

Segment Two ~ Becky Cannesse and Dr. Jennifer Rosenboom discuss how they’re educating the whole child by cultivating empathy, compassion, resiliency, and Emotional Intelligence skills in young girls and how Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning, conducted by Performance Transformation, LLC™, has contributed to the girls’ development (8 minutes).

Segment Three ~ Ravi, Terry, Gail, Becky and Jennifer discuss methods for teaching emotional awareness skills, how Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning accelerates and supports the emergence of Emotional Intelligence competencies, and strategies for cultivating a positive, emotional landscape in organizations, businesses, and families (13 minutes).

Thanks again to Gail Shane, WSRQ – Sarasota, Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART), our collaborator and host for Equine programs, and Neal Communities, the sponsor, for having us on the air!

© 2013, Terry Murray, The Gail Shane Show.

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Why The Mainstream Leadership Development Industry Has Failed and Will Continue to Fail

A colleague of mine referenced me to an article on the Harvard Business Review® Blog Network over the weekend that she knew I would find of interest.  The blog explored a recent study on the level of dissatisfaction corporate boards were expressing on the failure of Talent Management in the corporations they oversee.  According to the study, and to no surprise, Talent Management is failing miserably in most organizations.  I say to no surprise because Talent Management is the latest offshoot of the mainstream leadership development industry, which has perhaps the most dismal performance record of any professional service industry on the planet.  Over the past twenty years alone, corporations and institutions have invested upwards of $1 trillion (yes, trillion) on leadership development.  Yet, only 1% of executives score excellent in eight key competencies of leadership, 90% score below average (McKinsey & Co®), and employee disengagement has been mired at 70% for over a decade (Gallup®).

As I was reading the blog, and here’s the correlation to today’s subject, I came across another entry on the HBR Blog Network entitled, “Why So Many Leadership Programs Ultimately Fail” by a gentleman named Peter Bregman.  In the blog, Mr. Bregman states, “Ever since I started teaching leadership on mountaineering expeditions in the  late 80s, the question of how to develop leaders has absorbed me.  I’ve designed and taught everything from one-day team buildings to 20-day wilderness trips, from business school classes to corporate trainings, from simulations to executive leadership courses.”  At the risk of sounding facetious, which is not my intention, I can’t help but wonder if this question that has absorbed him for 25 years might have been answered if he had ever actually been a leader rather than a career teacher of leadership?

It’s strange to me…no other professional discipline has followed such a misguided path.  Medical surgeons, with decades of experience practicing medicine, are called upon to develop and educate the next generation of surgeons.  Senior scientists educate up and coming scientists.  Pilots are trained by experienced pilots.   Yet, next generation business leaders have not, and are not, being educated and developed by experienced business leaders.  They are being trained by career consultants and organizational psychologists.

The irony that runs through Mr. Bregman’s blog would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.  An author of several best-selling books on leadership, he comments, “What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical” and follows on by emphasizing the importance of not getting sidetracked, distracted or losing focus by stating, “And you can’t learn them from reading a book…”

Mr. Bregman’s main point in his blog is to share an apparent epiphany he’s recently had regarding emotional courage.  This, he believes, is the key to successful leadership.  It’s a fair point, and one that was eloquently written about eleven years ago by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky in their seminal book, “Leadership On The Line – Staying Alive Through The Dangers Of Leading“.  Another irony is that this book was published by the Harvard Business School press.  It’s also a lesson I learned personally in my first business managerial role leading a national sales team nearly 25 years ago.

Another supposition in which Mr. Bregman appears misguided is, “The goal of any leadership development program is to change behavior.”  Isn’t that the goal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?  Behaviors in the workplace are manifestations of perceptions, orientations and conditioned, neurological responses to emotional stimuli.  This focus on behaviors is just what one would expect by psychologists.  It’s what they know, so it’s what they do.  Shouldn’t the goal of leadership development be to improve business performance by imparting leaders with the tools and adaptive thinking skills necessary to communicate, engage and inspire others to perform at their best?  Isn’t the goal to develop nascent leaders’ ability to lead in any circumstance?

The final kicker in Mr. Bregman’s blog is his mea culpa, “By that measure, most of what I’ve done – and what I’ve seen others do – has failed.”  He goes on to add, “Here’s why: We’re teaching the wrong things in the wrong ways.”  Wow, that’s an amazing statement to read on an HBR blog.  I cannot help but wonder how Mr. Bregman’s past clients feel about the fact that he’s admitting his work, of which I’m sure he’s charged handsomely for, has been a decades long experiment trying to figure out for himself how to develop leaders?  And this grand experiment in leadership development has proven one thing…both Mr. Bregman and the mainstream leadership development industry still has a lot to learn about leadership.

I didn’t write this to personally take Mr. Bregman to task.  This is, however, highly indicative of what’s wrong with the leadership development industry.  Leadership, as Mr. Bregman says himself, cannot be learned from a book.  It must be experienced, first hand, and evolve over time under the tutelage of a seasoned leader.  Unfortunately, there are very few seasoned leaders in the leadership development industry.

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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Five Steps for Solving the Endemic Employee Disengagement Crisis

The Gallup Company® just released their annual report, The State of the American Workforce ~ 2013, and once again, employee engagement levels are woefully low.  Sadly, this isn’t news.  This has been consistently reported upon for at least ten years.  Addressing employee engagement represents the most cost effective way a company can improve productivity and profitability.  Here’s a few strategies that can make a difference in a few short months.

It’s an issue we’ve been discussing for years.  In fact, one of my earliest blogs on this site explored this very topic.  While we speak with business leaders and HR executives every day, we hear them expressing their desire to improve on collaboration, innovation, productivity and performance.  None of these objectives can emerge without first engaging the workforce, both cognitively and emotionally.  Yet, for some reason, the disconnect remains.  The recent Gallup study identifies only 30% of employees are engaged, 20% are actively disengaged (meaning their spreading discontent and working at cross purpose with their employers…actually destroying value), and 50% are disengaged, meaning they’re sleepwalking through their day.  Our additional research identifies the fact that upwards of 50% of many firms’ payrolls, their single largest expense line, is delivering little to no return on investment.

When we consider that in today’s New Economy, value creation in business emerges through the efficient commercialization of intellectual property, we must understand that human beings are the new raw material of production.  Now, if Henry Ford had been experiencing a scrap rate of 50% on steel, his raw material of the day, I think he would have found his way down to the factory floor and addressed it in relatively short order.  Yet, the Gallup study reveals this endemic situation has been steady since 2001.  Eleven years of leaving value lying fallow on industries’ floor.

How important is this issue for businesses, hospitals and our economy overall?  Let’s take a look…

The Business Case for Employee Engagement ~

Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy an estimated $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity every year.

For a small to medium size company, with 100 employees averaging (on the low end) $45,000 in salary and benefits, actively disengaged employees are costing the business owner $1,350,000 in wasted compensation and, conservatively, another $500,000 in destroyed productivity of fellow associates.  Giving the sleepwalkers the benefit of the doubt, that they’re contributing something at least half of the time, are also costing the business owner $1,125,000 in wasted compensation.  As a business owner, can you afford to keep tossing approximately $3 million a year out the window?

Looking at the comparisons between companies in the top quartile of reported engagement, versus those in the bottom quartile of engagement, higher engaged firms:

~ Score 10% higher in customer ratings

~ Are 22% more profitable

~ Have 65% lower turnover rates

~ Enjoy 37% lower absenteeism

~ Incur 48% fewer safety-related accidents

~ Experience 28% lower shrinkage

~ Create 41% fewer quality defects

~ Hospitals incur 41% fewer patient safety incidents

After twenty five years of leadership experience, in both corporate and entrepreneurial settings, and five years of research, application and validation of our philosophy and approach at Performance Transformation, LLC™, we know how to solve employee disengagement in five, relatively easy, and very cost affordable steps (you’ll actually lower your training and development expenses by following our suggestions while unleashing remarkable breakthroughs in productivity, creativity and innovation):

mckinsey-quarterly-right-leaders-image-0031.) Address the broken, traditional leadership development approach.  Over the past 20 years, corporations and institutions have invested upwards of $1 trillion in leadership development programs.  The results?  Thanks to Gallup’s study, we’re staring them right in the face…and McKinsey & Company reported in July, 2011 only 1% of “C” level and “one-step down” executives scored excellent in eight key leadership competencies.  Nearly 90% scored below average.  Leadership development based in the theories of behavioral psychology simply don’t work.  If you disagree, please show me the proof.  We must migrate to an approach based in neuroscience to address the underlying causation of behaviors in the workplace.  We must conduct leadership development around tangible business outcomes.  Experiential learning and immediate application, framed by an educationally-based coaching process is essential.  Demand a clear ROI to be reported on every developmental investment from your vendors.

2.) Help HR bring their focus and practices into the landscape of the 21st Century.  While line management is playing to win, based upon their historical charter of responsibilities, HR has little choice but to play not to lose.  Due to this, many HR practices have naturally evolved to be highly risk-averse at a time when boldness and leadership is most needed.  As an example, traditional Diversity & Inclusion training (another $8 billion per year expense with no discernible ROI) is archaic and typically a vacuous exercise lacking context, strategic communication, or business application.  D&I training needs to transform into Collaboration & Innovation learning.  We’re already diverse (companies are very multi-cultural and multi-generational, but still far too homogenous at the senior levels), but real inclusion cannot emerge without engagement.  Also, resist automating misaligned HR practices still rooted in the Industrial Age with Talent Management systems that are little more than CRM platforms turned inward.  First, process map your procedures and competency models to see if they’re actually in alignment with the rapidly changing needs of the business.  Then, and only then, migrate to systems that enable predictive analytics through the use of machine learning technology.  It is through this application that insights into the future will emerge rather than simply accelerating and duplicating the broken processes of the past.

3.) Stop spending money on foolish Team Building workshops.  Get down off the ropes courses, stop building toy boats in resort swimming pools, put the paint gun pistols down, and leave the trust falls to adolescent summer camps where they belong.  Many of these so-called team building activities are exclusionary to older workers, workers that may have physical limitations, or workers that have differing cultural concerns.  Want to cultivate collaborative behaviors?  Focus on cultivating relationship-based skills (i.e. Emotional Intelligence) and only conduct Team Building within the direct and immediate context of the business.  Invest in employee development using meaningful and science-based learning modalities.  The recent discoveries from the neurosciences provides us with rich insights into what truly matters and provides us with a roadmap for sparking lasting, meaningful neurological change in perspectives and orientations of one’s self, of others, and how we can engage in positive communication and open collaboration.

4.) Create an organizational culture that embraces and celebrates intrinsic values (authentic relationships, purposefulness, personal and professional development, being a part of something larger than one’s self, service to others) over extrinsic values (money, power, prestige).  Intrinsic values are core to human happiness while extrinsic values are anchored in culture and conditioning.  We were all born to care for one another; it’s part of our primary survival mechanism.  No other mammal on the planet is born more vulnerable or develops more slowly than human beings.  Without empathy and compassion, our natural, inborn attributes that enabled us to evolve over the past 80,000 years, we never would have survived as a species.  Leveraging intrinsic values engages the entire human continuum, transcending the superficial differences of cultural perspectives and generational orientations.

5.) Align and optimize transformational leadership, enlightened strategy and a highly engaging and inclusive organizational culture.  This is the primary theme of my book, The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success, published in February, 2011.  Companies that thrive follow this path.  This isn’t conjecture, the book provides historical facts and was cited by the academic Journal of Economic Literature in March, 2012.

It truly is this straight forward.  But if you want to thrive, and going forward, simply survive in business, the first step is up to you.  You have to want to make the change, awaken and take a few steps forward, and stop simply talking about it.

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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Research Demonstrates Efficacy of Cultivating Emotional Intelligence with Nurses Through Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning

Back in 2009 we introduced, “The Emotionally Resilient Nurse”, a relationship-based, equine facilitated experiential learning program designed specifically to cultivate Emotional Intelligence(EI) competencies in nurses.  This program came right on the heels of our pro bono program, “Warriors in Transition”, designed to help combat veterans and their families wrestling with PTSD, and quite often PTSD/TBI.  For anyone participating in or monitoring our warriors program, the efficacy was remarkably apparent.  Sleep patterns improved, agitation levels diminished, and family relationships improved almost overnight.  The program, which we’ve helped to introduce in six states, was formally commended by General David Petraeus in 2010.

Having worked in the health care field for two decades, I had personally witnessed the challenges nurses face on a daily basis.  Their environment is emotionally toxic and they are constantly walking a tightrope, without a net, of expressing authentic empathy through healthy, professional boundaries.  It is not a task for the faint of heart.  Having witnessed the success of our approach with combat veterans, migrating this approach into acute care hospital settings, specifically designed for other front line professionals, seemed like a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, at the time, hospital administrators were still laying off nurses to cut costs.  In the very short term, this may have helped the bottom line, but over time, lowering staffing levels only exacerbated the costly problems of nurse burnout, high turnover rates (the Florida Nurses Association reports that it costs a hospital an average of $64,000 to backfill an open nursing position.  Extrapolated across the nation, this problem adds approximately $17 billion in hard dollar costs to the health care delivery system, adding absolutely no value whatsoever.) and perceptions of quality of care with patients and their families.

As we do with the development of all of our programs, we dove into the peer-reviewed, published research on the effects of cultivating emotional intelligence in nurses on the delivery system.  Here’s a snapshot of what we discovered:

    • Patient satisfaction is a widely recognized measure of medical care quality and a predictor of several positive consequences for organizations and patients (e.g. patient adherence to treatment regimens, fewer malpractice suits, hospital employees’ satisfaction, and financial performance).2
    • Compassionate behavior is threatened by technological concerns and economic constraints.3 “Continually, we experience situations where patients received excellent technical care but, when the emotional side of their care was not met, they believed that their care was inadequate”.4
    • By understanding the patients’ emotions, and being more empathetic, nurses are more able to understand the values, worries, and fears of patients. They are more apt to automatically connect with patients, appreciate the patients’ perspectives, understand the impact of their actions, understand and satisfy patients’ needs5 and respond appropriately.6
    • Nurses need to interpret and understand how patients feel, to ascertain their motives and concerns, and demonstrate empathy in their care. They also need to understand and manage their own emotions, not just for high quality care, but for their own self-protection and health as well.7
    • Nurses capable of a self-reflective process become aware of their own emotions.  When nurses recognize their own feelings they are more likely to manage them and communicate in appropriate ways.8
    • Non-verbal interactions play a vital role in nurse-patient perceptions.  The non-verbal interactions include patient-directed eye gaze, affirmative head nod, smiling, leaning forward, touch, and instrument touch.9
    • Emotional Intelligence in nursing leads to more positive attitudes, greater adaptability, improved relationships, and increased orientation towards positive values.10
    • Emotional Intelligence has a positive impact on nursing team cohesiveness and patient/client outcomes.11
    • Emotional Intelligence minimizes the negative stress consequences of nursing.12
    • Emotional Intelligence is important in managing stress and reducing nurse burnout.13
    • Emotional Intelligence is an important characteristic for building successful nursing leadership, enhancing nursing performance, and reducing nurse burnout.14
    • Emotional intelligence scores in clinical staff nurses correlate positively with both performance levels and retention variables. Clinical staff nurses with higher emotional intelligence scores demonstrate higher performance, have longer careers, and display greater job retention.15
    • Emotional Intelligence should be integrated into the nursing profession by a model of transformational learning for nurse education.16

It seemed as if we’d made a fairly strong case for how cultivating the soft skills in nursing could save hard dollars in health care.  Unfortunately, we were in hindsight, more that a bit ahead of our time.  With the coming of HCAHPS, and the effect these patient satisfaction surveys will have on 30% of a hospital system’s reimbursements from the Medicare, perhaps it is time to revisit the value this approach represents.  An approach that is capable of delivering an ROI that soars into the thousands of percent.

Adding to the evidence, a pilot study has just been conducted and released from the University of Kentucky that warrants attention.  The study, authored by Patricia Dyk, and Robyn Cheung, et al, entitled, “The Effectiveness of Equine Guided Leadership Education to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Expert Nurses“, demonstrates statistically signifiant improvements in Emotional Intelligence competencies with nurses employing this approach.  This comes as no surprise to us, as we’ve been traveling the United States for the past four years, conducting our evidence-based approach to Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning, seeing consistent, reproducible results in very challenging populations.

The fact is, we’ve crossed a threshold into a period of adaptive challenges.  Unprecedented challenges that require unprecedented solutions.  The complexity of the challenges institutions and enterprises face today will require the integration of seemingly disparate disciplines and methodologies in order to find sustainable solutions.  One thing’s for certain, investing in our nurses would be a major step forward in improving the health care delivery system in the United States.

Copyright 2013, Terry Murray.

 1.)  Daniel Goleman, (1995).  “Emotional Intelligence”, Bantam Books, New York, NY.

2.)  Gesell, S.B. & Wolosin, R.J., (2004).  Inpatients’ Rating of Care in 5 Common Clinical Conditions. Quality Management Health Care, 13(4), 222-227.

3.)  Godkin, J. & Godkin, L., (2004).  Caring Behaviors Among Nurses:  Fostering a Conversation of Gestures. Health Care Management Review, 29(3), 258-267.

4.)  Kerfoot, K., (1996).  The Emotional Side of Leadership:  The Nurse Manager’s Challenge.  Nursing Economics, 14(1), 59-62.

5.)  Ibid., 59-62.

6.)  Vitello-Ciccui, J.M., (2003).  Innovative Leadership Through Emotional Intelligence.  Nursing Management, 24(10), 28-34.

7.)  McQueen, A.C.H., (2004).  Emotional Intelligence in Nursing Work.  Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47(1), 101-108.

8.)  Ibid., 101-108.

9.)  W. Caris-Verhallen, (1999).  Effects of Video Interaction Analysis Training on Nurse-Patient Communication in the Care of the Elderly.  Patient Education and Counseling, Volume 39, Issue 1, 91-103.

10.)  Kristin Akerjordet & Elisabeth, (2007).  Emotional Intelligence: A Review of the Literature with Specific Focus on Empirical and Epistemological Perspectives. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 16(8); 1405-1416.

11.)  Quoidbach & Hansenne, (2009).  The impact of trait emotional intelligence on nursing team performance and cohesiveness.  Journal of Professional Nursing, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp. 23 – 29.

12.)  Montes-Berges & Augusto, (2007).  Exploring the Relationship Between Perceived Emotional Intelligence, Coping, Social Support and Mental Health in Nursing Students.  Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 14 (2);163-171.

13.)  Linda Gerits, Jan J. L. Derksen, & Antoine B. Verbruggen, (2004).  Emotional Intelligence and Adaptive Success of Nurses Caring for People with Mental Retardation and Severe Behavior Problems.  Mental Retardation: 42, (2); 106-121.

14.)  Vitello-Ciccui, Joan M., (2002).  Exploring Emotional Intelligence:  Implications for Nursing Leaders.  Journal of Nursing Administration.  32(4):  203-210.

15.)  Codier, Estelle PhD, RN; Kamikawa, Cindy MSN, RN, NE-BC; Kooker, Barbara M. DrPH, APRN, NEA-BC; Shoultz, Jan DrPH, MPH, (2009).  Emotional Intelligence, Performance, and Retention in Clinical Staff Nurses.  Nursing Administration Quarterly:  October/December, Volume 33, Issue 4, 310-316.

16.)  Dawn Freshwater & Theodore Stickley, (2004).  The Heart of the Art:  Emotional Intelligence in Nurse Education.  Nursing Inquiry. 11(2); 91-98.

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What Neurosurgeons and Horses Can Teach Us About Leadership

_PPH5798Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  I’ve grown accustomed to the quizzical looks over the years when I tell people we work with horses to help leaders develop the critical competencies necessary for today’s volatile workplace.  It isn’t a gimmick, an arcane game or ropes course.  It is a scientifically substantiated approach to experiential learning.  One that greatly accelerates development thanks to the fact that our carefully structured exercises ferry participants through all four modalities of Kolb’s Adult Learning Style Inventory.  Our approach also draws heavily from the neuroscience research of such luminaries as Dan Goleman, Rich Davidson, Jaak Panksepp and Ravi Rao.  Going beyond psychology, the brain research that is continuously emerging enables us, as leadership development experts, to address the causal, neurological pathways that result in demonstrated behaviors. Traditional leadership development methodologies, focused on behaviorism (i.e., mainstream psychology’s embrace of cognitive behavioral therapy), have had thirty years on the main stage, and left us with a dearth of effective, mindful leaders.  If anything, traditional approaches to development have added to the inertia in leadership we see all around us.

If you don’t believe me, ask Dr. Allen Hamilton, neurosurgeon at the University of Arizona Medical Center.  Dr. Hamilton is employing a form of relationship-based, Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning.  An approach very much in alignment with our own.  If you happened to have missed it, here’s a story about Dr. Hamilton employing horses to cultivate emotional intelligence competencies, heightened sensitivity to non-verbal communication, and empathy with medical school students:  http://www.today.com/health/open-say-neigh-horses-help-teach-med-students-6C9790792.

Need a second opinion?  If you have a few minutes, I’d like to invite you to listen to Dr. Ravi Rao, a Harvard trained neurosurgeon (who also holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins), who joined me on a radio interview, sharing his thoughts on our approach.  

So, why is this approach so effective?  The research demonstrates our brains have plasticity.  We can, through conscious effort, literally change the way we interpret and react to the work around us on a basic, neurological level.  

Neuroscience also provides insights into why human beings resist change.  The brain consumes 25% of the blood glucose in our bodies at any given time.  The majority of it is used to support our visual cortex and our near-term memory, the two parts of your brain you are using to read this blog.  After that, the brain is very conservative in its use of energy.  It takes far less energy to follow a well established neural pathway than it does to create new ones.  Think of our established neural pathways as dry river beds cut deep into the side of a mountain.  Every time it rains, the water follows the path of least resistance, cutting an even deeper rivulet down the mountain.  Trying to get the water to flow in another direction takes significant effort.

Neuroscience guides our approach to sparking neurogenesis, particularly in the pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s executive center where the competencies of emotional intelligence emerge (self-awareness, social awareness, self regulation, and relationship management skills).  By introducing novelty, (having a professional enter into a round pen to co-create a shared goal with a horse without the use of language, touch, or dominating behaviors is pretty novel) we disrupt the established pathways associated with problem solving.  As the participant connects, engages and motivates the horse, fall-back behaviors emerge.  Interpersonal behaviors.  When we don’t know what to do we do what we know, and the leadership behaviors people demonstrate with their direct reports are revealed to the participant on their own accord.  These are powerful, breakthrough moments of self-awareness bursting to the surface of consciousness.  No one is telling the participant a thing…other than the horse.  The participant is seeing their own behaviors reflected back to them through the behaviors of the horse.  And horses don’t lie, shade or judge emotions.  Emotions are information to horses (this is also a neuroscience finding based upon the work of Dr. Jaak Panksepp), as they should be to us as well.

Research from the field also provides new assessment tools that enable us to hone in on specific areas of development.  Here’s a short, video white board describing this application:

As we move deeper into the 21st Century, adaptive challenges will continue to confront us.  Challenges in which we don’t know all the answers.  Challenges that will require collaborative efforts from a multi-cultural, multi-generational workforce to resolve.  And resolve at speed, in real time.  Working with horses from a neurologically substantiated perspective imparts learning agility in leaders.  Horses require us to park our ego at the barn door as well.  They aren’t impressed with titles, paychecks or artificial authority.  They are impressed with presence.  This approach enables leaders to learn how to dance in the moment, acting with mindful discernment even when confronted with highly novel challenges.  And to do so while maintaining congruency, transparency and authenticity.  Horses, and humans, demand no less.

© 2013, Terry Murray.

 

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May 7, 2013 · 8:43 am

Positioning with Purpose ~ Meaning, Engagement and Social Branding

The McKinsey Quarterly® just published a compelling article entitled, “Increasing the Meaning Quotient at Work”.  The article explores the power of meaningfulness in the workplace and shares several approaches to cultivate a sense of purposefulness throughout the organization.  We must admit, we have a bias in endorsing the research, as the concepts and application of psychological flow, emotional intelligence, the endowment effect, and inclusion through authentic engagement have been central tenets of our curriculum for the past four years.  For us, it’s a point of independent validation of our thought leadership (of being a step ahead of such prestigious, global firms like McKinsey) and approach to professional and organizational development.

Bell Curve FlowRenowned research psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has demonstrated that when people are in psychological flow, they’re performing at their optimal abilities.  Be it an athletic, artistic or intellectual pursuit.  In fact, I wrote extensively about flow in my book and identified methods for creating and sustaining the culture necessary to propagate flow in knowledge workers.  In fact, working from flow increases productivity five-fold.  By intentionally building an emotionally intelligent workforce and emotionally intelligent culture will emerge.  Incorporating the work of Daniel Goleman, one of the fathers of emotional intelligence research, and the research of affective neuroscientists Jaak Panksepp and Richard Davidson, we’ve created easy-to-use, yet powerful tools to assist our clients successfully navigate their emotional landscape (i.e., The Emotional Compass™).

Another interesting finding from the article is another lesson we’ve long understood and emphasized.  It is from the discipline of Applied Behavioral Economics, and in particular, the research of Dan Ariely.  When we own something, be it an idea or an item, we naturally overestimate its value.  The McKinsey study reveals this with the experiment of writing your own lottery ticket.  Dan Ariely demonstrated it at Duke, with basketball tickets.  We’ve seen it for years in our strategic planning practice and it is why we migrated from writing strategic plans for clients to coaching them through the process.  When we feel (notice it is feel, not think or believe) ownership, we adhere and champion our work.  We have a psychological and emotional skin in the game, which also drives engagement.

The other tool McKinsey talks about is storytelling.  Storytelling was humankind’s first knowledge management system.  It was how, for millennia, human beings passed on survival skills, and the cultural mythologies that defined their identity as a people.  This is another long-standing tool we’ve incorporated into our experiential learning workshops as well as our new, social knowledge management platform.  Stories are powerful psychological tools that resonate with us.  It’s part of why we so readily remember song lyrics; stories set to music.

One of the artifacts of the Industrial Age of management is the exclusive use of extrinsic goals and values to drive engagement.  Money, prestige and the big corner office may have worked well to motivate a homogenous workforce, but falls short in today’s multi-cultural, multi-generational workplace.  Extrinsic goals and values are conditioned values, things our society tells us we should value.  By introducing intrinsic goals and values, leaders can transcend both cultural and generational differences in orientation and perspective.  Intrinsic values are universal values we all share.  Authentic relationships, personal development and a sense of shared purpose.  These are the values that resonate neurologically in human beings.  They are ancient, and we can still see how they manifest themselves in primal societies in which survival is highly interdependent.

Companies are coming to realize how purposefulness, of being a part of something larger than ourselves, drives engagement.  Professional development demonstrates an investment by the firm in the individual as well, implicitly communicating, “You have value and are worth investing in.”  Incorporating professional development plans for each associate engrains this message throughout the entire enterprise and can help change the tenor of the culture.

These lessons have strategic value and we are seeing this value manifest itself through the use of social media to create social branding.  Home Depot’s Aprons in Action program is an example of this application being conducted on Facebook.  Home Depot currently has a social media voting contest in place to support nonprofits that work with our veterans.  Each month, four nonprofits compete for votes to win a $25,000 gift card.  This engages both the public and their own associates to feel a part of doing something good for the community…of being a part of positive change.  Just think how much more cost-effective this is compared to a 30 second spot on television!  It sends the implicit message, “We care,” that resonates on an emotional level with the company’s stakeholders.

This approach creates deep reach.  For example, we partner with Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy (SMART) to conduct our experiential learning workshops.  In doing so, our client’s investments in leadership development, team building and sales skills programs directly supports a community nonprofit that serves children with developmental disabilities and wounded veterans returning home.  It connects the developmental process with societal meaning and demonstrates service leadership.  When we heard SMART was in Home Depot’s contest this month, we sprang to action to create a fun promotional video for the contest. This level of engagement, of being a part of something bigger than us, mobilized action in support of their needs.  With that said, we invite you to please vote for SMART by visiting the Aprons in Action link.

This is the exclamation point on the power of social branding to drive engagement throughout an enterprise’s business ecology.  Videos are made, social media networks are leveraged, blogs are written and peer opinion and shared intention drives traffic to the Home Depot Facebook page.  Value is created in every direction that benefits Home Depot, SMART, and Performance Transformation.  How we feel, about Home Depot in this example, compels positive behaviors from outside the organization that contribute to the company’s brand equity and social standing.

Perhaps more than ever, employee engagement, customer engagement, leadership, marketing and brand management, are intersecting not so much in the head, but in the heart!

© 2013, Terry Murray.

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