22 Nov

Relationships? Who needs them?

‘91% of employees say communication issues drag executives down.. a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders.’      Forbes – Interact/Harris Poll

 

This week, we have briefly introduced the fourth facet of what contributes to emotional intelligence – Relationship Management. We can be very self-aware and manage our emotions well. We can even have great empathy for others but if we don’t motivate or persuade, encourage others, effect change, handle discord or collaborate well, then it can all be for not a lot. Unless you’re the last person left standing on earth, you will have to encounter others and have relationships with them. Humans are meant to be social beings and as such, you’ll inevitably have some kind of relations with them. Ensuring that those connections are healthy ones will make all the difference in the world.

 

When coaching clients, this aspect of emotional intelligence is often the one found to be in the greatest need of development. Most people have good intentions. Once they are aware of what needs work or how others might be interpreting certain situations or behaviours, they are keen to effect change. The reality though is that many think that they have good relationships – that they communicate clearly and well, that they inspire others and are generally good at encouraging others. However, when we properly examine some of those relationships through the coaching process, we learn that things are not what they seem or what the coachees assume.

 

Recently I spoke at an event on the topic of ‘Harnessing Curiosity to drive your Career’ at the CFA Institute. As an experiment, I said the word ‘green’ and went round the room to ask what people’s interpretation was of the word. Some were literal in the colour (but what shade?), one thought about money, another envisaged the environment and another pictured trees. The point here being that we may think we are on the same page, but we may not be. This is true for so many of my coaching clients, whether they are working on being better leaders, looking for a promotion or managing their teams to greater efficiency and performance. All this requires effective emotional intelligence and relationship management.

 

‘85-90% of leadership success is linked to social and emotional intelligence’ Korn Ferry

 

Case Study

Client E has been a leader for a long time and has a great relationship with her team of senior leaders. They like her and respect her work ethic. She communicates well with them and they trust her enough to come to her with issues when they encounter them. Sounds wonderful!

 

Problem is that this is the perception that E has. However, when we asked her team members, they said that yes, they liked her and admired her work ethic. They trusted her to look after them. However, they did not feel they understood her vision, if she had one at all. They also felt that she didn’t really understand them. Although she was articulate, not many seemed to really comprehend her objectives and as such, there was a lot of confusion and duplication of work. This resulted in her micro managing her team and undermining them, however unintentional. Due to some members of her team ‘getting’ her better whilst others did not, it resulted in some in-fighting and conflict amongst team members which further reduced productivity. E’s workload increased because she had to get her team’s ‘subpar’ work done, thereby not delivering on her own objectives. The irony of it all.

 

The work we did was extensive but a large part of it was focused on her emotional intelligence. As we are discussing managing relationships today, I’ll break it down below with reference to E.

 

What is Relationship Management?

 

  • Inspiration – having an explicit and compelling vision that resounds with others bringing about confidence, imagination and drive. Often it’s about leading by example.

In E’s case, she thought she was leading by example by working hard alongside her team. However this only works if you’re setting the right example.

  • Influence – being able to persuade and interest others through respect that has been earned

E did have some of their respect but not wholly. As she was unclear with her vision and only had partial respect, she encountered more resistance to her plans than expected.

  • Develop Others – showing true interest in others. Listening, encouraging & helping them learn and grow to further themselves

E had every intention of doing this and thought she was by having frequent one-on-one catchups. However, one has to actively listen to understand how to help develop these individuals. It may take time but the outcome has far more solid foundations for the future.

  • Change Catalyst – people who incentivize change when needed tend to have earned the respect of those they lead.   They are able to make compelling arguments, have a clear vision, take feedback and act in collaboration with others to ensure no parties are left disenfranchised.

E wanted to enact change for her team but was unable to put forward a compelling enough argument to take everyone forward with her.

  • Conflict Management – the ability to manage difficult situations without further inciting unhealthy emotions and behaviours. Conflict, if healthy, is a positive, constructive and necessary part of growth.

However managing that was hard for E because she was too busy doing others’ work and micromanaging their work, as opposed to managing her team. Simple conversations snowballed into emotional outbursts and tantrums.

  • Teamwork and Collaboration – leaders should model respect, helpfulness and cooperation in this domain, which in turn inspires effective, exuberant engagement to the mutual effort. It’s also about recognizing others’ talents and contributions and helping them use those for the greater good.

E had all the best of intentions to work with her team and to a certain extent, it worked well. However, through a less effective outcome from the above points, active and enthusiastic engagement from the team was low.

 

A lot of hard work…

 

came from E and she finally saw light at the end of the tunnel after much work by her. A lot of her disappointment came from the fact that it looked like she didn’t care for and believe in the team. The opposite was true but it takes objectivity, a large dose of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management to ensure that team turns into the high-performing executive function that it can be.

 

With E, we went through all six points carefully, observed, reviewed and analysed what was working and what wasn’t. It took several iterations and a lot of time & effort to achieve the results that she did. It required a lot of undoing of established thinking and actual habits. However, the endeavour was worth it. Her executive team has gone from strength to strength, and so has she.

 

Hopefully this very brief introduction to emotional intelligence and the 4 facets that make it up have offered you some food for thought. I cannot stress how important it is to you, your wellbeing and your relationship with others. All you have to do is listen to others talk about how p.issed off they are at work with a boss/colleague/employee/client, or how they’ve had an unhealthy row with someone at home – you’ll find that EQ (or rather a lack of) will feature very highly there.

 

Good luck! Go forth and be more emotionally intelligent. You’ll have a much happier, more fruitful and productive life!!!

 

 

 

 

Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk

 

 

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27 Sep

Get back inside your box!

Recently I wrote a short article for the My Labels series for the @metroUK @metro.co.uk newspaper on being Asian. I was exceedingly flattered to be asked but wow, what a difficult piece to write. Although I have many attributes that would slot me nicely into that category, I would also say that to leave me there would not have captured me well at all. I started feeling claustrophobic at just having that one designation.

 

Earlier this week, I posted (a little gleefully, I will confess) an article about women being better traders and investors for they are not prone to panic unlike their male counterparts. Women together unite and cheer, especially those who have been derided ceaselessly by anxiety-stricken men. For me, the main reason for celebrating this article is that women are reputed to be ‘overly emotional’, ‘drama queens’, ‘hysterical’ (see @serenawilliams), ‘nervous ninnies’, ‘hormonal’ – you get the picture, and yet this article proves the reverse. Although I did not particularly experience this in my place of work, I did hear this about others, and who knows what was said about me behind my back? These descriptions take even more significance in male-dominated industries where testosterone-like behaviours are the norm and anything resembling ‘typical’ feminine traits is pooh-poohed.

 

This article isn’t intended to be a male-bashing one, in fact to the contrary. I’m here today to highlight stereotypes, the danger of succumbing to them with little evidence and thought and the opportunity cost of not looking beyond that stereotype.

 

My experience of working in the City was remarkably, mostly free of bias and discrimination. My bosses, peers and colleagues were for the most part respectful, intelligent and appreciative of my contribution. Sure, I encountered a few p.erverts and lecherous octopuses (tentacles/hands everywhere) but I’d suggest those exist in all industries and walks of life, male and female. In equal measure, my amazing team members were all male, and to varying degrees, more ‘feelings’ focused than others. Some were hot-headed, others level-headed. We had a nervous fund manager would change his mind about the direction of a trade as soon as the order was given.

 

The point is that none of these people fit any stereotype and they bring a lot more to the party than the stereotype. And yet, we live in a world where people are so keen to judge and put people in boxes. Psychologically, it is a known phenomenon whereby it helps people sort and process masses of information quickly and efficiently. The former is certainly true but sadly, the latter can lead to some very unhealthy conclusions drawn. In fact, I would just call it downright lazy if one’s opinions are drawn solely from shallow stereotypes and nothing else.

 

What is a Stereotype?

 

A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing’            OED

 

I have been known to remark that ‘stereotypes exist for a reason’. However, I would like to add that, the reason may not be all that good and the stereotype will have failed to take the whole picture into consideration.

 

Case Study I

I have a lot of clients who will have performed the same role for a long time. As such they get pigeon-holed into stereotypical traits that someone in that position would have. This stereotype is often reinforced by the client himself who starts believing in this proverbial press. Client X is a sales trader and has been doing it for over two decades and is pretty successful in this role. He wants to move on and do something else – hopefully equally as challenging and rewarding but in a different guise. Ideally, it would be in a more senior role either internally or external to his current company. However, he doesn’t know how to go about working out what that new role is and how to prove that he is ready for this new challenge. He has stereotyped himself into believing and assuming that all he has to offer is the ability to buy and sell shares and understand how the markets work. Speaking with headhunters, many only saw him in the same way – someone with all the extroverted and slippery traits of Gordon Gecko ie an implausible offering for management, and nothing else.

 

Case Study II

Client Y was looking to improve the perception that her fellow board members had of her. She noted that she was proud of the fact that she had been invited to join the board but she felt that her presence was not particularly desired nor respected. Off the mark comments like ‘We were going to ask you to head up this new venture but because we know family is important to you, we didn’t think you’d want this extra responsibility’. How on earth does one not get up and punch the lights out of someone?? Every time she spoke, she was ‘mansplained’ to or interrupted. It was just assumed that as she was a female, she would not understand what was being discussed at board level but they needed a token representative. Irrelevant was the fact that she was the highest performer in her division, she had a PhD in the subject matter of the business and that she had previous leadership roles under her belt. She was deemed a ‘bit of fluff’ to appease the box-tickers.

 

Some tips:

  • Think about the stereotypes about you. Where are they correct and how & when do they work for you? Knowing this will help you relate better to how people might perceive you and perhaps you will have better empathy in facilitating improved conversations
  • Think about what there is about you that isn’t the stereotype and which of those are transferable. In Case Study I, sales traders use a lot of other skills such as negotiation; building and managing long-term relationships with clients; understanding clients needs and delivering; the ability to think and act with thought & care but quickly; the capacity to juggle and manage multiple conversations & tasks at the same time whilst still performing a role with focus, care and dexterity; being able to coordinate and collaborate with clients, various internal and external departments for a successful outcome – the list is endless
  • Stand up for yourself and dispel the myths through careful and considered words and action. Prove that you are more than just your stereotype. It will be a very satisfying moment when you show your detractors just how capable you are
  • Constructively and actively challenge the critics. Call them out on their bull sh*t. Try and understand why they think what they do. Engage with them to see if you can help change their viewpoints and perhaps you will be able to do the same for them too
  • There is every chance that the stereotypers and their subsequent behaviours don’t even know they are doing it. It’s that concept of unconscious bias. Help them learn to be less ignorant

Ultimately if you don’t like being stuck in the box that was chosen for you, think about how you would like to be seen and walk the walk!

 

This article will have barely scratched the surface on the topic of stereotypes but I am hoping that it will have given you something to think about. Stereotypes are not easy and they certainly dumb humanity down a lot if it generalizes people to the extent of sheer stupidity, ignorance and possibly bigotry and hatred. If smart, people will use the similarities and diverse strengths in equal measure that we all have to offer. The world would be a much happier, productive and successful place. You are greater than the sum of all your parts. Get out of your box and thrive!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk

 

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