Emotional intelligence for lawyers & corporate executive leaders

(M)en decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality or authority or any legal standard, or judicial precedent, or statute.

If you are curious whose quote that is, it’s Cicero – the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. As it turns out, human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years.

We’re Emotional Beings

We’re still profoundly emotional beings. EI (emotional intelligence) has come a long way since Yale research (1990) and popular books by Goleman (1995). Like the study of “mindfulness”, EI has more mainstream recognition and a greater amount of professional “success” attributed to it than IQ and technical skills.

Mindfulness Training is Gaining Professional Recognition

Gone are the days where law firms and the corporate world recruits by academic achievements and IQ alone. So what in brief, is emotional intelligence good for in the professional workplace, business and law?

  • Better judgement
  • Higher productivity
  • More team cohesion and client relationships
  • Higher sales and conversion percentages
  • Great work satisfaction in teams, leading to higher retention rates.
  • Improved customer or client service (due to improved listening and empathy skills)
  • Better organizational communication
  • More effective leadership (leading to a competitive edge).

Specifically for law firms and the daily lives of lawyers, EI can have a significant impact. Historically, the legal profession has been heavily influenced by the Stoic/Puritan frame of reference and an emphasis on ‘reason’, this is changing towards a more holistic model of human behavior.

The “Nimble Heart” in the Workplace

How might emotional intelligence help those in the Legal Profession?

  1. The ability to correctly identify client values and motivations
  2. The ability to suppress emotions that might cloud objectivity
  3. Psycho-social identification & sensitivity, namely: active listening, empathy and compassion
  4. Reading body language, non-verbal cues and facial micro emotions
  5. Correctly matching persuasion strategies with the target audience
  6. Manage stress and self-regulate effectively in high-pressured environments and long work-weeks
  7. Conflict resolution, halting escalations and defusing negative emotions
  8. Establishing rapport, trust and warmth
  9. Facilitating easy exchanges of information
  10. Adapting not just to frames of reference, but to people more effectively
  11. Influencing the emotions of others through effective communication, feedback and motivational impact.

Clearly EI embodies a broad spectrum of rather holistic “soft skills” that are essential to all professional industry for leaders, managers, consultants and employees.

Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?

In the “real world” of corporate hierarchies and law firm politics, given that candidates have comparable IQ, experience and technical skills, EQ then becomes the unique qualifying differentiator (UQD).

There’s a significant moment now for MBA programs among others, to actively integrate EI and soft skills training in their curriculum, sometimes called applied human science.

  • Graduate leadership programs continue to integrate EI training into their programs
  • Corporate training programs now specialize in EI training
  • Emotional intelligence has been correlated with leadership qualities

 

Professional efficacy is no longer solely correlated with IQ, so what then can it be attributed to?

A Most Vital Trait in a Top CEO

For CEOs and top executives, EI has a lot to offer in terms of global corporate identity.

EI underpins the ability to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

This is an “intangible” of the charismatic CEO, who champions the corporate entity internally, much as some CEOs harness their personal brand for effective PR external to the organization and corporate brand.

To earn the respect and fidelity, and to motivate and mobilize talent, are what true visionaries do.

Many HR recruiters and analytics talk about a “skills gap”, EI could well be this “gap”. What we might be seeing as well is a “leadership shortage”.

Never in human history has Emotional Intelligence been at such a higher premium. Never has leadership been such a corporate differentiator in its ability to drive ROI.

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Masculine traits contribute to mental health problems

 

Recent research from Indiana University Bloomington shows traditional stereotypes of masculinity are linked to mental health challenges. The greater the conformity to these masculine “traits” of “a desire to win, need for emotional control, and risk-taking” and “playboy behaviour or sexual promiscuity”, the higher the risk of mental health issues.

In 2015, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, film-maker, was inspired to direct “The Mask You Live In” to bring to light the narrow definition of masculinity in US society, and and its negative impact on men’s mental health and social dysfunction.

We can choose re-write the story of who we are and who we want to be, to be rid of the bonds of these unhelpful “traits” and “stereotypes”.

To read about men’s experiences of this, go to this article from the Guardian.

 

Pursuing happiness is going about it the wrong way

Show up to your emotions.  Sometimes we have to confront and get through or let go. The constant pursuit of happiness as a goal and the flip side of constant evaluating how or if you are ‘happy enough’ is counter-productive.

Susan David, Harvard psychologist and author of ‘Emotional Agility’, says in Business Insider,

… ‘showing up’ is stopping any struggle that you might have within yourself about whether you should feel something, shouldn’t feel something, should think something, shouldn’t think something, whether it’s a bad thought or good thought.

Just be.

Get through or Let go?

Recently I spoke about ‘going through it’, about how life throws lessons at you, lessons you can’t avoid or ignore. In order to grow as a person, you do need to see the lessons that present themselves (yes, there will be many, great and small) and learn.

‘It’ can be whatever difficult situation in which you find yourself. You have a choice each time to either ‘let go’ or ‘go through it’. Both are learning opportunities.

A little about ‘letting go’. By this I mean to have non-attachment, to stop holding on to ‘things’… to what you think will make your life better or to the conditioned belief you have thus far not questioned or to the behaviour that no longer serves your life.

In this space, letting go is making peace with it. As you come to terms with the ‘things’ within the situation, for example, your need for control, your need for the crutch, your need for approval, your need for material indulgence etc. As you make peace with these, their impact cease to be.

If a situation still bothers you, if it still cages you, makes you close up, makes you bitter and resentful… then you are not letting go. No matter how much you tell yourself that you are. And if you can’t let go, then the ‘it is not affecting me’ or the ‘I am fine with it’ that you tell yourself, is you doing avoidance. The test whether you are letting go is this – letting go comes with a sense of peace.

So when letting go is untenable, not viable, unavailable or impossible then time to face the situation. As I said, going through a difficult situation involves some ‘doing’ and a whole lot of ‘being’. Where there is pain or sorrow or any difficult emotion, at some point you need to sit with it, maybe even endure it for a time. However you decide to choose to ‘go through it’, you do.

Both ‘going through it’ and ‘letting go’ have a quality of hardness – where you fight for your survival, you overcome the obstacles in your way… and also of softness – where you embrace your vulnerability, sit with your sorrow, bear witness to your life. And in those moments, there is strength, there is courage.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016

Acceptance – the choice to begin a fresh

You wake each morning to a new day. And with each new day, you can choose to begin afresh, or you can choose to see the same things, do similar things… and more likely experience the same discontent, annoyed by the same matters, and aggravated by the same people or situations. Every. Single. Day.

As Anais Nin said, ‘we see the world as we are’ from our own unique lens. The same-same each day suggests the same old stale perspectives.

You know there are different perspectives or different approaches such as:

  • one that brings peace of mind instead of a disruptive unfocused mind, or
  • one that opens a generous heart instead of a closed constricted heart.

I know because I have been in that place of resistance and subsequent peace.
Because of something you are not accepting, your peace of mind is shattered. What that is, you do not know… yet. All you can deduce is a sense of restlessness manifesting in impatience, annoyance and frustration.

Does that sound oddly familiar?
Perhaps it is a new path before you that is unfamiliar and uncertain, the need for acceptance from others not received, or perhaps it is a fear of that contrary self, speaking out inside. What are you not accepting of your self that exists without your knowing? Is it something in your personal or professional life that you do not wish to confront? Can you answer the questions? If so, why are there still problems? The unfamiliar is everywhere and around all of us.
Acceptance takes more than an ‘I know what it is’. In spite of the old adage, knowing is ‘not’ half the battle, it is the beginning of it. Acceptance is not resignation to a state and certainly not avoidance of reality.

What then is acceptance?
Acceptance is an acknowledgement and warm embracing with goodwill and without guilt.
It is saying, “I’m ok. I’ve got this”, “it is what it is” or “all will be as it should be.” When we get to a place where we can accept who we are and where we are in our life, we gain peace of mind.
Peace of mind also comes from our acceptance of others and of our world. Through acceptance of others and of our world, we attain a balance to better handle situations in life and in the work place.
In my less than gracious moments, in my interaction with others, I do end up watching and occasionally internally begin questioning, somewhat critically, why others do what they do, to grapple with the why, how and wherefores of our relationships. Negativity abounds.
In a similar vein, we are agitated over how others perceive us, and why things happen to us.
Is it beneficial to your wellbeing to be stuck in the vicious cycle of blame and victimhood?
Does it bring you peace of mind?

What does acceptance do?
Accepting what is – the person before you, the situation in the moment – allows you to step out and see a way forward. When you accept others for who they are, you give yourself space to explore, without interference of:

  • The pushing
  • The resisting
  • The explaining
  • The confronting

You give yourself permission to be free.
Sometimes things happen, they just do. It has little to do with you, you are not responsible or to blame; you are simply entangled in it. Can you accept that? Do you wail and rail against society or against the Universe? Or do you accept it?

I do not mean to ignore or undermine the awful situations in which some find themselves. When you can step out from the vicious cycle – the whirlwind of blaming others or yourself and claiming your victimhood repeatedly – you will feel empowered to make positive choices. You can then acknowledge the thing has occurred; and from that place, move forward with a vision to create something new.

Like forgiveness, acceptance takes time and can only happen when you are ready to do so. It is different for everyone… there is no rule, no timeframe… just the awareness of what can be. It is a choice for you to make.

What do you need to accept, about yourself, your relationships, your situation, and about your world, in order to move forward, to begin afresh…?

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016