Today is my son’s first day of Kindergarten; what a precious milestone along his life’s journey. He’ll have many and more significant milestones in the future, but I’m a firm believer that each step should be celebrated. Aptly, we had a “car dance party” on the way to school, took a lot of pictures, and brought—at his urging—an apple to give to his new teacher. I felt tingly as I walked out of the school, like this is as much a milestone for me as for him.
I’ve spent the morning reflecting on my own journey, and the milestones along the way. My undergraduate degree is in Psychology, my first master’s program focused heavily on counseling and I have an MBA. I’ve been a student of culture, power and anything related to leadership for many years and am incredibly interested in the role of spirituality in our lives. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, so had a rigorous religious upbringing. Once on my own, I explored other religions and spiritual philosophies, beginning with a Westerner’s introduction to Taoism through The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet in college and over time coming to follow the Dalai Lama’s Mind & Life Institute, a collaboration between his Holiness and scientists to understand the human mind and the benefits of meditation and other practices from the world’s contemplative traditions through contemporary scientific lenses. Given the range, it’s not surprising that in my own practice I have looked for ways to blend these areas of interest and expertise.
My professional portfolio over the past twenty years has consisted of, simply stated, converting what I have learned into a form that allows me to disseminate it to others. I take theory (from the widely varying disciplines and schools of thought described above) and help people learn how to put into practice behaviors that will build their effectiveness. The major challenge, especially over the past 10 years since the Internet and pace of life has totally altered people’s attention span (see my blog post “Unplugged”), has been distilling years and years of research and acquired experience into 3-4 magic bullet points that can fit onto one PowerPoint slide. Yes, I actually get requests like this all the time—“give me the 3 steps to motivating my staff” or “in a sound bite, tell me how to be more influential”—because most of my clients are practical and results-oriented (e.g. looking for immediate answers). I have to say, as difficult as it has been, I’m pretty satisfied with my ability to balance theoretical knowledge with my clients’ desire for practical skills that can be immediately implemented. For the magic bullet lovers:
- Focus on understanding your own and others’ emotions.
The next leg of my leadership development journey and practice will focus heavily on understanding emotions. This isn’t a new area of interest for me but it’s certainly one that I’m ready to take to a new depth. I’ve spent years trying to convince people of the need to understand the power and impact of emotions for maximum leadership effectiveness rather than relegating it to the marginalized “touchy-feely” category. Yet, everywhere I look I see evidence of a shift toward blending Western practicality with ancient wisdom from other cultures, now made more palatable to us U.S. folks because we have scientific evidence of the benefits.
For those Readers who are intrigued by the idea of understanding the role of emotions, I encourage you to check out Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. For even the most practical of people you will delighted by his research and its application in personal and work settings. Goleman found that most of the characteristics that differentiate outstanding performers are social and emotional competencies, rather than directly correlated with intelligence or technical ability. Given the important role of Emotional Intelligence for maximum effectiveness, it’s also important to state that emotional competencies can be learned or increased. We aren’t “stuck with what we have” at any given point.
For those who are ready to increase your own effectiveness, I encourage you to take an Emotional Intelligence assessment and/or work with a mentor or leadership coach to help you get a clearer sense of your developmental opportunities, and create a plan. Remember that a serious pursuit will require a structured plan and focused commitment. So think about the ingredients necessary to make a change in your own life possible:
- the tension between who you are and who you want to be
- the feeling of reward when you can build on your strengths
- the sense of ownership when you can create your own milestones
- the challenge and support you get from people you trust (which you will have because the pursuit of increased emotional competence is dependent on your interactions with others)
Good luck getting started on the next leg ofyour life and leadership journey. Tweet me (@DeEttaMJones) and let me know what you’re doing and learning along the way. Or let me know how I can be of support or assistance. I’m eager to learn with and from you. As for me, as a member of your learning community—I promise to continue sharing what I learn.