Emotional Intelligence, The Heart of Leadership

Freedman, Joshua

Joshua Freedman is the author of  The Heart of Leadership. Joshua is the CEO and Founder of the World’s most extensive Emotional Intelligence organization. It is called Six Seconds, www.6seconds.org. He leads a network of 50,000 change makers teaching skills so that people are more are more intentional and more purposeful so that people and organizations do better. He is one of the handful of experts in the world with over a decade of full-time proven experience in emotional development. He also has a book called Inside Change.

He is the co-author of seven psychometric assessments that are in 12 different languages. Things like the SEI Brain Brief, Organizational Vital Signs, and has worked with all kinds of clients all over the world including the Navy, FedEx, Make a Wish, The UN, and MR. Probably more so than most people that I know, Joshua has an incredible reach into global aspects; training people in the Seconds Model that we really want to tap into; Joshua can really give you a good sense of emotional intelligence not only in the US, but worldwide about what is similar and what is different.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Joshua, can you give us the origination of 6 Seconds. What does the 6 Seconds stand for?

Joshua Freedman: Well, emotions are chemicals and they last in our bodies and brains for about 6 seconds. So if you believe as we do that emotions are actually valuable, then we have this little 6 seconds of window of opportunity to capture that insight, to capture that energy, to connect, solve problems, to know what is really going on inside ourselves and each other.

By the way, it also means that if you are feeling something for longer than 6 seconds, at some level you are choosing to do that and there are processes that you can learn so that you can redirect your emotions in a way that is going to be more useful to you.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That is so profound and so helpful because as we were talking before, today demands improved performance with fewer resources, tighter deadlines, and stressed co-workers and clients, and it’s how we choose to respond, right, to that stuff that makes us effective. That is so powerful, that 6 seconds.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So Joshua, you were saying, just so people can understand and it’s so foundational, that the emotions we have are fleeting, they last 6 seconds. But then say again, because there are a lot of emotions that last longer, stress and cortisol stays in your body. Say a little bit about when it stays longer.

Joshua Freedman: We are recreating those.

Dr. Relly Nadler: After 6 seconds, you are saying, we are recreating them.

Joshua Freedman: Yes. Emotion is an automatic biological response to a better opportunity. It’s a signal. Then we start thinking about it and we start saying, wait a minute, this is good, this is bad, this person sucks, this person is great, this person is whatever. We start going through all of these scenarios and you know that sometimes we get really caught up in that cycle. We are recreating and releasing more and more and more of these chemicals and they start affecting every living cell in the human body.

We just get ramped up with these chemicals flooding through us and it makes it really hard for us to redirect and move and be intentional.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Just to support that, Joshua, in our book, What Happy Working Mother’s Know we wrote about the sex differences in these chemicals that are released and they can be powerfully debilitating to the point you’ve made, we don’t recognize when six seconds is up. As Relly loves to say, and I love when he uses this phrase, we reinjure ourselves by continuing to focus on that emotion and the pain. It’s so important. I understand that you have developed some new measures for EQ that you are going to tell us about that can help with some of these emotional reactions and how they are measured.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Joshua, just a couple more things on this. Let’s say that Cortisol build-up that happens with stress, and again I’m hearing you say and I think this is really critical for our audience to hear, that after six seconds we are now on automatic and we are recreating this. Then a lot of times they say that the cortisol build-ups can last for quite a while before it dissipates the stress. How long as far as your experience and your research does that reaction last in the body?

Joshua Freedman: When we trigger the autonomic nervous system, and we could get really technical about this, but we stay on alert. The reason is that let’s just go back to our great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather walking through the jungle and there is this little rustle in the leaves. He get’s alerted, right, and maybe it’s no big deal, but he stays alerted and he lives. Where the other guy who is like, oh, no big deal, whatever; he dies.

It’s our stress arousal system and part of what it is built for is to help us deal with threats that don’t just come one threat at a time. When we are in a threatening situation we often are going to have multiple threats. Each one of those little moments of interaction where we get a stimulus, we interpret it, and then we escalate. Each one of those little moments is under six seconds and then they build up and up and up. We stay alert to threat for at least 20 minutes once the ANS has been triggered.

Dr. Relly Nadler: And so that is where this whole idea of why it’s so important to know what the heck is going on for yourself. If you don’t, 95% of the time we are on automatic. So all of these processes that you are talking about, Joshua, we are not even aware of and we are exacerbating and escalating it.

Joshua Freedman: It’s like wearing dark sunglasses inside and just walking in and you don’t even notice. God, there’s all of this data that I’m missing…why can’t I see anything? Why are the lights off? Dude, take your glasses off and notice what’s happening! When you can get that data, and emotions are data, right, they are data about what is happening inside of us and around us.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know that’s fascinating because that dim glass analogy is very powerful. I’ve been personally working with Special Forces Operations for the last several years, Relly has joined our team on a couple of expeditions to deal with making this Special Forces Operators aware of their emotional intelligence. When we have done these programs it is fascinating because they are so immersed in that energy of avoiding the context of emotion, that it takes a lot more than an assessment. It takes experiential immersion in something to get them to understand. Just for a quick giggle, when I first went down to Navy Special Warfare a few years ago to hold a program on emotional intelligence, we called it just that and Joshua, I’m sure our audience would get a giggle out of this: 50 people were supposed to show up from Navy Special Warfare—these are our teams that are doing wonderful things for us around the world that we have wonderful movies about like Act of Valor, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lone Survivor. Only about 5 guys showed up because they were afraid I was going to make them share their emotions.

Joshua Freedman: When we worked with the Marine Crops., one of the first questions was, could we call it something different?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Yah, we did, we ended up calling it strategic leadership and then everybody came.

Dr. Relly Nadler: And I think that’s why it goes back to for any leader or executive; some of it is packaging but just as Joshua was saying, you’re making decisions all day long, and these emotions are flooding you and if you are not aware of it, you probably are making some inaccurate or poor decisions all day long.

Joshua Freedman: Okay. We have this vision of a billion people practicing the skills of emotional intelligence.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Wouldn’t that be a blessing?

Joshua Freedman: So it raised the question well, what do you mean by practicing? What we mean is, and we have a little three-step process and other people have different processes; I don’t care what process you use, but the point is it’s not just that you have that intelligence but you bring it to the table. The way we teach people to bring it to the table is just a simple process:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What options do I have?
  3. What do I really mean to do here?

If you ask yourself those three questions, over and over and over again, you bring this clarity to the situation. Emotions are there, they are driving you, what is happening—wait a minute, I don’t have to just… I don’t have to wear these glasses, I can change glasses. I have a choice. Well, what choices do I have? And then, this third part is the most powerful piece of it. From that awareness, from stepping back from their reaction; what do I really mean to do here? That’s connecting with that.

We have an assessment that where our whole model is built around those three questions. We have an assessment of the competencies that enables somebody to effectively answer those.

I can tell you, twenty years ago if you said to me, hey, what are you feeling? I would have said, okay. I couldn’t really answer the question. Then you say, well what options do you have? I would have said, “What do you mean? What am I going to eat for lunch?”

Expanding the repertoire and understanding those emotions, then understanding how to create options. Then being clear about what we really want. That is a process to learn how to answer that. Its three simple, powerful questions and we just put them in a circle. We ask them over and over again.

Dr. Relly Nadler: What’s good about that Joshua, and we know from some of the neuroscientists, is that those questions are really more prefrontal cortex questions. You are activating the part of the brain that is bringing in the intelligence even though you may be feeling a lot. So you are getting kind of that mind shift.

Joshua Freedman: We are bridging the two parts of the brain; the lower part and upper part. You’re work about True North Leadership, is exactly what this third question is about. What is my True North? Where do I really want to go? I might just be being a jerk. We get jerk inertia and we start being a jerk… and we say wait a minute, that’s not what I really want to be.

Want to know more? Listen to the entire interview with Joshua Freedman, above, without commercials.


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