Emotional Intelligence in Sports – Self Awareness

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John Haime is the president of Learning Links and the President of New Edge Performance, Inc., a world class performance specialist organization.  John is a leading expert in emotional intelligence as it relates to performance. He is a former world tournament professional golfer and international consultant in the area of performance and emotional intelligence. He has worked with some of the world’s top companies, leaders and performers to help them reach the next level of performance. He is the author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve More … in Business, Sports and Life published by Morgan James (New York).

Dr. Relly Nadler:  When you look at what the key aspects are that allow people to be in the top 10%–most people want to know how to be in the top 10%, who would not. When you think about how smart someone is, and you think about any kind of technical expertise they might have, there is this concept of emotional intelligence. The key factor to move up in an organization, depending on the research, some are 30-40%, some as high as 90% of the data saying it’s just emotional intelligence aspects; understanding yourself, managing yourself, understanding others, and managing others. That is the key to moving up into the top 10%.

John works with athletes who want to be not in the top 10% but the top 1%, but also he is working with a variety of people at different ages. What a great thing for our youth to know about.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the questions we always like to start off with is who influenced you in your career?  What really compels you to stay attached to that influence?

John Haime: I can’t say that there was anybody specific but I think we can all probably say that along  the way there were teachers, coaches and parents and relatives; all these people sort of are part of your makeup. I had some great folks growing up, I had a few teachers that were very influential. My brother and I played all sports growing up so we had some great coaches that instilled some great values in us.

With respect to currently, I guess, going back about 15 years when Dan Goleman was writing his book about Emotional Intelligence and sort of commercializing the subject and simplifying it a little bit too. It was a nice, simple, easy model to follow. I sort of took a lot of the information from Dan and Richard Boyatzis at the time, and integrated it into a model that we thought we could use and thought was most applicable with our skill set. I guess that’s basically where we started. Everybody has a lot of influences, I think, but going back there are a lot of people, certainly Goleman and Boyatzis.

In leadership, one gentleman stands out to me, Bill George. I’ve read all of his books and watched his stuff on PBS, and follow his thinking. He’s really a great guy and a really nice model of emotional intelligence. Not only was he successful in the companies that he ran, but he ran them the right way. Now he is at Harvard, I believe helping young people with some of the thoughts and the ideas.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think the power that you have working with athletes and coaches—I also grew up on sports and probably next to your parents, coaches are probably the most influential. They can either build you up or they can tear you down. Can you talk about what kind of programs you do and what kind of clients you work with?

John Haime: We work with a variety of clients across the board. On the corporate side we work with executive teams, CEOs, sales teams, management teams and help them on the Emotional Intelligence side. With a focus really on leadership, and that’s been exciting. One of the programs that we deliver that has been very popular is called Mastering the Game. Essentially what we do is we try to bring emotional intelligence to life so that people can really feel it and experience it and see it so that we can highlight it and then give them a plan to work on the emotional competencies.

Part of that program actually involves the game of golf. As everyone knows it’s a very difficult game, and a very emotional game. So, we put people on the golf course in the morning of the program. We assess people and then put them on the golf course and then out of that experience comes some really rich discussion and some exercises that we give people and it really gets people delving into where they need to go as far as improving the emotional competencies.

On the corporate side we kind of found that little niche and it’s been quite popular primarily because we allow people to experience it. We have other programs but that has been a popular one.

On the sports side we work with some of the top athletes and teams in the world. We have an inventory the Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory. We are able to measure the emotional intelligence of athletes in the 10 key competencies that separate average and elite athletes. We use that as the primary, fundamental base of the program. We have created a process around that that helps the athletes develop the competencies and really gets them in a positive framework. We have been getting fantastic results from the athletes that have been through this process.

That’s where we go on the corporate side and on the athletic side. We also have some artists. So, all types of performers really, it’s the whole concept and the whole idea of emotional intelligence in performance and how through enhancing emotional intelligence you can really improve performance.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: When you and I spoke last we were talking about a tool that you were developing for youngsters. Any update on that?

John Haime: It’s interesting because we typically work with athletes. We have some little tools we have developed for athletes of about 14 years of age because when we give athletes The Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory, first of all, they have to be able to understand the questions on the inventory, and second of all, it’s difficult for young people under 14 to really understand what they are feeling and really understand their emotions. We all have kids and we all know that if you ask them a question they are not really sure. The Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory we use for athletes over 14 years of age. For under 14 we have a couple of little things that we use with athletes, but our primary focus has been athletes over 14 where they really can tap into their emotions a little bit and we can get the information that we need to help them.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I know your Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory is taken from a lot of the competencies from Primal Leadership and some of the same influences that Cathy and I have. Tell us a little bit about your personal story of golf. Being a sports fan as I am, 62 is quite low. What is the lowest? Have you broke under 60 in golf.

John Haime: Some people have shot 59, which is the record. I think there has been a 58—I guy shot a 58 I think in a US Open qualifier. The time when I shot the 62 it was more unusual certainly, than it is now. With the equipment and what we know now, the involvement of the athletes and the conditions of the golf courses and those sorts of things, it’s not unusual now for somebody to shoot 60, 61 or 62. There are quite a few of them shot during the year.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Can you tell us a little bit about your story and how that led you into emotional intelligence? You started as an athlete and then it sounds like kind of backed into the emotional intelligence stuff.

John Haime: That’s exactly right. Certainly when I reflect on my career I was one of the most talented young golfers in Canada. I had a full scholarship to a US school, I turned Pro, I played for seven years. I really believe that I can attribute a lack of success in the game of golf to the emotional element and me really not being able to manage and control, understand or be aware of my emotions under pressure. That’s it. I had the talent, I believe. I had the physical talent but I didn’t have the mental toughness and wasn’t able to put it all together consistently when playing a professional sport. That is what led me to an interest in performance, emotional intelligence and an interest in leadership too. When I finished my professional golf career it was kind of a roundabout way to get there, but I eventually got there and worked with some top people and gained the skills to be able to deliver this information and then connected with people to have the tools to do it. Just randomly, actually, working in Asia—I started to work with athletes and developed some success in Asia doing that and then brought it back to North America.

I think my own professional success or non-success really contributed to me being interested in the subject and trying to understand what the difference is between and average and elite athlete and what separates the average and elite athlete. In my view, a lot of it is based around emotional intelligence and certainly the focus of that would be self awareness for sure.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I’d love to know from your experience, what are the key emotional intelligence competencies that you feel are truly important for athletes and do they vary by sport.

John Haime: We work with athletes in every single sport whether it’s individual or team sport. I would say it is consistent really, across the board. Self awareness to me is the big one. If you understand your strengths, limitations and trigger points—what could potentially cause negative emotion inside of you—if you understand the factors you can control and the factors you can’t control, just a general well-rounded knowledge about yourself, it’s critical not only in sports but in everything you do. It really, really is critical in sports. I wish I had that when I was playing professional golf. I did not have that knowledge about myself.

It’s interesting because I worked with a number of sports psychologists when I was going through my professional golf career. Some of the top ones in the world, and they kept telling me, John, you have the talent. You have to believe in yourself. When I reflect on my career the biggest problem was is that I didn’t know myself so there was really nothing to believe in. If I had that base fundamental of self-awareness it would lead to the other competencies. You asked me which ones are the most important, certainly, I believe that from my work with the athletes, that self-awareness is a big one. Obviously, self confidence for an athlete is a big one. If you believe you can do it, you can do it. Resilience is a big one. Athletes get knocked on their butt a lot, so its about how fast and how well they can get back up and continue with what they are doing.

Flexibility is a big one. In sports everything is always changing so you have to be able to adapt to that. Self control, obviously, is a big one. But that emerges out of self awareness. If you understand your emotions and you are aware of them, then you have the opportunity to really control them.

Self reliance is a big one. The whole concept of accountability which is big in team sports because often athletes like to point the finger at others; referees and coaches and all sorts of things when they really have to point the finger at themselves. That is the person that is going to be the decider of their success or non-success, not the coaches, not the referees and all these other outside factors.

I think all of the competencies are important, Cathy, but they really do all emerge out of self awareness from my experience working with the athletes.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: It doesn’t really sound a lot different than an exceptional leader.

John Haime: No, it’s not and this is where we started. I started with the corporate world and said that this is the perfect shift to the athletic world because really a success in sports, in my view from working with athletes and working with big-time athletes at every level, it’s all about emotional intelligence. The other interesting thing too is that a lot of the professional athletes and the higher you seem to go up with athletes, the problems aren’t on the field, they are off of the field. They are off of the playing field and they bring those emotional issues from off the field onto the playing field and that becomes the problem. They have to really deal with those emotional issues off of the playing field. Once they do that then they can have a clear mind and clear focus; positive emotion and positive thinking on the playing field which is the state you want to play in.

Do you want to find out more about The Emotional Intelligence Sports Inventory from John Haime and how New Edge Performance programs can help enhance performance and leadership capabilities? Listen to the complete recording of our discussion, without commercials, above.


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