Practicing Emotional Intelligence Every Day

freedman, Joshua NewDr. Relly Nadler: This week we are very fortunate to have Joshua Freedman as our guest. He is the author of The Heart of Leadership and one of the founders of If you are interested in learning his  website is Joshua is the CEO and founder of the world’s most extensive emotional intelligence organization and has been doing this for a long time. He’s been featured in one of the very first books on emotional intelligence; Daniel Goleman’s in 1995, and since then Joshua has done a phenomenal job of expanding emotional intelligence to a network of 50,000 change makers teaching skills so people are more aware, intentional and purposeful, so that people in organizations do better. He’s one of a few experts over a decade, it’s probably a little longer now, doing it full-time in organizations in and around the world.

He is a best-selling author of The Heart of Leadership and Inside Change. He has also been co-author of seven psychometric assessments that are now in 12 languages including the SEI Brain Brief and Organizational Vital Signs. We’ll get him to talk about some of these. He’s also worked with clients such as the US Navy, FedEx, Make A Wish, The UN, HSBC, and is a prolific contributor to making the science of emotional intelligence practical and transformational.

Josh, welcome.

Joshua Freedman: Thank you so much Relly, it’s a pleasure to be with you again.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I think this at least the 3rd or 4th time that we have talked a bit. Let me  get your definition—we’ll start off a little bit more general for our audience who may not be as familiar about emotional intelligence—then we’ll zero in on this Vitality Week. When you talk about emotional intelligence, how do you define it?

Joshua Freedman: First, I just want to talk about True North for a second. I just love the name of your company and one of your books. When you think about being a leader, you need to have that direction. You need to be able to see it so clearly and you need to be able to feel it. It’s got to be in your blood every day; where you are going. You need to somehow enroll people into that direction so that they are bringing their full capability and together you are moving all of these rocks. I think we all kind of get that; yes, that’s really important. Leading; that’s about seeing that true north and being able to move in that direction—but we don’t always do it. Right? And why not?

Dr. Relly Nadler: True. I think the two elements, at least that we talk about in our company as you know, one is where are you going; which is kind of that true north, but then second is how do you get there. Can you get there safely? Can you get there without causing issues or problems for folks? So those two things in general are very helpful.

Joshua Freedman: So if you see that vision clearly and know where you are going, then how you get there ultimately boils down to a lot of really small choices; a lot of really small interactions, in yourself and with others. I think that’s where emotional intelligence becomes invaluable. It’s absolutely essential. If we don’t have it, we are not aware of what is happening inside ourselves and with each other.

Then all of the sudden we lose sight of that true north and we are going somewhere else and we don’t even realize it. I think that is where most leaders get stuck. The thing about organizational leadership; you think about lots of people who are trying to move the rocks forward and yet they are all going in all of these different directions. You have this chaos and this lack of alignment. It’s not that we don’t understand the strategy, it’s that in the day-to-day life, stuff happens. We lose focus, we get derailed and we become reactive. In that state of reaction we are not moving the way we really want to move. That’s why we need EQ.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Well I think Josh, it’s so true. I end up saying to groups that I work with and I’m sure you do too; what percent of time are we on automatic?  It’s like about 95% of the time. People are trying to do their best possible, and often this idea of true north without seeing their leader. I know some of the resources say about 66% of folks don’t even see their leader. So they are saying, alright, I think I know where I’m going. I think this is in the right direction—I’m doing my best. That is where we can get a lot of issues.

I’ve been using your definition around emotional intelligence because it’s so short and simple.

Joshua Freedman: Being smarter with feelings?

Dr. Relly Nadler: Yah. Exactly. I had been using the other one: understanding yourself, managing yourself, understanding others, and managing others. But, being smart about your feelings—people are alright, okay! So thank you.

Joshua Freedman: We all have them, right? We can pretend we don’t but they are there and they are affecting us.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So another thing I’d like to ask you because you have a great definition for it is, “what is an emotion?”

Joshua Freedman: Well at a neurobiological level emotions are chemicals. They are literally, in our biochemistry, signals of opportunity and threat. They help regulate the human organism to signal us to pay attention and to motivate us to either move forward or withdraw. So they are these little biochemical messengers that help us understand what is happening outside us and inside us.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That is so simple and so eloquent, and so accurate. It’s amazing, right, that we go through our day—I’m sure Relly has seen this a million times as well—and everything affects us from an emotional level and our whole goal in life each day is to try not to represent the real feeling being evoked during every moment of the day and protecting our character and our reputation by using our emotions incredibly carefully. What you just shared is so important. I’d love to know when you think about these things, how do you boil them down into a nutshell? Does it take you a long time or is it just easy for you to do these things?

Joshua Freedman: Well, actually doing it in my real life is not so easy. Writing about it and talking about it is easier. I think, as Relly said, I’ve been doing this a long time now; 6 Seconds has been around for eighteen years and I’ve been doing this fulltime. I don’t consider myself an expert in emotional intelligence, but I have had the privilege of spending eighteen years learning about it, talking about it and writing about it. I’m trying to figure it out. As a CEO I can tell you the challenges that I face are not about strategy, not about cash flow, not about business logic, it just always boils down to emotions and people and alignment and coming together to move towards our purpose.

Dr. Relly Nadler: You know Josh regarding your eighteen years, I want to give you the compliment that Cathy and I heard early on when we interviewed Daniel Goleman during one of the breaks—it’s probably one of the best compliments that I’ve had—I remember he said and Joshua I think it’s probably true for you too, “wow, you guys really do this every day; I just write about it.”

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: We’ve been talking about using emotional intelligence on a daily basis. Can you talk a little bit about where you have been and where you are going—maybe a little bit about how EI has also influenced that thinking, as well.

Joshua Freedman: Sure. First I’ll talk about at an organizational level. We have a vision of a billion people practicing the skills of emotional intelligence. To reference the earlier part of our conversation: it’s not enough to know it, it’s not enough to have heard of it, it’s not enough to have taken an assessment. Emotional intelligence is something we can practice every day and the more complicated the situation, the more difficult the circumstance, the more we need that practice. It’s easy when it’s easy, but when it’s hard is when we really need to bring forward these capabilities.

It’s understanding what is going on, what our options are and what we really want and doing that little three-step process over and over and over and over and over again. So for myself, what has happened as I have gone from being more of a doer to more of a leader; a couple of years ago becoming the CEO of the organizations. One of the things that I have found is that I have focused more and more for myself on my own noble goals and what is my true north and how to more carefully make sure that the choices that I’m making each day to practice are more aligned with my own purpose. That is kind of the frontier for me because I’m somebody who is very task oriented and very much of a doer, very analytical, I’m an operator. To shift from being an operator to a leader, for me, has been and continues to be and I think probably will always be, a process of paying less attention to what needs to get accomplished right now to why are we doing this and how do we enroll each other and move forward together in that purpose—that’s leadership.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: You know Josh, obviously you have access to some fairly amazing organizations like the UN, obviously, the US Military including the US Marines; you’ve worked with big logistics companies like FedEx and huge banking organizations. How do we make this emotional intelligence a core way of doing business and helping people operate, as you say, you’re an operator, from that level of understanding?

Joshua Freedman: Well I think we need to understand that people are what makes organizations succeed and fail and that emotions are part of what drives people. People are not just rational. Then we need to bake into the culture of the organization and the definition of leadership in the organization the notion that people are our job as leaders; it’s what we do as leaders. It’s not that people are in the way and I don’t have time for this people stuff. It’s working with and through people that is my job as a leader.

We can view that through a combination of training and through systems and through storytelling and through culture building. We take a very metric survey into the culture of organizations so we measure organizational climate and understand at a gut level how people are feeling as they come in the door. Then we help leaders put that on their dashboard to understand that it is something that you are responsible for; maybe one of the most important things that you are responsible for as a leader. Having clear metrics to put that in front of us; I think a lot of us are quantitatively orientated and we have been trained to be quantitative. We can have good metrics and we measure what matters together with shaping the culture of understanding what leadership means.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Josh, when you say that, just going back to the introduction we had aware, intentional and purposeful. Some of the research, I’m sure you have seen and Cathy and I have seen from the brain neuroscience, says that you can either be on one track or another. It’s around analysis which is kind of what we all do; solving problems. Or you can be on the track of empathy. So I talk about the analysis track; that’s work—there’s always a problem, there’s always just the shiny light. It’s this kind of empathy, the people side of it. It’s there but it’s like a dull light. You’ve got the shiny light and you’ve got the dull light. For your noble acts, what do you do to bring that to the forefront on a daily basis which may be some tips for other?

Joshua Freedman: Well again, I think for me a big part of it is recognizing that for me to pursue my noble goal, my own purpose, it requires people. I’m not in this alone. So, when I start getting caught up in tasks, and as you said, when you get caught up in tasks you ignore other stuff like people. For me to say, wait a minute, this isn’t actually what is most important—what is most important right now? I ask myself these three questions:

  1. What’s happening right now?
  2. What options do I have?
  3. What’s really important right now?

Those questions have been incredibly powerful for me and really simple. The other thing that I pay attention to in order to practice more empathy, which is not a strength of mine, is to be curious and to say, there’s something going on here. This person isn’t being a total bleep, bleep, bleep, right? Maybe they are, but that’s not all they are. There is something going on. This person is behaving this way for a reason. That reason probably has a lot to do with emotion. I wonder what is happening? I wonder why they are reacting this way? My curiosity and a kind of shifting out of judgment and into curiosity helps me step back from my own autopilot reaction.

Dr. Relly Nadler: What’s beautiful about that, like you are saying, I think most of us—most leaders—go right to the judgment. So to suspend that, and to step back and to have some of those questions that you can ask; once you get curious that’s a whole different part of the brain. That’s really exciting; that’s a tool that we are hoping that people can listen to and apply.

Joshua Freedman: One more thing Relly. I used to be afraid of feelings. I found them overwhelming, I found them confusing, I found them sort of dangerous. I didn’t know what was going to happen. So my reaction to that was to push my own and other’s feelings away. Because of doing this work, I’ve had many, many chances to confront emotions. Not in a hostile way but bringing them to the table and trying to see what’s happening. Over the years, I still am pretty conflict avoidant, but I’ve gotten more comfortable. I’ve noticed if somebody is upset it’s okay to ask them what is going on and I haven’t died yet from feelings. They aren’t that dangerous, actually.

Please join us for the entire interview and strive to live your life emotionally intelligent every day. You can listen to it above, without commercials.


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