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Being an Emotionally Intelligent Leader

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The Best Listener at Work

 

The Best Listener at Work

The Best Listener at Work

You may wonder why being a good listener at work is really valuable.  However, if you experiment with improving your workplace listening skills, you will see changes.   In the fast past, high demand jobs so many of us have, really good listening may be something of a novelty.  This may because of the ever-impending deadlines, the many distractions we have or the workplace stress.  If you commit to being the best listener at work, you may notice that some of these challenges shift.

So how might listening skills impact your work place experience?  Well, consider your experience now.  How well do you feel heard at work?  What do you notice about people how are really present with you when communicating vs. those that are anxious to move to the next “to do”?  I would imagine that when someone is really present with you that it is easier to talk to them, you may feel more connected or more at ease. What if you were that person for everyone else?  How might this impact your workplace experience if people knew that when they spoke to you, that they could count on you to really pay attention?

Particularly if you are a leader, really good listening skills go a long way.   Being able to connect, understand and communicate effectively with your employees is a crucial component of an effective leader.   According to a study in The Journal of Occupational Health, it was found that… “psychological stress reactions were lower in subordinates who worked under supervisors with high listening skill, while no statistically difference was observed among older subordinates.” 

So if we know that our listening skills have an impact on our overall work stress, it seems like a great advantage for us to actively improve these skills.  Below you’ll find three tips to improve your listening skills

1.) Offer more clarity

Repeating something back to someone in the way that you heard it will help to reduce miscommunication.  Repeating a statement also offers the opportunity for this person to add additional clarification if necessary.  This way of “active listening” ensures that this person is being understood correctly and shows them that you are paying attention.

2.) Focus

Sometimes we can get caught up in how we are going to respond to something.  Thinking of what to say next reduces our ability to listen to what someone is saying.  Attending to what someone is saying without focusing on how to respond will create stronger communication.  Remain focused on the present moment and really digesting what it is that someone is communicating. 

3.) Breath

Often times at the workplace we are moving a million miles a minute, which reduces our ability to take in information in any given moment.  Taking a few moments to breath as you speak with someone will help you to be more present and process what they are saying more effectively.  Before you speak or when you are feeling overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath.  This may sound trivial but can do wonders for not only stress but your ability to communicate and listen effectively. 

After you’ve had the opportunity to put these behaviors to the test, I would invite you to make a comment below.   I would suggest that in order to notice results you may have to practice one or all three for at least four times a week for three weeks.   After you’ve practiced, consider answering the following questions –

How did they work if they did at all? 

What did you learn?  

How long did you practice each new behavior?  

Best,

Michael

P.S. If you want to learn more about how to improve your listening skills at work, in order increase influence, engagement and build effective relationships, we can help.  Schedule a free consult today to see if are a fit to work together

 

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Corporate Training, Personal Development and Equine Therapy

Corporate Training, Personal Development and Equine Therapy

Corporate Training, Personal Development and Equine Therapy

Based on the title you may be thinking that these things are totally un-related, but you’re here, so thank you!  I lead a group therapy session a couple of times a week with about 10 attendees and the topic of animals and our connection to them recently came up.  We discussed different kinds of therapy approaches, like dog therapy, or equine therapy for example.  The same day I had a friend bring this topic up, which I figure is enough for me to write down some thoughts, since this is something I have experience with.   The interesting part is corporate training, personal development and equine therapy, are in fact, connected.

A few years ago I went through the process of getting certified through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).  This association is the international leader in equine training specifically for mental health and personal development purposes.  What this means is that they certify psychotherapists and horse professionals, to work together to facilitate different kinds of experiential learning. These experiences can be for the purposes of individual development, individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy or corporate/group training.

So the question may be, what one thing has to do with the other?  For someone that has never seen this process unfold, it may not seem like a relevant fit.  The way horses and horse professionals can help to work through challenges with individuals or a group, is essentially through observation.  For example, a typical Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) or Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) session, consists of the facilitators (therapist and horse professional) giving the individual or group a task to accomplish with the horse.  This task could be to help move the horse through a gate, move the horse around an object or help a horse move in a direction without touching it. There are many activities/tasks that can be implemented but they are all ground activities, not requiring the participant to ride the horse.

During and after these activities both the therapist and horse professional make observations of how the person or people are engaging with the horse and each other.   What shows up here is powerful.  Just like in experiential education, when giving a group a task to accomplish together there are markers that form organically – personality styles, communication style, natural leaders/followers, conflict and/or resolution of conflict etc.  What is most interesting about the EAP/EAL process is that the horse acts as a mirror for behavior and engagement.

During my time training as an EAGALA practitioner I was astounded by how fast things came to the surface through this process.  For instance, when watching a family interact with an animal and attempt a task, it became immediately obvious what kinds of challenges the family had in their communication with each other.  In this example it was easy to see which member wanted to control and override the input from other members of the family.   This created conflict of course and made it more challenging for the family to accomplish the assigned task.  Part of the feedback came from the horse as it experienced the intensity from one individual.  Part of the feedback came from other members as they became frustrated with the challenge of the task, which the horse also reflected.  It was powerful to watch.

So how did their communication styles come up you ask?  This is the value of working through an EAP/EAL program. The response you get from a horse is authentic, immediate and not bound by the same kind of bias that people have.   In addition, the horse professional helps to make observation of behavior of the horse while the therapist observes how the person is engaging.

Horses are able to pick up on the subtleties of behavior and intention because they are sensitive prey animals.   So this means that if there is fear, anger, ease, curiosity or frustration – the horse will give feedback to these emotions/behaviors.   Because the horse is so sensitive it gives immediate clues and reactions to the behaviors and intentions of individuals and groups.  Some of these behaviors would be easily recognized while others are more subtle, which is why it is helpful to have a horse professional present. In the therapeutic context, understanding and processing behaviors and emotions can impact personal development and resolution of some of the challenges.

At this point you may be asking if this type of intervention has any credibility from research. The answer is yes, it absolutely does.   For example, one study found that well-being and reduction in psychological distress immediately improved after EAP and held stable after six months.   For a more detailed look at research as it compares to traditional therapy approaches, consider this article that acts an overview and comparison.

So how does this therapeutic approach have anything to do with corporate training or leadership?  This is where EAL enters the picture.  EAL differs from EAP in that EAL focuses more on education and learning rather than a therapeutic approach of resolving mental health issues or challenges.

In an EAL setting valuable skills can be obtained that would certainly impact the effectiveness of an organization.  For example, often times EAL is done with teams on an organization in order to improve communication skills, leadership or team building.  This process is still facilitated by a mental health professional and horse professional, but the intention is different.

In an EAL session with a team of professionals for instance, a simple task will be given to the team to accomplish with the horse.  This task results in emerging behaviors and communication styles that will then be valuable for the team to later process.  For instance, within a given task there may be leaders that emerge, communication that happens (or doesn’t), response style of collaboration or anger. In addition, there may be partnerships that naturally form on the team that previously did not exist or resentments that manifest that perhaps hadn’t previously.

The same question may emerge regarding efficacy of this particular kind of experiential education.  One of the more interesting pieces of research on EAL has to do with Emotional Intelligence, a current point of focus in many leadership and team building approaches.   This research is a great review of the field of EAL as well as Emotional Intelligence. The research found positive results for EAL as an intervention for improving Emotional Intelligence.

So, as we’ve seen, horses, therapy and leadership are in fact related!  For more information about EAL and EAP, I recommend visiting the EAGALA website – http://www.eagala.org/.  For more information on Emotional Intelligence as it relates to leadership, consider this article by Daniel Goleman.   If you are interested learning more about this topic or discussing a potential workshop to build team or leadership skills, please contact us!

Keep Learning,

Michael

P.S. If you are curious to learn more about personal development, workplace challenges, interpersonal dynamics, goal achievement and a wide variety of other topics, sign up today! www.www.arcintegrated.com/newsletter.  It’s totally free.

You’ll also receive a FREE tip sheet with Five Strategies to Build Motivation!

 

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Maintain Change Through Coaching

 

 

Maintain Change Through Coaching

Maintain Change Through Coaching

I was thinking recently about my own personal philosophy about how to really maintain change when searching for it, as well as how I bring this philosophy into my coaching practice.  As with most things I do, I take a holistic approach, which is the same for my coaching philosophy.   The following ideas can be taken as a guide to maintain change through coaching as well as a guide to understand how I work as a coach.

When working towards change, particularly when it comes to personal development, it is important to see all the aspects that may be helping or hurting progress.  We are complicated creatures.  Working towards the best version of ourselves is not just about thinking in a different way or practicing good habits (although these are pieces of the puzzle).

True change comes from evaluating all the aspects of our human experience.  When we look through all of our different lenses, we have the greatest likelihood for success.  We need to explore how we think, feel, act, take care of ourselves, strengths we have as well what/who we surround ourselves with.

As a helpful reminder for you, I’ve created a way to remember how you can check to see if you are evaluating the different parts of yourself and what may be helping or hurting your progress.  Consider the acronym CHANGE –

C – Cognition

H – Heart

A – Action

N – Nourishment

G – Greatness

E – Environment

Each part of this acronym has some important components to consider –


 

Cognition – The way we think.  Do you analyze, make decisions quickly, not quickly enough, make strong judgments, think poorly of yourself or too highly perhaps?  Both the way we think and what we focus on may be impacting our ability to change.

Heart – How we feel.  Our emotions play a big part in our ability to be successful.  If we can remain confident, happy, grateful, curious and positive then we may have a greater chance to work towards change.  If we are negative, depressed, sad, angry, overly reactive or closed off from our emotions we may have a harder time moving towards the change we are working on.  How we feel can also be related to our relationships and how they impact our ability to change.

Action – Habits and routines play a big role in our ability to change.  Thinking and feeling are important but it is the actions that we take that impact how our feelings and thoughts change.   Our action or inaction can play a big role in our ability to push things forward towards our desired outcome.

Nourishment – How we take care of ourselves.  It is not news that the way we eat, how much we exercise, and our general lifestyle all impact multiple facets of our lives.  This is the same for any change we are after. How we treat our body impacts our motivation, energy, creativity, strength and focus.  Considering how we are nourishing ourselves is important.

Greatness – What are your strengths, purpose, and passion? This is what makes up your greatness.  Exploring what is great about you not only leads to creating better leadership but also fulfillment, higher energy, better coping methods and a happier lifestyle.

Environment – What we surround ourselves with. I believe it was Jim Rohn who originally quoted – “We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.” This is a powerful quote and I believe it to be relevant.  When it comes to our own development, our environment goes beyond the people we are around.  Our environment could be our family, work, our city, community, or how our house looks and feels.   For example, if you know you function at a higher level when things are organized then keeping your house clean and in order may be an important factor in your own development.


All of these factors within the CHANGE acronym are important to explore during coaching.  When I work with clients this is part of the process I take them through.  My belief is that unless we focus on all of the potential areas that may be influencing our ability to make a change then we are leaving opportunity on the table.

It is also important to remember that any change one may be working towards takes time.  Remember that there is a particular pace that change takes. Be kind to yourself along the way.

Enjoy the journey,

Michael

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Purpose, Passion and Leadership

 

Purpose Passion and Leadership

Purpose Passion and Leadership

I was recently with a client and we were discussing coping methods.  Coping methods are ways to deal with challenges that we face as well as ways we can help to reduce troublesome symptoms we are dealing with. There are many traditional coping strategies – breathing techniques, exercise, meditation, walking, art, distraction methods, spending time with others etc.  Some of these techniques work well for some people while other techniques just don’t seem to fit.   In my experience, the ultimate coping method is always the one that is most in line with the individual.  This means that for a coping strategy to be most effective it has to connect with the person’s passion or purpose.  What I want to address today is how passion and purpose is connected to leadership.

So what do mental health coping methods have to do with leadership?  More than you think.  Leadership is in the midst of a shift.  This is mostly well known, however, old ways of leading still seem to be prevalent within some organizations.  What we are finding through research and effective training programs is that true leadership comes from inspiration, not from authoritarian demands or unapproachable hierarchy that pushes work downstream without consideration of how it impacts others.  True leaders are followed by those that are happy to be working for them because they feel inspired to do so.  Effective leaders build the next generation of leaders within any system and work in a way that is fueled by purpose and resonance with the mission at hand.

According to research by the Center for Creative Leadership, survey results show that 84% of respondents in organizations see leadership changing in the last 10 years.  The focus is shifting from an individual outcomes perspective to that of collaboration, teamwork and longer term objectives.

Another article by HR Magazine emphasizes that leadership is shifting towards less hierarchy and more inclusiveness and understanding of the needs of others.  To build an inclusive environment, one needs to lead through effective listening, empathy and to be leading through inspiration rather than demand.

Even in some environments where leadership may looked at as a harsher more demand oriented situation, this is not always the case.  For example, I was recently listening to one of Tim Ferriss’s podcast interviews where he interviewed General Stan McChrystal about his experience in the military.   One of the questions was  regarding what was one of General McChrystal’s pet peeves about how military life is depicted in the media.  His answer was great!  General McChrystal went on to discuss how even though he knew the stereotypical “hard” leaders in the military, that were cold, demanding and difficult to approach, this type of leader was less common.   He went on to report that the most effective leaders, and the majority, led by inspiring their teams and those they were leading.

So the question remains what do coping methods have to do with leadership?  Stick with me, we are on the way.   Since we know that the most effective leadership methods have to do with inspiring and engaging others rather than cold, hard demands, then the first question is this –

How do we build leaders that inspire?

One answer to this is found in the search for finding ones ideal coping method.   To be able to lead through inspiration means leaders have to understand what inspires them.  Being inspirational is achieved through truly knowing your own passion and purpose and then pursuing it.  Through creating congruence between what we value and how it is being expressed, we can explore our passion and purpose.  The days of “do what I say not what I do” are fading away.  Understanding what we are passionate about not only gives us an opportunity to be better leaders but also helps us to cope with stress and challenges more effectively.  If we combine our contagious passion with our ability to self-regulate, people will be truly inspired.

Finding ones passion and purpose may be complicated.  We may have some passions that are present in our professional lives and some that are more active in our non-work life.  For instance, an organizational leader may have a passion for sales in the work world but also have a passion for lifting weights in his non-work life.  This person may also know that they function at a higher level when they are actively pursuing both passions, in a sales role at work while using weight lifting as their non-work passion.  This example of weight lifting may be this person’s coping strategy in dealing with work stress, conflict or anxiety.  This person’s pursuit of this coping method not only impacts their ability to function outside of work, but makes them happier and more productive while in their work role.

Understanding what we are passionate about in and outside of work is important – and certainly impactful in both directions.   Focusing on our strengths and where we exceed, in addition to tapping into what helps us stay balanced, will create a great expression of our passion and purpose, and allow us to become true leaders.

I’ll leave you with these questions below –

What is your passion or purpose?

How did you discover it?

How do you actively pursue it?

Best,

Michael

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Counseling vs Coaching

Coaching vs Counseling - Arc Integrated

Coaching vs Counseling

There are many different resources regarding what the difference and similarities are when looking at counseling vs coaching.  I see them as definitely more connected than separate.  However, when considering which one to move towards I think this is an even easier question.  When looking for a therapist the issue is often related to a pain or a function that needs to be addressed.  When looking for a coach someone may be more interested in developing something new, improving something already in place or advancing in career, health, finance, leadership or relationally.   When looking for more resources about coaching, a great resource is The International Coaching Federation.  For access to more information about therapy, visit Good Therapy.  However, if you are trying to decide what service to go with, counseling or coaching, then see this article on How to Choose a Therapist or Other Helping Professional.

If you decide that coaching is the route to take, then great! Remember there are lots of options within coaching, just like within therapy.  Some types of coaching may include –

Personal Development Coaching

This may consist of working with individuals to make shifts in their lives that they feel will help them move towards the direction they want.   Personal development coaching can be related to work, relationships, finance or wellness.   This type of coaching may involve exploring strengths and challenge areas in order to build on individual passions, successes and experiences.

Executive Coaching

Executive coaches may work with leaders within an organization around business strategy or how to most effectively work with employees. Alternatively, executive coaches may also help to offer insight into how the personal dynamic of the individual impacts their business.

Career Coaching

Just as it sounds, insight around what kind of career to start, move from, end or change.  This can often be a component of other types of coaching or a specialty.

Similar to therapy, coaching involves setting goals and pursuing specific outcomes.  However, unlike therapy, coaching involves forward facing strategy and is not focused on resolving emotional functioning or processing pain for example.

So how does one decide what qualifies a coach within any of the previous categories, or even other coaching categories?    Just like within many of the disciplines of the mental health field, coaching has and is evolving.  At this point, anyone can still call themselves a “coach.”  This is different from stating “Licensed Counselor, Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist or Licensed Social Worker”, where in fact there is a mandatory license to be able to use this language.  Since coaching is relatively new it is only governed by certification.  So while you don’t need a certificate or license to call yourself a coach, you can obtain a certificate in a wide variety of coaching disciplines.  So does this make it less credible?  I don’t think so, necessarily.  While it is not governed with the level of scrutiny as the other mental health professions, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t highly skilled professionals in the coaching field that bring a great wealth of knowledge and experience.  Ultimately I think it comes back to the question of – Do I identify with, trust and feel like I can gain valuable insight from this person?

In my opinion both coaching and counseling are greatly valuable. I think that the approaches you are looking for as well as what you are trying to change are equally important questions to ask if you are considering signing up for therapy or coaching.  Here are some other questions to ask yourself (or the helping professional) when considering which direction to take –

How action oriented do I want this process to be?

How much time do I want to spend processing what is happening or what happened?

Am I in the process of or still struggling with some kind of traumatic experience?

Is this change that I am after more goal oriented or process oriented?

Am I wanting to gain insight into this issue or am I just interested in changing circumstances?

Good luck on the journey and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.

Best,

Michael

P.S. If you are curious to learn more about personal development, effective workplace culture, dynamic leadership  and a wide variety of other topics, sign up today! www.arcintegrated.com/book.  It’s totally free.

You’ll also receive Chapter One (for FREE) from the upcoming book – CHANGES.  This book explores seven themes of sustainable change so that you can finally achieve the professional and personal goals you have been striving for but keep missing.