What Leaders Really Need

“This is the best training session we’ve had all year!”

A group of leaders I train regularly in emotional intelligence asked that we raise the level of our “check-in” time by allowing the first hour for both a personal and professional update. We did and there was much vulnerability around the table. With no rush, a half-day away from the office, phones off, it removed the pressure to be “in charge,“ meet deadlines and solve problems.

These leaders reported feeling nurtured, energized, and strengthened by just being with one another in a setting where they could be themselves and talk about what matters most. No topic was off-limits—parenting, new boyfriend, health issues, crazy in-laws, deep losses, entitled younger employees . . . you know, real life stuff!

Connection trumps training every time! I have found that teaching content about EQ practices on a cognitive level, can only go so far. By having the real time experience of being heard, known, understood, and cared for by their peers,the empathy workshop that followed was far more meaningful and will likely lead to more empathy and overall EQ skills and application in their leadership roles.

Here are some ideas for helping you and your team grow in emotional intelligence.

  • 10–15 minutes at the start of your key team meetings. Use a sand timer to help everyone limit their sharing to 2 minutes each or under. “How are you doing? Tell us your wins and challenges—business and personal.”

  • Each day ask someone, “How are you doing?” and when they say “fine,” ask again, “How are you doing, really?” BTW, Google the acronym for “fine” and see what it really means!

  • Monthly or quarterly off-site meetings—start off with a longer check-in for each person; 5 minutes each is usually enough. “Give us an update on how you’re doing—what have been your accomplishments and your challenges? Please include both business and personal.” An update on business goals may be done in this section too. You can add in, “What do you need most from our time together?”

Building connection in such an intentional way will have many pay-offs for your leadership and your team’s performance. Trust leads to more healthy conflict, and if you’ve read any of Patrick Lencioni’s books on teamwork, you know that leads to higher levels of ownership and accountability. So this is not just feel good stuff; it actually impacts performance and profits!

P. S. Many of you have been asking if I’m leading a TLP (Townsend Leadership Program) group in 2019. The answer is “yes” and I plan to start the new group in mid- to late-January. I plan to lead one group, and we are limited to 10 leaders per year. I am taking applications now, and it usually fills up fast, so let me know if you’re interested.