In my last three posts, I shared three of the concepts that have enabled my teams’ successes in marketing: design targeting, tension-based creative briefs, and grounding the concept of social currency in mathematical business impacts. You might describe these as marketing practices. However, to be successful, you need more than best and even next practices. You need skills.
Those skills include (but are not limited to) presentation skills, writing skills, stakeholder management skills and emotional management skills. I would be hard-pressed to coach you on presentation or writing skills with a blog post, and I have already shared ideas around stakeholder management skills, so what about emotional skills?
It has been said by many wise people that self-control is a human’s most difficult challenge. Mastering our emotions is no easy task, but if we can do so, we can be the best version of ourselves. Now, some people have not spent nearly as much time developing their emotional intelligence as they have developing their intellectual intelligence, so you have to start by valuing emotional intelligence.
In my view, emotional intelligence is, first and foremost, about self-awareness. How am I behaving? What thoughts am I dwelling on? How am I making others feel? I try to meditate every day. I have written my own meditation, which is very personal to me, and part of my meditation process ends with what I call “settling questions” aimed at quieting my mind and resolving any nagging emotions that I may be feeling because of something that someone else said or did. I use the settling questions to interrogate the reality of what my accountability is in a situation. What am I doing to cause this situation? Are my emotions healthy and appropriate? Am I taking it too personally? Am I making unfair demands on others? Am I as innocent as I think I am? Do I need this, or only want it? You get the idea.
Self-examination is a critical component of self-regulation, which is critical to consistent, desirable behavior, whether you’re in your first job or you’re a CEO. It isn’t easy, but it is both necessary and doable if you commit yourself to being your best. After all, you are defined by the thoughts you think, the decisions you make and the actions you take. If you think anything else or anyone else can define you, you have forfeited your individuality and freedom.
In my personal and professional journey, I have discovered a few helpful “centering” emotions that I believe are universal, and are fundamental to self-control and a healthy attitude. The first is curiosity. If we fight to stay at least curious in all situations, we can protect ourselves from negative intentions and bad moods. Curiosity takes the focus off of the “self” and, instead, causes you to be present for someone else. You cannot be present for another person or another group of people if you are stewing over something that is inner-directed.
Try this for a day, and see if fighting to remain curious helps you to get to a better place and a better outcome. Rather than defaulting to assume negative intent by another individual, or that he “doesn’t get it”, or that “you know better,” ask yourself, “What about what they’re saying could be awesome?” or, “Are they seeing something that I’m missing?”
Curiosity is capable of delivering profound change. It breeds mutual respect, listening and more: big ideas. An organization where curiosity is valued and practiced is an organization that has the chance to inspire, innovate and compete with anyone. And who wouldn’t want a workplace environment defined as a place where your ideas will always be met with open minds? This is why curiosity is a gateway competency.
The last emotional mindset that I’ll leave you with is gratefulness. This is about a decision to be grateful for everything, not just the good things—and to be grateful for the little things, not just the big things. It feels great to be grateful. It feels even greater when others express their gratefulness for you and your contributions. And it feels especially amazing when someone expresses gratefulness for you even when your contributions fall short of expectations. Like happiness, gratefulness should not be viewed as an outcome, but as a decision to be in control of your emotions.
Fight to stay curious. Decide to be grateful. If you take charge of your emotions with these two watchwords in mind, you cannot have a bad day. Try this for one day and see if you don’t have a better day—and see if those around you don’t prefer it, too.
Russ Klein, CEO