Are You Socially Intelligent Enough to Lead?

 

more than likely this woman hates her job. how about you?

more than likely this woman hates her job. how about you?

 

Hate Your Job? Join the Other Millions of Americans…

 

A recent survey conducted by Entrepreneur Magazine suggested that 77% of Americans dislike their jobs.  Most of the people cited that office politics as well as their bosses were part of the reason why they disliked their current occupation. I found it really interesting that it was other people, and not job descriptions, that were given as the main reason for people hating their jobs.

 

Today’s business world is a fickle beast.  It moves at break neck speeds and demands everything from you and your peers.  In corporations there is a constant sense of urgency as you’re held to quarterly results and expected to reach your growth goals.  I have spent a great deal of time researching the culture of corporate America and it’s scary to see the negative progression of our supposed “productive cultures”. There is a growing demand for results and lessening of support. This current culture crisis in America would be enough to make anyone hate their job, yet most of the negativity is directed at our bosses.

 

Believe it or not, there are some vestiges where good corporate culture fosters success and growth. It’s really sad that these businesses are few and far between but they do exist and the reason they succeed is because of their management and social intelligence.

 

Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership

 

In September of 2008 Harvard Business Review posted an article that tackled this very subject. It was titled Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership and was written by Daniel Goleman, PhD and Richard Boyatzis. If you subscribe to HBR I would highly recommend checking out this article. This article was viewed as ground breaking and cutting edge by the business community.

 

Goleman, who is the leading expert in social intelligence, looked at management from a social neuroscience perspective.  He focused on the importance of empathy and understanding and becoming attuned to others moods. He stressed the importance of developing a genuine (that is the key word here) interest in and talent for fostering positive feelings in the people whose cooperation and support you need.  As it turns out certain people have a biological predisposition that allows them to be more emotionally attuned and aware. However, it’s important to note that these skills can be developed over time.

 

In the past it has been common practice to promote a worker based solely on results. Promoting based only on results seems to make perfect sense, however more often than not this decision to promote based on numbers backfires.  Sales is a prime example. I have seen numerous sales reps promoted to managers, and at the same time I have seen a vast majority of them fail in their new position. The reason being was though they could produce sales results they do not have the social intelligence to enable their staff to produce the same results. Sadly most do no understand the nuances of understanding and communicating so they try to force results and goals on their staff and that’s where rifts start to form. Results are important when selecting a manager, but along with results social interactions should be looked at heavily to ensure you’re getting a person who is skilled in understanding and communicating with others.

 

A Happy Boss is a Great Boss

 

Research suggests that top performing leaders elicited laughter from their subordinates three times as often as mid performing leaders. A reason for this is that being in a good mood helps people take in information effectively and respond nimbly and creatively.  Laughter is paramount to social intelligence. It’s been said that when communicating with another person laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

 

There is a line though when it comes providing a positive environment. There are strict bosses out there and conversely there are bosses that are not strict enough. A good manager and leader will know how to handle that line because they will have understood how to interact with each individual employee to get the most out of them. Leaders have to be demanding but in ways that foster a positive mood.

The carrot on a stick method doesn’t make neural sense.  If you want to succeed in the long run you need to break away from the trite management strategy that would have you threatening your staff and scaring them into results. It might produce some short term results but it comes at a high price in the long run – the loss of trust from your staff. Become a socially intelligent leader; genuinely understand the strengths, weaknesses, goals, and talents of your staff and yourself. Enable your staff for long term success and have fun while doing it. Accomplish this and the results might surprise you. After all, research in the past decade has confirmed that there is a large performance gap between socially intelligent and socially unintelligent leaders.

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Monkeys, Ice Cream Cones, and Mirror Neurons: The Three-Way That Gave Way to Social Neuroscience

work those mirror neurons baby monkey. work it!

work those mirror neurons baby monkey. work it!

A Macaque monkey sat in his cage in the corner of a neuroscience lab in Italy during a hot summer in the mid 1990’s. The monkey looked a bit goofy wearing a helmet type device that was rigged with electrodes that were supposed to detect a neuron that fired when the monkey raised its arm. As one of the Italian researchers entered the room the monkey sat with its arm at its side. The Italian researcher, like most people during a hot summer’s day, was enjoying an ice cream cone.  He turned and inspected the monkey’s cage and noticed that nothing was going on. The monkey was just chilling with its electric rigged hockey helmet and its arms still at its sides.  What happened next was amazing. The researcher raised his ice cream cone to his mouth and the electrodes starting registering that the monkey’s neuron was firing. However, there was one problem: the monkey didn’t raise its arm.  As the researcher raised the ice cream to his mouth again the neuron fired once more. Something was up…

 

 

 

Like most great discoveries this was a complete accident. What the researcher and his monkey counterpart stumbled upon was called a “mirror neuron”. A mirror neuron is a neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another animal. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting. Though the monkey didn’t actually move it’s arm the neuron still fired because it mirrored or made a connection with the researcher when he raised his arm.  Currently science has only found mirror neurons in humans, primates and some birds.

 

This very discovery was the seed that would eventually grow into Social Neuroscience. Social Neuroscience functions on the principle that we are wired to connect. Mirror neurons amongst many emerging discoveries are proof our brain’s very design is to be socialable. This means that every person we encounter has an affect on our brain, and that in turn, affects our bodies. Dan Goleman, author of Social Intelligence has this to offer:

 

“To a surprising extent, then, our relationships mold not just our experience but our biology. The brain-to-brain link allows our strongest relationships to shape us on matters as benign as whether we laugh at the same jokes or as profound as which genes are (or are not) activated in T-cells, the immune system’s foot soldiers in the constant battle against invading bacteria and viruses.  That link is a double-edged sword: nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our bodies.”

 

Think about it this way: Can you ever recall a time when either you or a friend was in a particularly bad relationship with a significant other? At the end of the relationship did the constant fighting and ill tempered interactions affect your biological state, as in you felt sick, tired, or even nauseated from having to deal with that person. That’s Social Neuroscience at its worst, however, it gives a stark introcuction into how social relationships and interactions can truly affect you both in the short term and the long term.

 

Social Intelligence is an advanced companion to emotional intelligence. Now that I have somewhat introduced both I can begin to give some more examples of situations and people you might encounter or have encountered and how to get the most out of those people and situations.