We all have emotions. But do they belong in our workplaces? Emotions are important data points for us to dig into, yet how often do we?
In this episode, host Tim Reitsma is joined by Carolyn Stern—President and CEO of EI Experience and the author of The Emotionally Strong Leader—to have an honest conversation about digging into our emotions, seeking feedback from others, and how we can become emotionally strong leaders.
- Carolyn is the President and CEO of EI Experience—a leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm. [2:01]
- Carolyn is the author of The Emotionally Strong Leader, which is included on Amazon’s Best Seller list.
- Carolyn is also a trainer, speaker, university professor, and an EQ expert.
- People are ready. It’s time to knock down the stigma that sharing our emotions and being honest about how we’re feeling is a sign of weakness or should cause shame. [2:44]
- We need to debunk this myth that we can’t talk about emotions in the workplace.
- Carolyn wrote her book because she was sick and tired of leaders telling her that being emotional is weak.
- In her 20’s, Carolyn was teaching teenagers and two of them got into a fight. [4:06]
- She thought of how she was going to get them to not only learn from her but to also listen to her.
- Carolyn started to connect with them on an emotional level and figured out what made them tick. She called it the “inner iceberg conversations”—finding out what their stressors are, what their assumptions are, what their beliefs are, what they are feeling.
- 20 years later, Carolyn reached out to them and one of them said that it had changed her life. Because Carolyn didn’t leave her, stayed connected, and cared about her, great things happened. And in the end, not only did she end up being the best in class, but she became the most improved student in the whole high school.
- What people see in us is our behaviors, our communications, and our actions. But what’s underneath the surface is so much more. [7:07]
- Inner iceberg conversations: rather than talking to people about their decisions and their communications, find out what’s going on underneath their decisions and communications.
You don’t have to be anyone’s therapist. It’s not your job. Your job is to be there to support your team and listen to them.Carolyn Stern
- Emotions are just feelings. Feelings are not facts. They’re fleeting. They’re an emotional reaction to a person, place, or thing. You can make friends with your feelings.
- We need to learn to be an objective bystander of our feelings, to separate ourself from our feelings, and make good conscious choices rather than letting our feelings be in the driver’s seat.
- Being emotionally strong does not mean that you’re being stronger, but to simply acknowledge, understand, and accept that you feel things and that your feelings can be incredibly powerful if we look for the wisdom that they provide. [9:49]
- Your IQ, which peaks at 17 or 18, is what got you the job. It gets your foot in the door, but your EQ is what’s gonna get you promoted. [11:21]
- We use emotions as data to make better decisions.
- What’s the difference between frustration and anger? Frustration stems from unmet expectations. Anger stems from injustice or unfairness.
- Attribution bias: we’re attributing an emotion to someone without actually getting to the heart of the matter, and this is why people need to ask people how they’re feeling.
- If you could ask one question in every meeting, it would be: What are you feeling?
Knowing how people feel affects how they perform.Carolyn Stern
- Let people know how you’re feeling. It goes back to those inner iceberg conversations. Don’t be afraid to tell people what you’re really thinking and you could do so in a respectful and professional way. It’s really about speaking your truth.
- Carolyn shares a nonviolent communication model that people can use whenever they need to respond to something. [21:37]
- When you did (blank), I felt (blank). What I’d like you to do in the future is (blank) and how it will benefit us is (blank).
An emotionally strong leader is someone who leads with a strong mind and a kind heart.Carolyn Stern
- You can grow your emotional intelligence. Leaders need to discuss why they’re feeling what they’re feeling. We need to debunk that myth that feelings are not okay. [22:57]
- When Carolyn first started EI Experience in 2017, she had to convince people what emotional intelligence was. She had to convince them why they needed this training.
- The first step to grow your emotional intelligence is to figure out what is your emotional makeup.
- In the book, Carolyn will take you through all 15 emotional intelligent competencies and gets you to take a true look in the mirror.
- Once you figure out what your emotional makeup is, then you need to ask others and be prepared for feedback.
- You can have the greatest intentions, but it’s your impact that matters most.
Good intentions does not sanitize bad impact.Carolyn Stern
- Once you connect with yourself and consult with others, then you need to clarify your focus. [28:39]
- Think of emotions as like our muscles. We all have emotional muscles supposedly somewhere. [31:59]
- Be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and that’s the only way you’re going to grow these emotional muscles.
- We need to start being emotionally strong leaders because people are emotional creatures. [36:09]
Before we can lead anyone else, we gotta lead ourself first.Carolyn Stern
Meet Our Guest
Carolyn Stern is the President and CEO of EI Experience — an executive leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm. She is a certified Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Expert, professional speaker, and university professor. Carolyn’s emotional intelligence courses and modules have been adopted by top universities in North America.
She has also provided comprehensive training programs to business leaders across the continent in highly regarded corporations encompassing industries such as technology, finance, manufacturing, advertising, education, healthcare, government, and food service. Her engaging, results-based approach has been synthesized here for the first time in a user-focused, self-coaching model that will motivate and inspire readers to apply the power of emotional intelligence to their own leadership and organizations.
The byproduct of emotional intelligence is happiness. It’s being satisfied and content and enjoying your life.Carolyn Stern
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Related articles and podcasts:
- About the People Managing People podcast
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Read The Transcript:
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Carolyn Stern: Your IQ, which peaks at 17 or 18, is what got you the job. It gets your foot in the door, but your EQ is what's gonna get you promoted. Why? It's because we're dealing with people and people are creatures of emotion. And so just like your example, you needed to understand that person so that you could get to the heart of the matter.
The problem is, Tim, we don't spend enough time thinking about our feelings. Not only figuring out where they come from, but why they're there. And emotions are full of insights, and they give us incredible data about ourselves, the world, and others.
Tim Reitsma: Welcome to the People Managing People podcast. We're on a mission to build a better world of work and to help you create happy, healthy, and productive workplaces. I'm your host, Tim Reitsma!
Emotions. Do they have a place in our workplaces? We all have them. They are data points for us to dig into, but yet how often do we? I know for me, there are emotions and emotional responses I'm working on and yes, in this episode, we talk through a few of them.
Carolyn Stern, author of the fantastic book called The Emotionally Strong Leader, has been teaching, consulting, and coaching emotional intelligence for over 20 years. And joins me to have an honest conversation about digging into our emotions, seeking feedback from others, and how we can become emotionally strong leaders.
It's hard work to dig into our emotions, our responses, our feelings, trust me! But it's worth it.
Welcome to the People Managing People podcast, Carolyn. It's so good to have you here. When we were reached out to have you on the podcast to talk about your new book, The Emotionally Strong Leader, I knew that we were gonna have a great connection and a great conversation because this is just a topic that personally is top of mind for me more often than not.
So thanks for joining us.
Carolyn Stern: Thanks for having me, Tim. Really appreciate it.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. And before we get into it, why don't you tell us a little bit about who you are? What's top of mind for you these days?
Carolyn Stern: So I'm the President and CEO of EI Experience, which is a leadership development and emotional intelligence training firm.
I'm now an author, first time author. I'm happy to report that my book got on Amazon's best seller list which was lovely to hear. But I'm also a trainer, a speaker, and a university professor, and certainly a EQ expert.
Tim Reitsma: Well, congratulations on the book. Congratulations on making it to Amazon's best selling list.
I know there are so many books that come out every week, and to be able to get on that list is a huge accomplishment, so congrats on that.
Carolyn Stern: Well, thank you. But I really think, as much as I think my book is good and it is labor of love, Tim, I really think it's because people are ready.
Tim Reitsma: Yes.
Carolyn Stern: People are ready. It's time to knock down the stigma that sharing our emotions and being honest about how we're feeling is a sign of weakness or should cause shame. I mean, we are human before we're an employee or a leader, and we need to start remembering, we need to debunk this myth that we can't talk about emotions in the workplace.
And quite honestly, that's why I wrote the book. I was sick and tired of leaders telling me that being emotional was weak. And so one of the reasons I named the book The Emotionally Strong Leader is you can be emotional and strong. They're not mutually exclusive.
Tim Reitsma: Oh, I just, I love the title. And I know we're gonna get into a conversation around even just the title, emotional and strong.
It resonates with me. In my career, I've been told that there's no place for emotions in the workplace. I've also been told to embrace your emotions. I've also been told, you know, to suck it up, get into a meeting, put on that smiling face, and then drive the meeting that way, which is in some ways effective masking your emotions.
So how you got into this, I know before we hit record, you're telling me a bit about your journey as a high school teacher. And I was also, in doing my research, found a video of you talking about your journey into emotional intelligence and starting off as a high school teacher leading this course or this teaching two students got into it and that ignited your passion for this journey through emotional intelligence.
Carolyn Stern: Yeah. So in my twenties, I was a high school teacher and I was asked to teach an entrepreneurship class, which had on my first day of class, remember I'm in my mid twenties and I'm teaching 17 or 18 year old kids, and there were two of them that got into a fight.
And I thought, you know what? Wow. How am I going to get them to not only learn from me, but even listen to me? And so what I realized in that moment is, I wonder what those kids might have, like would anyone have given them an opportunity? So what I decided to do when we were running this school business, I made one of them the VP of Operations, and I made the other one the VP of Human Resources. And my colleagues thought I was crazy.
Why would you give the most challenging students in school, like two of the most important positions? Because you have to remember, they were opening the store. Then we had a school business at school store. They were opening the store. They were managing all the students in the class, making sure they were on their shifts on time.
They were doing the marketing, they were working with our vendors like well beyond. They had access to my keys, which had access to my car. I mean, we, we, you know, and opening cabinets and things, and people thought I was crazy and I thought, you know what? I just felt for these kids that I thought, I bet their whole lives they'd been overlooked.
And so when I started to connect with them on an emotional level, figured out what made them tick, what really was, you know, their, you know, really just who they were. And I connected with them and asked them more. I called them from the book, I call it "inner iceberg conversations", finding out what their stressors are, what their assumptions are, what their beliefs are, what are they feeling.
When I connected with them on an emotional level, things changed. And for the one student, it was funny, as I was writing the book, I reached out to the one student. I tried to reach out to both. I could only find one on Facebook, but I reached out and this is 20 years later. You have to remember like it's a long time since I taught them. And they said to me, the girl said to me that I had changed her life and that I didn't realize, you know, she told me this sad story that she had been in foster care during that time and I had no idea of this.
Even though I had emotionally connected with them, she sort of persevered and she had just come back and she was really, you know, having troubles. But because I didn't leave her, because I stayed connected, because I cared about her, great things happened. And in the end, not only did she end up being the best in class, so she went from fist fights to first in class, but she became the most improved student in the whole high school.
And I'm just so proud of that because that's when I realized, wow, if leaders started to make an emotional connection to people, what amazing things could happen? So that connection changed their lives and mind.
Tim Reitsma: Thanks for sharing that. I think it's a story that's worth sharing, and there's a couple things that come to mind.
One is, how do you make that emotional connection? I'm sure there's leaders listening to this. There's HR people leading teams for the first time and saying, Okay, I'm hearing that you know, there's emotions. I need to be strong, which, you know, are somewhat contradictory or potentially contradictory. I'd love to get your thoughts on that, but how do we make that emotional connection?
Carolyn Stern: Well, you know, when I think about this, and again, it's in the book, but the, you know, we're a lot like, what, what people see in us is just the beginning. They see our behaviors and our communications and our actions. That's all they see.
But what's underneath the surface is so much more. And when I think about this, I talk about in the book, you know, what killed the Titanic, that unsinkable ship, was not the piece of ice above the water line. It was that iceberg below the water line. So I called them in the book, these inner iceberg conversations.
So rather than talking to people about, you know, their decisions and their communications, find out what's going on underneath their decisions and communications. What are their assumptions? What are their beliefs? What are their fears? What are their motivators? What are their unconscious biases? You know, what are they feeling?
What are their thoughts? What are their past experiences? Nobody gets to see that in the workplace, we shove that down and we don't wanna talk about it. And we don't wanna open Pandora's box because we, as leaders, we think, oh, if I asked Tim these personal questions, what happens if he breaks down? Or what happens if he tells me something I don't know the answers to.
Well, here's the thing, you don't have to be anyone's therapist. This is not your job. Your job is to be there to support them and listen. And when you start to stop being so scared about emotions, Tim, are just feelings, right?
Feelings are not facts. They're fleeting. They come and go. They're not good or bad, right or wrong. They're an emotional reaction to a person, place, or thing. And if we stop being so afraid of feelings and made friends with our feelings, you know, the emotions are not the enemy. Right? You can make friends with your feelings.
Now here's the thing, Tim, I'm not saying that emotions are not incredibly painful and can be super annoying at times and also super personal. What I'm saying is we need to learn to be an objective bystander of our feelings, to separate ourself from our feelings, and then figure out how can I look at myself almost like I'm an observer of myself and make good conscious choices rather than letting my feelings be in the driver's seat of me.
Tim Reitsma: Separate yourself from your feelings. And that is something that I have learned, shared again before we hit the record button, that I've taken an emotionals intelligence assessment EQI. And when I saw the results, I went this is not my assumption of myself.
They were very different and what I've learned and had to practice over years is to separate myself from just those feelings.
Why is this coming up? And do some introspective work of going, okay, what's coming up for me right now? Why is this coming up? Let's dive into that. It doesn't have to be, you know, six pages in a journal. It can happen within 30 seconds or a minute, is just to help identify that.
Carolyn Stern: And the question that I ask a lot in the book is not only what are you feeling, but what is that feeling telling you about yourself?
And again, being emotionally strong does not mean that you're being stronger, you know, strong arming your feelings, or having a steely resolve not to feel. What it means is you simply acknowledge and understand and accept that you feel things and that your feelings can be incredibly powerful if we look for the wisdom that they provide.
Tim Reitsma: And as leaders, I think, you know, there's, to me, there's almost two sides to this. One is being emotionally strong leader yourself, and then connect with your team on that level where, I remember in my career taking over this team, and as I took over a new team, the leader, the previous leader said, Hey, so and so, you might want to fire them because they're just not performing.
So I sat down with this person and just got curious and it turned out that fear, that emotion, that emotion of fear, there was inconsistent feedback to no feedback, to constant change of roles, to constant flux. It was just fear. So we removed that fear. As a leader, that's what we need to do as a manager and person became one of the top performers.
And so being able to connect on that level. But I want to take it back to the first point is many people, including myself, we have problems and difficulties managing emotions. I could tell some stories. I don't know if I want to quite yet, but, why do so many of us have problems and difficulties managing emotions and managing emotions in the workplace?
Carolyn Stern: Well, the trick is we haven't had an emotional education. None of us. Right? Think about, you know, I'm a university professor. You know, it took me five years to lobby to get an emotional intelligence course in my school of business. Why? Because my faculty told me it wasn't academic enough, and you and I both know that that's crazy. Your IQ, which peaks at 17 or 18, is what got you the job. It gets your foot in the door, but your EQ is what's gonna get you promoted.
Why? It's because we're dealing with people and people are creatures of emotion, and so just like your example, you needed to understand that person so that you could get to the heart of the matter.
The problem is, Tim, we don't spend enough time thinking about our feelings. Not only figuring out where they come from, but why they're there. And emotions are full of insights and they give us incredible data about ourselves, the world, and others. And it's kind of like an ad agency. I always use this as an example.
Ad agencies, they use consumer behavior as data to suck us into buying their products and services. Right? Well, it's the same thing. Can we use emotions as data to make good behavioral choices? It really is being, as you said, the observer, separating yourself from your feelings and looking at yourself from an objective bystander and saying, Hey, Carolyn's angry.
Why is Carolyn angry? And what triggered Carolyn's anger? And then here's the challenge. So many times I ask people, you know, things like, what's the difference between frustration or anger? And I talk, I get this blank look like, I don't know, I feel these things every day, but I don't know the difference.
Well, frustration stems from unmet expectations. Anger stems from injustice or unfairness. So here's the question. How many, me included, have felt frustrated but shown it as anger? Right? And then the problem is you go into work, you stomp around the office, people assume you're angry, when in fact you're frustrated.
Well, that's what psychologists called "attribution bias", right? We're attributing an emotion to someone without actually getting to the heart of the matter, and this is why people need to ask people how they're feeling.
So in every meeting, Tim, and I hope your listeners do this, start to do this, if you could ask one question in the meetings, it would be in one word. What are you feeling? That's how I start off all of my meetings. And then if anyone in my team says, you know, I'm frustrated or overwhelmed, then I can circle back with them offline. But knowing how people feel, let's be honest, affects how they perform.
Think about it. When was the last time you were emotional? How creative were you? You know, think of the last time you were really angry. Did you absorb the information you were trying to learn? Think of the last time you were really sad. Did you make a logical decision? Right? It's really about figuring out how am I feeling and how is my emotional state impacting both my communications and my actions and decisions?
Tim Reitsma: Yeah, it's that simple check-in. I love that. Listeners, write this down. Take it away. Timestamp it. It'll be in the show notes. Start your meeting with what Carolyn is saying. In one word, how are you feeling?
Often you're gonna get, I'm guessing you're getting a response. Oh, I'm good. But if we take some of those words and just make them off limits, it's simple. Like, I'm okay, I'm good, I'm alright.
Carolyn Stern: I always tell people, it's not a feeling, that is a state of being. So if they go onto my website, they can download a free poster that has a bunch of 30 emotions on it and there are thousands of emotions out there. But I listed 30 and that poster right now is above my desk, Tim.
And every day I look at it at least three times a day and I check in with how I'm feeling and what is that feeling telling me about me. Cause can you imagine, think about for you, if you knew how you were feeling before you started a podcast, and let's say you're feeling, you had a big fight with your partner and you get into the podcast, like, how is that going to show up in your interview call?
It's going to affect the performance and how good of a job you do that day. So we just need to take a moment of pause and press pause between our emotion and our trigger, and our response and the impact of that response.
Tim Reitsma: I love that. It's just, again, it's so simple yet we don't do it. Because like you said, we're not trained to do this.
And it's not put at the forefront. It's put at, Hey, we're in a meeting. Even if it's a heated discussion. Okay, I need a decision now. Well, if you are in this meeting and you're getting beat up in this meeting and you're frustrated and you're angry and you're just emotionally charged, I hear you. I would stop listening.
I'm now trying to control my rage so I don't get fired or make a scene. But yet, so often we don't then just pause and say, you know what? This is how I'm feeling. I need to take a moment to collect myself and I will get back to you.
Carolyn Stern: Yes, and you can do so in a constructive way. Really, emotional intelligence is being intelligent about your emotions.
So what this means is, Hey, I'm feeling angry. And what that anger is telling me is, I'm not happy with the unfairness of this and what I need is a pause so I can, can take a moment and calm myself down. Are you okay with that?
Right? Like just letting people know. And again, it goes back to those inner iceberg conversations. If we weren't so afraid to tell people what we were really thinking and we could do so in a respectful and professional way, it's really about speaking your truth.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. Simple as, Hey, I've heard a lot today. I just need to take this away and digest it, and can we reconvene later on? And there's nothing wrong with that.
Carolyn Stern: That's right.
Tim Reitsma: And I think it's putting your foot down and saying, or take foot in your stake in the ground and saying I'm owning this. There's a lot of emotion going on and I need to respond. I remember early on in my career, I wish I was into podcasting and we connected because I did not respond that way.
I responded in a manner that, well, got me into trouble, and I will never forget that. Where I raised my voice and I told somebody to get out of my office in a very vocal way, not the proper response. And so, it has an impact.
Carolyn Stern: Absolutely. And think about it, if we don't pay attention to our feelings, what we're doing is we're spending so much time and money on the disrespectful behaviors or inappropriate communications. Right? Which all stem from our emotional issues in the office.
So if we could just get to the heart of the matter, why you were yelling at this person to leave your office, that's the root of the cause. You know, and I'd be curious, you know, we can talk about it offline, but what was it that, you know, that day that you know was going on for you that did make you lose your temper?
And by the way, Tim, you're not alone. I see this all day long. I hear about this all day long. We just don't know how to get in the driver's seat of our emotions. And the trick is, as I said, be an observer of yourself and take yourself out of the situation so you remove the emotional charge. And that's how you do it.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah in, in that situation, it was a project that I was leading was not going well. There was just a lot of miscommunication on my part and with the communication to the team. And somebody came into my office who was charged up and was came in with his finger in my face and was blaming me for everything.
And I reacted in the moment and since then, if I feel my emotions, if I'm sitting in a meeting and something's going on, I always reflect back to that story and go, okay, how do I need to respond to this? If I feel that emotion creeping up, I will have no problem saying, I'm feeling triggered. I need to take a moment.
And if somebody says no, then it's like, then need you to respect that I need a moment.
Carolyn Stern: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I'll never forget I'll share another story where I also didn't say what I needed to say in the moment. A woman came up to me and so I speak all over, you know, the world. And I was in this resort in Mexico and during, it was a fitness resort.
So when I was, you know, presenting, I was all dressed up in a suit. But when I was not, you know, when I was offline and just exercising, I was in my Lululemons. And a woman came up to me and said, oh my God, I didn't realize they made Lululemon that big. My sister's about as fat as you. What size is that?
Tim Reitsma: Wow.
Carolyn Stern: And I just lost it. Like I just was like, so first of all, now what you see here before you, since writing the book, I've lost 130 pounds.
Tim Reitsma: Wow. Congrats.
Carolyn Stern: But at that time, I was a bigger girl. And so I was so embarrassed. I was so, she cut me to the core. It was such a pain, like my weight has been a sensitive topic my whole life. And in that moment, I should have said something, but all I said, I regretted it.
I said to her, it's a size 12 at the time, which was the largest size at the time that Lululemon was making, they've now grown their sizes, which is fantastic and are much more inclusive. But at the time it was 12. And by the way, just for you, Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 so you can kind of get a perspective here.
And then I walked away with my tail between the new legs. Now here's the thing, I wasn't a size 12. I was stretching those babies, but the next day I thought, I can't let this happen. So I went back and I found the woman and I said, this is what I said. I said, when you said, oh my God, I can't believe they make Lululemon that big, my sister's about as fat as you.
What size is that? I felt hurt. And what I'd like you to do in the future is know the impact of your words. I took back my power. I asserted myself. I was very respectful. I didn't lose my temper. I didn't tell her, you know, screw you. I just told her how I felt, but I also let her know the impact that she had on me.
And so in your example, you know what you could have said, and this is a suggestion that we use that I share in the book, but that I use in my courses is you could have said to that person, when you come in, guns a blazing, you know, pointing fingers at me. Or when you accuse me of something, I feel, and what did you feel Tim at the time? Angry?
Tim Reitsma: No, I was angry. I was mad. I was seeing red. Yeah.
Carolyn Stern: Yeah. I'm furious. I'm mad. You know, I wanna punch something. And what I'd like you to do in the future is, what would you have liked that person to have done?
Tim Reitsma: To come in calm and collect, collective and constructive in, in a professional manner.
Carolyn Stern: Yeah. And then how would it that have benefited the two of you?
Tim Reitsma: Oh, I think we would've been able to resolve our differences a lot quicker and without mediation from other parties that had to get involved, unfortunately. And you know, we repaired our working relationship and we're still stay in touch now, but it there is damage done and it could have gone a lot different. And again, for those who are listening, here's some live coaching, here's some live scenario. A real scenario for you.
Carolyn Stern: So this is what I wanna tell your listeners. The model stands it's when you did blank, I felt blank. What I'd like you to do in the future is blank and how it will benefit us is blank. And it's really important that first part is you just state your observations.
Cause I could have said to the lady when you judged me yesterday. But that's a judgment of my observation, so I needed to say, when you said, and I repeated back what I heard.
I felt what I'd like you to do in the future and how it will benefit us is. That four step model is an adaptation of the nonviolent communication model, and that is a really great way for you to assert how what you want in a relationship, let people know how you felt and the impact of their actions had on you. That's key.
Tim Reitsma: I love that. I love that we went down that train of thought and thank you for sharing this model. We'll definitely be calling this out in the show notes as well as, and for those who are listening and are really curious to dive into this, I think it's so important.
I'd like to shift the conversation just a little bit because I've heard, and as I've shared up the beginning, and I think we, we agree to this is, we've heard in that there's no place for emotion in the workplace.
But yet this whole conversation is about we need to be, become emotionally strong leaders. Well, what does that even mean? And then how do we grow our emotional intelligence?
Carolyn Stern: Well, first of all, an emotionally strong leader is someone who leads with a strong mind and a kind heart, right? And that's what's gonna build connection. And really it is about, and yes, you can grow your emotional intelligence. This should be a priority for sure. Leaders need to discuss why they're feeling what they're feeling.
You know, we need to debunk that myth, that feelings are not okay. And this is why I said I think my book is so popular right now, is because the world is ready. We've had so many emotions, Tim, over the last, let's say three years. We've been in on a rollercoaster ride. And you got to see our chaotic lives, you know, behind our, you know, since we were, some of us were working from home and our leaders got to see that, wow, not only am I not equipped to handle intent of my emotions, but I'm not equipped to handle my employees emotions either.
And so when I first started EI Experience in 2017, I had to convince people what emotional intelligence was. I had to convince them why they needed this training. Now the phones are ringing off the hook. Because people know we do not have these skills. We have not trained them in schools. I, you know, I've been at the university for almost 25 years.
I, I'm trained in high school and I'm also trained in elementary. We're not training this. I gives, you know, as teachers give students stress, they don't teach them how to manage stress. Right? They put them in teams. They don't teach them how to work within those teams. And so the key is, yes, emotional intelligence can be enhanced and grown at any moment in your life. And one study shows that it actually peaks in your sixties, but the key is to figure out what are you struggling with? And when Tim, when you took that assessment many years ago, it does give you a snapshot of your life. Well, unlike most assessments, this can change.
Every year I take myself through this book because every year what I need to work on changes. So this year I'm working on stress tolerance, impulse control, and independence. The year before it was on something else because it's how I am faring with life. So the first step to grow your emotional intelligence is to figure out what is my emotional makeup and how is that helping or hurting me?
And my leadership, and the key is in the book, I take you through this sliding scale. So let's take empathy for instance. You can have too little empathy, which means you don't, you're not compassionate, you don't care. You don't put yourself in other people's shoes. When you have a high level of empathy, which is a healthy level of empathy, you are really aware of people's feelings.
You appreciate and understand how somebody else's feels. But you can also have what I call the dark side of emotional intelligence. And you can be on the dark side of empathy where you care too much and you get enmeshed in people's stuff and you carry their emotional burdens on your shoulders and you don't push them to excel.
You might even coddle them cuz you're so worried about them. So it depends on where you land. And in the book, I take them through all 15 emotional intelligent competencies and get them to take a true look in the mirror. And by the way, this is hard, Tim. Like it's hard to take a good, honest look in the mirror and say, Hey, I'm dark on this and high on this and low on this.
And let me tell you, even though I've been studying this for 20 years, don't think I'm on the other side of this screen, have it all figured out. I'm a work in progress and a masterpiece at the same time. So I, too, work on this stuff and every year I work these exercises in the book that I take the readers through.
But the second step is once you figure out what your emotional makeup is, you gotta ask others. Cause how you see yourself is not how others might see you. So you need to make sure that how you are showing, how you think you're showing up, actually is how you're showing up.
And so we, the second step in the book is consult with others. And then once you do that, and in the book, I give them tons of questions that they can ask others. But then you've gotta figure out, if I think I'm high in empathy and you think I'm low in empathy, there's a disconnect there. And let me tell you, when I do this for companies, there are so many leadership gaps.
What the employee thinks they are and what the leader or manager thinks they are on two different wavelengths. And we need to make sure, because you can have the greatest intentions, but it's your impact, right? I might be think I'm a good leader, but it's your impact how it lands. And I shared in another video of mine is that I had one employee who was said to me, I'm so much happier in a different city than you.
And that was like an arrow to my heart cuz I thought I was a great leader. I involved her in all the company decisions. I asked her a lot of questions, but to her, I was over involved. And that taught me a valuable lesson that I can have great intentions and think what I'm doing is going in the right direction.
But she felt that she needed to, she was fine on her own. She didn't need to be involved in everything. She wanted to just be left alone to do good work. And what that taught me is, good intentions does not sanitize bad impact.
Tim Reitsma: So much packed into there, I think. I just love it and I love this is why I would encourage anybody to pick up the book and because there's the workbooks at the end.
When you open it up, it's like, okay, this is a pretty heavy read, but when you realize that about half the book is workbook and self-reflection, but not just self-reflection. And some people might be thinking, this is scary. You, I agree with you. You need to go ask feedback from others. And when I was going through the book, I saw that my heart skipped a beat.
It always does. Whenever I need to ask somebody for feedback, it's just something I don't enjoy doing. I know people that do enjoy doing it, asking for feedback because it helps them either course correct or just gives them the confidence of what they're doing is good. But it's so, so important because, you know, there's, you know, three sides to every story.
There's my side, my truth, your truth, and then the actual truth.
And so it's why I love that. Love the scale where, you know, plotting it out and going, okay, well where do I land on this? Because how else do we know what to work on?
Carolyn Stern: And that's what step three is all about in the book, in the six step process, it's clarifying your focus once you, you connect with yourself and consult with others. Let's clarify the focus. Now that you've heard from others and what you think of yourself. What do you wanna work on, and what's the one or two things that are gonna make you the best version of yourself?
And I'll be honest, Tim, I also, this was hard for me to do, and this is hard every year that I take myself through this process. The hardest person I have to ask was my partner at the time. And I was so worried what he was going to say that I actually asked him if I could record it because I was worried that I wouldn't hear it. So I still actually have it on my phone to this day. But it reminds me, and he did share some of the things that I knew were my strengths, and he did share some of the things I knew were my development opportunities.
But he also pointed out some blind spots and we all have blind spots. And so I think it's important for us to realize what those blind spots are, because really the byproduct of emotional intelligence, Tim, is happiness, right? It's being satisfied and content and enjoying your life. And I don't know about you, but I just wanna be happy.
That's what I'm trying to do here in this lifetime. And so it's really about just figuring out what's getting in my way of my happiness and then figuring out what's the one or two things I can do. And you said it earlier, none of this is really rocket science, but it's so hard. It's simple, but it's not easy.
Tim Reitsma: I agree. It seems simple, but yet it's hard. And whenever we, at least for me, and I'll, I won't project this on our audience or anybody else, or our listeners, but for me it's, I love to, to help others and unlock their potential.
But when it comes to myself, like, oh, I'll figure it out later. I'll, you I'm happy doing that. Or, you know, in recently, you know, I could feel my emotions coming up. It's like, I'll just deal with that later. But if we just decide to deal with it later, it's gonna come up again and it might come up even worse and worse.
And so again, for those people who are listening today there's one clear way to start. And, but I'd love you to share like, what is the one thing that somebody can do today to grow their emotional intelligence? Really embrace their emotions.
Carolyn Stern: Yeah, and I'm a firm believer. Before I answer that question, I just wanna say I love that I'm a firm believer, if you don't learn the lesson, it will follow you.
Right? And so again, it's figuring out what that lesson is. So the first step, and it's a simple step, is figure out where you land on all 15 different emotional intelligence skills. And then ask others. Ask others, Hey, I see myself as a, you know, really stress tolerant person. Do you see myself as a stress tolerant person?
I see myself as really not assertive. Do you see myself as not assertive? And ask them these questions and then get clarity. What's the one thing that gets in your way? And for me, Tim, just on being super vulnerable on this call, my lowest skill, no matter how many times I take myself through this process, is independence.
And people are always surprised, like Carolyn, you own your own company. You're financially in dependent. You know you're not married. You're like, how did, how come? Well, here's the thing, it's not about that I don't know how to travel by myself, cuz I do that a lot in my career. It's because I care too much about what people think. And why do I care too much about what people think?
Because I have a very overprotective mother and growing up as a child, she kind of hoovered over me like a typical helicopter parent. And I didn't learn how to stand on my own two feet. And think of emotions like your muscles. So you all have emotional muscles supposedly in here, somewhere under, underneath. I have a six pack, supposedly.
I haven't seen it yet, but it's in there. And if I did more crunches it would come out, but it hasn't come out. Why? Cuz I'm not doing the exercises. Well, it's the same thing with emotional muscles. If I work my independence muscles, I will become more independent. So what do I need to do? Here's a tip.
If some, if people are out there or like me, struggle with independence, stop asking people for validation. Stop asking reassuring questions. You know, be more self-directed. Make your own decisions. And again, this sounds simple, but it's very difficult if you struggle with the skill. And so you have to push yourself to feel uncomfortable, right? Be comfortable with the uncomfortable, and that's the only way you're gonna grow these emotional muscles.
Tim Reitsma: Be comfortable with the uncomfortable, which makes me uncomfortable. But I think, you know, again, going through the book and also, you know, familiar with the assessment, the EQI assessment, going through those, the 15 emotions, so, so important.
And somebody who might be listening going, okay, where do I start? We've, I think we've you've laid out a very clear path on where to start. You know, taking that, going through these assessments in your workbook, or, you know, finding you online and finding your videos. Just, it's, you gotta start if you're finding that you're not happy, reacting to things in a way that you may, might not have reacted to or reacted in that way previously. There's something going on and you need to unpack that.
It's our emotions are a data point. And I say, I've got two young kids and we've talk about this at home is just, these emotions, like why is this coming up? What's not why, but but more of an inclusive way. Like what is coming up for you right now?
What's causing you to feel this way? It's a data point to get to, as you said, the root cause of something, which is we don't spend enough time in this. My background's business operations, process improvement. Gotta get to the root cause of things and we don't.
We just say, here's the problem, here's an answer. Go. And I think the same applies to our emotional intelligence or often how we react to things.
Carolyn Stern: Yes. And figuring out why they're feeling what they're feeling, right? And going deeper into that root cause analysis for sure. Absolutely. And I think that's fantastic. And start your kids early.
Right? As early as possible. These young people need to learn and we need to start developing an emotional education because this is the reason I wrote the book. I just saw it. I've seen it for the last 25 years. I see students not speaking up and taking the lion share of their work. I see, you know, students getting enmeshed in people's problems. I see people act and texting it impulsively and sending out a snotty text.
I see all of these things but think about it, Tim. It then becomes, we don't teach them this. So then we graduate them and then it becomes your problem as a leader to figure out, oh shoot, how do I teach someone to be assertive when they haven't been assertive before? How do I teach them how to control their impulses when they, you know, can act, you know, rationally. So I think the key really is starting to have this conversation which I really appreciate that we're doing this today.
Tim Reitsma: Yeah. And I really appreciate you coming on. Your passion on this topic is so evident, and as we look to wrap up, Carolyn, if somebody's listening and going, okay, I need to know more. I need to figure this out for myself so I can lead my team, or I need to guide my team to figure out emotional intelligence, how could people reach you?
Carolyn Stern: Yes, so people can reach me personally at carolynstern.com and on LinkedIn or any of the social media, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram on with Carolyn Stern. But if you're interested in corporate training or workshops, you can reach us at eiexperience.com. And again, with all the, our social media handles are just EI Experience, so they can reach us there.
Tim Reitsma: Perfect. And we'll include that in, in the show note. So if you're driving or walking and miss that we'll definitely include that. We'll also include a link to the book because it has made my top book read list for this year. And so, because it's such a topic that we need to embrace, and not just from a theoretical perspective, but it will change our workplace, it will change our lives when we lean into our emotional intelligence, so.
Carolyn Stern: Absolutely. And I think the world is ready, right? I think the world is ready for this kind of book, and we need to start being emotionally strong leaders because people are emotional creatures. And we need to start learning how to tend to and understand how people feel.
Not only are our self as leaders, and by the way, the reason I called it the inside out journey to transformational leadership was before we can lead anyone else, we gotta lead ourself. So this book is all about figuring out, what do I need first? How do I improve myself? How is my emotional makeup helping or hurting my leadership?
Then once we figure that out, my next book will be the sequel, which will be How Do You Lead Teams? But let's first start looking at ourselves.
Tim Reitsma: I love it. Thanks again, Carolyn, for coming on and for those who are listening, I really hope you enjoyed this conversation on emotional intelligence. Send me an email at Tim@peoplemanagingpeople.com if you'd like to continue this conversation or have any feedback or thoughts on this episode.
And as always, please head to our LinkedIn, our social media and like, and subscribe to our podcast. Thanks again, Carolyn, for coming on. For those who are listening, I hope you all have an amazing day.
Carolyn Stern: Thanks for having me.