Author Archives: Chris

How Do You Influence?

Two Men Talking

“The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and to influence their actions.” —John Hancock

In the Working with Emotional Intelligence master’s course, we have discussed many different aspects of self-awareness, managing our own emotions, developing empathy for others and using listening skills that deepen empathy and understanding of others. These emotional intelligence competencies strengthen our interactions with selves and others since we function, learn and grow within the context of relationships.

In our everyday lives—both work and personal—we also have the opportunity and desire to influence others to make things happen. This can occur either consciously or unconsciously, and in so doing, we can achieve differing degrees of effectiveness and success.

What can we really do when it comes to influencing others? Will offering advice be effective? What about convincing the other person of your point of view and desired action? What if that advice, point of view and action aligns with your values and not the other person’s values? What if it does? And how can you find out?

This week, my students began by assessing two relationships in their life and their level of influence within those relationships. If you want to play along, here are the questions to ask:

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being very low and 5 being extremely high:

  1. What is the level of trust in our relationship? (For example, this person knows I have his or her best interests at heart; I earned this trust by modeling integrity and ethical behavior.)
  2. What level do I know and understand this person’s values and passion? (This could be about life in general or the situation that you wish to influence.)
  3. Does this person perceive I have understanding, knowledge and competency in the area I would offer influence? (The person knows to ask you for advice or that any advice coming from you is that of a mentor with a great deal of competency in the subject area.)

After identifying these aspects of your levels of influence within the relationship, explore ways you can strengthen your foundations to build effective and positive influence. What actions can you take to move the scale closer to 5? Observe what comes naturally for you and what areas you consciously need to change.

Remember the importance of sincerity and how we are hard-wired to be in relationship. Our brains can filter out “schmoozing” and insincerity that may be used to manipulate instead of influence.

What have you discovered? Please let us know by commenting below.

“Leadership is influence.” —John C. Maxwell

April 2014
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Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Person Walking on Beach

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” —Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“Seek first to understand and then seek to be understood,” Stephen R. Covey’s fifth habit from his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is easier said than done. To truly grow and succeed in this habit, we must recognize how we empathize and how we can sincerely enhance that ability.

An exercise to help achieve that is to walk a mile in another person’s shoes—or sandals—a practice dating back to Roman times and earlier. By putting yourself in another’s place and experiencing what he or she may be going through, you increase the emotional intelligence competence of empathy.

This week, my Master in Management students are practicing empathy—understanding another person’s views of life.

Empathy SidebarIf you are game to play along, here’s your assignment: choose a person and situation, and then experience what it is like to fully understand that person’s feelings, needs and how they are responding or reacting to a situation. Observe and sincerely attempt to understand their perspectives without judgment. This will require being present to the person, reflecting and practicing active and empathetic listening. Inquire how they are feeling and see how close you are to understanding what they are experiencing during the situation. Notice how this makes you feel and how the person responds to you.

It is important to be sincere. If your intentions are sincere, then you will communicate in a meaningful way. This week, you will be listening to people and yourself much more carefully. Since you are practicing new habits, your old mental models may inhibit your ability to fully understand from another’s perspective. Notice when that happens and what those models may be, if they block your understanding and how you feel as a result.

After reflecting and even partaking in this exercise, what have you learned about others? About yourself? What do you plan to change? Please let me know.

After self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation, empathy is the next step in true emotional intelligence. Developing and growing relationships follows. Stay tuned.

April 2014
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Develop Positive Rituals to Increase Emotional Intelligence

Meditation in the Workplace

As we begin to understand our responses to situations, we can more effectively regulate and manage our emotions. My Master in Management class, “Working with Emotional Intelligence,” encourages students to build more awareness and confidence in their ability to understand and strengthen their emotional intelligence.

Our habits are expressed through four domains: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Every thought, feeling and action has an energy consequence; it can either be energy-producing or energy-draining.

We can manage this flow of energy through oscillation—cycling between expending and renewing our energy—which leads to high performance when balanced. Positive rituals or habits enhance and renew our energy levels and are the key to sustained high performance and focused full engagement. The feeling that accompanies these positive routines and sustains the energy renewal is that of appreciation or gratitude.

My challenge to the students this week: Explore your habits or routines that enhance or renew your energy levels. What fills you up and helps you restore your balance, sense of confidence and balance in life?

Look at all of the domains: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. What are the routines for each?

If you do not have any, what would you like to incorporate or practice?

Physically, perhaps a walk around the block or a 10-minute stretch twice a day will renew your energy levels. Examples of emotional boosts include writing or journaling for 15 minutes each morning or evening with a focus on that which brings you joy or gratitude (see my blog post What Went Well). Positive mental rituals could be researching something you are passionate about or strategizing action steps to reach a goal. The spiritual focus could be meditating, positive affirmations or prayer.

I encourage you to practice one or two of these behaviors. As you practice them, take the time to feel the sense of appreciation and gratitude for this gift to yourself. Let that feeling soak into all of your senses and let yourself be with it for as long as possible. Please share your experiences.

March 2014
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Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Businessman Drawing a Colored Graph on Glass

In this post, I am sharing a column written by a student in the Southern Oregon University Master in Management program who also happens to be editor of the editorial page of the Salem, OR, Statesman Journal. Give this a read; I’ll share my reflections at the end. Enjoy.

Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Written by Dick Hughes,

Need a Laugh?

I consider myself fairly smart … in some ways.

Thus it was disconcerting last week when I heard people of average intelligence outperform people with high IQs 70 percent of the time. But that statistic does not surprise me. As a friend at a high-powered think tank in Washington, D.C., once told me, “We have bright interns, and we have hard-working interns. Rarely are they the same.”

Another relevant statistic: Emotional intelligence is twice as important as expertise in almost any job. That assumes, of course, that the person in the job has at least the minimum level of competence. From then on, it’s all about the person’s work ethic and ability to work with others.

This is true in hard science, social science, business, nonprofits and government. Success in life comes down to relationships.

The good thing is you can expand your emotional intelligence if you work at it.

Some politicians and community activists mistakenly think their ideas are so brilliant that others will automatically see the inherent wisdom of them and embrace them. Wrong-o. You have to be able to sell your ideas, which means having established trust, understanding and rapport with your audience.

The private sector is the same.

I was academically smart but also was the kid who, starting during kindergarten naptime, was always in trouble for talking too much and being disruptive because of my boredom in class. In retrospect, I firmly believe my career was set back at least five years because I had not yet learned to truly work hard, to be disciplined in my use of time, to collaborate with others and to combine self-confidence with a striving for humility. (I know; “trying to be humble” seems like an oxymoron.)

Academics came so easily that I achieved good grades without needing to learn and employ those essential traits, despite the best efforts of my teachers and parents. (That also could explain why Stanford University rejected me three times, twice putting me on wait lists. I’M NOT BITTER ANYMORE. But I digress …)

Note from Chris Cook

This winter, I am teaching a Southern Oregon University course on emotional intelligence (EI) for a cohort of working professionals in Salem, OR. The author of this editorial is a member of that cohort, and I enjoyed how he made the connection between our exploration of EI and his life’s work experience.

How do you see the applicability of EI in your life—as a working professional, family member or community leader? Please share your stories here.

Printed with permission of the Statesman Journal.
March 2014
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What Is in the Mirror?

What's in the Mirror?

This week, students in my Working with Emotional Intelligence class were asked to stretch their self-awareness even further by noticing annoying behaviors in others—and then looking for the same behavior in themselves. Are you curious to see what it brings up for you?

Assignment: You may notice certain people or situations impact you more intensely than others. For example, a particular person’s behavior may be irritating to you while it does not impact others. Or you may find yourself in awe of a specific trait or behavior others don’t even notice. Why do you react to certain people and situations and not others?

Carl Jung first introduced this concept, known as the Shadow. The Shadow is understood to be parts of ourselves that are unacknowledged or disassociated with our conscious mind. We are either not consciously aware of them or we submerge or deny them. According to Jungian theory, we project these unclaimed aspects of ourselves on others. As we project a certain undesirable behavior on another, we react to that person or situation with much more intensity and “charge” than when we respond to events that are not projections. According to Jung, the human being deals with the reality of the shadow in four ways: denial, projection, integration and/or transmutation.

This understanding gives us a golden opportunity to explore those shadows. As we become more aware of our emotions and the corresponding reactions, we have a chance for more inner reflection by shining the mirror on ourselves.

For example, if I become angry with a colleague who is not accountable for her mistakes yet claims the credit for accomplishments regardless of whom was involved, I can shine the mirror back on me and ask, “Where am I not being accountable for my actions, and are there times I take all the credit when rightfully it needs to be shared?” I understand it is important to talk to my colleague about my experience with her actions; however, I will be more grounded and not as charged with irritation and anger after I reflect on when and how I have done the same thing. This also promotes more compassion. My dialogue and interaction with this person will be more positive and most likely heard with openness instead of defensiveness and will have an influence on future behavior.

When we find ourselves reacting to certain people or situations, we can shine the mirror back on ourselves. During this week, take the time to learn about your reactions and ask, “What is in the mirror? What would cause a person to act in this manner that is irritating or upsetting? What characteristics, traits or belief systems does that person reflect in this behavior?” Then look for where it is in you. You have an opportunity to find those disowned parts of yourself, either positive or negative.

March 2014
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Be Aware: Start from the Inside . . .

Winter Meditation in Snow with Tree

Are you aware of how you feel and how you respond to those feelings? We can go through our day on automatic pilot, which works fine for tasks that do not require thought such as brushing our teeth or taking a shower.

There are times, however, when being mindless about situations causes us to react instead of respond in a proactive manner. If we get an email or call that angers or upsets us, do we stop to think about the emotion, where it came from and how to respond in a way that results in beneficial outcomes? Or do we unconsciously react in a manner that undermines and/or sabotages relationships with self or others?

This is an assignment for master’s students in my Working with Emotional Intelligence class. The first step toward developing emotional intelligence is to become self-aware. When we are aware of how we are feeling inside, we are more likely to consciously choose a response rather than reacting without thinking about the results of our actions.

I ask my students to take time to be aware of how they feel in situations and why. Recognize their emotions and the effects of those emotions.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What has caused me to feel this way?
  • What are the thoughts that follow that emotion?
  • How does that thought align or not align with my values?
  • Have I experienced this before?
  • What can I change to bring the thoughts more into alignment with my values?

I invite you to try this: target a problem situation and increase your awareness about the emotions, thoughts and reactions regarding the problem. You do not have to do anything different during this time—simply be aware of how you are feeling, what is causing those feelings and how they correspond with your core values. Remember, this is the time of self-awareness; you do not have to fix anything—just be aware, starting from the inside.

February 2014
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Make the Connection for a Happier Life

Wizard of Oz: Scarecrow Dorothy and Tin Man

One of the key predictors of happiness is connectivity—feeling a sense of community. Some of us find our community with work colleagues. Others find it among a circle of friends outside work. In this new economy, many of us find ourselves relocating or perhaps working in an unfamiliar industry where we are establishing a new sense of community.

Last week I attended the Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. (SOREDI) Business Conference, and a colleague commented that I seemed to know everybody there. Well, I didn’t, but it occurred to me that I did know quite a few people. And it made me feel happy. I like people and like to create connections. Some of these connections have developed into full-fledged friendships. Others have created solid ties in business arenas where I can be helpful to others—like being an advisor to entrepreneurs through SOREDI’s TAG Team (Technical Advisory Group) and the Sustainable Valley Technology Group (SVTG) Board of Mentors. I feel a connection with Southern Oregon, its people and its businesses, and this has a noticeable effect on my happiness and well-being.

Try it for yourself! See what you notice. Here are a few places you might find connections:

  • Service organizations like Rotary, Lions and Soroptimist
  • Fundraising events such as Taste of Ashland, JPR Wine Tasting and Best of Britt
  • Chambers of Commerce and other pro-business organizations like SOREDI and SVTG
  • Your health club
  • Places of worship
  • Classes—academic and enrichment
  • Clubs focused on something you’re passionate about, like running, beer-tasting, cooking, skiing, wine appreciation, hiking, gardening, books …

Another way I have found to make connections is through social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook (Capiche). I’ve made some remarkable contacts through both social media channels and maintain them online and in person.

Blogging is another way to connect with people. You don’t get the one-to-one contact, but you are keeping your name and brand front and center. I am always delighted by the readers who acknowledge me as a colleague or subject matter expert. Reading my blog gives them a sense of knowing me, and sometimes that’s all it takes to spark a connection.

Making connections is critical to a person’s happiness and sense of well-being. Please share your ideas on creating connections by commenting on my blog. The stronger our connectedness, the stronger our community—and the greater our collective happiness.

The 5 Ways to Well-Being

(thanks to social economist Nic Marks for this research)

The five ways to well-being are a set of positive actions that have been developed to help people get started on their way to a happier life. While we all have different circumstances and different likes and dislikes, these five ways are broad enough for you to find your own style of happiness. Try them out at work and in your daily life. See how well they work for you and tell us how effective they are!

Connect …

With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active …

Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice …

Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savor the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep learning …

Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favorite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Give …

Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

February 2014
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Think You’ve Got Your Marketing Ducks in a Row?

Marketing Ducks

Lessons in Branding Across Industries

If you were close to my place at Christmas, you would have heard a big whoop of joy as I learned Cracker Barrel was pulling Duck Dynasty items from its shelves—not because of the backlash from Phil Robertson’s anti-gay and racially charged comments. I was elated because Cracker Barrel said the comments were incongruent with company values. What a terrific display of a company living its brand. “We operate within the ideals of fairness, mutual respect and equal treatment of all people. These ideals are the core of our corporate culture.”

Their values and ideals were not just words on a page but the barometer for all business decisions. That’s how an organization needs to operate to authentically live its brand. Imagine my disappointment when the 625-location chain announced one day later they were keeping the merchandise because of customer outcry. They lost my business on principle. They weren’t true to their brand—how could I trust them to be true to me?

Defining your organization’s brand—the sum parts of its values, vision and passion—is critical for your organization to do its work with integrity. And what’s an organization without integrity?

Defining your brand enables your organization to do business in a way that is congruent with expectations—yours and your customer’s. A well-defined brand enables your organization to authentically present itself to the world and your clients.

You don’t hire an ad agency to “make up” your brand; you unearth it. It’s what you are made of—your DNA. Once you’ve defined your brand, you can put words, colors, fonts, logos, photos and text to it. That’s where most organizations stop. To have a successful brand, you need to take the next step: live it.

How does one live their organization’s brand? First, base every business decision on the brand values, vision and purpose. Cracker Barrel had good intentions but then caved in to financial pressures. Fortunately, most brands aren’t tested in the wake of public scandal. Most brands quietly serve their company values, vision and purpose.

It’s easy to live your brand when you’re a Mom and Pop business because you are your brand. As organizations grow, defining and living one’s brand must become intentional.

Culture guru and CEO Tony Hsieh learned this the hard way. While building his former company, LinkExchange, he and his coworkers were on top of the world. They were having a ball at work—every day. Yet as the company grew, Hsieh wasn’t hiring people with the same values, vision and passion. The brand and experience of work was compromised. After selling to Microsoft for $265 million, he vowed to stop chasing money and start chasing passion—which is where the über-successful Zappos comes in. Zappos operates within its company values. Sometimes that means making decisions that aren’t money-making. For example, Hsieh moved the company’s headquarters to Las Vegas and invested more than $300 million of his own money to revitalize downtown—in keeping with the value of “Embrace and drive change.”

What if you aren’t a billionaire with a multibillion-dollar company? Can you still define and live an authentic brand? YES. It happens in every industry in every region. Organizations are catching on to the benefits—both intrinsic and financial—of standing firm in vision, values and purpose.

Salt Lake City architectural firm CRSA’s mission is to create “designs that enrich lives and create community.” Principal Fran Pruyn says, “We attempt to create a culture of great people, great places, great practice. This means we have a firm culture that enriches lives and creates community.”

Centerville, Utah’s Ascent Construction considers its brand the external perception of its internal culture. Cynthia Remine of business development says, “Our brand has evolved in the past few years to a more relationship-based culture and is less financially focused. We learned that if you focus on the core aspects of building better relationships, financial success naturally follows, as does a more fulfilled and balanced personal and professional life.”

I’d call this is the gold standard for professional services firms. Nothing fancy, outrageous, or difficult—but clearly not the norm.

What makes your organization’s brand unique? How do you embody it? Encourage your team to live it? Contact me at 541.601.0114 or I’m collecting examples of brands in action. Tell me about yours.

January 2014
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How to Avoid “Blue Monday”

Dancing in the Rain with Umbrella

Feeling a little down? Unmotivated? Think you need to do something about it? You’re not alone. Every January, we’re subjected to a pseudoscientific study in the national news known as “Blue Monday.” It started in 2005 when Cardiff University psychologist Cliff Arnall devised a formula he claimed would reveal the most depressing day of the year.

Arnall created a mash-up of timely topics such as bleak weather conditions (he’s from the UK), personal debt, time since Christmas and time since failing in our New Year’s resolutions. And since it also was his premise that we all hate Mondays (because of work), Arnall decided the most depressing day should crop up on the third Monday of January or thereabouts. That’s January 20 this year.

I challenge you to beat Blue Monday.

Start by stepping back and looking at those promises you made—those New Year’s resolutions. Do they sound a lot like, “I will lose weight,” “I will go to the gym more,” “I will drink less” or “I will spend less?”

Rainbow UmbrellaWhat if you reframed these resolutions and created intentions? It’s a well-proven fact that you get more of what you focus on, so why not focus on what you want instead of what you don’t want? Oh, and don’t try to do everything at once. Give yourself the opportunity to focus on one change at a time. Small wins add up.

For example, “I wiIl create more personal health starting with a more nutritious diet,” or “I will learn new ways to enjoy increasing my fitness, starting with a Zumba class two times a week.” This strategy sets you up with a powerful offense and relieves the need to rely on willpower. Set your intentions. Strengthen your offense. Create the space for what you want more of and celebrate the small wins.

By the way, in 2008, Arnall flipped the equation and deemed June 20 the happiest day of the year. He measured time outdoors and outdoor activity, connection with nature, socialization with neighbors and friends, positive childhood memories, warm temperatures and eminent holidays.

I’m more inclined to get behind the logic of this day and live it fully—after having realized some of my New Year’s intentions.

January 2014
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What Do You Expect from Your Job?

Our Values and Culture, Wegmans

Really? Is this a valid question?

The business world is changing along with our expectations. More than ever, we are looking to work for an organization with vision and values that align with our own. We are seeking a sense of purpose in what we do and how we do it.

Think about your own work. What really matters to you? Why do you do what you do?

I think it all boils down to happiness and a sense of wellbeing. Start with a question like, “Why do you do what you do?” You may get the answer, “Because I like to help people [fill in the blank].” Then ask, “Why do you like to help people [fill in the blank]?” And keep asking, keep drilling down. I bet you will finally get to an answer that sounds something like, “Because it makes me happy.” Yep. People do what they do in pursuit of happiness.

But what makes people happy? What feeds a state of wellbeing?

In his book Flourish, positive psychology’s grandfather Marty Seligman states that it’s the combination of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. Sounds reasonable.

But wait. It’s health, wealth, relationships, happiness and meaning, according to bestselling author and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith. Yeah, that sounds reasonable, too.

And Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says it’s a combination of perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and having a sense of vision and meaning in one’s work—being a part of something bigger than oneself. I can get on board with that as well.

The good news is that in the last several years, we’ve seen more and more examples of businesses of all shapes and sizes taking employee wellbeing and happiness into account—even putting it front and center. And they’re not all progressive tech giants like Google, Apple or Facebook. Happy companies are everywhere and every size.

Just look at Fortune’s Top Companies to Work For 2013. I’ll admit I’m proud to say little old Wegmans Food Markets is at position number five. I say I’m proud because Wegman’s was started in Rochester, NY, where I hail from. And while it’s not a Mom and Pop store anymore, it maintains that quality while offering an astounding shopping experience. For me, one of the best parts about visiting “home” is getting to grocery shop at “Weggies.”

What’s so great about Weggies? According to Fortune, “Turnover is an exceptionally low 3.6% at the Northeastern grocery chain, which lets employees reward one another with gift cards for good service. Many workers like it there so much they bring in relatives—one in five employees are related.” And the story goes that when Cher was in town for a concert, part of her VIP treatment included an exclusive visit to Wegman’s.

What about your work makes you happy? What helps you flourish? What inspires your creativity and fuels your desire to give a little more? Please let us know—reply to this blog! We will all benefit.

November 2013
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