Emotional Intelligence – So what and who cares?

I am going to come right out and say that emotional intelligence is directly related to the performance of your organization. I have found over 20 years of leading employees that emotional intelligence is directly related to organizational performance, so if your organization exists to maximize profits for shareholders (amongst other objectives), you may wish to consider its importance.

So, how does it relate? Simply stated, the time and attention that emotionally intelligent leaders invest in their employees equates to improved performance, which in turn equates to improved organizational performance. Each time that I meet with employees to discuss their performance objectives and their long- and short-term goals, I ensure that I fully understand the organization’s strategy (strategic plan/goals) so that I am able to tie them into the employee’s personal and professional goals. By being genuinely interested in each employee’s personal and professional goals, and by establishing a system that allows for routine follow-up to the action plans that we establish, I increase both employee effort and performance. As indicated by the 10:6:2 and the 10:9 rules, respectively, every 10% improvement in commitment [to our employees] can increase employee effort by 6%, which can result in a 2% increase of employee performance. Additionally, every 10% improvement in commitment results in a 9% decrease in probability that the employee will seek employment elsewhere. But, it takes an emotionally intelligent leader to be able and willing to commit the time and genuine effort necessary to improve his employees both personally and professionally. Follow-up and attention to detail are what separate good leaders from great leaders. Good leaders may positively impact the organization, but it would seem that organizational growth and profit maximization would be [much] more sustainable with a corps of great leaders shaping their organization’s workforce.

Is this possible within your organization? Do your leaders/managers consider your human resources as a means to an end? As an exhaustible resource to be used however necessary to maximize profits (however unsustainable the practice)? Or, do you have leaders that understand the importance of investing time and effort into establishing personal and professional goals, which dovetail perfectly with their employees’ performance objectives and the organization’s strategic goals?

Performance assessment and the implementation of action plans are my expertise. If you have questions, would like to know more, or have thoughts, please ask/share.

Dr. Mark

Validating Others

As emotionally intelligent leaders, we do not expect our employees to ‘check their issues at the door.’ We recognize that virtually every business is a people business, and we prepare ourselves to effectively respond to our employees’ needs. Mindful and resonant leaders understand that validating others is essential to developing trust in a relationship, and the compassion that these leaders demonstrate for others is what helps build resonant relationships. So what does it take to validate another? Validating others means to acknowledge and accept another’s feelings, emotions, input, etc. If, as leaders, we tell people to “shut up” or “take your issues elsewhere”, we immediately invalidate them and destroy our interpersonal relationships with them. Emotionally intelligent leaders do not shy away from receiving others’ inputs or from dealing with others’ emotions or feelings; they recognize the opportunity to listen, and, if necessary, provide assistance…with key emphasis on listening. Emotionally intelligent leaders understand when someone simply needs to be listened to or when they actually need assistance in finding a solution to a problem. Again, this may seem to be all common sense, but it is certainly not common practice.

What are your methods for ensuring you validate others? Do you actively/consciously do anything in particular?

Thank you for reading and for sharing!

Dr. Mark

Compassion Fatigue-Thoughts on the importance of renewal.

Without having to turn to the pages of a Webster’s Dictionary, I think that we could all agree, in a general sense, that compassion is one’s ability to feel empathy for and understand another’s situation. What happens, though, when one starts to experience compassion fatigue, which is the state of being indifferent to another’s situation due to prolonged exposure and emotional commitment to others? As emotionally intelligent leaders, it is important that we first understand that compassion fatigue is a reality of taking care of others, and we need to be aware/in-tune with ourselves and with others in order to deal with and/or prevent its effects from affecting our relationships with others.

So what does compassion fatigue look like? It is often most recognizable in settings, wherein which the provider/leader/employee seems to be indifferent [to one degree or another] to another’s situation—as though they’ve forgotten that the reason for their employment is the person for whom they are providing care or some other service. Compassion fatigue can be expressed by the way that these people speak to others, by the way that they fail to conduct their business expeditiously, by the way that they, in general, carry themselves when conducting business for which compassion is a, if not the, primary motivator for doing the job (or perhaps a reasonable person could argue that it should be). These people, and others, may sense that something is amiss with their own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, but may not necessarily know what it is or what to call it. Although there may be some extenuating circumstances and although there are exceptions to every rule, it seems a good bet that these folks are suffering from compassion fatigue.

Preventing and combating compassion fatigue require the same courses of action—much the same that treating and preventing shock are the same courses of action when studying first aid. The key to combating/preventing compassion fatigue is personal renewal, which consists of activating the parasympathetic nervous system (discussed in a previous post) by putting ourselves, or others, into a state of Positive Emotional Attractor, or PEA (also previously posted).

There are many different ways [too many to list] to activate the parasympathetic nervous system by being in a state of positive emotional attractor; the point of this post is to briefly discuss how doing this can help overcome compassion fatigue. How this combats compassion fatigue is that it increases feelings of positivity and hope, through exercises or activities that help people think about the future and dream about possibilities. It helps one to feel optimistic, focus on one’s strengths, feel excited about trying new things, and experimenting (as a generalized example). And, as a matter of combating compassion fatigue, regaining one’s ability to build and/or maintain resonant relationships with others. This is why leave/vacation management and work-life balance are so important. Leaders have the responsibility to ensure their employees are taking time (vacation) to renew themselves. Individuals have the responsibility of maintaining a work-life balance that fosters effectiveness in both. It is not easy, and even though much of this may seem to be common sense, it is not at all common practice…which would be ideal.

I am curious to know what your methods of combating/preventing compassion fatigue may be. What do you do to renew yourself so that you are able to maintain resonant relationships with others? What do you do to help others find their work-life balance so that they can prevent/combat compassion fatigue and maintain their relationships?

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Mark

What are ‘Office Politics’?

Have you ever heard someone refer to ‘office politics’ or say that a particular setting is ‘political’? I have, and prior to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader, I, too, used to cringe at and/or avoid settings that I considered “political”. But have you ever considered what ‘office politics’ really are, underneath it all?

Thanks to a colleague of mine, who helped me mature as a leader, I no longer consider ‘office politics’ as something to be avoided. I remember vividly a conversation I had with him one day, during which I told him that I did not understand why I had to engage in ‘office politics’ just to get things done for my soldiers. I expected him to agree with me, but he did not. In fact, he challenged me by asking me what I considered to be ‘office politics’. Then, he offered me his thoughts on what he considered ‘office politics’ to be, and it changed my life. He said, “You should think of office politics as ‘the art of the human relationship’. Once you start thinking of all of your interactions in terms of creating and maintaining relationships with people, you will, with practice, become more mindful of your interactions and it will be less about ‘politics’ and more about mutual respect.” I distinctly remember this conversation, which took place over ten years ago, because it was really the first time that I had been challenged in this way to reconsider my paradigm.

“The art of the human relationship.” Wow. When you think of it in those terms, it takes away [almost] every negative connotation of working with others to accomplish missions, tasks, and/or goals. It is a necessary paradigm shift, which allows you to then become mindful of how you are feeling, how others are feeling, and the impact (not just the intent) of the messages you are sending. As discussed earlier, it is mindfulness, which is necessary for creating and maintaining resonant relationships with others. Imagine the difference between operating with an “office politics” paradigm versus an “art of the human relationship” paradigm. It seems, at least for me, readily obvious which paradigm is more conducive to mutually respectful exchanges and relationships.

What do you think? Can you remember a time in your personal and/or professional lives when you heard or read something that served as an ‘aha moment’, helping you change your outlook?


Dr. Mark

Positive Emotional Attractor

There is a concept that I learned in a class (Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence), which I took a couple of years ago through Case Western Reserve University, that I would like to share with you. It is known as Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), and it ties one’s knowledge of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems with one’s knowledge and ability of being mindful. The idea behind PEA is that it helps arouse the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), thereby increasing one’s feelings of positivity, hope, and optimism. If you are mindful enough that you are able to see that someone’s thinking and emotions are being “held hostage” by his/her sympathetic nervous system, you could take action (using your knowledge of PEA) to activate his/her parasympathetic nervous system. Positive emotional attractors are your tools for helping someone to feel optimistic and hopeful by helping her to think about her strengths and to feel excited about the future. In the next paragraph, I will provide you with an example of how this can be done.

One of the methods of using PEA to bring someone into the PNS from the SNS is to speak calmly with the individual, who may be in SNS arousal. Once she is willing to listen to and speak with you, using the PEA may be as simple as asking her the following question (as one example out of many): “If money were not an obstacle, what would you like to be doing five years from now?” The idea behind such a question is that it is designed to activate the part(s) of the brain responsible for positivity and hopefulness. This is not a superficial ‘mind trick’ that we use to generate false hopes—it is a method of returning someone to a state (PNS), in which one is able to be receptive to what we have to say. As coaches and mentors, for example, we may ask the aforementioned question (or any other that invokes positivity and hopefulness) as a method of calming our mentee, and then we use her positivity and hopefulness to talk about her short and long-term goals. We are able to orient her thinking back to her strengths and that which she can control.  There is a lot of science behind PEA and the PNS that you may wish to research, as it is insightful and could be useful to you.

Is there something that you do right now as a leader that is along the lines of what was described in this posting? If so, what is it and how successful are you with it?

Dr. Mark

The Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems

I read an article, in which the author explained the importance of reducing stress in our personal and professional lives. As I was reading the article, it became clear that the effects of stress, should we not take active, purposive measures to reduce them, can have negative effects on our health and on our relationships. I thought back to the last discussion I posted within this blog and how being emotionally upset inhibits our ability to think straight and make good decisions. The same thing happens when we are stressed, because stress impacts our emotional states. I then started thinking about the neuroscience behind stress and emotional states, and I thought that I would share some of these thoughts with you. As you likely gleaned from the title of this particular post, I want to briefly discuss the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous systems (PNS), respectively.

Although it may sound like it would be the more pleasant of the two nervous systems, the Sympathetic Nervous System is the one that, when aroused, involves damaging chemical and physiological changes within the body. While not all stress is bad (good stress is called eustress), it is the annoying and/or chronic stress, which is harmful. When you experience a stressor, your body (mind) reacts by releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline/noradrenaline) into the blood. In addition to these, corticosteroids (cortisol) are also released into your blood. As I am sure you can imagine, there are physiological effects associated with the release of these chemicals. The release of epinephrine (to your arms) and norepinephrine (to your legs), which serve as vasoconstrictors, result in increased pulse and heart rate and faster and shallow breathing. The result of cortisol being released into the blood is a diminishing of your immune system and inhibited neurogenesis (growth and development of nervous tissue). So what does this all mean? It means that when these chemical changes happen within our bodies (brains), we lose significant control over how we are able to respond, which helps to explain why many people respond in similar fashion, which is emotionally and often destructively. But, it does not mean that we are without complete control. Developing emotional intelligence enables us to develop an awareness of our emotional states such that we are able to take immediate action. One such ‘immediate action’ that we, as emotionally intelligent leaders, can take is activating our Parasympathetic Nervous Systems.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System is important, because it is necessary for returning our minds and bodies to a relaxed state and for helping our immune systems to operate at their fullest capabilities. If you have heard it recommended that people engage in deep breathing exercises to calm them down, this is a practice associated with activating one’s Parasympathetic Nervous System. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and the secretion of oxytocin, which serve as vasodilators (opening your blood flow). Because opening the one’s blood flow will help one achieve feeling warmer, one’s blood pressure and pulse rates drop, one’s breathing slows and becomes deeper, and one’s immune system is allowed to operate at its fullest capability. Not only does this renewal process return us to a calm and relaxed state, it is the state that we must be in if we hope to achieve mindfulness.

Being able to recognize situations that activate our Sympathetic Nervous Systems and being able to take action to activate one’s Parasympathetic Nervous Systems increases one’s chances of sustaining emotionally intelligent performance. If you have ever been told or have heard someone else be told to “sleep on it”, before making a decision or taking action, it is likely that h/she was being provided the opportunity to renew, or activate his/her Parasympathetic Nervous System, so that the most effective decision or action could be made or implemented.

What are your personal experiences with this? Are you able to recognize when you are in a state, which precludes your ability to make effective and rational decisions? Are you able to take measures to activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System in order to calm yourself and make more effective, rational decisions? And, if so, what are your practices and techniques for doing so?

Dr. Mark

What is Emotional Intelligence?

If you have read Daniel Goleman’s (1995) groundbreaking work Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ and/or Travis Bradberry’s and Jean Greaves’ (2009) work titled Emotional Intelligence 2.0, you are likely well aware of the concept of Emotional Intelligence.  In case you have not read either or both of these books, I would like to briefly discuss what constitutes Emotional Intelligence.  Many of us have been engaging in the practical applications of Emotional Intelligence for quite some time, without having realized that there is an overarching name for and theory about that which we have been doing naturally.

Emotional Intelligence can be explained as one’s ability to use and/or control emotion in a manner that does not interfere with one’s ability to think rationally or make rational decisions. This is not to suggest that one is able to or should attempt to make rational decisions while in a highly-charged emotional state; it is meant to suggest that one has mastered awareness and management of one’s emotions in order to change one’s impact on others and on situations. It is knowing that being emotionally upset inhibits one’s ability to think straight and make good decisions. It is a skill that needs to be developed and maintained with practice.

With time and practice, Emotionally Intelligent people are able to develop what is known as mindfulness. Mindfulness is an awareness of what one is feeling and how those feelings (emotions) are affecting others. I also like to think of mindfulness as ‘being/living in the moment’, which plays an important role in our respective abilities to be authentic and genuine with others. If we are not mindful and tuned in to others, they can tell. Mindfulness is an important factor in building resonant relationships, which is, amongst others, a topic of discussion for the near future.

The concept of Emotional Intelligence is exciting, because it means that with some work, we can greatly improve our relationships, our and others’ quality of life, and our productivity.

What are your thoughts? If you have a question or would like to add something, please feel free.

Dr. Mark


I am both honored and excited to be able to share my thoughts of and experiences with emotional intelligence.  As my profile states, I have had the privilege of serving in a variety of leadership positions within the Department of Defense over a 20-plus-year military career.  Coupled with my terminal degree in management, with an emphasis on leadership and organizational change, I was able to use my experiential and theoretical knowledge of management and leadership principles to develop my emotional intelligence.  I consider ‘building resonant relationships’ to be one of the most important leadership skills.  It is about this principle and practice [building and maintaining resonant relationships], amongst the numerous others associated with emotional intelligence, that I wish to engage in dialogue with each of you.

Dr. Mark

Coming soon!

Mark-Wood-smallThe Karsten Institute blog site will soon be featuring conversations on emotional intelligence in management by Mark Wood, Ph.D. Watch for it and be prepared to join in.

Mark gained his leadership experience by serving over 20 years as a member of the US Army.  He served in a variety of executive leadership positions within multiple Department of Defense organizations, assessing employee performance, advancing positive social change, and using his knowledge of emotional intelligence to build resonant relationships with all members of the organization.  Mark holds a Doctorate in Management-Leadership and Organizational Change from Walden University.

Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 Top 5 Themes: Learner, Analytical, Arranger, Consistency, and Relator