5 Steps to Engage the Heart and Mind at Each Stage of a Conversation

5 Steps to engage the heart and mind in a conversation

As a leader, you will navigate a business landscape demanding speed, adaptability, and courage. You’re faced with balancing swift decision-making with a need to initiate and engage in discussions on vital topics such as performance, profitability, and change management. These are important conversations, and let’s face it, they can sometimes feel tough.
The following five steps provide a framework to prepare key messages to achieve the objectives of the conversation (practical needs) and consider how to engage the heart and mind at every step, ensuring people feel valued, understood, supported, and respected (personal needs).

1. Open: Clearly describe the purpose of the discussion and explain why it’s important.

2. Clarify: Seek and share information about the situation. This step is often skipped, but remember you may not have the full picture. Be curious about the situation and listen with empathy.

If you demonstrate an understanding of the context elements, people are more likely to trust your intention. Overcome resistance by sharing data to support your perspective:

  • I can see this caught you off guard. Why don’t I share the survey data, and we can discuss how to address the problem?”

Oversee this step if you are on the practical side of the continuum.

3. Develop: Use your understanding of the situation to seek and discuss ideas. Explore needed resources and support.

It is often useful to involve others to share their ideas and suggestions before offering your own. Involving people sparks their creative energy and can generate better ideas. But most importantly, when you involve others in the ideation, they will be more committed to putting their own ideas into action. Overcome resistance by sharing your own experience:

  • “What am I supposed to do now? I’ve never dealt with this before.”
  • “The first time this happened to me, it was a real blow to my confidence, but it helped me grow. Let’s come up with ways to mitigate the issues.”

  1. 4. Agree: Ensure understanding and agreement of who will do what and by when. If you end the discussion without agreeing on actions, you risk people leaving the discussion unclear about what to do next. Confirm how to track progress and offer support. Watch this step carefully if you are on the personal side of the continuum.

  1. 5. Close: The closing gives you a chance to briefly summarize what was discussed and agreed to. This helps ensure commitment to actions as well as builds both parties’ confidence and esteem in achieving the plan.

Source: DDI, 2023

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”
– Charlie Kaufman

Did you know this about disc?

DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication

DiSC Management

Management on Catalyst uses Everything DiSC to provide insights about an individual’s personal management style while also providing tips on how to improve the following management specific skillsets:

  1. Directing & delegating
  2. Creating a motivating environment
  3. Developing talent
  4. Managing up

Everything DiSC Management on Catalyst will guide managers with specific tips on how to perform these tasks with anyone on their team. The DiSC Management tips on Catalyst are unique because all of the information is personalized to the user. The insights provided are dynamically customized based on a user’s personality style.

3 Steps on How to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

how leading with emotional intelligence drives engagement

When emotions run high, it may be tempting for leaders to want their teams to discard their feelings at the door, focusing on the work at hand. But attempting to create a feelings-free workplace is never the solution. Leading with emotional intelligence will have a better short- and long-term payoff.

The problem is rarely that leaders are coldhearted. Rather, leaders feel the pressure themselves and are trying to control their own stress. They are faced with monumental tasks to pivot the company and their teams. They feel the weight on their shoulders to show a brave face for their team and keep the cogs turning. And it may seem counterproductive to focus on feelings when there’s so much work to be done.

But ignoring their team’s emotions can lead to disengagement. Employees may struggle to put in the bare minimum effort. And high-performing employees become a risk for burnout and leaving.

Not only do business results suffer, but it can take a deep physical and mental toll on employee health.

That’s why leading with emotional intelligence is so important.

Step 1: Acknowledge Personal Derailers

Remember the classic airline advice to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting other passengers? We recommend a similar approach to leadership. When leaders don’t have a handle on their own stress, they will struggle to support others. As a result, their negative personal tendencies, what we call derailers, start to show up under stress.

Derailers are the “dark side” of our personality, and we all have them. These include personality traits like becoming argumentative, controlling, or impulsive under stress. We can’t change our personalities, but we can learn to manage our reactions and responses under stress.

4 Ways to Manage Derailers

  1. Anticipate upcoming stressful situations and ask yourself, “What outcome do I really want?” Then, if you start to feel stress coming on once you get in the situation, PAUSE and count to 10 (or at least 5!). Taking a moment before you respond can help make sure you respond in a way that reflects your intentions.
  2. Acknowledge, but don’t celebrate your derailers. If you overreacted to something, you could apologize. But apologies wear thin after a while. It’s not OK to use derailers as a justification, i.e., “I’m sorry, but I just had to say that…I am impulsive.”
  3. Manage your physical and emotional health to support keeping yourself in the best state of mind.
  4. Practice, practice, practice!

HR and leadership coaches can also help leaders manage their own emotions. They can help identify leaders who are under the most stress and talk with them about managing their emotional triggers. They can also help leaders pause by asking key questions such as “Which upcoming situations are most concerning?” Or “What type of outcome is important to you?”

Then leaders can begin planning for the challenges ahead of managing their own emotions while leading with emotional intelligence.

Step 2:  Read the Room

Leaders need to work on recognizing emotions in others. In other words, they need to practice empathy.

However, some leaders confuse empathy with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to understand other people’s perspectives. Sympathy is feeling pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

Many leaders struggle to show empathy because they think it means they have to feel bad for the person or they can only respond if they have faced similar scenarios firsthand, i.e., “I’m sorry you’re feeling so stressed. I understand why you didn’t get the report done.”

But that’s not the case. Empathy does not require you to agree with the person’s opinions or actions. It’s simply the acknowledgment of how they’re feeling and why they are feeling that way.

For example, a leader can empathize by using a straightforward formula:

“It sounds like you’re_(feeling)__ because / about ___(fact)____.”  

In an actual conversation:

“From all you’ve shared, it sounds like you’re overwhelmed because there are so many competing priorities right now.”

Empathy also doesn’t require leaders to have the answers.

Leaders often fall into the trap of wanting to “fix” situations for their employees, but until they have demonstrated true active listening by capturing the facts, feelings, and showing that they understand how the person feels then they cannot move to the practical next steps.  Acknowledging feelings of uncertainty, stress, and pressure to perform goes a long way to helping people feel understood. As a result, they can feel more engaged and motivated to be part of the solution.

Step 3: Be a Part of the Solution

The final step is the one that drives results. As leaders get a handle on their own emotions and the emotions of their teams, they can start to mobilize people toward what needs to be accomplished.

Leaders can mobilize their teams by seeking three things:

  1. Seek perspective: “What do you see as the biggest impact from the changes?”
  2. Seek help: “Which priorities seem to be competing the most?”
  3. Seek ideas: “What’s a better way I can communicate the priorities so you truly know what is a priority?”

And then comes the hard part: Leaders need to listen to and act on their team’s feedback. That doesn’t always mean doing what teams suggest. But they do need to find a way to acknowledge and incorporate comments into the final solution. Even when team ideas won’t work, leaders can build trust by sharing rationale for why suggestions will not be incorporated.

Source: DDI, 2023

“When awareness is brought to an emotion, power is brought to your life”. 
– Tara Meyer Robson

Did you know this about disc?

DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication

Agile EQ Edition

Everything DiSC Agile EQ doesn’t just measure a person’s EQ. It provides a foundation for improving EQ by focusing on observable behaviors that are measured by DiSC.
Agile EQ helps learners understand their emotional responses by using both the language of DiSC and a new concept called Mindsets. The Agile EQ Mindset map helps learners recognize what behaviors are associated with the different mindsets(below).

7 Ideas for Continuous Virtual Team Building

7 ideas for continuous virtual team building

We all have become more familiar with the virtual world over the years, whether we have wanted to or not. Team building can be difficult when you are not face to face so here are seven ideas to promote team building through a screen.

    1. Leverage technology

    If your company has embraced remote work, your teams likely have already been videoconferencing. This is essential for enabling colleagues to see each other face to face.Videoconferencing certainly isn’t the only technology you can harness to reduce the perception of distance between people. Also consider using:

    • Technology platforms (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams) through which people can post messages, chat and share pictures, for example
    • Social media (e.g., private Facebook chat groups or similar)
    • IM

    These additional options promote more frequent, direct communication between individuals, and can help to recreate some of the spontaneous or more relaxed conversations that people would have in the office.

    1. Schedule regular virtual meetings

    It’s one thing to videoconference at all, and it’s another thing to commit to doing it regularly. If you want your teams to feel a real sense of camaraderie and familiarity, scheduling meetings at least once per week is optimal. This includes both:

    • Team meetings
    • One-on-one meetings with direct reports

    Allow time in each meeting for small talk and personal discussion, during which employees can talk about what’s going on with them either at work – including how they may need support – or outside work.

    1. Take personal quizzes and share the results

    An essential component of teamwork training is understanding where other people are coming from, and how that impacts their working and communication styles.

    Why not have your team take a personality quiz, such as the popular DISC assessment, and share their results with each other over a video call? This has the benefit of:

    • Increasing self-awareness
    • Educating colleagues about each other
    • Enhancing empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ)
    • Decreasing the potential for conflict
    1. Host virtual events

    Who says you can’t throw events in a virtual environment? If you videoconference for work, you can also videoconference to socialize and strengthen relationships among colleagues.

    Invite your team to gather virtually for lunch or happy hour – whatever is appropriate for their time zone.

    During these events, you could ask employees to share a few photos of their favorite memories or major life events over the past year to discuss with the group. Or, you can play some fun games (more details coming up next). Have a bigger budget to play with? Try coffee or chocolate tasting sessions.

    1. Play games

    The possibilities here are endless, but the goal is the same: To have fun and share a laugh and friendly competition with colleagues while learning about each other.

    Game ideas:

    • Online bingo
    • Online escape rooms
    • Getting to know each other games, for example:
      • “This or That,” during which employees answer a series of questions about their personal preferences and can talk a bit more about themselves, such as:
        • Beach or lake?
        • Coffee or tea?
        • Movie/TV shows or books?
      • Kahoot, which is an app in which game administrators can pick a few categories (ex., favorite vacation destination or pets’ names), employees create their own questions and answers, and their colleagues have to guess the correct answers
    1. Establish virtual mentor-mentee pairings or virtual work buddies

    Mentorship programs can exist in virtual spaces, too. Similarly to how entire teams and managers and direct reports meet regularly, mentors and mentees should also videoconference on a regular basis to check in and give mentees an opportunity to ask questions or obtain coaching.

    If a remote employee is new to the organization or has recently changed roles or teams, it can also be helpful for their manager to assign them to a workplace buddy. This person can help to facilitate their transition, answer questions and just serve as a familiar face.

    1. Move employee resource, or affinity, groups online

    Employee resource groups and employee affinity groups can be a great opportunity for remote employees to get involved with an organization and establish connections with people who share their life circumstances, interests or hobbies.

    For example, employees who are former veterans or who are interested in supporting veterans in the workplace could videoconference regularly to discuss those issues and share ideas.

    Or, employees who enjoy reading or movies could form virtual book and movie clubs. Similarly, employees who are interested in fitness and personal wellbeing could create virtual groups focused on those topics – and even create virtual challenges.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” 
– Michael Jordan

Did you know this about disc?

DiSC is an assessment that aids with effective communication

Stop Dreading One-on-Ones

Do your one-on-ones feel aimless?
Not sure if they’re making a difference?

There’s some solid science that says you shouldn’t give them up anytime soon. Harvard Business Review reports that employees of managers who don’t have 1:1 meetings are:

  • 4 times as likely to be disengaged
  • 2 times as likely to view leadership more unfavorably compared to those who meet with their managers regularly

One-on-one meetings can offer boosts to retention and productivity. They can align your team to a common goal. But how do you know if you’re doing it right? 

Consistency is key. Pick a framework that works for your context and stick to it. Structuring your one-on-ones creates predictability and can take a good deal of emotion out of the equation. Looking for a guide to kickstart your feedback sessions?

Follow this easy, printable PDF from Small Giants Community to keep meetings on track.

4 Ways to Encourage Others at Work…Use Your Words

The easiest way to have a positive impact on your colleagues is to tell them how much you value them. While supervisors and managers may try to use their words to encourage others, they often don’t do a great job. The good news is, using our words to encourage others is easily done, whether you are working onsite or remotely.

Here are a few simple tips to make your words of encouragement most effective and some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Be personal and individualized. Statements of encouragement to a team are great, however, they are impersonal. Direct and specific communication to one person makes the affirmation more sincere.
  2. The more specific the better. One of the most common phrases team members don’t want to hear is “good job!”. The phrase is so generic it could be applied to any person at any time. Be sure to tell the employee specifically what you appreciate about them and their work.

Some specific suggestions:

  • Leave an encouraging voicemail.
  • Use sticky notes to write short messages of appreciation.
  • Recognize them during a meeting or conference call and give them an example of something they did well.
  • Tell them why what they did is important to you, the organization, or your clientele. While it may seem obvious why an employee’s work is valuable or desired, they often don’t understand the true impact of their actions. Framing encouragement in light of the big picture can make it more meaningful.
  • Keep in mind that words are not equally important to everyone. In a study with over 100,00 employees, less than 50% want appreciation through words. That tells us that 50% of employees want appreciation in ways other than words. Seek information from your employees regarding how they best experience encouragement and how receptive they are to other avenues of affirmation.

How do you encourage others at work?

Excerpt from Paul White from appreciationatwork.com

3 Tips for Successfully Leading Your Team Back to the Office

Reopening and going back to your workplace does not mean going ‘back to normal’– the workplace post-pandemic has forever changed.  Here are some Situational Leadership strategies that will leaders navigate “re-boarding” the new processes and expectations for how people will return to the workplace.

1. Reflect and Recalibrate. Businesses had to react almost immediately to adjust with the demands of the pandemic. Now is the time to reflect on the lessons learned and the new strategies that can be applied in the plan towards reopening.

  • Send a short reflection survey to your team to get feedback on specific processes that worked well and those that didn’t to decide which practices to continue moving forward.
  • Use targeted, purposeful survey questions to help your team members identify the next normal.

2. Assess the Current State. Businesses refined and created new solutions and procedures to perform their jobs during the pandemic.

  • Now, to get an assessment of the current state, identify and prioritize team members’ tasks.
  • Take time to determine skills and specific tasks that are now essential due to the changing work environment. Look for ways to leverage support, mentoring and delegation within the team.

3. Engage to Manage the Movement. If you haven’t already implemented 1:1 coaching practices, now is the time to do so. This coaching is vital to help team members navigate the fear that accompanies a changing environment.

  • Establishing proactive communication is essential to cultivate trust and personal connection.
  • Encourage your team to be accountable to their own performance and establish touchpoints to discuss current priorities, their status and what they need from you. Compare lists and develop a plan for direction and support.

What is one adjustment you can make, something to stop doing or start doing, to increase your effectiveness as a coach?

Repurposed from Situational.com