EQ and Motivational Communication

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Dan had been sitting in meetings for days, and this was the third round of several day-long meetings with the new department he had joined three months before. Near the end of the meeting, he raised his hand to offer this observation: 

We have had a lot of days of meetings like today, and like today, we have the walls filled with flip charts of ideas and perspectives and analyses. But I fear that the same thing is going to happen as in previous all-day meetings — ideas are generated and written on charts and in the notes but nothing ever changes. No follow-through takes place and all of our brainstorming is of no use.  That is really demotivating!  Andrew, the Department Director to whom he was speaking, was visibly angered by Dan’s observation. Andrew retorted that their work was valuable and his process was working! Then, in front of the whole team, made sure that Dan knew he was out-of-line. Everyone in the meeting was intimidated into silence—even though all agreed with Dan, no one spoke up!  Communicating ceased and the meeting was adjourned on an unhealthy note.

Meeting Ethos:  The Golden Rules

This story borrowed from Baron Rush’s Social Awareness and Relational Management illustrates the importance of leaders using empathy to respond in moments of potential conflict, misunderstanding or bias.

The key elements of EQ are empathy and the ability to lead from the heart.  Whenever in the presence of others in the workplace we must be aware of how we are perceived as  perception informs our ability to motivate others.

Nowhere are perceptions more keen than when applying the principles of EQ to conduct productive meetings.

As new leaders, the key is to work within an understanding of your own and others’ emotional intelligence. Those who lead meetings must understand how to motivate productive participation.  They must apply the golden rule as a basic principle to ensure meeting people in psychologically respectable and safe places.

In the above example, both Dan and Andrew lacked empathy–the willingness to step into the other’s shoes.  Meetings should never devolve to participants feeling that they are not in an environment where opinions are encouraged. When you speak (verbal or non-verbal), empathy demands that you let your heart lead the way.

The era of managing by dictate is ending and is being replaced by an era of motivating by inspiration

Motivational communication. Effective communication requires leaders analyze the audience to develop an appropriate strategy (Barrett, 2014) before responding (verbal and non-verbal) in meeting settings.

Pregnant pauses become the prelude to teaching and learning moments that can fundamentally shift communication dynamics to expose everyone’s personal best.  Had Andrew taken a moment and dwelt within the pregnant pause he could have used those seconds to ethically connect with his heart and respond with tolerance, consideration and compassion.

Why EQ

Confucius said do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.  In essence, the true value of emotional intelligence lies in its use as a practice leaders can employ to transform others’ hearts. After all, effective and transforming communicators must be the example they wish to see in others.

James-A.-Baldwin-Quotes-2Being aware of self and others provides communication leverage.  When we are aware, we can frame our viewpoints in ways that are palatable, regardless of how difficult the message may be to deliver or hear.

EQ is critical in today’s workplace; it is part and parcel to high-level cultural awareness.  As the renowned author James Baldwin promotes, we must face our deficiencies if we are to change.  When we change our hearts, we positively impact personal and organizational outcomes.

Putting it all together.  To get the most out of meetings, bring a compassionate heart.  That’s not to suggest there won’t be conflict, but it is a method of personal regulation that promises awareness of self and others.

No matter the modality, facilitators are on display in every meeting setting.  Good leaders project an image that exudes I am approachable and I care about what you think.

Barrett, D. (2014). Leadership Communication, 4th Edition. [Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/1259755371/

Conger, J. A. (1991). Inspiring others: The language of leadership. The Executive, 5(1), 31.

Baldwin, J. (1962, January). As much truth as one can bear. The New York Times Book Review.


Business Twitter: The Uncertainty Advantage

When I was in high school, I was an overachiever:  Co-Captain of the Cheerleaders. Vice President of the Senior Class (i.e., Class Valedictorian). Member of the Thespians. And, absolutely dedicated to getting out of my small town by graduating high school at age sixteen.

Needless to say, boys loved me and girls–not so much. Attitudes were exacerbated by my unbridled wit and fascination with using my words at such a young age. I remember being backstage during a rehearsal near the end of my senior year, when one of my friends cornered me to question her guy’s interest in me. As she aggressively approached me, I held my head high, and in my truest Gone with the Wind voice responded, “I will not dignify that with a response!” Her very high schoolish counter: she punched me in the mouth.

I didn’t see it coming; it was the literal sucker punch–a 1970s version of a flame war.  It took years for me to realize that it wasn’t my words that triggered her response, but the confidence and strength of conviction with which I delivered them.

I have often recalled that moment; it was a pivotal point in helping me to understand the importance of being ready for message delivery retaliation. Had I fought her, it would have landed us both in the principal’s office. Since I had been warned to avoid any appearance of impropriety or have my early release plan thwarted, walking away was the right thing for me to do.

I learned that one should not choose fisticuffs simply because of changes in civility, but instead, learn to shake off life’s sucker punches and make such hostilities work for the greater good.

Owning a communications style (even amidst a flame war)

Much has been discussed about the POTUS and his habit of using Twitter to vet his political agenda. Since first setting foot on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has shifted the worldwide psyche of politicians and media outlets to the point of incredulity. He has taken Barack Obama’s use of the internet (the first significant Presidential use in political history) to the next level, terming it “MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL” (@realDonaldTrump, 2017).

Although the use of tweets by the POTUS provides a new platform for interactive civility (or, incivility, as the case may be), the use of 140-characters requires a high-level and focused self-regulation.  This observation is prompted by the consideration that Twitter’s characters limitation poses challenges for encoding/decoding messages simply by virtue of how tone, tenor, content and intent can be perceived/misunderstood by receivers.

In How the President’s Twitter Account Affects Civil Society, Turner-Lee (2017) emphasizes that “President Trump’s daily online activity has alienated, rather than included citizens – especially those in disagreement with both his policies and opinions.” Because of his actions and choice of words, for example, the former Vice President even suggested taking POTUS out behind the gym (a potential sucker punch move).

But in deference to the President, his willingness to be transparent is refreshing, albeit obviously dangerous.  Mr. Trump boisterously deflects any vulnerability to others’ negative attitudes about his tweeted policies and opinions.  Yet, he is quite adept at dodging punches and dousing flame wars, and consequently, changing the way we the people view effective communication.

Calculated probability: harnessing the Uncertainty Advantage

Business leaders can learn from the POTUS as there have been huge communications benefits realized by his willingness to think outside of the conformist’s box.

The POTUS makes us consider that leaders must be willing to launch the difficult discussions using words that may initially make listeners cringe.  As we are now seeing, often when the dust settles, the resulting solutions may be of greater value than imagined at the height of the initially ensuing chaos.

Remember the controversy when POTUS tweeted, Mexico will build the wall!  “Last week, he struck deals on disaster relief, the debt ceiling, and government funding. And after a dinner meeting…it [was] agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall” (Graham, 2017).  It was a circuitous route made difficult by straight-tweet talk, but his seemingly brash approach made everyone deal with the implications of laxed border security.

Twitter and other social mediums are ripe for vetting opinions—both positive and negative. By strategically planting seeds of any kind, the populace can be motivated to express the full range of potential positive-to-negative responses. And in every expression — oftentimes most successfully the negative — there is a potential nugget from which can be plucked lucrative ideas borne out of uncertainty, yet conducive to outcomes that impact the greater good.

Avery and Lynch (2017), authors of The Uncertainty Advantage (Creative leaders don’t fear risk—they turn it into a money-making strategy), adeptly communicate an important message to businesses about the uncertainty advantage:

[U]ncertainty compels managers to perceive the unknown as a useful [variable], an opportunity to unleash innovative solutions…it is a chance to go well beyond the typical meaning of risk management…to create new and sustainable value out of confusion.

Our POTUS practices the uncertainty advantage strategy with his use of Twitter. Although businesses must be more practical in their use of this strategy, senior leadership can take a page from POTUS’ Twitter notebook to vet organizational changes.

History may show that the POTUS was indeed a forward-thinking businessman who gutted the old political machinery and prompted the people to expect a different kind of government. And, along the way businesses learned to manage risk differently.

Trump Twitter


  1. Turner-Lee, N., (2017). How the president’s twitter account affects civil society.  Washington: Brookings Institution Press.
  2. Avery, K. and Lynch, G. (2017).  The Uncertainty Advantage – Creative leaders don’t fear risk — they turn it into a money-making strategy.
  3. Graham, D., (2017).  Trump Is No Different.  The Atlantic.  Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/09/trump-embraces-amnesty/539790/