Dan Goleman Cuts Through The Hype About Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence In This Discussion With Dr. Martyn Newman - eqsummit.com

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Dan Goleman Cuts Through The Hype About Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence In This Discussion With Dr. Martyn Newman

In this revealing interview, Dr Martyn Newman discusses Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence and how they contribute to Creativity and Innovation with the Godfather of EQ – Dan Goleman.

 

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Dr. Martyn Newman:

Thanks very much Dan for taking the time to join me today to discuss your keynote ahead of this years Emotional Intelligence Summit London May 25th. 

Dan needs no introduction, he is the author of a library of books including ‘Emotional Intelligence’ which has achieved the status of a classic text in psychology and been named by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential business management books. 

It seems long overdue that we have you at this year’s EQ Summit as we have had some mutual friends at previous Summits; Paul Ekman and Eve Ekman as well as Alan Wallace so it’s great to have you with us this year. 

Dan Goleman: 

Well Martyn I am really looking forward to it and I thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

This year’s Summit explores this fascinating topic of Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness and in particular how these skills contribute to Creativity and Innovation. I know you are a busy man and receive lots of invitations, so what is it about the EQ Summit this year that attracts you to this conference? And why do you think it’s so important that people should be there?

Dan Goleman: 

Well for me the timing is really fortuitous. I just completed with my friend and neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin Richard Davidson what amounts to the definitive review of all of the studies ever done on mindfulness. And what they tell us about how mindfulness can help us in our own lives, in our work lives and as leaders. And what strikes me is that this specific kind of mental training adds something which is really new in the workplace and I am really thrilled that your Summit has chosen this as a topic as it couldn’t be better timing from my point of view.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

That’s great. I was actually having lunch with Richard Davidson in Thailand last year interestingly and I spoke to him about the evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness and meditation on mental health. I remember he said to me that “there is nothing soft about this data at all” with a great deal of conviction. 

“We …sifted through 6000 studies to find 60… that are state of the art.”

Dan Goleman: 

Well yes, but what he didn’t say is that we had to sift through about 6,000 studies to find the 60 or so that are really state of the art from a methods point of view. We focussed on what the very best studies tell us about meditation and Mindfulness because I also have to say that there is a lot of hype. There is a lot of pure marketing going on around Mindfulness where claims are made that aren’t really supported. Including incidentally some of Davidson’s own research which he has has now disavowed. So stay tuned for what the latest news is.

Dan Goleman
Dan Goleman

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Dr. Martyn Newman: 

That is fascinating. What I also find fascinating is that your interest in Mindfulness and meditation actually predated your interest in Emotional Intelligence. You wrote your first book actually on meditation “The Meditative Mind” which I think was published around about 1977. Talk about an early adopter Dan!

“I have been doing this for decades and waiting for the time to come. The time has come.”

Dan Goleman: 

Well yes [laughing], actually Davidson and I were meditators as college students and graduate students at Harvard and I spent 2 years in India studying different types of meditation including Mindfulness and came back to do research on it. But we were way ahead of the curve back then. No-one back then was interested, but by now though there are about 1,500 studies a year on it. So yes I have been doing this for decades and waiting for the time to come. The time has come.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

What do you think is is that Mindfulness delivers that has taken the rest of us laggards so long to discover?

Dan Goleman: 

Well 2 things:

  1. Mindfulness is direct training of attention. Attention is an underused muscle in our society. But it is like a muscle. It operates the same way because of what is called neuroplasticity – the fact that the brain shapes itself repeatedly through repeated experiences in life. And we can be very methodical about it. Mindfulness is like going to a mental gym and the equivalent of doing a rep where you lift a weight to make a muscle grow is being mindful, seeing your mind wander and bringing it back.
  2. And that indeed seems to change the strength and circuitry for focus. And focus is the key to learning, to optimal performance, to leadership, to excellence in any domain.

“The leaders single most important job is to manage attention flow.”

Dr. Martyn Newman:

Yes, I seem to remember reading in your book ‘Focus’ that you said the leaders single most important job is to manage attention flow. What did you mean by that?

Dan Goleman: 

Well, if a leader can manage his or her own attention and manage themselves, we find that self-awareness which is what managing attention does for you is the foundational skill for all the Emotional Intelligence leadership competencies. People who are strong in self-awareness turn out to have well-developed strengths across the board. That’s everything from the drive to achieve, conflict management, empathy and so on. And people who are low in self-awareness have very few such things. So there is this very intriguing relationship between sharpening your attention, your focus, your Mindfulness and leadership strengths.

Dr. Martyn Newman: 

I find that really interesting. In our approach to working with Emotional Intelligence in organisations, we typically begin with Mindfulness because it seems to me that at the core of Emotional Intelligence is the ability to monitor your own feelings and emotions. From your point of view how do you see Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness being connected? How do they work together?

Dan Goleman: 

Well, in my model of Emotional Intelligence there are 4 domains:

1) Self-Management  2)Social Awareness 3) Relationship Management 4) Self-Awareness

And embedded in each of these domains are competencies that build on those core fundamental abilities. And it turns out that the research I am doing with the Kornferry-Hay Group shows that people who have self-awareness (which is what Mindfulness builds) are able to cultivate other strengths. People who lack it cannot.

Dr. Martyn Newman: 

So part of this year’s Summit is the theme of Creativity and Innovation. And we chose that in part Dan, because the companies that we are working with across diverse industries from big media to retail organisations to finance organisations have to deal with the huge challenge of disruption to their industries. And the big challenge it seems to me that leaders face is how they can adapt and stay relevant. How do Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness contribute to fostering the creative process? 

“Creativity in terms of fulfilling its promise depends on emotional intelligence.” 

 Dan Goleman: 

Well I think the equation is very simple. I’ve already talked about how mindfulness is fundamental to self-awareness which is the foundation of Emotional Intelligence abilities for leadership but let’s look at Creativity.

There are some misapprehensions I think at large about Creativity. You need people who are non-conformist disrupters, I would say you might need 1 per company, per sector, but after that after you have the big new idea (which has the potential to change everything) you need people who can execute. That’s really what determines whether your great new idea ends up in the dust heap of venture capital (and there are so many great ideas like that which just didn’t make it) or whether it’s the one great idea that is going to come through and transform how everyone else does business. And that depends on how well people can work together, how well they can execute, how well they can have small daily wins, and all of that has to do with the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence.

So Creativity which is a bit independent of Emotional Intelligence (really it’s a different dimension) you can have both or you can have one and not the other. But Creativity in terms of fulfilling it’s promise depends on Emotional Intelligence.

Dr. Martyn Newman: 

So you are also hinting there that beyond an individual’s Creativity, that we are finding that Creativity occurs across teams. Teams who have the ability to collaborate well together seem to produce more innovative solutions. In a study we have just completed with one of our large clients with 500 leaders, we found for example the levels of Empathy and Relationship Skills that we
represent in the group were the most important factors for producing innovative solutions. I guess mainly because of the greater group cohesiveness allowed the creative process and ideas to flow freely. Would you agree with that?

Dan Goleman:

Yes, that really sounds right to me. It fits with some research my colleague Vanessa Druskat has been doing on top performing teams, she finds that they set norms around them to collaborate most effectively. One of them is Empathy and they understand it at two levels:

  1. Empathy within the team – they get to know each other very well, who has strengths in certain areas and who is not so good in other areas. They consider who they might need to bring on board for their skills and talk about things that need to be brought to the surface.
  2. Organisational Empathy – At a larger level top teams also have organisational empathy. This means that they can read the cross currents in a complex organisation and know for example, who do they need to go to for a decision? How can they help someone else who can help them later?

So I think that your findings fit extremely well with the other data I am familiar with.

Dr. Martyn Newman: 

I mentioned at the outset [of our discussion] that Paul Ekman spoke at one of our recent EQ Summits and I know that Paul is a dear friend of yours. I remember asking Paul over dinner at his home one day what did he consider as the key emotional skill that was foundational to all other abilities and the basis of trust. And I’m sure you can guess what he told me, he told me that it was Empathy. Why do you think it’s so relevant as a skill in the hard commercial reality of the current business climate that we find ourselves in?

Dan Goleman: 

 I think it is very simple. Empathy is the social equivalent of self-awareness. You are being aware of the other person’s reaction, their feelings, how they think about things. And if you demonstrate that you not only know how they think and how they feel and are concerned about them, you form a very strong trust and strong rapport that allows any work you do together to go smoothly. And in today’s tough business climate I would argue that it’s all the more important. Because if you are going to have a competitive team and you are going to be the group that wins the game you have got to get along well together in order to succeed. A lack of Empathy today is not a winning strategy.

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Dr. Martyn Newman:

I was reviewing some research recently that asked employers what skills they felt were most needed in the next 5-10 years and interestingly the answers that came back were not about business acumen or P&L management. Instead, their top priorities included Empathy, and relationship skills along with co-creativity. And these were from really big brands. So that research aligns with what you are saying. I know that you will be presenting a lot more detail at the EQ Summit, but could you give us 3 quick tips on how people in business today could improve their Empathy skills?

 “If you are going to have a competitive team and you are going to be the group that wins the game you have got to get along well together.”

 Dan Goleman: 

Number 1- Tune in.  I think Empathy starts with self-awareness, because part of the emotional Empathy which is the basis for rapport and chemistry has to do with tuning in to how the other person is feeling.

Number 2 – Show that you care. Show that you are not only able to pick up what a person is feeling but that you feel that your colleagues are collaborators.

Number 3 – Be a good collaborator. Be trustworthy. Be someone that people know will be there for them. And you do that by demonstrating Empathy.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

Recently I was listening to a presentation you gave at Google some time ago, and we know Google is famous for having implemented an Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness programme to huge acclaim. I understand that there is a 6 month wait list. Is that right?

 Dan Goleman 

I hear there is. And that talk that you saw that I did at Google was used as leverage to get the first course at Google U – that’s their in-house university – on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence. Chade-Meng Tan who was the man who made that happen has now taken it on the road and implementing it for companies all over the world.

 Dr. Martyn Newman: 

 I’m sure you would be interested to know that in Europe we have been involved with the media giant Sky, for the last 2 years delivering a similar programme and in many ways, companies like Google, Sky and Amazon etc. are unlikely places for these initiatives as fast moving companies and yet the programmes are just so well received and to such huge acclaim. What do you think are the factors that are driving the interest and leading to the success of these programmes well and above other leadership initiatives that HR departments have implemented over the years?

Dr.Martyn Newman
Dr.Martyn Newman

Dan Goleman:

 Martyn I think the answer is very simple. The faster things move the more you’ve got to take some time to recover. The body was designed for certain levels of stress. Things have ratcheted up in the same way for so many people in business world. This is why 5 or 10 minutes of just taking care of yourself, just being with yourself and being mindful is the refresher and the recovery zone that people need more than ever. 

 Dr. Martyn Newman: 

 I remember when your first book came out Dan, there was a lot of psychologists that thought that Emotional Intelligence was something of a fad and that it would disappear quite quickly. And I think today there is a lot of folks that would feel the same way about Mindfulness. But I have always argued that the reason that I think these two systems have grown in influence is because underpinning them are a set of values that give them real depth, or ethics if you will. They seem to tap into the authentic passion and the things that people care deeply about. Do you agree with that? 

 Dan Goleman 

 Yes, I think that Mindfulness and this whole approach of Emotional Intelligence really resonates with what people know in their bones is true, is needed and is helpful. And that is why these will stick and I don’t think that they will go away.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

So if you were advising leaders in organisations today about the skills they need to be fit for the future as the world of work changes on a daily basis. What in your view are about 4-5 skills that you think leaders need to master to lead world-class organisations into the future?

 Dan Goleman 

Sure. I think:

  1. Self-awareness and not just in the sense of Mindfulness but in knowing how other people see you. How you come off. This is what we pick up on in the gap between self and other rating on a 360 assessment.
  1. Self-Management – that you can handle the stresses and surprises of the day.
  1. Adaptability – the capacity to manage whatever comes your way.
  1. Empathy – tuning into other people, knowing what is going on with the people around you.

And then putting all that together as a leader who can articulate a shared mission or vision that inspires everyone, not just yourself but the people you talk to because it resonates. It’s from the heart to the heart.

Dr. Martyn Newman:

I love the way you describe leadership in your book on Focus. You talk about Big Picture leaders, so I guess these are some of the skills that lie behind the success of these people. But I know it goes deeper too. I know you are on the board of the Mind and Life Institute and people like the Dalai Lama are very close friends of yours, and values like social justice and compassion have always been central to your view of the world and have animated your behaviour. At this years EQ Summit, we’ve got some big thinkers and some of the most creative minds on the planet in the room. People like Sir Ken Robinson and Baroness Susan Greenfield.

 Dan Goleman 

Wonderful. Wonderful.

 Dr. Martyn Newman: 

 And I would be interested to know what are the big questions that the EQ Summit needs to discuss that would be relevant and that would potentially have a lasting value for years to come for people?

 Dan Goleman 

Well I think 2 of the biggest elephants in the room in the business world and in the world generally are climate change and the fact that we are all systemically pretty blind to the way in which our operations are creating the very problem that is going to haunt our children and their children.

And I think the second is the growing gap between rich and poor. I just read that the 10 wealthiest people in the world have as much as half of the population who are the poorest. And there are many symptoms of this gap one of which I might suggest is Brexit in the UK (with people disgruntled with being ignored) and certainly in my own country that was a huge hidden factor in the election. And I think it will play a role in many ways in the future and in business and in economics generally. And we need to start thinking about it in terms of what we can do.   

EQ Summit 2017 Mindfulness workshop venue
EQ Summit 2017 Mindfulness workshop venue

Dr. Martyn Newman:

 Absolutely. Certainly these things have been central to the EQ Summits in the past. I know last year we talked about Adam Smith the father of the modern economic system and the father of Capitalism and the misunderstanding that people have that Smith was a big supporter of self interest driving economic markets when in actual fact he made it very clear that it was Empathy although he didn’t use that particular wording. He called it sympathy. But he was describing Empathy as understanding the needs of people and ensuring that you are meeting the customers needs which were absolutely key to contributing value and prosperity generally. 

 Dan Goleman 

Yes, and Martyn I would also point out that customers’ needs operate at several levels. Some of them are catered to by products and adverts and marketing and the second is the needs they may not recognise. The needs to have their economic wellbeing addressed, the health of the climate addressed, the larger systemic questions. The big thinkers are defined by the scope of their thinking and the timeframe in which they think. So these are problems in the largest time frame. I hope they come up at the EQ summit. I look forward to engaging them.

 Dr. Martyn Newman: 

Dan, that’s fantastic. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your views with us. I know you will have lots of new insights and practical strategies to share with us at the EQ Summit May 25th. And of course delegates will have the opportunity to ask some further questions during the Q&A session. So it’s going to be an extraordinary day and I’m very much looking forward to having you there.

Dan Goleman

I’m really excited and thrilled to be invited. Thank you so much Martyn.

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