Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Apprentice week 7 analysis, RWA: Authentic Emotional Intelligence

Summary: Today's post reviews episode 7 of The Apprentice Australia and offers a Real-World Application (RWA) in building Authentic Emotional Intelligence.

Question: Does your organization currently use an Emotional Intelligence framework to help people increase their EQ and people skills? Read below to find out more about Authentic Emotional Intelligence and how to get the most from your investment to develop the EQ of your team - and yourself!

Review of episode 7: The art exhibition

In this episode's task of selling artworks at exhibition, all-girls Team Eventus dealt all-boys Team Pinnacle a resounding defeat with sales totalling $30,130 against just $5,300. Tactically, the wise use of artist's own client list helped Eventus to victory, while Pinnacle's over-analysis and commodification of the art they were selling badly undermined their efforts.

In the Boardroom specific mention was also made that the girls managed to connect emotionally with their chosen artists, while the "just the facts" approach used by the boys failed to develop the needed rapport and relationship. The "soft stuff" had a real bottom-line impact on Pinnacle's choice of artists and ability to sell convincingly to buyers - both of which were decisive drawbacks. Unable to connect and form real relationships, Pinnacle failed to produce the required results.

Failure to connect

was squarely in the firing line this week, but had Eventus not won the challenge then Sabrina would have been in the crosshairs, not just as project lead but due to her lack of results. These two individuals share many characteristics - which Sabrina had previously expressed during the pie challenge as "Gavin gets me and I get Gavin" - and these are the very reasons they are now both in danger.

In the art sales challenge Gavin was shown several times saying "selling art is essentially the same as selling cars," which revealed a lack of understanding of his product and was the basis for the disastrous "businesslike" approach to the artists that cost Pinnacle the victory. We've seen this lack of good judgement before, when Gavin chose the performers for the dance show at the Mudgee Pub Night that decidedly underwhelmed the audience.

Meanwhile Sabrina's focus in the art challenge appeared to be on being liked, not on making sales. She seemed to be bluffing her way through and was smiling a lot but remarked herself at the exhibition that it was "two hours in I've not sold anything!" Her performance both as project lead and team member was criticized as indecisive by Mary-Anne who remarked, "I'd like to wipe that phoney smile off her face."

We've seen dramas with Sabrina's behaviour and decision-making in the past as well. Doubtless in her role as Miss Australia she's become highly adept at performing before cameras and speaking with assurance. Yet I'd suggest there's evidence to show she's better in the role of figurehead than action hero. This week, hers was a stellar performance (in the theatrical sense) but one with little substance to show for it, that is, performance in the tangible results sense.

Recall as well during the hotel challenge when at checkout time she offered a hotel loyalty membership to a departing guest who was clearly still irate and whose concerns she'd manifestly failed to address with empty words, smiles and platitudes. This demonstrates a clear lack of ability to read and respond to another person's emotional state.

Both Gavin and Sabrina are very physically attractive, polite and well-spoken. They're both successful in their careers and intelligent (Sabrina makes specific mention of her high-IQ Mensa membership). Based on their facility for interacting and making an initial connection with people it would seem they also both possess a lot of Emotional Intelligence.

So what's going on here?

Emotional Intelligence

People who rise to the top of their field most often possess a combination of smarts, experience and emotional savvy, though it's often difficult to put a finger on this last bit.

I think Emotional Intelligence passes a fundamental requirement for being a "useful theory": it lays an interpretive framework over our experiences to neatly capture what we've all seen happen in the real world. What's more, we can employ the structure this framework provides to take action and change both our circumstances and behaviours.

There's a saying among executive recruiters and HR professionals: people are often "hired on experience, fired on personality."

Supporting this adage is a study of 500 managers on 3 continents, which found that despite their exceptional IQ scores and experience, unsuccessful managers lacked emotional intelligence.

In fact research by psychologist Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) discovered that emotional intelligence skills account for an astounding 90 percent of the success of senior leaders.

This suggests that traditional cognitive intelligence measured as IQ is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for success as a senior leader.* Dealing with people also requires a high EQ: the emotional intelligence needed to effectively manage negative feelings such as anger and self-doubt, and instead focus on positive ones such as confidence and congeniality.

Clearly IQ is not the only measure of intelligence (see my previous post on Multiple Intelligences) and the "soft skills" measured by EQ are needed to connect with people. Yet as the troubles experienced by Gavin and Sabrina suggest, there's more to relationship-building than high IQ and EQ.

What's difference between sincerity and authenticity?

There's an important distinction to be made between these two terms, and not just a philosophical or linguistic one. Rather, I believe it's one that will help resolve our dilemma over Gavin and Sabrina's behaviours and give insight into the real utility of EQ.

While sincerity and authenticity are often used interchangeably, a closer look at both words reveals helpful distinctions. (Note: longer definitions of each word are presented at the bottom of this post).

Sincerity rules out unwarranted dissimulation, intentional deception, hypocrisy, duplicity, bad-faith commitments, and double-mindedness. It often retains the positive connotation of purity derived from its Latin word sincerus, which means unadulterated. Talk about sincerity usually presupposes some positive standard for good motives, intentions or attitudes against which insincerity is condemned.

Authenticity, in contrast, is captured by the idea of genuineness rather than purity. So the authentic is the bona fide (insurance policy), real (Chinese tapestry), official (commemorative stamp), or authoritative (executive order), as opposed to the fake, imitative, unofficial or unauthorized. For example, an authentic compliment is one that succeeds in praising someone, in contrast to a sincere compliment, which need only be intended to express feelings of admiration.

In addition to distinguishing genuineness from purity, it's necessary to distinguish the internal consistency, or congruence, that accompanies authenticity from that which accompanies sincerity. While consistency is a part of authenticity, it doesn't cover the full meaning of authenticity. Sincerity, however, can be viewed as an unmitigated consistency that limits a full exploration of self and world. Instead of asking what is really going on it says, "be true to yourself," ignoring that the self may be unreflective, insensitive or even destructive.

Take an example from art history: Rousseau and some others in the Romantic movement viewed sincere artists as those who accurately revealed and expressed what they felt. In practice, this often inspired narcissism and exhibitionist displays of the sordid aspects of life neglected by conventional artists. The ideal of sincerity with oneself as congruence allows that the motives for the congruence may have little to do with striving for significant truths or an honest understanding of one’s present attributes.

In other words, it's possible to sincerely wear a mask that is internally consistent; one that you show to everyone around you and that you may even accept as real yourself. While sincere, that mask is, however, not the authentic you. Its purpose is to protect you from interaction with others. In this case, that which protects also prevents you from self-reflection and from deeply exploring your own identity - actions that are terrifying in their potential to undermine the protection offered by your carefully-fashioned mask.

Following the above line of reasoning, the virtue of authenticity is not identical with sincerity and personal acceptance. Authenticity requires interpersonal recognition and group participation. We cannot be authentic in a vacuum, for the very dynamic of authenticity requires that others recognize our authentic identities.

And so for all the protection that we believe they afford us, masks are in fact one of the greatest obstacles to achiving genuine connection with others. Unable to authentically share who we really are, our efforts produce the unintended consequence of alienating us from the very people with whom we seek to build our relationships.

If you wear a mask, no level of EQ will help you in the long run. People know when they're not dealing with the "genuine article" and this can feel like a betrayal, a lack of good faith that may provoke sadness, fear, even anger.

Will the authentic Gavin and Sabrina please step forward?

This is where I think it falls apart for Gavin and Sabrina. They both have highly-developed skills at "performance," at being "on display" and a natural talent for charming that initially woos people ("woo" in the sense of "Winning Others Over").

As mentioned above, they have a facility for making a connection with's the nature of that connection that seems to cause them dramas.

Both are sincere - in fact Gavin's reaction to high-stress situations is to present a mask of such earnest sincerity as to be painful to behold. The problem is, I don't have the impression that either Gavin or Sabrina are being genuine and authentic.

Despite the charming demeanour, they hide their real selves. Evidence of this: in the Boardroom Mark Bouris has repeatedly said he wants Gavin to "stop playing the game," that he wants to know the "real Gavin" - as clear a request to drop the mask as is possible. And irritation with Sabrina's "phoney smile" seems to be growing for what I think are the same reasons.

One possible motive for so closely guarding their selves from others could be that at some point they each came to the belief that they're only valued for what they've achieved, not for who they are as people. Whatever the cause of this belief, the end result is the same: their knack for sincere charm soon turns into to inauthentic schmarm - the kind of slimey, sickly-sweet sycophantic behaviour whose objective is not so much to connect but to ingratiate...and is experienced instead as disconnective, grating and phoney.

Both Gavin and Sabrina possess the gift of connecting with others; it's their own protective mask that causes them to extend only so far...and no further. More's the pity, because I bet their close friends and confidantes could tell us what warm, kind and lovely people are hiding behind the masks they're wearing.

Both could therefore benefit from the spirit that informs this insightful bit of commentary from an article written by Sabrina herself:
Although we're born with our appearance, we have been gifted with the remarkable and somewhat humbling task of creating our identity. It is time to learn who the people around us really are, regardless of their respective packaging.
The developmental point for each of them is therefore to a) realize how their behaviour is unintentionally alienating people; b) create a safe space for them to cultivate self-awareness and separate the mask (which is nothing more than a limbically-based survival strategy) from the genuine gift of being a "people-person"; and c) help each of them to engage with this self-identity, rewriting the narrative so they can engage from this genuine self rather than the dodgy, and ultimately unconvincing, mask-self.

RWA: Authentic Emotional Intelligence

Does your organization currently use an Emotional Intelligence framework to help people increase their EQ and people skills?

If so - well done! pays to ensure that the people you're training are on the right side of the Battle inside their Brain while they're learning Emotional Intelligence skills.

That is, you help them to operate from their cortical system (cognitive: reasoning, reflective, considerate) rather than their emotionally reactive limbic system (emotional: fast, reactive, habitual). Or to put it briefly: that they're rationally engaged adults learning useful skills rather then reactive little kids viewing important Emotional Intelligence information through the distorting lens of their own survival strategies.

For more information on how tmc can help you to best develop these valuable skills in your team members (and yourself) contact me directly and we'll talk it over - authentically as well as sincerely!

Note: For those of you outside Australia who wish to view the episodes of The Apprentice Australia that I'm discussing in this series of posts, you can find them on YouTube here. Meanwhile if you're in Australia you can see not only the episodes to date but also post-episode video diaries on the Nine website here.

Word Origins:
SINCERITY - The Oxford English Dictionary and most scholars state that sincerity (from sincere) is derived from the Latin sincerus meaning "clean, pure, sound" (1525–35). Sincerus may have once meant "one growth" (not mixed), from sin- (one) and crescere (to grow).

- mid-14th century, "authoritative," from Old French autentique (13th century), from Middle Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos "original, genuine, principal," from authentes "one acting on one's own authority," from autos "self" + hentes "doer, being." Sense of "entitled to acceptance as factual" is first recorded mid-14th century. Authentic implies that the contents of the thing in question correspond to the facts and are not fictitious; genuine implies that the reputed author is the real one.

Related previous posts:
Analysis of episode 1, RWA: Foundation & Force
Preview of episode 2, RWA: Conflict Management
Apprentice week 2 analysis, RWA: Giving/Receiving Feedback using Head & Heart
Apprentice week 3 analysis, RWAs: Team Leadership and Setting a Team Culture
Apprentice week 4 analysis, RWA: Coaching for high performance
Apprentice week 5 analysis, RWA: "The Relationship is the Customer"
Apprentice week 6 analysis, RWA: The FIT model

Photo credits: Gavin, Morello, Heather, Mary-Anne, Gavin with moustache, Sabrina. I'm indebted to this article on Authentic Leadership from the Action-Wheel Leadership website for useful insights into defining the differences between sincere and authentic.

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