New Normal Consulting | How is your emotional intelligence? It might surprise you…
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How is your emotional intelligence? It might surprise you…

How is your emotional intelligence? It might surprise you…

At the October 2014 Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Rendezvous in Asheville, N.C., Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry presented a brilliant session on Emotional Intelligence. I found this to be one of the most impactful and insightful seminars I have attended recently. JP focused on a topic near and dear to me, and one that both garners little interest in too many companies, and is the first thing to be shed once sales, margin and EBITDA pressures begin to be felt.

Dr. Pawliw-Fry is an internationally-known performance coach, who counts among his clients Olympic athletes, Fortune 500 companies, US military organizations and professional sports teams. JP’s just-published book, Performing Under Pressure is a must-read, and it beautifully expounds the idea of Emotional Intelligence and why it is the hidden ingredient in successful organizations.

As JP explained, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, sits separate from IQ, on one hand, and our skills and experiences on the other. EQ is distinct, essential, and all-too-often overlooked.

A popular definition of EQ is, “the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

JP led a powerful exercise with the group. We broke in half, then listed the characteristics of our mentors and leaders over the years, and what behaviors or attitudes they exhibited while under pressure, both those that were brilliant and inspiring (Group 1), and those that were regressive and that obstructed success (Group 2). We then further parsed those characteristics into three buckets each, one best described as skills / experience, one for IQ and finally, one for Emotional Intelligence. In both perspectives (Ieaders who exhibited “unhelpful behaviors” and those who performed well in crux moments), the overwhelming result was that nearly 90% of the behaviors, both positive and negative, fell into the Emotional Intelligence bucket.

Quite revealing. As a group, we seemed to agree that our mentors and leaders were smart enough, they had adequate experience and skills, but that they either excelled at or were tragically lacking in Emotional Intelligence, or the ability to control their anger, their mood, cogent communications, personal composure and clear-headed thinking, when the heat is on.

JP’s partner at the Institute for Health and Human Potential is Hendrie Weininger, a noted psychologist and expert in the study of pressure on human beings. With that added psychological perspective, the takeaway is that Emotional Intelligence can be learned; that when it is lacking it is not a moral failing, but rather a call to training and new ways of thinking; and that everyone experiences EQ issues one way or another.

From the Introduction to Performing Under Pressure, the authors remind us:

  • Pressure adversely impacts cognitive processes and success.
  • Pressure hurts our behavioral performance.
  • Most of us don’t do our best while under pressure.
  • Pressure and its distinct workings are most often camouflaged.
  • Other than when we were prey to larger animals in some primordial diorama, the pressures on modern humans, both within the commercial world and in our personal lives, has never been greater.

Finally, Messrs. Pawliw-Fry and Weininger leave us with work to do: Nuts and bolts exercises for examining ourselves and engaging what they call our “COTE Of Armor”, with its building blocks being Confidence, Optimism, Tenacity and Enthusiasm. The authors devote the final hundred-plus pages to walking the reader through descriptions and exercises to self-evaluate and re-orient our behaviors and attitudes.

At New Normal Consulting, we appreciate and embrace this essential set of building blocks to increase the chances for a successful business, and we take seriously the challenge to put these principals into action. We believe that Emotional Intelligence is that “secret ingredient”- invisible on the surface of a P&L or Balance Sheet or Cash Flow Statement- but a critical component of a successful company’s DNA.

For more about the authors, Emotional Intelligence and the IHHP, we refer you to their book and their website,

Geoff O'Keeffe

Geoff O’Keeffe is an outdoor industry professional with over thirty years’ experience in every aspect of operations and management. Geoff has served as president of four companies, held executive roles in five others, been part of two start-up teams, and has operated in branded wholesale, brick-and-mortar retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and non-profit environments. Geoff’s unique areas of expertise include general management, strategic planning, project management, merchandising and inventory planning, sourcing, and supply chain. Geoff takes a particularly keen interest in the subtle dynamics of building, training and sustaining the “human engine” of creativity, teamwork and commitment within organizations. Geoff has served five non-profit boards, including ORCA (early Outdoor Industry Association), the Conservation Alliance and Paradox Sports. Geoff was a founding member of the organization that became the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance.

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