I was working with an executive who is a terrific leader. We were talking about how to get engineers to connect with the skills of a coachlike manager. Here is the bottom line: analytical types (like engineers) see coaching as touchy-feely stuff and want to avoid it. It’s easier dealing with spreadsheets. And why fool with something that’s not directly related to improving the business?
The ideas that caught my executive’s attention was the idea of “mood contagion” being a tool of leadership. Here is a business fact: people who like their boss are more likely to be successful and productive. We’ve known that for years. Here is how the idea is evolving. We now know that bosses can tap that human potential through the boss’s social intelligence. What may seem “touchy-feely” (let’s just call us, TF’s) is now being revealed through research into the biology of the brain. (OK, this is where the TF’s need to hang in there…the engineers are just getting interested!!).
The limbic system (part of the brain) is an open system. That means the energy in my brain can impact you. (Ever have a baby grin at you and find yourself smiling back? That is the baby’s limbic system reaching out and touching yours!) Think of the possibilities – if a leader is empathetic, they can lead as effectively hard times as well as easy. People will choose to follow and do their best in all circumstances. Pause for a moment with me and consider what it would be like if everyone on the planet chose to do their best!
So back to the engineers…they can relate to the idea because its science – the neuroscience of the human limbic system. People really do follow leaders who are emotionally intelligent. It’s a measurable differentiator of leader effectiveness. Employees pick up on emotions, hope and a myriad of other signals from their leader. What may have been considered “soft” skills are actually complex relationships skills that can translate into improved business success. Being a great leader requires one to both analytic and human. It is about delivering results (the analytical side) at the same time as developing the people (the human side). And though the combination of the two can be the challenge, it’s possible. It’s about being a leader coach.