As a leader, you know the importance of being able to demonstrate emotional intelligence. But answer this question honestly: when was the last time you stopped and evaluated your emotional quotient? On A Scale Of zombie To Oprah Where Do You Rate Your Emotional Intelligence?
It’s a funny question when you think of how much EQ zombies demonstrate. “Before I eat your brain, you look like you’re having a bad day. Actually, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.” CHOMP! If only zombie’s cared so deeply for their victims…but alas, they aren’t thoughtful predators, only interested in satisfying their craving for your gray matter.
One thing about zombies though: I don’t think they realize how cold their behavior is towards their prey. What’s completely not funny is how many EQ zombies you work with. Are you one of them? Actually, don’t answer that – if you’re an EQ zombie, you don’t know it. The fact that you are even considering the question means you aren’t. All the zombies stopped listening already (short attention spans).
Unfortunately, I have too many examples of these zombies in the workplace. Here’s a great one: our CEO was famously quoted in the press during townhall with hundreds of employees…think about that word for a second, townhall. What comes to mind? Merriam Webster defines it as “an event at which a public official or political candidate addresses an audience by answering questions posed by individual members.”
Our company is famous for these townhall events…or maybe infamous I should say. Cue corporate speak: we are going to host this event, pretend we are listening to your concerns, then take our decided course of action regardless of your input and identify that we sought to engage employees prior to the action taken.
It would take me hours to share the contradiction and juxtaposition of these events.
The good news: we are amazingly consistent. From the CEO down to product group managers and the GMs reporting to them, with the exception of a few outliers (who I greatly respect), most of them are like good politicians who fail to connect with anyone living in real life. (Weird, they really are kind of like zombies, but different because these zombies have convinced each other that they really are caring and making good decisions without blind spots).
So back to the townhall, which in my mind should look something like this:
Senior Leader: “Hey, hard worker people, I’ve been thinking about some complicated things and here are some of my thoughts about possible courses of action. What do you think?”
Hard Worker People: “Wow, that is tough. Have you considered x, y, and z? These have the potential to cause a lot of difficulties if you do a, b, or c. I could be wrong, but since I’ve spent the last 20+ years doing this work, I’m concerned that if we aren’t careful, we could jeopardize our ability to generate the results we are all so dependent on.”
Senior Leader: “Good point. Let’s talk more about that. Maybe you see something I don’t that could negatively impact the outcome I see in my mind.”
Etc, etc, etc… I know, it’s WAY oversimplified but what can I say, I’m a simple man!
Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you this, but that’s not exactly how this townhall went with our CEO. It wouldn’t be much of an episode if I said: “and that’s exactly what he did and everyone’s REALLY happy – I love this place!” No.
So our CEO is in this townhall talking to about approximately 600 employees. There are lots of changes in our organization with some focus on centralizing functions in different parts of the world. Additionally, there’s a tremendous amount of cost pressure and the need to reduce headcount. There’s appropriate focus on safety, growth, cash, and partnership which has brought a lot of change to the organization and a cultural shift is occurring as well. So the CEO tells this group that essentially this is the new way things are going to be and they needed to “fit in or f— off”.
If you are familiar with mining, you know that FIFO is not Fit In or F* Off, it stands for Fly In Fly Out and refers to the tremendously hard-working men and women who can be on-site in a remote location for two weeks at a time and then come home for two weeks. They are compensated well, but it’s widely regarded to be one of the most difficult schedules to work in any profession.
It makes me laugh because I’m thinking, yep, that was your outside voice. Open mouth, insert foot. One reason it’s so funny is that a global, corporate pillar for our organization is our value for people. We all go through regular training in a policy workbook that has been in place for MANY years called The Way We Work to help embed this into our psyche. We CARE about and for people. It matches our safety culture. It’s why you look out for someone you work with…because you care…unless you’re a zombie…
Trust me, this wasn’t lost on the press. Joe Aston in the Australian Financial Review on March 11, pointed out the contradiction:
“What an enlightened diversity and inclusion policy! You’ll find this new FIFO chapter wedged between the company’s position on gender neutrality and its mindfulness manifesto. Fair dinkum!
We kid. There is no official document sanctioning executive directives for employees to f—- off if they don’t like their workplace’s culture. We did, however, find…corporate behaviour bible: The Way We Work. Suffice to say, we didn’t need a diazepam to nod off last night.
Its most salient line may be this one: “We believe everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. Bullying, intimidation or harassment of any kind is not acceptable in our workplace.” Perhaps there’s a carve-out clause for the chief executive?”
Yep, that’s pretty zombie-like. Everyone knows that there are times when you just have to get on with change. I’m not saying that a leader shouldn’t undertake difficult decisions without consultation. That’s often what you are paid to do: make difficult choices and implement them. My point is that you shouldn’t pretend that you care when you don’t nor should you act like you are engaging when you aren’t. Don’t make a show of collecting input when you have no intention of allowing it to influence the decision-making process.
I like our CEO. In many ways, he has demonstrated a high EQ. He’s one of the few, possibly the only, CEO in our organization that I ever remember “walking the halls” and engaging with employees from every area of the company. He would literally walk through different floors of the office and engage directly with anyone making eye contact with him. It felt like genuine interest.
We all make mistakes and this might be an example of where one was made that he regrets or wish he could do/say differently. The problem a leader creates for himself or herself is that it’s become a defining moment. It’s hard to disregard. Especially when it’s diametrically opposed to the organization’s supposed standards for behavior.
This is why you need to stop and evaluate where you sit on the zombie to Oprah scale. I don’t want you to say something stupid that you regret late. It’s tough work especially if you been trained to be a zombie. But you can change.
Come back next week as I’ll give you some tips on how to raise your emotional intelligence…you’ve been a zombie for long enough.
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