My Christmas present for you: 5 ways to boost your EQ!

Can you believe it?!? The last few days of 2016 are upon us!
For many, this has been a tough year. You’ve probably had your share of struggles and setbacks too.
No doubt, a well-deserved holiday break and some beautiful moments are approaching.
In preparation for a great year ahead, you’ll find my Christmas present here below.
It conveys 5 powerful tips that will really make a difference in the quality of YOUR workplace and life in 2017.
I wish you a splendid holiday break and a marvellous new year!



“People leave managers, not companies”


In one of my previous blog articles “ Do you harvest what you sow?”, I mentioned the process of onboarding new employees as one of the most critical success factors in ensuring that recently hired talent will be competent, productive and engaged team members.

The important role of the manager was also stressed as high employee attrition and disengagement may be due, amongst others, to poor interpersonal skills of managers.

“They say that employees don’t leave their job or company,

they leave their boss.”

In a study from Florida State University the reasons why dissatisfied employees leave their jobs were analyzed, and it revealed that most of the time, employees leave managers, not companies.

Indeed, a lousy boss can really take out the enjoyment from what could be a rewarding role, can make you feel undervalued, and can even cause loss of self-confidence & abilities.

However, here’s another perspective I want to share with you:

Having worked with numerous “not-so-inspiring” bosses and line managers myself, I’ve learned that, in fact, they provide invaluable opportunities for developing management and leadership skills and for discovering what NOT to do when you manage people.

Of course, management is not an easy job. If you’re a (first time) manager, you certainly can’t please everyone! But you can make sure that your behavior doesn’t encourage your team members to leave. Also, don’t forget the great importance of being a role model: you want to be a better example for your team members – possibly future managers – than your bad boss, don’t you?

It takes an important set of skills to be a good manager/leader, such as: connecting with your team and building trust, setting clear goals and expectations, communicating effectively and conducting productive meetings, and many more. You’ll find hundreds of books and articles on these topics.

In this blog article, I succinctly outline 3 common reasons why employees quit their managers and give some hints on what you can do to avoid this.

1. They don’t connect with their team

Managers often forget to build rapport: comfortable positive interactions that support performance. Maybe because they’re too focused on projecting confidence and competence, or because they’re overwhelmed with their own objectives, deadlines and responsibilities.

What you can do better

Build rapport by understanding and appreciating each of your team members. This requires positive conversations about the tasks at hand, but it also requires a little personal conversation: you have to let them get to know you as a person. Spend a small amount of time discussing appropriate personal issues so they can get to know you as a human and not just as a boss. Share a little about who you are outside the office. For example: your hobby, your favorite sports team, or maybe little facts about your family.

Also strive to know each member of your team personally and to see them as unique individuals. You’ll begin to see more than just a person who’s ‘technically competent’.

Another aspect of building rapport involves showing attention and respect for your team: through brief comments, written notes, telephone messages or quality one-to-one conversations. You can show appreciation for their efforts, for the outcomes and milestones they achieve, and for the expertise they possess.

2. They don’t set clear goals & expectations

Many managers fail to properly communicate company, department, team and individual goals. This makes it impossible for their employees to meet their expectations. It also entails a risk: not only will it be unfeasible to build a high-performing team, employees who don’t feel successful at work, will most probably leave.

What you can do better

First of all, clarify your boss’ expectations of you. Don’t leave any room for ambiguity on his or her expectations for the overall performance of your team. Then get to know the team’s performance in the past, today, and in the future. Share the main short-term performance objectives and project long-term performance goals. Try to build a collaborative dialogue around goal setting. Next, ensure goal clarity by talking about the major milestones to be accomplished in support of each goal. Determine exactly who’s responsible on the team for each milestone. Schedule personal one-on-one follow ups to ensure you have strong goal agreement and clarity.

3. They don’t give feedback

Many managers don’t communicate effectively, and often omit to give performance related feedback. Some refrain from giving feedback in order to avoid conflict. Others do, but their ‘delivery’ isn’t good. As a result, they unintentionally damage relationships.

What you can do better

Give good feedback: be very specific, not general or vague. Always specify or quantify. If providing critical feedback, don’t simply say the work does not meet your expectations. Instead, clarify very concretely why the work did not meet expectations. Good feedback is always delivered positively. Even critical or difficult feedback can be delivered in a positive light. It all depends on how you frame your comments. Feedback should also be delivered as soon as possible, so that it’s relevant. The more time that elapses since an ‘incident’, the more fuzzy it becomes in your co-worker’s mind. Further, be sure to own any feedback you provide by using “I” statements. If you don’t take ownership for your arguments and decisions, you come across as weak.

Ultimately, don’t try to figure it all out on your own: look for a mentor. The best mentors will help you learn and grow by sharing their knowledge and wisdom with you.

So remember, it all starts with you : be a great boss, and you’ll attract great team members.

Wishing you lots of success !


Please share your thoughts in the comments section as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

If your colleagues and network might be interested in this article, please do share.
They will be grateful and so will I.

Do you harvest what you sow ? … 5 tips to boost your Onboarding Program


You undoubtedly know that employees make the critical decision to stay or leave a company within the first six months. According to Gallup, 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged at work.

High employee attrition and disengagement may be due, amongst others, to cumbersome hiring practices, lack of responsiveness to a competitive job market, poor career and poor learning & development opportunities, or poor interpersonal skills of their managers.

While many (HR) initiatives and processes can be put in place in order to avoid this, an adequate and more strategic Onboarding Program deserves particular attention as it can maximize retention, engagement and productivity.

What is Onboarding?

The process of onboarding new employees is without a doubt one of the most critical success factors in ensuring that recently hired talent will be competent, productive and engaged team members. However, some organizations confuse onboarding with onboarding logistics.

While onboarding logistics is necessary – all relevant paperwork, practical and logistic formalities must be completed –however onboarding is an in-depth process of both social and functional integration, involving management and other employees that can last for a year. Besides, onboarding has – or should have – a business impact and a results-oriented perspective. It includes everything a new hire (or transfer) needs to :

  • integrate socially in the team, in the department, in the company
  • integrate functionally and become competent in his/her job and role(s)
  • become quickly productive and engaged
  • reach his/her goals and become a valued contributor to the business
  • see and understand the “big picture” of the organization
  • be able to link his/her job to the operational and financial success of the business

Create a great Onboarding Program!

Your employee Onboarding Program is the first – and sometimes the only opportunity to get your new employees on the right track. Far too many companies underestimate this and pull them through a short-cut ‘induction program’ that’s simply inadequate or even outdated(!) and therefore demotivating, disengaging and therefor counterproductive.

A great Onboarding Program is tailor-made as there’s no single design or approach that’s right for every company. However, here are 5 tips that can help you –HR Director, Learning & Development Director, Training Manager, Business Leader – to boost your Onboarding Program:

# 1 – Link it with your corporate culture
There are 2 types of programs that no organization should ever purchase ‘off-the-shelf’. One is Leadership ( previous blog article on Leadership Development). The other is Onboarding. Your Onboarding Program is the opportunity to share and instill your company’s culture, vision, mission, values and strategy. If done consequently and consistently, it will help you to build a strong corporate identity, culture in other words ‘sense of belonging’. It can definitely help your new hires to succeed in your organization: what are the norms and ‘unwritten rules’? What processes do they need to know? What are the operational ‘interdependencies’? Who do they call upon for what? How about a ‘dominant coalition’? Etc…

# 2 – Cover what is needed
Make sure your new employees are enabled, not just with product knowledge, but with all of the information and insights required for their jobs and roles.  These might include industry and market insights, company and departmental branding and messaging, methodologies and processes, internal expert knowledge and social connections, resources available to them on the job, available learning & development trajectories in concordance with their functional level,  …

# 3 – Blend your Onboarding Program
Rethink your training content, delivery format and support.
Don’t overwhelm your new employees with information overload or “data dump.” Make the process as easy as possible by scheduling it well and by making your program mobile, variable; interactive – ‘easy to consume’: embrace elements of self-directed, just-in-time and just-enough training that mirrors your company’s on-the-job processes, tools and assets. Give your new hires a running start with modern social & digital collaboration tools that help them easily identify, connect, and engage with colleagues through the organization.
In addition, each new hire should be assigned a mentor to help them with their integration. The mentor should not be the new hire’s direct supervisor but a peer.
he role of the mentor should be to introduce the new employee to internal and potentially external stakeholders (trusted partners, important clients, …), as well as helping to guide him/her through the ‘political’ terrain of the organization. These interactions will enhance the informal and on-the-job-learning.

“Oh, you’re here …
we’d better find you an office”

# 4 –  Role of the Manager
Your new hires have no idea what you expect from them unless you tell them. For the first 2 to 4 weeks, the mentor should be setting up lunches and meetings with various staff, colleagues, clients, suppliers, etc. so the new hire can get to know the business, important projects and people that they will be working with.
Beyond mentorship, the role of the manager is vital in the first months. The manager should define and mutually agree a “100-day employee success plan”.
This plan should give insight into a crystal clear job description, the new hire’s role within the team, within the organization, very clearly defined objectives, timelines, deliverables & criteria for success.

# 5 – Assess your Onboarding Program
In order to know if you are achieving the intended result, monitor, measure and report on your program. To ensure the ROI from effective onboarding, assess your program at least once a year. This will allow you to adjust and improve the process if necessary. How can you measure it? Develop questions aimed at capturing feedback from the most important ‘stakeholders’ in the process: the new hire, the manager, the L&D or onboarding manager.

  •  The new hire: gather input & feedback after six and after twelve months. For example: which ‘barriers’ did they encounter? Which are the most positive and most negative experiences with regard to the integration? What did they miss in the onboarding program? Recommendations for improvement? Etc.
  • The manager: ask the new hire’s manager whether the onboarding was completed according to expectation. How did the “100-day employee success plan” go? How long did it take for the new hire to reach minimum productivity? Etc.
  • The L&D or onboarding manager: you can investigate for instance the average retention rates during the first six or twelve months of employment, voluntary departure reasons, number of referrals provided by new hires, etcetera.

Onboarding boosts employee’s productivity, engagement and job satisfaction. So, take the time to fully train and integrate your new hire (or internal transfer).

Remember: you are investing in the future of your company !

Please share your thoughts in the comments section as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

If your colleagues and network might be interested in this article, please do share.
They will be grateful and so will I.

“The Five-Headed Monster”

foto five headed monster

Have you ever experienced this? …

A senior director reaches out to the Learning & Development department for help.
He’s desperate as he reaches a breaking point, this is becoming his worst possible nightmare:

One of his managers has been causing problems for months and months: being a poor listener and right-fighter (someone who could not possibly be wrong!), he bullies anyone who opposes his ‘no-gray-area’ thinking.  The person is self-centered, arrogant and inappropriately competitive, unable to take criticism, taking everything personally. Furthermore, a very low tolerance for frustration leads to short-fuse behavior and outbursts.  Besides, he uses every opportunity to ‘power-trip’, to manipulate and put colleagues down.

Result:  the team has become dysfunctional. The morale is gone and instead of team spirit, demotivation and disengagement prevail. Even worse: more and more absenteeism occurs so the department / company is losing money. A ‘five-headed monster’ predominates the department, inclusive the responsible senior director. Do you recognize this?

Is it “Peter”, “Dilbert” or “-EQ”?

Now, what could possibly be at the basis of this behavior? Is it the Peter Principle? Or rather the Dilbert Principle ? Or is it a lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) & social skills. The answer probably lies in a combination of the above, maybe not even related exclusively to the concerned individual …

In this blog post, let’s focus on low emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence?

Wikipedia describes emotional intelligence (EQ) as follows:  “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior”.

In other words: EQ is the non-cognitive skills and competencies we need to successfully communicate and interact with people in the workplace and in our daily lives.

Low emotional intelligence is one of the biggest causes of conflict in the workplace and in people’s personal lives. The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learned, and transferred to others, especially by leaders with high EQ who lead by example.

“The five-headed monster”

The ‘symptoms’, the resulting behaviors of low emotional intelligence are multiple.
Just to name a few:

1. low self-awareness
2. lack of empathy
3. inability to self-manage
4. lack of responsibility
5. low stress-tolerance

In order to ‘remediate’ to a scenario as described above, a custom-made learning solution must be designed and a blended approach proposed. I’ll possibly come back to that in a future blog article. Here are a few succinct tips to help you and your team members to ‘combat the five-headed monster’.

  1. Develop self-awareness
    A hard look at our emotional skills and weaknesses is the first step to improve EQ. Explore and self-reflect on strengths and weaknesses. A big part of having self-awareness is being honest with ourselves about who we are (see also my previous blog post “Who are you”): knowing where we excel, and where we struggle.  In addition, an emotionally intelligent person learns to identify, understand and accept his/her areas of strength and weakness, and sees them as an opportunity, a starting point for further development.
  2. Grow empathy
    Unaware of, not understanding, not taking into account how others think and feel is a sign of low EQ. Let’s try to be curious about people we don’t know. Don’t let our first (sometimes wrong) impression stop us from further exploring the personality of others.  Let’s ask lots of questions when we meet new people or colleagues and try to be genuinely interested. Empathy is one of the main components of EQ.
  3. Pump up self-management
    Instead of reacting impulsively or rashly, high EQ people are aware of their emotions which they can manage and control. Of course, we all have our own battles. However, let’s learn to manage our responses to triggers in a proactive way. We should learn how to calm down and relax in situations instead of reverting to panic and fear. Don’t make decisions when angry, hurt, or scared. Instead, self-manage, get to a better mental state, and then make better decisions after reviewing the situation from a different angle.
  4. Increase responsibility
    Some people don’t take responsibility for their feelings and actions. Instead, they will always find and blame others and will keep on refusing to ‘look in the mirror’. Arrogance, blame, coercion and victim behavior are indicators of low EQ because the result is always the same: refusal to accept responsibility for non-productive behavior and/or mistakes. We should introspect, learn to better understand and manage our own thoughts, emotions, words, actions and interactions. Become more responsible for our own happiness, attitude and moods. High EQ individuals don’t go through life feeling like the World owes them. They look within to determine why they do what they do, so they aren’t doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
  5. Cultivate stress tolerance
    First of all, get to know your stressors. Only by being aware of our emotional state and our reactions to stress in our lives, we can hope to manage stress. If really, you cannot cope with some stressors eliminate them as much as possible. Identify the people, things, and situations that cause the most stress in your life, and then sift out the ones you can avoid, minimize, or get rid of completely.
    Another thing you can do is to re-frame problems: if you can’t eliminate a stressor, change the way you look at it. When you re-frame a problem, you take back control, and you’ll lower your stress just by changing your attitude. The attitude we take and the expectations we set may actually be what’s causing the stress. There are many things we cannot change in life, but we do have the ability to change the way we react to them.

What’s in it for you?

Organizations that employ staff with higher levels of EQ have a distinct advantage because there is less conflict and more co-operation, hence higher level of productivity leading to better employee engagement and better results. A higher EQ is highly correlated with both, business success and happier lives. Unfortunately, there’s still a very long way to go.

Therefore, leaders – CEO, Business Leader, Human Resources Director, Learning & Development Leader, Team Leader –continue to invest in the development of emotional intelligence, because the world needs it. Continue to lead by example because the world needs you.
Your company will be a better place.
The world will be a better place.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

If your colleagues and network might be interested in this article, please do share.
They will be grateful and so will I.