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Saturday Bike Rides with Bob: Career Wellbeing and Emotional Intelligence

Posted by Joe Antle on July 4, 2021 3:15 PM EDT
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The Saturday bike rides with Bob continues with an impromptu question for discussion that arose from me re-reading an impactful book....

...that I had originally read more than 25 five years ago.  The book had been suggested reading by Don Patterson who at that time was the corporate head of special projects and human resources for Landmark Communications.  I had just arrived back at Thye Virginian-Pilot as Director of Advertising and was trying hard to follow professional development regimens that included thoughtful discussion with fellow leaders at my level and above and business book reading at a recommended pace of one important book every two months.  This was quite challenging for me given the demands of my new job and the fact that the Internet was becoming an important need to understand and consider application...so daily work demands, a growing family and extracurricular self-administration of personal professional development initiatives made for busy days!

The book Don recommended was called "Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ", written by Daniel Goleman.  Subsequent to this particular book on an interesting and profoundly relevant subject for me to understand and apply in my new position I also read other books and articles on the subject, including "Emotional INteglligence:  A Practical Guide" by Dr. David Walton.  I highly recommend both books for now more than 25 years later, the cutting edge of the thinking and research that went into this topic back in the mid 1990's is perhaps even more relevant for today's leaders.

My question to Bob was prompted by my going back and re-reading many of the thought-leading business books that I read throughout the 1990's and early 2000's.  Specifically, the chapter in Goleman's book titled Managing with Heart" seemed to me to be good fodder for provoking a good dialogue with Bob on our Saturday bike ride.  The week before he had proved to be very insightful when given a question well in advance.  So, given Bob's strength in the subject of his career success in  helping others succeed in their work performance and in his 38 years with the same newspaper-working in important management roles during the best of times in the industry and also the worst of times, I thought it interesting to see how well-formed his ideas would be on the subject.  And perhaps even moreso now that he has been retired for three years, his views would have the benefit of reflection.

After a bit of banter about the wonderful event held in his honor at the local Zoo, and Bob asking me some nice easy to answer questions about how my work was going, I decided to steer the question to the topic of Emotional Intelligence and the life well-lived wellbeing essential called career wellbeing.  A little bit of background and context before suggesting the topic question might help Bob in framing a useful response.  As predicted, it did!

The question was this:

"Looking back on your career as a successful, well-respected senior manager who was also a sought after mentor by young and upwardly mobile professionals, what do you think are the key elements of Managing with Heart"?

Bob began with a recap of the things that he currently if focused on in post-retirement which we have already written about in a previous blog...and that go by the acronym "LIVE" (learning, imparting lessons learned, volunteering and experiences).  Bob suggested that there were three elements he could provide.  He admitted that while he had not read the book, the topic was intriguing to him and he had given it a bit of thought over the years based on his reading and workshops participation on the concept of "Strengthfinders" a program designed in part from input by Tom Rath that was based on Gallup Inc. research.  You may recall that Tom Rath is the co-author of the book titled "Wellbeing:  The Five Essential Elements" that is based on Gallup Inc. global research.

The three key components Bob felt that comprise managing with heart are the following:

- Seek to connect with talented people in the workplace and get to know them to find out what they are passionate about, what they are particularly good at doing and how that can be the strengths to build on for a great professional career.

-Don't just focus on the "stars" but connect with others who may be in the wrong role and who with support, confidence and some direction can become stars, in the current role or in others

-Be a super connector and introduce these people to others who can provide them direction and insight and who may be able to leverage the strengths in unforeseen ways.

As usual, Bob went into some detail and provided examples of each of these three elements.  The examples were real-world ones that I could relate to and even apply myself since I am fully employed and want to give back to others that I work with and come in contact with from time to time through my worklife.  After a few questions and then repeating back to Bob what i had heard, the tables turned and Bob asked me a question, based on the book that prompted the original question in the first place.

Bob's question was what were the key findings the author posited in the chapter, "Managing with Heart"  By now I have begun to learn on these bike rides that Bob will often do this-turn the direction of the questions and topics to me.  So, I was ready.

I told Bob that interestingly, the chapter dealt with three characteristics of managing with heart.  In fact, the chapter actually seemed to have three sub-chapters entitled:  Criticism is Job One; Dealing with Diversity: and, Organizational Savvy and the Group IQ.  Basically, I explained to Bob that these three were somewhat similar in tone and structure to his three.

In first section of the chapter on "Managing with Heart" on Creative Critique the focus was that it is important to make the "artful critique" by making sure the feedback includes specificity, a solution suggestion, being present and engaged and listening and being empathetic and sensitive.

The second section will seem extremely relevant to today's themes around social equity and equality in the workplace.  It was called Dealing with Diversity" and it made the powerful case of how that priority is not just the right thing to do from a humanistic perspective, but it is also a way to get bigger and better organizational strategy and tactics developed and leads to better execution becuase more people are motivated to support actions that they help develop and that are respectful of theirs and others positions.

The third and final component of Managing with Heart involves Organizational Savvy and the creation and understanding of strategic leverage brought about by the informal networks and the pairing of people with complementary talents, strengths and interests with others like them and with others who don't have those characterisitics but can benefit and add benefit from effective pairing.  The second and third ones cited in the book and in this chapter of the book align with Bob's second and third ones in a seemingly tight way.

As we neared the end of the ride and having arrived at a shared agreement that giving back to others and helping other people excel are important aspects of career wellbeing, we then realized that the topic fits Bob's "LIVE" framework for his post-retirement life and my current work.  We agreed to ride bikes again the following weekend, but didn't necessarily come up with a firm topic.

However, I am thinking that in the spirity of the July 4th weekend which we are celebrating today and tomorrow, the topic could be 'How does freedom manifest itself in terms of wellbeing"?  We'll see if Bob agrees and if so, I'll keep you posted next time...

Happy Fourth of July!

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