Thursday 19 January 2017

Dozens of PM Forum South West members gathered at Clarke Willmott’s modern Bristol offices in mid-January. They networked and enjoyed a light lunch, but the big draw was to hear a fascinating talk on the benefits of applying emotional intelligence to team management and marketing.

The talk was given by Ruth Moody, Managing Director of Farscape Development – a people development consultancy.

After an introduction to the topic, in which Ruth urged everyone to take time to ensure they understood themselves so that could better understand others, the audience members were quickly paired off and given a series of speaking and listening challenges.

The aim was to demonstrate just how much information it was possible to convey in one-minute snippets, and show the value of being curious about others.

Academic models

A series of academic models were discussed to showcase some of the theory behind the value of emotional intelligence: the EQ Mixed Model and the Integrated Performance Model (which was also a chance for Ruth to show her artistic talents with a – shall we say - abstract interpretation of an iceberg).

Apparently, there are 3,500 words in the English Dictionary associated with feelings and emotions. But when those in the audience were challenged to close their eyes and recall all the emotions they had felt at work the previous day, the most an audience member could think of was 13, and the majority came up with about seven.

Ruth used this exercise to highlight how emotionally under-educated we are as a society. She suggested watching this TED Talk by Ken Robinson, ‘Do schools kill creativity?’

Another exercise in audience participation saw everyone write down on colour coded post-it notes what made them feel angry, anxious and afraid (RED); energised (GREEN); and relaxed/reflective (BLUE). These were then discussed in groups of four.

Evolution and the triune brain

These feelings were then explored in the context of the evolution and the triune brain, from reptilian brain concerned with survival, through limbic brain which processes emotion through to neo-cortex brain which does our thinking.

Conflict between old brain and new brain

Old brain to new brain – it’s a bit like a layered software update, but one which leaves the potential for conflict between the different states. And understanding this conflict is at the heart of emotional intelligence.

So, if someone in your team is really struggling, ask yourself, “Could they be stuck in threat brain, that legacy from our evolutionary past?”.

And if someone is a furious ball of energy, achieving a lot, it may be great for now, but might they be on a path to burning themselves out? That’s drive brain.

Neither of these states is a good place for people to remain in the long term, but they may need help recognising that. Understanding emotional intelligence can help you work towards shifting your team to ‘safe’ brain - the neo-cortex where deep-thinking, learning and resting are facilitated. From here, making forays into ‘drive’ brain can be a safe path to achieving goals.

Striving to influence workplace culture around us to make people feel safe is a powerful way to build effective marketing teams.

Ruth left us with six clear take-aways:

  1. Leaders in marketing and other creative roles will get better results by creating healthy ‘drive’ behaviours.
  2. The corporate world tends to stimulate threat reaction and unhealthy ‘drive’ responses.
  3. Fear as a motivator is detrimental.
  4. Accessing ‘safe’ brain requires practice, motivation and curiosity.
  5. Leaders should understand themselves to better understand others.
  6. Building an environment where it’s ok to make mistakes drives creativity.

Ruth’s recommended reading:The Fear-Free Organisation: Vital insights from neuroscience to transform your business culture - Paul Brown, Joan Kingsley and Sue Paterson.

Written by Huw Bendon, On Point Copywriting
PM Forum South West