Our current reality is a chance to take stock.
Before we’re thrust back into the normality of the daily commute, the back-to-back meetings all over town, the endless 'doing' without space for reflection, perhaps now is a great opportunity to reassess.
Was that 'normal' before serving us well?
How did it feel? How did it make those around us feel?
Sometimes we need something huge to happen for us to break habits and change behaviour, and this is certainly that.
The sudden jolt in our daily lives is a chance to step back from the habit of relentless 'doing' to take stock of ourselves and each other, to deepen our understanding and strengthen our relationships and our ability to influence positively.
It’s a chance to become more aware.
A bit on behavioural science
Behavioural science is incredibly helpful in developing our emotional intelligence (EQ) - our understanding of ourselves and those around us.
I believe the more fully we understand and accept ourselves and each other, the happier we’ll be and the more potential we’ll unlock.
That’s what drives me and gets me back on track whenever I feel lost.
At The Speakers’ Gym, we believe great communication within teams that have exceptionally high levels of EQ is the key to your business’s success.
Put simply, it’s the drive to improve how we understand and speak to each other every day.
This is often referred to as 'soft skills',and they go right to the core of what any business offers.
Ultimately, businesses are people, set up for people.
Put like this, the importance of strengthening this 'soft core' takes on added importance.
People and their emotions and behaviour can seem complicated and unpredictable, particularly when we’re under high levels of stress.
This might be when the stakes are high, when money’s involved and/or when deadlines approach.
It might also arise where egos are big, opinions differ and where it doesn’t feel like there’s time or space to talk openly.
Even when the culture of communication’s great, we’re still human and emotional, and certainly not immune to stress.
Yet within this minefield, there are structures that can make human emotion and behaviour feel more manageable
A short story about Arsenal
This is a bit of a tangent, but bear with me!
I’m fraught with nerves and anxiety when watching Arsenal. I’m absolutely helpless to influence an outcome that means an unhealthy amount to me.
With this helplessness, I strive to win back control by indulging in superstitions.
In my gut, I know it makes no difference. But psychologically, the fact that I’m doing something feels like I’m doing my bit.
I very much doubt that “ doing my bit” as a nine-year-old, which involved stroking dried bird poo on the railings at The Parken Stadium in Copenhagen back in 1994, while we clung on for dear life against Parma affected the result.
But the point is, I felt like I was doing something.
To bring it back to the matter in hand, actively developing your EQ gives you back control.
This might come through being more observant of yourself and others, and reading up on behavioural science.
The difference between this and my football superstition is that behavioural science is rooted in reality, and will yield results if used in the right way.
A question of trust
Take our trust equation, for instance…
We all know it’s incredibly important to build trust with each other and with clients.
For the adviser, trust is your key currency. Our first Illuminate article tackled this very subject - there’s a reason we started here.
So, how do you build it?
I can't tell you how many times we’ve watched our clients grapple for an answer to this.
When we share our trust equation, our clients are usually very excited - particularly the mathematically-minded. Something intangible and unquantifiable now has a neat and tidy formula.
This science, based on years of behavioural observation and research by David Maister, equips you with specifics, where you may once have felt a little lost and bewildered.
A key caveat
Communication is not an exact science. Real life is far more complex than the theory.
It's true that theory offers frameworks to help us navigate the minefield of human emotion and behaviour. It allows us to identify certain patterns that help predict behaviour in ourselves and others that bit better.
Behavioural science and theory should serve as a gateway to deepening our understanding of each other.
But it must never be a substitute for the hard graft of being present, listening to and picking up on the nuances of the person opposite you.
You have to care. All the science in the world won’t make up for it if you don’t.
So my advice is:
1) Acknowledge the importance of your soft skills
In financial services, the importance of 'hard' technical skills has long been acknowledged. Yet the ability to relate them in a way that is human, relatable and relevant must also receive equal footing.
2) Read, listen and watch
Whether it’s a book, article, podcast, video or programme, consume something every day that deals with human behaviour.
Enter into a dialogue with it. Whether you agree or not, note down your key takeaway.
3) Stay curious
Developing your EQ isn't an intellectual exercise, it’s more subtle and nuanced than that.
Observe real life behaviour every day and note down what you learn, and whether it confirms or conflicts with any behavioural theory you’ve taken on.
Whether it’s something you’ve read, some interesting theory you’ve come across, or something you’ve seen first hand, try and put the learning into action as soon as possible in. Otherwise theory remains just that.
A commitment to the above steps will help you actively enhance your EQ every day.
Let’s not go 'back to the old normal'. We can do better than that.
Apparently we’re in the 'new normal' right now, so that phrase is already taken.
Let’s look forward to a 'new new normal' with these habits embedded.
By being more scientific and rigorous in our approach to behaviour and developing our own EQ, we’re acknowledging the importance of what’s human in our roles.
In turn, we'll offer better support to colleagues and clients in the process.