Relationship: The art and practice

Relationship. Unusual dog and cat pairing.Managing your relationship with others is the fourth pillar of Emotional Intelligence or EI.

Do we really need other people?

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent.”

John Donne said this. I have changed the quote a little for reasons of gender correctness because the 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different too our enlightened utopia. That aside, the basic truth of his statement is unaltered.

The answer to the question is a definite yes. We need other people. Even if we don’t like them we do need them.

You need to build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of your life and work. All of us need to develop strong personal and professional networks. We also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place we can then begin to create and successfully manage such relationships and networks.

Our friendships, family connections and working relationships can define us. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them. Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, for myself at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

What defines a relationship?

We can most usefully talk about the word relationship here as either the way in which two or more people are connected, or the way in which two or more people or groups think about, feel about, interact with and behave toward each other. The first part of the two-part statement above defines a relationship’s connection component and the second part speaks to the quality or nature of the relationship.

For example, a residential landlord may be said to be in a relationship with a tenant due to the fact one rents the other a dwelling; this is a straightforward relationship description based on connection. You might also describe the situation by saying the landlord and tenant have an uneasy relationship; because the tenant is always waiting until the very last minute to pay their rent. This speaks more to the quality aspect of the relationship. A low-quality one in this example. Relationships can fall anywhere on a spectrum running from strong to weak.

You will have a huge number of relationships in your life. Some you will be aware of and actively managing and some you may be aware of but have no interest in managing.  There may well be some you are aware of but have no ability or opportunity to manage and yet more of which you are simply unaware of at any level.

So how does knowing this help?

This whole series has been about emotional intelligence in the real world and has focused on developing and using EI as a leader or manager. Being an effective leader or manager is all about building solid sustainable relationships with other people, groups and organisations.

This is where the magic happens. Knowledge as they say is power.

As you will have been working on your emotional intelligence, you will be more self-aware and better able to regulate yourself. Also, you will have a better understanding about what makes other people tick. Now, you are ready to look at your relationship with the world in general and more specifically other people.

You can now begin to consciously and intentionally identify, investigate and then classify the relationships in your life. This will then allow you to redefine them if necessary or build upon them in new, interesting and beneficial ways.

Relationship connection comes first

The connection comes first, and you have a surprising amount of control over who you connect with and which groups you associate yourself with.

You may not be able to choose your family and relations, but you can choose your own friends. Up to a practical financial and skill-based limit, you can choose where you work and often, who you associate with within that working environment.

You can choose who you wish to approach to initiate a potential new relationship and you can refuse some or all such approaches to you if you so desire.

Bear this in mind because it is important; you always have choices.

With no connection there cannot be a practical personal or business relationship.

Relationship quality follows close behind

If a relationship exists at all then it follows that the relationship has some sort of inherent quality which defines that relationship. This inherent quality can also determine the stability and durability of the relationship. Any inherent qualities can be both positive and negative and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical within any relationship. Some qualities can overpower others and take control of or even destroy a relationship if not managed and controlled.

For example, in a marriage, if one partner deeply mistrusts the other, this can lead to paranoia and stress. The untrusted partner can become so upset with the suspicious atmosphere they seek external comfort and misbehave. They likely would not have misbehaved at all in a trusting environment. If this happens the mistrusting partner sees it as validation of their mistrust and it has in fact become a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is obviously not a high-quality relationship. Even if both parties split up and found other partners, they may inadvertently repeat the same negative behaviour with similar outcomes.

Any business or professional relationship can be impacted the same way. There can be high-quality and low-quality interactions.

Whilst you had quite a bit of control over the relationship connection, you can only ever have full control over one half of the relationship quality; your own half. This means you can always choose how you behave and respond, but you have no direct control over how the other party reciprocates. You can of course try to influence the other party or group but, if the situation is extremely bad the best thing to do may be to break the connection entirely and end the relationship.

Managing a relationship is a deliberate & conscious creative act

One of the key things with managing relationships is that word managing. You need to manage them. You need to manage the connections you make then you need to manage your contribution the quality of that relationship.

This management does not happen magically. Situations rarely fix themselves spontaneously.

The successful and effective management of a relationship really is a deliberate and conscious act. Ideally this happens on both sides of the relationship; these generally prove to be the better relationships overall.

Communication, compromise, respect, trust, understanding, listening, compassion, etc… are all key elements of positive healthy relationships. You need to be constantly checking and monitoring to ensure these elements are front and centre. If they are missing or disappearing, then some action will need to be taken. You will need to take charge and manage.

Bear in mind, you may be the party causing the issues. Manage yourself. Sort it out or break it off.

I also used the word creative here. Creativity is an important component in the management of any relationship. When things which have worked in the past stop working then you need to get creative. Try something new. If it fails, try something else. Use your judgement here and don’t end up flogging a dead horse. Tenacity is a good trait, but stubbornness is not so good.

Relationships are not good when either party is too passive or too aggressive. Balance works best.

Is the EI puzzle complete now?

The four pillars have now been covered in this article series, but your work has only just begun. Like the game of chess, the rules can be straightforward enough, but it can take at least one lifetime to get good at the game.

You are hopefully more aware of emotional intelligence as both a concept and a practical learnable skill. I recommend making it a priority in your life. Firstly, seek your own balance across the four EI pillars. Then seek to raise your skill level in all the EI pillars equally and to as high a point as you can.

Life is not meant to be a spectator sport. Get involved in your own life and enjoy it to the max. If you are not in control of your life, then someone else will be. Trust me, controlling it yourself is far better.

What next?

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence in the real world

Self-awareness and how to develop it

Self-regulation and its importance to you

Understanding others and how to do it

Drive – what really drives you to succeed?

Drive. And your reason is? What really drives you?What really drives you?

Drive is the motivational force which propels you toward a desired situation or away from an undesired one. Your drive can also be called you why or reason for doing something. Drive is what pushes you to a successful conclusion.

So, why do you want to be successful?

It seems like an innocent enough question does it not? Almost a pointless question. I mean, really, who doesn’t want success?

It’s all about energy

Well, everything in life takes energy. This is a fact and you can’t escape it. Whenever you do or think anything or engage in any interaction with the world around you, there is an exchange of energy involved.

You must take energy in to exchange for the bodily and mental essentials you need as a human and there is only so much to go around for the additional things you like to have in your lives.

The drive to achieve success in any significant endeavour takes a lot of work and achieving the type of comprehensive success most people seek in all areas of their lives, takes a huge amount of energy applied over time. You can do it, but you will need to make sacrifices. You must focus your energy and use it primarily for the essential elements you need to achieve your successful outcome.

Drive equals motivational fuel

Something  is needed to drive you toward your success. You need a fuel to power that drive. Nobody can  run a car for long without fuel, can they? You cannot survive for long as a human without food or water, can you?

Your reason for achieving success is your fuel. What drives you is your motivational fuel. Your why must be compelling enough to make you give up the nice to haves and expend your valuable energy on your success essentials. If your reason is not compelling enough your resolve will fizzle out and die. Your plan will fail.

The first step in planning for a successful outcome is to determine exactly why you are doing it in the first place. You need to work out the origin of your drive because if you don’t you could waste a lot of valuable time, resources, emotion and energy .

There are two types of driver: Extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic drivers

External or extrinsic drivers, offering such rewards as money, fame or possessions, can be good drivers for some people but, as history has demonstrated time and again, even if they are achieved these things do not always provide the happiness or contentment which was sought. Many times, the external rewards do not prove healthy as the drive for success. Someone else always has more money, more fame or more possessions so there is no real end to it. Even if they do relatively well, compared to others, these externally driven types eventually burn out and give up. They often feel discontented and bitter. They sometimes ruin their health and emotional lives. Life is too short to waste.

Intrinsic drivers

Internal or intrinsic rewards tend to be far more powerful and effective drivers for success. An intrinsic driver might be as simple as feeling personally satisfied for doing a task well regardless of any thanks or monetary gain. In my experience, the most powerful intrinsic drivers are those which involve achieving success so other people benefit. Intrinsic drive is superb motivational fuel because they represent the true you.

An example

Perhaps an example might help clarify things further.

Consider which of the following two success drivers might make a middle aged, overweight and out of condition businessman start to eat a healthy diet, get fit again and then stay fit for as long as possible.

Drive 1: He wants to look good on the beach, impress others and fit into more stylish business clothing to help his career?

Drive 2: He wants to be able to play more sports and games with his children and stay healthy to help provide for them and help them as they grow toward their own middle age.

Which option would be most effective for him? Which option would drive you most effectively?

Over to you

The cost of gaining extrinsic rewards is often high. If you are driven by such extrinsic rewards you might want to dig a bit deeper and see if you can find more intrinsic reasons for wanting success. Intrinsic drivers take less energy and therefore can be more powerful and sustainable over time.

If you would like to dig deeper into the idea of drive and what drives people, you might like to try the following books:

“Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

“Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

I can heartily recommend them both.

Take some reflection time and give some serious thought to what really drives you. If you need to make some drive changes, make them. It’s never too late to succeed.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Goals – Process or Outcome Driven?

Perfectionism kills creative output

Perfectionism is like shouting at a brick wall

Perfectionism is the enemy of creative output

Perfectionism has held me back. I have battled with perfectionism on and off all my working life. It can be a real productivity killer. If you or someone close to you tends toward perfectionism then read on and see how I now think about it and work to combat it. Perhaps you can do the same?

“Perfection does not exist. To understand this is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.” Alfred de Musset

In order to get good at something you must put some work into it. If you are trying to become good at being creative you must first create some things. If your are seeking to become a high-quality writer, you first must write something. To become a high-quality musician, you must play. Once started you must keep going so the quality improves. It’s not easy.

Unless you are a legitimate genius who can conjure fully formed high-quality work from thin air then you must acknowledge and accept the fact that success in any field of endeavour takes work. I don’t know about you but I must follow the hard work process.

Work at increasing your output not your perfectionism

The more work you put into something will lead to you creating more output. When you learn and grow based on the feedback for each output event your quality will increase. Being prolific coupled with improvement through feedback will eventually lead to success.

For inspiration to keep my productivity high I always think about one of my personal heroes, Mr Bob Dylan. Whether you like his work or not you have to accept that Bob Dylan has produced a colossal body of work. Has the work always hit the mark or met his personal standards? Probably not, but the point is he did it all anyway. In my opinion, he always grew better and more confident as a direct result of his prolific output.

Ira Glass has some wonderful views and advice on the topic and I would urge you to look at this YouTube video: Ira Glass on Creativity.

Are you a perfectionist?

There is one sure fire killer of creative output and its name is perfectionism.

When you kill your output with perfectionism you severely, or even terminally, limit your chances of hitting your intended target for success.

Are you a perfectionist? Do you try to get things perfect before you release your work to the world? Well, I hate being the bearer of unwelcome news but here it is anyway. There is no such thing as perfect and no such state as perfection. You might as well try and catch smoke with a net. If you are trying to make something perfect you will fail. This post, for example, will never be perfect no matter how much I rewrite it. All I can reasonably do is the best work I can do then get it out there and into the world. I can do no more.

You can only do your best

If something once created is not perfect, many people who tend to perfectionism think other people will notice this and either ignore them or, possibly worse, criticise and hate them. This could not be more wrong or self-defeating for the aspiring creator of brilliance, which the poor perfectionist undoubtedly is.

Now, it is only right and proper that people strive to provide the best output they can for the intended recipients of their efforts. Notice that I said, “best output they can” and not “perfect output” because trying to get something perfect is morally laudable but ultimately completely misguided.

Here’s the thing. The perfectionist will never provide their intended recipients with anything at all because they never feel their work is perfect. It’s a vicious circle from which there is no escape. What do they fear? Is it a failure? Is it success perhaps? Do they really expect perfection in others? Do they really believe others expect it of them? There is something blocking them somewhere.

The law of diminishing returns

There is a law called “The Law of Diminishing Returns.” This states that beyond a certain point you get less and less improvement in something compared to the amount of effort applied to make that improvement. It will never reach 100% no matter how hard you try. Put more simply, if you get something as good as you reasonably can then more work will make only a slight difference. I’ve tried to illustrate this graphically below.

Your audience is not perfect either

If you tend toward perfectionism be aware that the things you may see as potential defects and shortcomings won’t even be noticed by your audience. Remember, your audience is not perfect either.

If what you must give or say is valued and valuable; people will value it for its own sake and not because it is worked, edited or polished to near perfection. Pour your passion and love into your work and people will get it, value it and love it likewise.

Make things as good as you can, by any practicable and reasonable measure, then get your work out there. You can always improve it later if you want to. People will give you feedback if you just ask.

I know that I can always edit this article based on feedback but, if it is not being read by anyone because I haven’t published it, then it may as well never have been written at all.

What valuable work are you holding onto because it isn’t “perfect” enough for you?

Be prolific and get your work out there for everyone’s benefit.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did enjoy it then please like it and, even better, share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.

Goal-setting the WACKY way

WACKY goal-setting graphic man holding elephant above his headWhy WACKY goal-setting?

If you’re going to use goal-setting in your life then you might as well set big ones. I recommend making them as WACKY as possible. The WACKY’er the better in fact!

Goals and goal-setting are fundamental tools for personal and organisational development. After all, how can you know you have achieved something or even improved your situation at all if you have no target or benchmark to work from?

SMART Goals

SMART goal-setting is the most common business goal-setting tool. Acronyms are very common in the business world and SMART goals are generally taken to be goals which are Specific, Measurable & Motivating, Aligned, Reachable or Relevant and Time Driven. This is all well and good in the business world where by and large people want a stretch but not too much of a stretch. The consequences of failure in the modern business world are often high so the taking of chances is not encouraged by many managers. I personally view this as a huge deficiency in many organisations. Permission to try and to fail (and therefore to learn) is not usually given. A whole raft of articles could be written on the reluctance to embrace failure for growth and I’m sure I’ll write one or two more soon enough.

SMART goal-setting doesn’t always mean smart goals

Many people, through their experience at work, are familiar and comfortable with the SMART goal-setting approach. If they form any personal goals at all, they are likely to design SMART goals. When the same timidity and safety driven approach applies to personal goals they are weak, provide a small stretch only and are not that motivating. Are these goals being achieved? If they are being achieved, are they rocking your or anyone else’s world? My answer to both questions is NO!!

Am I completely against SMART goal-setting? Actually, no I’m not. They have their place and work well for tasks that form stages or sub-goals within a big WACKY goal.

Think Bigger

When pursuing goals in your life make them big. Make them huge, awesome, life-changing, jaw-dropping, pulse quickening goals that are worth your effort and time. Aim for the stars – even if you come up short you will still have had a hell of a ride and be higher than most everyone else. You will have learnt valuable lessons and be more than motivated to try again. In my opinion it is far better to regret the things you’ve done than live a life regretting the ones you didn’t try.

My WACKY goal-setting manifesto

This is how I do it – using the catchy acronym WACKY. Catchy acronyms stick in your mind and you can access them easily. Hopefully you’ll then use it all the time and spread the message to others.

I really want people thinking my personal goals are totally WACKY – that’s great. It means they will likely be the goals that others may not have thought of.  I want goals which scare others .  I want to stretch myself – that’s the only way to grow and develop as a person and be able to help others more effectively. That’s always been my driving force. Partial failure of one of my WACKY goals will often be better than most people’s mediocre SMART goals – I’ll learn loads of good stuff and be that much closer to where I want to be. I also take my time to form them and that way I get the real honest “from the heart” stuff – it works for me and it could work for you.

These WACKY goals are generally my over-arching long-range life goals so they will certainly contain lots of mini-goal stages – that’s fine – many small (SMART) steps will add up to a huge WACKY journey. It all makes life very interesting.

WACKY goal-setting defined

So let’s get going with what WACKY means to me.

Wonderful

WACKY goals are wonderful. They are full of wonder. I want filling with wonder, otherwise what’s the point? It has to be something that makes my imagination work hard. I want it to play on my mind and draw me on down that road less travelled.

Animating

WACKY goals fire me up. They get me raring to go. No fire up and no raring to go means I’ll find a better goal instead. I want my pulse to quicken when I think about it. I want to talk with animation when I talk to my nearest and dearest. It must create amazement and passion.

Colossal

I make it big, bigger and bigger again. If it doesn’t make me stop and think “hold the phone, that’s big even by my standards – people will think I’m mad” then I rethink it and just make it bigger. I make it a huge hairy-arsed goal that if achieved will make me think “Yeah, that was a good one”. If people saw my goal in the street they would cross the road to avoid it – it will be a kick-butt ferocious slavering monster of a goal.

Killer

I try to make it undeniably unique and special; when achieved it will be well worth the sacrifice and effort. I try always to be a trend setter and not a follower – I therefore try to set grand goals that I and others have not yet achieved.

Yours

I have to own my goal with my heart and soul. It’s personal. I’ll pour huge energy into it – failure is not an attractive option. For example, roller skating backwards up Everest is just not my chosen WACKY goal. However, being the best and highest paid professional coach in the world is. My goals have to be my goals and your goals have to be your goals. I’ve learnt over the years to pick goals that really do chime with my core values. My values as an individual and a unique human being are super important.

Over to you

That’s it. This technique of goal-setting has taken me years of study and searching. I’ve worked hard to learn more and refine it. It’s still a work in progress because it is a life-long challenge. No one said it would be easy did they? I urge you therefore to use SMART for the small things but be WACKY for the important ones.

Try and design some of your own WACKY goals for your life. They will take you to some wonderful places.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you did then please like it and share it. Every little bit helps in internet land.