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Rachelle Lee of Einblau & Associates: “Negotiations”

What the pandemic has shown us, or really taken us back to, is that the support and connections within our home and work communities is what’s most important at the end of the day. My experience as an immigrant makes me driven to foster relationships with others, particularly those that are trying to integrate into […]

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What the pandemic has shown us, or really taken us back to, is that the support and connections within our home and work communities is what’s most important at the end of the day. My experience as an immigrant makes me driven to foster relationships with others, particularly those that are trying to integrate into established communities. With this in mind, I believe everyone should have the experience of being an immigrant for 6 months, knowing what it’s like to find work, establish a home, make new friends outside your own culture, all while trying to support your family. I believe this would re-build the community connections that have been disintegrating over the last few decades in North America where the focus has been on the pursuit of wealth. When you travel and immerse yourself in different cultures, you soon realize how fragmented and disconnected our society has become.


As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachelle Lee, President of Einblau & Associates www.einblau.com .

Rachelle is a sought-after leadership development and management consultant specializing in succession strategy, coaching, and strengths-based assessments. Formerly a client of Einblau & Associates when she was CEO of a communications research company, she is now President of the consulting firm that has been serving clients across North America for 35 years.

Rachelle’s company coaches and supports clients in two essential areas:

  • The courage to change behavior so leaders get different outcomes from their efforts, making them and their teams more successful and leadership more satisfying
  • The ability to be self-aware and approach each day with a continuous growth mindset to create great work environments and make change for the better.

Both these align with Rachelle’s keen interest in supporting the development of emotional intelligence for leaders and managers — a unique experience for many of her clients, given that many are from technical industries such as engineering, utilities, construction, industrial, and aerospace. But contrary to what some might think, those with a more left-brain mindset embrace the softer skills of EQ. “Once you understand that there is science behind the framework,” writes one client, “these tools become very powerful.”https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/efd927a5b252a077f824ba5f2bd6f49f


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Sure, it’s not something I get asked very often! I’m very grateful for the childhood experience I had. My childhood memories include seeing many places around the world, being surrounded by lots of socializing, and striving to become integrated into different cultures.

I was born in California to an American mother who was studying nursing, and an Iranian father, who had gone to the US to study engineering. After 6 years, we left the US to live in Iran prior to the revolution. I remember that time very fondly, and as a result, I have gone back as an adult many times. We lived in Tehran, involved with many families of similar backgrounds, and I also spent a lot of time with my Iranian grandparents and extended family. I went to a British private school in the mountains on the outskirts of the city. As the Iranian revolution was starting to form, we quickly left and immigrated to Canada after only 4 years in Iran. Once again, such a big move felt like an adventure because of the optimistic spirits of my parents.

To come to Canada, we had to immigrate through Calgary, Alberta. It was 1979, during a big recession. My father couldn’t find work as an engineer, particularly with his “foreign-sounding” name. After a few months, we travelled north to Edmonton, and lived there for 4 years. After enduring cold winters, my parents decided to move again, this time, to British Columbia where it was warmer and on the Pacific Coast! Even without jobs, they had lots of faith that things would be alright. After finding engineering work for a few years, my father decided he never really liked that profession. He followed his entrepreneurial instinct and opened a bicycle business in Victoria British Columbia, which operated for 30 years. Little did he know at the time that cycling would become such a huge craze in Victoria because of the temperate climate, wealthy baby boomers, and seasonal training athletes.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I suppose it was my parents, who taught us to live with an abundance mindset, and know that we have the opportunity to create the life we want. We learned early on that a leap of faith often yields more than we can imagine, just by the sheer courage of taking it. I saw my parents follow their hearts, without assurances, and it always worked out well, often surprisingly so. I have that same approach to life to this day, and it has been invaluable to me in business, both in developing my own businesses, and also as a coach to organizational leaders.

While I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit from my father, I believe I got an even greater gift from my mother, who sadly died a few years ago. Through her interactions, she gave me a keen interest in others, regardless of their role, cultural background, or their perceived “standing” in society. I feel just as comfortable and interested in a conversation with a panhandler on the street as I do with the leader of a multi-national corporation. She taught me to value the inherent worth and dignity of everyone, and to be the “host” so others feel welcome, regardless of the situation. As a result, I am blessed with knowing wonderful and diverse people in both my personal and professional life.

All this drives me to help others find the motivation to first clearly define their goals, really visualize and believe they can attain them, then to walk alongside them as they go outside their comfort zone to stretch and achieve what they want in life.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

The previous owner of Einblau & Associates, Harriett Lemer, was a mentor to me from age 26. I was in a corporate marketing role at the time, and she was a consultant with that organization. Harriett then became a formal business coach to me when I became the CEO of a communications research company; a role I call “my school of hard knocks”. This is where I really experienced all the highs and lows of leading a group of diverse people to achieve success. After I left that role, I joined their consulting company. She, and her partner, Ron Einblau, inspired me to continue the work they had done. Their guidance changed my life, leading to the decision to purchase the company upon their retirement.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Oh wow, there have been many! I guess the one that tested me most and required the use of many Emotional Intelligence skills was when I had a client I had gone, in my opinion, way above and beyond for. During a snowstorm, I needed to travel to another city to deliver a management coaching skills course for this client. My flight was cancelled, so I hopped in a rental car to make the journey, which took many more hours than the usual 3 hour trip and put myself at risk. After all my effort, the client refused to pay the rental car cost and registered a complaint with our company, claiming I had invoiced for the cost even though it wasn’t “pre-approved” (as if anyone can predict a snowstorm!). When our company owner forwarded me the complaint email from the client, I accidentally hit “reply all”, with a frustrated message that I really wished the client hadn’t seen, I was feeling unappreciated and defensive. My lack of impulse control on the reply caused a lot of conflict between myself and my company leader, between myself and our client, and put our business relationship with that organization in jeopardy.

What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

  1. Never respond when feeling overly emotional and righteous about a situation. I put myself and my team into an embarrassing situation;
  2. It’s OK not to respond for a while and control the impulse to justify yourself;
  3. Just breathe and assess where the “high road” is;
  4. Involve others in problem-solving and ask for help. When deciding what course of action to take, I could have involved the client, or my peers who knew the client well, instead of making a rash decision that I expected everyone would give me praise for.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

Don’t compare yourself to others. Learn your strengths, be clear on your values, and always seek to serve others with humility. If you do these things, you can trust yourself to know what to say, what to do, and how to be resilient and recover from adversity and mistakes. Whenever I’ve compared myself to what others are doing, I can feel a lower sense of self-worth, and that’s when imposter syndrome can kick-in.

I know from my work that many highly successful leaders feel this way, and I think it’s important to tell a young person that it’s normal to feel that way sometimes…..the key is…does it give you the fuel to strive and carry on, or does it take you out of the game? Whenever I need to get back onto my own journey, I remind myself of my purpose in life, and I keep looking forward in my own lane.

Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — of all the hundreds of books I’ve read, this one, has always served me best, both personally and professionally. It has been at the top of my list for over 25 years.

Recently, I watched the Netflix short-series, called Away, with Hilary Swank….excellent reminder of how great leadership requires different leadership styles depending on the situation, and how you need to bring your whole self to the team…..both heart and mind.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

It’s cliché, and so true. ”Follow your passion and the money will come.” I have yet to know a case where that isn’t true. And, it’s always been a great guide for my own success.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The success of my coaching clients is always at the forefront. In recent years, I have become very passionate about Succession Planning. I have witnessed many succession appointments to leadership positions that were given to people who do not have well-developed leadership skills, particularly Emotional Intelligence. Often these appointments are subjective, based on a person’s ambitious political drive and/or successful financial project outcomes. However, the soft-skills needed in a leadership position to inspire a team toward collaborative success are quite different. That’s why we often see introverts passed over, even though they may have the right skills, in favor of the outwardly assertive personality.

Once a succession appointment is made, it takes years for a company to admit they made a bad decision. In the meantime, there’s a lot of collateral damage: the superstars leave, the culture becomes toxic and full of conflict, people are focused on self-preservation versus collective results and success. It’s why so many people are always asking…..how did that person get into one of the most senior leadership roles?

To change this, one organization at a time, we’ve spent the past year developing a proprietary succession program and process to create a “culture of succession” that includes building leaders from within, identifying leaders early before positions become available, taking the subjectivity out of who gets key roles, and creating an equitable leadership development process. Even if there aren’t enough leadership positions to offer everyone, there’s an inherent bonus: you have developed a team that approach everything they do as collaborative leaders.

And of course, EQ is a key component of an effective succession program. A person’s EQ is conveyed through their set of “personal skills”, their behaviors, motivations, and soft-skills competencies. The challenge for organizations is identifying, then matching the personal skills needed to deliver on the specific functional accountabilities of a role. The only effective way to match personal skills with role accountabilities is to use well-proven, stringently tested, scientifically valid and reliable measurement tools.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority about Emotional Intelligence?

Is anyone ever an “authority” about Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? I’ve learned that, like many things in life, it’s an evolving, ebbing, and flowing pursuit. Effectively using EQ is a choice, often beginning with adversity and conflict. Frankly, sometimes we have to work hard to make the right choice, even if we make it our career to help others develop their EQ. So, while I would never profess to be an authority, I have learned many valuable lessons personally over my life and career, and from the experiences of our clients.

For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, understand, and regulate your emotions in relationships. If you understand and develop EQ, it gives you the opportunity to manage your emotions so you can have healthy relationships, rather than experiencing the collateral damage that results when your emotions are running you. It has been further proven in research that those with a well-developed EQ can also effectively identify and manage the impact of the emotions of other individuals and of groups.

How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?

Your Intelligence, or IQ, is strongly correlated with genetics and upbringing, and is a measure of a person’s ability to learn and apply knowledge to situations, especially those that require problem solving. It is often considered constant throughout life, or fixed; however, there are activities that can be undertaken to maximize the potential of a person’s IQ, or intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) on the other hand is a learned set of skills, developed throughout one’s lifetime based on childhood experiences and teachings, adversity and situational learning, and through mentoring and coaching. The good news is that individuals always have the opportunity to choose to learn about and grow EQ.

Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Dr. Elias Porter developed the Strength Deployment inventory (SDI) assessment. His research showed that human beings are all striving to be in relationship and connection with others. It’s part of what makes us human. As we know, this isn’t easy, given the variables that come into play in this striving: culture, family of origin, experiences, influences, and many more.

The use of specific Emotional Intelligence competencies is the key to developing mutually satisfying relationships. It takes intentional choice to develop these competencies and then apply them practically in relationships, both the successful, and the unsuccessful ones in your life. The competencies we use as our guide, both for ourselves and clients, are the Emotional Intelligence Inventory Competencies identified in the work of Reuven BarOn, PHD (MHS, 1997). His list of competencies include: Emotional self-Awareness, Empathy, Assertiveness, Reality Testing, Impulse Control, Flexibility, Self-Regard, Independence, Social Responsibility, Optimism, Stress Tolerance, Self-Actualization, Problem Solving, Interpersonal Relationship, and Happiness.

As an example, if you have a negative relationship with someone in your workplace, it’s helpful to have self-awareness of your feelings in this relationship, and understand the effects of these emotions on both you and the other person. Reality testing may also be something that’s needed; is what you are experiencing based on what objectively exists, or would it be useful to ask the other person what their intentions were when they did or said something that you found offensive? Often we tell ourselves a story about people’s intentions based on our own view of ourselves and the world, without communicating with the other person to clarify what’s really going on.

I’m reminded often of the Buddhist quote: Let peace begin with me. Similarly, let emotional regulation begin with me.

Would you feel comfortable sharing a story or anecdote about how Emotional Intelligence has helped you in your life? We would love to hear about it.

Sure, I’m a firm believer that there’s a lot of growth and understanding that comes from sharing our experiences. As in many families, there are people in my family with mental health challenges, making relationship difficult at times. Emotional intelligence competencies are often needed to build bridges with others and find common ground for a healthy relationship (empathy, social responsibility, flexibility, problem-solving, interpersonal relationship). At times, I’ve had to use EQ skills to fortify myself and make a choice not to be an enabler of poor behavior and abuse in these relationships (self-regard, assertiveness, independence, stress tolerance, self-actualization). At the end of the day, I use EQ skills to do the right things to maintain healthy relationships, and sometimes, depending on the other person’s EQ choices, the relationship I have to keep healthy is the one with myself.

Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?

It’s been well proven that effective Emotional Intelligence is a stronger contributor to a person’s success than their IQ. The ability to positively impact connection and relationship with others gives leaders a higher degree of success in:

  • Negotiations: approaching outcomes with a win-win mindset and using EQ to ensure everyone gets some of their needs met;
  • Team development: using empathy and flexibility to utilize and appreciate the strengths and contributions of others;
  • Collaboration, keeping in mind social responsibility to the group, when to inspire with optimism, and adapting your desired outcomes so everyone has success.
  • Decision-making, how and when to involve others in decisions, helping others with stress tolerance during difficult times, and controlling the impulse to make a snap decision that may impact others negatively;
  • Conflict management: being assertive in a non-destructive manner, seeking first to understand before creating a story about another person(s) motives toward you, having empathy first and trying to understand your contribution to the conflict, and always seeking the outcome of maintaining or building a relationship, regardless of conflict.

The other thing I’ve observed many times is that if the leader of a team or company has a desire for continuous learning and application of EQ skills, the people on their teams also display a higher level of EQ, showing that people value and appreciate EQ and aspire to emulate the same behaviors.

Having leaders who can understand, get along with others, and develop mutually satisfying relationships has become increasingly important now when team members may only ever interact and get to know each other online. Those with higher EQ have well-developed interpersonal skills and are able to build relationships with a range of people across diverse backgrounds and cultures, on any platform. This is absolutely essential for leadership success.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?

Understanding oneself, and what triggers you, is very helpful to develop better relationships. As an example, if someone does something, or acts in a way that triggers negative emotions, it is EQ competency that helps you stay neutral (impulse control), express how you feel and the impact their behavior had on you in a non-confrontational way (assertiveness), clarify the person’s intent (reality testing), listen to understand their viewpoint (empathy), and try to set the relationship right (developing an interpersonal, mutually satisfying relationship).

This all sounds reasonable, right?! However, the other person’s EQ, or lack thereof, will impact the success of any positive efforts you make to have better relationships. This is where the EQ skill of independence is important to mention. This is the skill of being self-directed and self-controlled in your thinking and actions and to be free of emotional dependency. All we have control of is our own actions and reactions, and when we do our very best to build relationships with others, 99% of the time, people respond in kind. That’s the compelling reason to make efforts to develop our EQ skills and apply them practically to all the relationships in our lives. When things don’t go well, despite our best efforts, the EQ skills of Independence, self-regard, and self-actualization will help us move on and forward.

Consider what we’ve witnessed over the last year in terms of the black lives matter movement, and the variety of opinions on what solutions will bring lasting change. I can’t think of a more poignant example for the need for EQ in terms of empathy and setting relationships right by truly listening to understand rather than confront.

Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?

Going back to Dr. Porter’s research, striving to be in connection and positive relationship with others is necessary to satisfy our feelings of self-worth and purpose in life. If we are emotionally held hostage by our emotional triggers, or the stories we tell ourselves about the motives of others towards us, we can become both mentally and emotionally hijacked and not be our best selves in tough situations, reach our potential or be a support to others. We spend so much of our lives, especially at work, with people we didn’t choose to be in relationship with. In an increasingly globalized work environment, we’re also dealing with communication across various cultures, languages, communication styles and business models. For me, all of these give compelling reasons to continually work on developing EQ competencies. Our lives can be enriched or harmed by what happens in our relationships. That’s why EQ is so important to grow, it does affect our happiness and mood.

It reminds me of the saying: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

Ok. Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you recommend five things that anyone can do to develop a greater degree of Emotional Intelligence? Please share a story or example for each.

Great news, it’s not rocket science. Too often, we make things complicated, or think it has to be difficult to be worth the effort. There are so many academic business theories; what I’ve learned over the years is that positive, lasting change comes from a deliberate choice to intentionally focus on consistently applying small actions. Anyone can develop their EQ using the following steps:

  1. Understand what EQ is, and its specific competencies;
  2. Assess yourself using great tools like The Strength Deployment Inventory, or the EQ-I 2.0 assessments;
  3. Work with an experienced mentor or coach to debrief your results and decide which two EQ skills you can improve on first that would make the most positive difference in your relationships;
  4. Develop an action plan for the EQ skills you want to improve and implement new behaviors consistently over time.
  5. Once you’ve mastered the first two, choose another two, go through the same intentional process to action plan, implement, and evaluate your success.

Do you think our educational system can do a better job at cultivating Emotional Intelligence? What specific recommendations would you make for schools to help students cultivate Emotional Intelligence?

Yes, I do, and I think this is becoming a reality. Looking at the educational experience of my three sons, aged 24, 21, and 16, I see a very big difference in how they were taught. Virtues, for example, became a focal point in the schools where my youngest son attended, and I do believe that impacts how his generation views and approaches others in life. Another positive activity I’ve seen schools implement is the use of strengths-based assessments for incoming high-school students. As a mother to 3 boys, I am so encouraged by this…. the calls I got from schools were about all the things they were doing wrong, e.g., not sitting still, calling out of turn, being distracted, not reaching their full potential. When I finally asked them to tell their strengths, the conversation, and the outlook of their teachers, began to change. This experience fuels my passion for using strengths assessments with our clients to focus on what their people are doing well, and how to support their team’s success in light of each individual’s strengths.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

What the pandemic has shown us, or really taken us back to, is that the support and connections within our home and work communities is what’s most important at the end of the day. My experience as an immigrant makes me driven to foster relationships with others, particularly those that are trying to integrate into established communities. With this in mind, I believe everyone should have the experience of being an immigrant for 6 months, knowing what it’s like to find work, establish a home, make new friends outside your own culture, all while trying to support your family. I believe this would re-build the community connections that have been disintegrating over the last few decades in North America where the focus has been on the pursuit of wealth. When you travel and immerse yourself in different cultures, you soon realize how fragmented and disconnected our society has become.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Nice to have the opportunity to dream on this one! I think I would have an interesting, honest, authentic, and inspiring conversation with Trevor Noah. Given his life experiences, self-deprecating humor, and what I perceive as his selfless nature, we’d likely have a robust conversation about the state of the world and future opportunities, on many levels.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

  1. Our company website for general information: www.einblau.com
  2. Articles we’ve written: https://www.einblau.com/articles/
  3. LinkedIn: Rachelle Lee LinkedIn Page
  4. LinkedIn Company page: Einblau & Associates LinkedIn

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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