“Self-Awareness”, Michael S. Seaver and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. In 2018, I asked the COO of a consulting firm to track negative emotions (for two weeks) in a “pain” journal. Each time he felt sad or mad, he wrote down who was involved, what […]

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Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. In 2018, I asked the COO of a consulting firm to track negative emotions (for two weeks) in a “pain” journal. Each time he felt sad or mad, he wrote down who was involved, what occurred, and why he felt the way he did. When we met next, we quickly identified a pattern in the circumstances and that helped him realize he couldn’t play favorites with a handful of employees. He gradually learned to treat all employees equally. The feelings of sadness or anger, from this recurring circumstance, virtually disappeared as a result.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael S. Seaver.

Michael S. Seaver, Founder of Seaver Consulting, LLC, is an executive coach with expertise in executive leadership, personal branding, change management, organizational effectiveness, and employee engagement. Clients have included executives and leaders at Stanford Healthcare, Honeywell, Boeing, and more. Prior positions included the Director of Talent Sourcing at Banner Health, largest private employer in Arizona with over 50,000 employees, Director of Career Management Alumni Services at Thunderbird School of Global Management, and Assistant Director at W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University coaching MBA students and alumni. He is certified to deliver TTISI assessments (e.g. DISC, 12 Driving Forces, EQ). www.michaelsseaver.com

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?

I was raised in a West Michigan town of 2,500 residents. My grandfather started the family business, Seaver’s Lawn Service, Inc., in 1953 and my father took over in 1987. From ages 12 through 24, I maintained lawns, landscaped properties, and plowed snow, leading crews of five to ten people. I learned the values of hard work, sacrifice and setting long-term goals.

My wife and I moved to Phoenix, AZ in 2003 to escape Michigan’s snow and join a growing economy. Yet, as it slowed in 2008, we divorced, and I suffered minor bouts of depression and understanding my place in the world. Thankfully, I was accepted to and completed an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management where I traveled internationally, interacting with students from 53 countries and saw the importance of authenticity, assertive communication, and inclusion of diverse people when conducting business.

I started my coaching and consulting practice in October 2011 and have traveled the world uncovering new perspectives. I’ve been blessed to coach leaders and have worked on a number of projects that have changed corporate cultures from command and control to align and empower. Through it all, I realized that the more I challenged mainstream ideologies, the more I recognized the patterns in human life, and the more I shared how people are more similar than dissimilar — the more I could uplift others to live authentically and empower them to become coaches to the people around them. All the hardships and lessons I learned had purpose and now I uplift others as they uncover their authentic selves.

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

My grandfather. He worked his entire life for the same employer, on the same shift, in the same building. His intuition guided him to start the family’s business so he worked nights and weekends for decades. When his four children were of age, each started working in the business. When all of his grandchildren were of age, they worked in the business. What I’ve always found inspiration in is that he stayed committed to his employer and built his entrepreneurial venture at the same time for five decades. Our family lived in a town of 2,500 people. For him to do what he did and become a millionaire, I’ll admire his self-belief, sacrifice, and focus on a long-term goal no one else could see. Today, I delay immediate gratification knowing that accomplishing my goals will be more fulfilling. I customize my services to my clients as that was my grandfather’s value proposition. I remain perseverant knowing that my journeys’ roadblocks aren’t meant to stop me, they’re meant to teach me. Out of the ashes of the depression and World War II, my grandfather became one of his community’s biggest influencers. I’m purposely working my business’ long-term plan to do the same.

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?

I’m immensely grateful for my stepdaughter, Aleah. Her mom and I dated for seven years (did not marry), and although she and I are no longer together, Aleah is now 20 and an even bigger part of my life. Over the last decade, I have had four coaches, two therapists, and have paid for countless meals for mentors to help me find clarity. I’ve come to believe that children are our greatest teacher. They mirror back to us the very things we need to improve in ourselves, remind us about the purpose of human life, and the potential that sits latent inside.

Shortly after she graduated high school, we backpacked across Europe. In Munich, Germany, she asked me a question I never ever considered. She asked me if I’d get matching tattoos with her. My heart melted. Two weeks later, we both had ink on the inside of our biceps. Because of Aleah, I honor diverse perspectives more easily, I display my authentic self with more confidence, and I help heal my clients’ relationships with their children. Our lives’ deepest meaning comes from our relationships. Without her teaching me lessons, my business wouldn’t offer the services it does today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In early 2012, one of my very first clients asked for an outline and timeline of the learning I would be guiding him through in our six sessions together. I didn’t have one. I had taken his money and didn’t have an expected outcome for our time together. I intuitively knew how to ask questions that pulled learning out of people, but I was completely unaware about how to sequentially manufacture learning experiences that would evoke necessary emotions and key learning that would set the person up for what was coming next. Embarrassingly, I invested the next seven nights into reading coaching books, designing a haphazard process, and paying a coach way too much money to tell me the process was okay to use. Lesson learned. Fast forward to today, I have a six-step branded process. Each step has a specific name, activities the client needs to complete, and defined emotions I want him or her to feel. I learned quickly that a coach’s brand is built upon the outcome they’re known to produce in their clients.

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?

The more leaders I coach, the more I recognize an unspoken pattern regardless of the person’s socio-economic status. The leaders who love their careers, who are deeply engaged in their work, and who influence those around them easily — they help others overcome the same challenge they had when they were younger. I often describe it as “Be the person you needed when you were younger.” In our teenage years and early-to-mid-twenties, we experience a set of recurring emotional challenges. Around age 27 or 28, we figure out a way to overcome that challenge. Then, we learn the most and add the most value to our community when we teach others our process for overcoming that challenge. If you’re in your twenties now, keep learning experientially, reflecting on what is happening to you repeatedly, and find someone to share your feelings with. If you’re in your early thirties now, identify your challenge, how you overcame it, and the ideal group of people who need to hear your story. Then, start sharing your process and story through the means most authentic to you. Each of us defines success differently, but the common thread through each definition will be how we uplifted those in need.

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?

Daniel Pink’s book, Drive. In early 2011, I was Director of Sourcing — Talent Acquisition for Arizona’s largest healthcare organization. I had everything society says is right. Society says that when you make six figures, you’re winning. Society says that if you’re driving the fancy car, you’re winning. Society says that when you have an attractive partner, you’re winning. I had all of those things and more, but I remember sitting in brutal rush hour traffic one day and feeling I was doing the opposite of winning. When traffic came to a halt yet again, I looked around and started bawling uncontrollably. I knew I was making the mistake of living per society’s rules — not living my authentic purpose. A few weeks prior, I had finished reading Drive. Sitting in rush hour traffic that morning, it finally became real for me what Pink was trying to teach us about autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I worked six days each week and my calendar was controlled by my team. I had little autonomy. I was doing the work of three director-level employees and was responsible for five different system programs. I had little time to master one competency as I was asked to be just good enough at many. I realized my life’s work was to help people live authentically and I was working in a role where I couldn’t connect their personal purpose to the organization’s purpose. With help from Drive, nine months later I resigned my role and started my coaching practice.

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

“Your challenges aren’t in the way… they are the way,” Ron and Mary Hulnick. I was sold hook, line, and sinker on perfection. On being perfect. On not making mistakes. On projecting an image of who I wanted others to think me to be. For years, I was unhappy. Miserable. Inauthentic. One day, I considered suicide because I couldn’t find a way out of the hole I dug for my life. Somehow, I came across the Hulnick’s quote and I was able to connect the dots in how my life’s challenges happened for a reason. I was meant to experience them so I could learn how to overcome them — and then guide others to overcome the same challenges for themselves. Today, I safely walk people and organizations through the most emotionally messy changes. By choosing to be the person I needed when I was younger, I proactively teach leaders how to heal themselves and then pay it forward coaching and mentoring others. As the tide rises, each boat does as well.

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

For the last three years, I’ve provided coaching and consulting to a multi-state top 100 accounting firm. In December 2019, we requested applications, interviewed, selected, and then trained and certified 35 of their employees (from all levels of the business), to be internal coaches. Little did we know that three months later COVID-19 was going to turn upside down their traditional business practices. The unexpected daily habit adjustments, business process changes, and emotions the employees started feeling were profound. We chose to create a questionnaire and scoring system that would help the 35 coaches assign a numerical value to any employee’s emotional state. We readied resources internal and external, facilitated an in-depth training session, hosted community of practice sessions, drafted monthly emails to all staff, and created informal communication channels to assess anyone’s need for support.

Because of these 35 people and their persistence in checking in with 200+ employees regularly, the organization didn’t have to lay anyone off and their turnover dropped. They met their revenue target for this fiscal year and employee engagement scores rose. What I hope this teaches others is that command and control leadership structures are being replaced by cultures that align and empower employees at every organization level. Employees want to know what is expected of them, deserve to receive recognition, and be cared for as a person, to have their opinions count, and receive chances to learn and grow. Instead of leaving this up to the principal group, we’ve now decentralized certain aspects of leadership by creating an entire organization of coaches.

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?

I’ve been coaching and consulting for 10 years and have/had clients in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and South America. The volume and variety of human experiences I’ve encountered has helped me see patterns in positive, influential leadership behavior. I have lead thousands of leaders through personal change and can share best practices, pitfalls to be mindful of, and unconventional means to balance emotional highs and lows. I’ve created processes and trained select groups of clients’ staff on how to use it to keep anxious, stressed, nervous team members in a balanced emotional state.

Today, I talk monthly with leaders in London, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, and Florence to get an international perspective on stress and how other cultures manage emotional reaction. I’m certified to use TTI Success Insights assessments and have administered hundreds of their emotional quotient/intelligence (EQ) assessment. I’m a member of SHRM and Forbes Coaches Council and openly exchange best practices on their discussion boards. I offer multi-hour trainings about the history, research behind, and application of EQ in personal and professional settings. On my website, you’ll find an online course and multiple blogs focused on the topic as well.

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

According to TTI Success Insights’ research, emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of your emotions and the emotions of others in order to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and productivity.

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

Intellectual quotient (IQ) is a number often derived from a standardized intelligence test where you’re assessed on your capacity to remember information and reason through qualitative or quantitative situations. Because the world’s information is available for free online, your ability to remember information and share it with others is far less important than it was 10 to 20 years ago. EQ is how aware you are of your own (and others’) emotions and how well you regulate your reactions to events as they occur. It’s your ability to initiate, foster, and deepen relationships long term. EQ is not innate — it can be learned as time passes. Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, does a wonderful job describing just how impactful high levels of EQ can be.

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

I believe it is the key factor in your ability to get promoted and climb the corporate ladder. As you begin managing diverse teams, bigger budgets, organization-wide projects, and more, your knowledge of the day-to-day responsibilities of each team member lessens. To advance the business, you are most successful when you influence, engage, and motivate team members to accomplish goals in alignment with the organization’s long-term strategy. Instead of micromanaging and controlling what employees do, emotionally intelligent leaders align teams and empower them to make informed decisions on their own. They communicate transparently and frequently seek employee ideas. They invest time into learning about their employees’ lives. They help employees see the connection between their personal values and the organization’s values. Great leaders help all employees feel emotionally invested in driving the organization’s success. They motivate the team to share vulnerably, make and learn from mistakes, and give extra effort when needed. Emotionally intelligent leaders are the glue that hold teams together through incredible change. They genuinely care about the whole person, not just what the employee is asked to do for work.

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.

In my next book, I Know, I’ve devoted a chapter to my stepdaughter and what she taught me about emotional intelligence. A key component of EQ is your ability to meet people where they are. You can do this by asking insightful questions, validating their experiences and emotions, and providing a safe environment for them to learn new skills. Aleah taught me I couldn’t parent her the way my parents parented me. I needed to be more self-aware and use new methods of tailoring my communication to her so she’d feel heard and accepted. I had to work on self-regulating my emotional responses to her taking action that was different than what I thought was best for her. I needed to be more socially aware of her friend groups and how they influenced her. I had to uncover new ways to deepen her and my relationship so that I could honor the unique soul she is. Aleah has taught me much. I show up differently for my clients today because I consciously think about how my biases might impact the questions I ask or the suggestions I offer.

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

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

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

Daniel Goleman’s research uncovered that people with higher levels of emotional intelligence mitigate stress faster, are healthier physically, and are more productive. In times of stress, we default to using coping mechanisms our parents taught us when we were kids. Although we cannot control the stimuli that cause us to feel a negative emotion, we can develop habits, behaviors, and an emotional resilience that allows us to react to the stimuli differently. You may have to consciously shed what you learned decades ago and replace the old emotional responses with new versions customized to your life’s experiences today.

A key component of EQ is motivation to do something even when you really don’t want to. Perhaps, you know you release stress by going to a gym class four times each week. Even when you’re tired and don’t want to wake up and go, you still do it because you know the long-term effects will be beneficial to your health and relationships.

Dan Ariely, in his book Predictably Irrational, found that the human brain is most acute starting one and a half hours after we wake up (and is in this state for two hours). Emotionally intelligent people use this to their benefit by scheduling their most difficult task to be completed in those two hours. This improves mental health because you feel the joy of completing an important task. And, because you didn’t put it off and let anxiety and stress build.

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.

I’ll offer ideas based on each of the five dimensions of emotional intelligence. Each definition comes directly from TTI Success Insights.

Self-Awareness is the ability to recognize and understand your moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. In 2018, I asked the COO of a consulting firm to track negative emotions (for two weeks) in a “pain” journal. Each time he felt sad or mad, he wrote down who was involved, what occurred, and why he felt the way he did. When we met next, we quickly identified a pattern in the circumstances and that helped him realize he couldn’t play favorites with a handful of employees. He gradually learned to treat all employees equally. The feelings of sadness or anger, from this recurring circumstance, virtually disappeared as a result.

Self-Regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods and the propensity to suspend judgment and think before acting. I provided consulting to a CPA firm that was instituting new accountability measures. Many employees did well to manage their time and stay focused on the right goals. For the others who struggled to remain accountable, we began using Microsoft Teams and asked all employees to share their goals publicly so trusted colleagues could provide in-the-moment, on-the-spot feedback to hold underperformers accountable. Initially, it was uncomfortable. But after a few months, the team got in a groove and lines of communication opened allowing underperformers to safely do better.

Motivation is a passion to work for reasons that go beyond external drives and are based on an internal drive or propensity to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Years ago, I coached a CFO to emotionally reconnect to her organization’s mission. She and I worked hard to define her personal mission and core values. We went through an activity comparing her mission, values, and goals to that of her employer. We found as many areas of commonality as possible. Also, she was an avid traveler and often bought jewelry from the international destinations she visited. Each time she was feeling disengaged, she looked at or touched the jewelry she was wearing and it reminded her why she was doing the work she was.

Social Awareness is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people and how your words and actions affect others. For multiple organizations, I’ve provided training to leaders about how to ask powerful how, what, and why questions about other team members to uncover (work safe) personal information. Through showing genuine interest in others, and learning more about them personally and professionally, you can quickly deepen a relationship’s trust.

Social Regulation is the ability to influence the emotional clarity of others through a proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. People can rely on you, and your relationships are stronger, if you repeat the same action consistently. Last year, I was hired to help the founder of a recently-acquired start up integrate into the larger company’s culture. He was slated to become the SVP of a new division that included the startup he originally built. To help him establish credibility with staff in the new organization, we set up monthly recurring time blocks to proactively reach out to and connect with key people across the business. In a short period of time, his executive brand was established.

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?

As classroom-based rote learning is replaced by learning that occurs experientially and anywhere, teaching people how to interact with and influence diverse groups will be foundational. It’d be great to see EQ assessments administered regularly. Students deserve to be paired with a mentor or coach who can offer real-world examples of improving their EQ. I think more podcast and video content about EQ could be shared with learning cohorts. Small groups of students could serve as sounding boards for one another as they work on developing a dimension of EQ. There are numerous routes education systems can go. Key to making possible changes is tailoring the education to the learner and ensuring they are receiving the information in the way most beneficial to them.

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.

My movement would be stopping people from looking to celebrities, athletes, government officials, or subject matter experts for answers to their lives’ most pressing questions. I believe Teddy Roosevelt said it succinctly when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” External stories can be motivating, but someone else’s unique journey shouldn’t be emulated. Your journey is yours. I believe each of us has the answers inside us already. We have to dig to find them. By being still, sitting in meditation or prayer, and crashing disparate ideas together, an empowering path forward will be made available. Instead of believing in something outside yourself, believe in yourself.

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 🙂

Author Dan Pink. I envy his data-driven approach, the way he tells stories, and his empowering Pinkcast. I’d like to learn about how his parents shaped him emotionally, lessons he learned from traumatic events, and what he hopes to leave society with.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Please visit https://michaelsseaver.com.

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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