You have to set goals and think about where you’re going. You set goals for your career, but it’s also about setting learning goals in areas you want to improve and grow. Learning goals are important because we always are focused on outcomes, but this is an opportunity to ask, “Where do I need to build capacity?” Many of the people I work with find that they’re not doing well in some regions of the job because they haven’t developed competence. They have to reflect on what areas they need to develop and understand it will be a journey.
As a part of our series about Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewingKerry Goyette.
Kerry Goyette is the president of Aperio Consulting Group, a corporate consulting firm that utilizes workplace analytics and implements research-based strategies to build high-performance cultures, and she is the author of “The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence.”
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?
My dad was an engineer, so I grew up with math and sciences all around me. He was a leader for the federal government and worked on projects for the CIA. He was overall a fantastic leader, so it was neat, as I would go to the house of a friend who knew him, and I would hear as a kid that my dad is a fantastic leader, which was inspiring. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but when I went to college, she struggled with depression and anxiety, which intrigued me to learn more about my mom’s mental health.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
When I went to college, I started studying statistics and accounting to carry on with math, but I was also intrigued with what my mom was going through with her depression, and it interested me to hear stories of different people around adversity. We all know so many people or ourselves who go through some trouble, some more than others, but some people can go through some horrific adversity and come out stronger because of it. Other people go through bumps in the road and crumble and struggle.
The differences in adversity are why I became fascinated with what is going on in the human brain. I would think, “Why can some people come out better because of adversity?” There is a story I read about this great CEO who goes around the world doing all these motivational talks. Through his story, you learn that he was a survivor of the Holocaust. I thought, “How can someone face adversity and learn from the experience to succeed?”
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?
When I started Aperio Consulting Group, Dr. Chuck Coker, a brilliant psychometrician, took it upon himself to mentor me and encouraged me to be who I am today. He was so willing to help when I asked all these questions when I first started the firm. Dr. Coker invested a lot of time and always encouraged me to do my best. He had the biggest heart and was willing to give back, which inspired me to give back to younger people in their careers who may want a mentor. Overall, his help was invaluable, and it just really meant a lot to me.
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 the early stages of starting the firm, I took on a client that I shouldn’t have taken on because they weren’t interested in doing the work; they just wanted me to fix their problems. In my role, I can advise others and lead them through that process, but they have to be willing to do the work to succeed. Taking on that client was excellent tuition for me to experience what type of clients I want to work with in the future.
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?
You need to get four to five mentors around you to help you in different areas of your life. It’s essential to look at your weakest areas, the areas where you’re more vulnerable and want to develop for your career and aspirational goals. Then, find mentors in your life who will speak into that or can offer insight.
For example, one mentor may be a resource manager who is knows everything about where to go. Another person could be insightful and a good coach who is willing to tell you the hard things and be honest and transparent with you. This week, one of my mentors had to be honest and tell me no to something I wanted to do because she speaks truth into my life.
We all need people around like that, so getting various mentors for different areas you want to develop is vital if you’re going to leapfrog your career. How I’ve done it is I’ve put outstanding people around me who are smarter than I am in different areas, and I am willing to be humble, and I learn from them.
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?
I’m an avid reader, but the one that comes to mind is “The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations“ by Jeff Wald. I’ve been very focused on the future of work and monitoring trends to see what is going on in the industry, so his book was pivotal.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“With all the news of unicorns and IPOs and acquisitions driven by the broader market, teams can fall into a trap to think building a startup into a success is easier for others. But I can tell you more than 12 years into my career as a venture capitalist, it’s hard. It’s always hard. Even for the ones that make it look easy from the outside. … The company’s goal is to change the world, quite literally, by building a product, evolving user behavior, and sometimes creating a category. It’s hard. It’s meant to be hard. You’re changing the world.” — Tom Tunguz, Venture Capitalist at RedPoint
This quote resonates because it’s consistent with everything we do at Aperio Consulting Group, and it’s a huge component of emotional intelligence. In our research, it says you may have a top performer and a mediocre performer who both track relatively well when things are going well. But our study says when challenges hit, the more emotionally intelligent or savvier person will outperform because they are antifragile and resilient. They’ll push on because they’re hopeful that there’s a strategy in the future.
I believe the quote also goes back to the childhood story of why I got into this field, because it reflects how you handle adversity and how you engage with that adversity and come out better and healthier because of it. I know he is talking about startups, but who runs startups? People do, but it’s hard because not everybody’s cut out to do it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Our firm has done a lot of work focusing on decoding the human variable in different aspects. At my firm, we study top performers, whether it’s in sales, CEOs, or business leaders in general. We recently studied entrepreneurship, so we partnered with an angel investing group. Our charge was to decode the human variable and entrepreneurship to determine which traits, skills, and habits predict business success. It was fascinating because most investors evaluate a pitch on the basis of the entrepreneurs’ track record, how well they execute the pitch, and their capitalization plan. But these factors alone hadn’t cracked the code: Some startups had succeeded when nobody thought they would. From there, we were able to pull out the human element by reviewing decades of psychometric data and emotional intelligence research, and now we have combined it with a new artificial intelligence algorithm.
In our research, we discovered some non-obvious patterns. To empower human decision makers, we created a tool that’s considered a human-in-the-loop model that predicts entrepreneurial success. The model provides insights on how entrepreneurs can change or build up their team to increase their likelihood of success.
I am excited about this model because my firm invested in research and development and committed to using data analytics and artificial intelligence. It’s been several years in the making to get to this point, but we are doing some things that nobody else is doing and finding and revealing insights that no one else has. So that one is a big one, and we have a tremendous opportunity to partner with a VC right now.
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 am the president of Aperio Consulting Group, a corporate consulting firm that utilizes workplace analytics and implements research-based strategies to build high-performance cultures. I am a certified professional behavior analyst and certified forensic interviewer with postgraduate studies in psychometrics and neuroscience. I have an award-winning book called “The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence (Non-Obvious Guides).” I am an international keynote speaker with a TED Talk video called “Stop Trying to Motivate Your Employees.” I have also published articles in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Quartz at Work, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, and Chief Executive.
The non-obvious aspect of my expertise and our approach at Aperio Consulting Group is our collective approach to emotional intelligence. Most people think about emotional intelligence in a vacuum, such as a single person focusing on self-awareness. At Aperio Consulting Group, we have found that all the latest neuroscience and social baseline theories say emotional intelligence only tells us our capacity, not our reality. The reality is understanding our context in our environment and with other people. At my firm, we address emotional intelligence by taking in the environment, the team component, and how collective intelligence works and putting emotional intelligence in that context. From there, we’re able to reveal insights about teams and get teams up to their potential much more quickly than most people who come in and do emotional intelligence training.
For the benefit of our readers, can you help to define what Emotional Intelligence is?
I always define emotional intelligence as the intelligent use of emotion to make better decisions and more effectively adapt to our environment. To do that, you have to recognize and understand your feelings in yourself and others, what triggers in the environment may trigger you, and use this awareness to manage your behavior, your relationships, and your environment.
How is Emotional Intelligence different from what we normally refer to as intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is different from normal intelligence as cognitive intelligence is your ability to learn and understand new situations, reason through a given problem, and apply that knowledge to a current situation. Overall, it’s different because it’s another part of the brain.
Can you help explain a few reasons why Emotional Intelligence is such an important characteristic? Can you share a story or give some examples?
Yes, so I work with leaders at businesses worldwide, and I have found that emotional intelligence is vitally important when interacting with other humans and leading other humans. I’ve worked with many leaders throughout my career, and I’ve seen those who have succeeded and failed. I worked with one leader who had multiple degrees from an Ivy League institution, but he ended up getting fired because his emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills were lacking. Lacking these emotional intelligence skills will eventually catch up with you and take you down.
In contrast to that example, one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with develops her company culture, and she is honest and vulnerable. This leader has such high emotional intelligence as she’s always calling me to ask for feedback. When she left one organization to become the CEO of another, her team was in tears. They didn’t want her to go, and so many people reached out to her, asking if they can come work with her, which is what you want as a leader. When you have high emotional intelligence, you build a network of people around you dedicated to your success because they’ve seen that you were dedicated.
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.
Of course. I attribute a lot of my success to emotional intelligence, and it hasn’t been easy as I try to practice what I preach. I am consistently working on my emotional intelligence by asking for feedback from my clients or my team.
For example, when someone asked me to write a curriculum for an academic institution, it threw me off a little bit as I’ve written a lot of curriculum, but not for an educational institution. I was feeling insecure about it, as it was pulling out some of my vulnerabilities. Finally, I decided to reach out for help from one of my mentors, who has written a lot of curriculum. And immediately, he gave me an example. I was so worried about looking like an idiot, but he was so gracious to provide me with resources once I asked for help. He didn’t view me as incompetent, but he was relieved that I asked for help instead of struggling.
We all get in the way of ourselves with our insecurities and vulnerabilities because we’re all humans. My philosophy is that I’m going to embrace the initial discomfort and not feel stupid about asking a silly question or asking for help. I try to have a positive attitude and recognize that we’re all human but that we’re going to make mistakes.
Can you share some specific examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help a person become more successful in the business world?
Yes, so I have found many young leaders don’t have the work experience behind them or have built up emotional intelligence. Still, they have tremendous potential to grow due to the motivation to learn and improve.
I once worked with a young leader working for a startup where the organization was considering not keeping her. I met with her and went through some stern feedback on what she was doing well in her role and the gaps she had to build out. We discussed how to plan to achieve success in the role, as planning is critical to get in the direction you want to go. Over time, she worked on her emotional intelligence, and she started figuring out how to integrate associates better when they had differing opinions, perspectives, or approaches. The startup ended up getting acquired, and the parent company ended up hiring her and put her in charge of this enormous department due to her emotional intelligence skills. It was neat to see her as a first-time leader who was failing, then next thing I know, she’s training 300 people at this new company that the larger company acquired.
What I enjoy about leadership is if you focus on it, you’re not the only one improving, because when you improve, you impact your entire team, which can affect almost the whole rest of the organization.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have better relationships?
Emotional intelligence is central to relationships, as all relationships have conflict. Most of us are not good at dealing with conflict because we weren’t taught or shown excellent conflict resolution; therefore, we either ignore conflict or have unhealthy strategies to deal with it that end up damaging the relationship.
Many people want to get to the point where they don’t have any conflict, but that isn’t healthy because then we would be robots. People have to learn how to resolve and negotiate conflict because, as a human race, we’re so bad at it. The exciting thing is, it’s an outcome of the beauty of us being human, in the sense that we’re all unique. We will come to the relationship with the diversity of thought, diversity of opinions, and diversity of experiences due to that uniqueness. So, of course, two people will never agree on everything, and naturally, we shouldn’t want them to, because that leads to robot-like behavior. We also can’t expect that someone will hand us a resolution on a silver platter and that beautiful outcome will happen without a little bit of work to get there.
Conflict isn’t about winning or losing, but it’s about trying to figure out how, if I’m on a team, how we can be better because we’ve got this beautiful uniqueness of all of us in the mix. We have to take it in and not just put paint on a mural. We have to figure out how to coordinate and paint this beautiful picture together. People view conflict as negative, but I would like to see it as an honoring of humans’ uniqueness.
Can you share a few examples of how Emotional Intelligence can help people have more optimal mental health?
Many studies show that people with more emotional intelligence have less stress and burnout, which goes back to what they do when they face adversity. People with higher emotional intelligence tend to manage their priorities better, as they tend to choose when they’re not victims to their environment and choose what goes into their day. They manage priorities carefully, knowing they can’t get everything done and choosing their to-do lists for the day.
In contrast, if a person is not emotionally intelligent, they are reactive and fall victim to their circumstances where the body keeps score, impacting them personally. The more stressed and burned out you are, the more likely you have a pessimistic view. When you have a pessimistic view, it will prevent you from seeing the reality of your environment.
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.
1. Ask for feedback everywhere in your life. Be specific and future-oriented about what you’re wanting. Ask your boss, “What’s one thing I could do to improve in XYZ?” or ask a peer or mentor, “What’s one thing I can do to improve?” Many people will generally ask, “How did I do?” where the response usually is something vague like “Great,” which isn’t helpful. When you ask specific, targeted questions, you get much more specific, targeted feedback. To make it future-oriented, you can ask a question like, “What could I do better in the future for this presentation?”
We don’t ask for feedback, because we’re afraid of it. After all, not all feedback is good. We have to filter through feedback as it won’t all be helpful, but you will get some golden nuggets, where someone may give you a brilliant idea that you would have never thought of on your own. You need to ask for feedback because it helps create an accurate perception of yourself. Your self-view is one data point, and you need to surround yourself with other data points to see how you compare in an area.
2. You have to set goals and think about where you’re going. You set goals for your career, but it’s also about setting learning goals in areas you want to improve and grow. Learning goals are important because we always are focused on outcomes, but this is an opportunity to ask, “Where do I need to build capacity?” Many of the people I work with find that they’re not doing well in some regions of the job because they haven’t developed competence. They have to reflect on what areas they need to develop and understand it will be a journey.
3. Develop a planfulness trait to create plans to achieve your learning goals. Planfulness is learnable, but you have to make a concrete plan to improve. If I’m going to get better at public speaking, I have to figure out my plan to get there. Many individuals in the early stages of their careers struggle to make a plan as they think leaders will give them an entirely developed plan that offers step-by-step instructions on what to do. I’ve never worked with an organization that does that, so instead of sitting back and passively waiting for a plan to be given to you, you can take action to create your own. You can think about where the organization is trying to go and your own role in helping them get there. It may be a minimal role, but you’ve got to have a plan and sit down with your manager or your team to discuss it, and then that plan becomes that much better because now you’ve discussed it. Creating plans can be difficult because we have to imagine the future, and most of us haven’t been trained well on how to do that. Companies are notorious for having many meetings and talking about ideas, but if your team is talking without action, you have a planning problem and an execution problem.
4. Conflict resolution. If we’re truly going to honor our diversity as humans, then we need to be curious and get perspective on the other to figure out how to negotiate with each other. Conflict is when each of us has a different perspective. Still, it’s about how we blend the two views and come out with a better outcome. Most of the time, we have to coordinate with others on teams, so to become more emotionally intelligent, you have to learn how to navigate relationships and conflict. To become better with conflict resolution, you have to read books on it and practice it. My two favorite books on it are “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts” by Daniel Shapiro and “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.
5. Strategic agility. In this disruptive environment, agility and adaptability are essential because they require planning, resilience, and managing your expectations. You have to think about how adaptable and agile you are to your environment, because we assume the environment will always be the same and we use the same tactics and strategies, but it doesn’t matter the environment when your goals change.
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?
Yeah, our education system can absolutely do a better job at cultivating emotional intelligence. It goes back to practicing negotiation skill-building in schools. We have to figure out how to resolve conflicts, such as when we look at victims and bullies. The victim plays a role just like the bully plays the role, but the bully gets all the attention because they’re the aggressor. A victim can also have a victim mindset, which we need to address. Overall, we need to start figuring out how we build negotiation and conflict resolution skills in schools, because it’s a component of problem-solving.
There is a common question in education if we should focus on IQ versus EQ, but it’s not an either-or situation. After all, EQ is a multiplier of IQ. I would love to take all this content on emotional intelligence and figure out how to leverage it correctly in our education system and get it pointed in the right direction.
Another trend I’ve seen is that we are not teaching kids to fail. At my firm, we measured the psychometric traits of college students and found they are coming in with less self-esteem and less resilience. Parenting models shifted over the years as parents wanted to protect their kids. The issue is that by protecting our kids, we are hurting them. As a parent, the only way to help your kids achieve antifragility is to let them fail. Our kids are going into a world that will beat them up. If we don’t bulletproof them, then it’s a disservice to their development. We are not protecting their self-esteem, as no data supports that. It’s helping the opposite. We’re creating less resilient people who don’t feel good about themselves.
It’s essential to know that to start building self-esteem, we can learn through failure and get past it because we feel a sense of accomplishment by overcoming a loss that you cannot take away from kids.
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.
Right now, my movement is to educate children, college students, companies, politicians, and governments about raising our emotional intelligence to solve the world’s problems better.
I can tell, looking at the polarization in our current climate, that it’s a reflection of a lack of emotional intelligence. Right now, we can’t figure out how to work together and have a diversity of perspectives without hating the other person, and I think that is just a reflection of where we are right now.
I believe we’re a lot better than we used to be as a society, and I would much rather live in this world than one from 200 years ago. Our society is getting smarter with IQ, but researchers are watching emotional intelligence and found it has decreased. To combat this, we have to figure out how to use emotional intelligence to build bridges and solve some of these world problems.
I’m optimistic about Generation Z as long as they stay hopeful and as long as we mentor them on emotional intelligence. Many of the upcoming generations will have many skills with technology coming out of the gate, so I watch how emotionally intelligent they are and wonder how they’ll use it. Overall, it’s about how we work better together as a community, whether that’s a global community or our school community, and I would love to see that that’s my mission.
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 🙂
I would love to meet Malala Yousafzai. I loved watching her story to see her strength and how she overcame tragedy. The main thing I admire is her refusal to become a victim, because that’s what it means to be antifragile. She chose to take her story and become an inspiring leader for all girls as she inspires strength and courage. We’re seeing such a victim mentality in this world, which leads to a lack of problem-solving.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.