Leadership: improving emotional intelligence with the Moccasin Approach
During the Covid-19 pandemic we are all discovering new ways of working together. Going forward, we should use the lessons we’ve learned to create a better working environment for us all. Here’s how the Moccasin Approach can help.
Coronavirus has changed the world and the workplace. Our ‘new normal’ needs a new management attitude to match; one that complements the surge in fellowship, mutual support and community spirit this crisis has brought about. So how do we keep these behaviours post-pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic has noticeably changed people’s behaviour, particularly in the context of work. We’re seeing more compassion, care and a sense of unity.
First, we need to identify what has been different in how we have all behaved recently, how it was different, why it was different, the positive impact and positive feeling it had, and therefore why it must continue. To do that, we need to take the Moccasin Approach.
What is the Moccasin Approach?
You may have heard the old adage, ‘before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes’ (or moccasins) and understand that it’s a reminder to practice empathy. It actually comes from a Native American saying, and the line was probably first expressed in the 1895 poem Judge Softly. Ultimately, it’s a plea to understand someone’s experiences, challenges and thought processes.
It asks us to make a conscious effort to see things from the perspective of others before we communicate with them. This thinking will help people behave better, and truly live the values that organisations have on their websites and walls.
The Moccasin Approach is not a cure-all; we won't change all negative behaviour immediately. It will, however, help people understand the detrimental effect their negative behaviour can have on others and their organisation's goals.
How does the Moccasin Approach work?
The Covid-19 pandemic has noticeably changed people’s behaviour, particularly in the context of work. We’re seeing more compassion, care and a sense of unity. These are all ingredients that make up the Moccasin Approach. We have found a more considerate and empathetic approach to others. We now welcome opinions far more readily. We've become more tolerant, more helpful and less bureaucratic (mostly), and we make quicker decisions than before.
All these traits sit beautifully within emotional intelligence (EI), which unlike IQ, is something we can all develop, given time and effort.
The Moccasin Approach asks us to develop a mindset that includes four areas of EI: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. These are just some of the ingredients required to make a great communicator, manager, leader and, of course, a great human being.
Solve your people problems
In my experience, people and their behaviours cause most of the issues in the workplace. Examples include consciously or unconsciously:
- Avoiding total honesty (this is usually born from a fear of speaking out).
- Guarding against transparency (as it could expose us).
- Worrying that empathy may be seen as a weakness.
- Being inconsiderate and disrespectful towards others.
- Demonstrating inequality and indifference.
- Protecting what we are accountable for by not addressing known issues.
EI is an excellent solution to all of these issues.
Are you getting the right information?
Imagine you were the person in charge of your organisation, accountable for everything, and despite your best efforts an important project nosedived. How would you feel? Of course, you’d be frustrated. What if you then discovered it was because you were not given the right information from your close advisers? You’d know then that something was seriously wrong.
It's possible that members of your senior team are not speaking honestly to you, or their reports are not speaking honestly to them. If that is the case, then before you seek to chastise anyone, ask yourself: why?
Why are your direct reports worried about telling you the truth? How do they think you will react, and what has your previous behaviour taught them? Are those who report to your direct reports too scared to tell them the truth? What has made them behave like this?
Clear the way for clean communication
If people are blocking the passage of ‘clean information’, it needs to be fixed – and fast. The example of how things are to work in the future must come from the top down.
If you believe in this thinking, ask your senior leadership to put together a short but motivational paper explaining how the organisation is going to push this new road map forward. It will become a new way of open, honest and transparent communication – clean communication.
Ask for the unvarnished truth and keep that going. The ROI can be quite staggering, with improved organisational culture and retention levels through the roof.
The risk of doing nothing
If you keep ignoring the underlying behavioural issues that you know exist, you must then accept the consequences – losing great people, performance issues, a lack of camaraderie between colleagues, dysfunctional teams, lack of inter-team co-operation, and an unspoken resentment between people, managers and leaders due to the fear of repercussions. Does this ring any bells?
Any successful relationship relies on many ingredients, but one of the key ones is this: it’s all about the investment of ‘you’ in ‘them’.
We should not have to push people to come with us, nor should we have to pull them along. Ideally, because of how we make them feel, they will follow us willingly.
Let’s take this great social spirit we’ve all embraced recently and build on it to light the fires in leaders, managers and all our colleagues. Let’s help it spread through our organisations and between organisations across the world.
This improvement in our behaviour has produced some heart-warming outcomes that are fantastic for mental health, but they have also improved efficiency and effectiveness.
If you want to boost team performance, increase retention levels and improve organisational culture, it’s time to take your first steps towards the Moccasin Approach.
Interested in this topic? Read Disruption… leadership through change we didn’t create.