Mark Baker, CEO and co-founder of Mygrow

Mastering these five qualities makes better leaders

What if managers and entrepreneurs could operate with more confidence? What if they were more adaptable and flexible, built more effective relationships, managed stress better and were able to make more effective decisions with a positive outlook, even in dire circumstances? What if they were psychologically strong?

These were the questions that prompted Mark Baker to develop a new application that could help entrepreneurs develop greater Social and Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Doing so creates a significant differentiator for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs.

Baker’s PhD work on the subject led to the development of Mygrow, an online video-based micro-learning platform that measures, tracks and develops EQ. As co-founder and CEO of Mygrow, Baker is on a mission to help everyone access techniques that can be learned in just 10 minutes a day. The application develops EQ on a large enough scale to be effective across large, even global business environments, and provides rich data on the subconscious factors driving organisational performance (the EQ and Organisational Culture).

Baker’s PhD work on the subject led to the development of Mygrow, an online video-based micro-learning platform that measures, tracks and develops EQ. As co-founder and CEO of Mygrow, Baker is on a mission to help everyone access techniques that can be learned in just 10 minutes a day. The application develops EQ on a large enough scale to be effective across large, even global business environments, and provides rich data on the subconscious factors driving organisational performance (the EQ and Organisational Culture).

Rewiring the subconscious mind

Baker explains why micro-learning is a critical approach for developing EQ: “These behaviours are rooted in the neurological wiring of the subconscious mind. Developing EQ skills requires the emotional centres of the brain to be rewired over time. Two or three day seminars can only teach people about EQ, rather than actually developing it.” EQ is made up of a set of 15 skills which lie at the core of this process. The skills are grouped under five themes: decision-making, stress management, self-perception, self-expression and interpersonal skills. Together they constitute more than 85% of the skills needed for effective leadership.

“Psychological research has clearly shown that many of the problems we face in South Africa cannot be remedied through systemic change alone. The subconscious areas of psychological ‘brokenness’ need to be remedied as well. Without this, the agents in the system cannot respond appropriately, no matter how much we try to fix the system. There is a desperate need for scalable solutions that lead to healing in the agents operating within the system,” Baker explains. “Mygrow enables the subconscious emotional centres of the brain to be rewired. It puts EQ in everyone’s pockets.”

“Developing EQ requires more than self-awareness,” says Baker. “It requires the brain to be rewired to stimulate a different set of electrochemical impulses that, over time, produce a different set of habitual and reflexive responses. Much like physical fitness training, this is a gradual process requiring the daily practice of certain basic techniques.”

The business case for EQ

Many organisations spend large amounts of time and money trying to develop EQ competencies within their staff. However, as a practicing psychologist, Baker identified some major problems with face-to-face approaches, finding them largely ineffective. Research has shown that face-to-face training has a less than 20% retention rates. People are loathe to be away from work for significant amounts of time; and the cost to companies is often prohibitive, so only senior or middle managers of large organisations are able to access effective programmes. “EQ works a lot like developing physical fitness,” says Baker. “It just can’t be done in a two- or three-day workshop.”

Baker developed the vision for Mygrow while doing an MBA, and later embarked on a PhD with ‘The impact of scaled EQ development on Organisational Culture’ as his research topic. In the process, he learned that business models don’t always make a business succeed. Rather, performance is driven by subconscious factors — EQ in individuals and culture within organisations. This is why it is critical to build the competencies within Social and Emotional Intelligence.

Mygrow allows “everyone in the company to be on the same psychological journey, developing Emotional Intelligence at the same time,” says Baker. It levels the emotional playing field within an organisation, fostering a greater understanding and enabling more balanced responses between colleagues.

As an entrepreneur, Baker has had to dig deep into his own Emotional Intelligence to develop his passion into a startup. “This has been a very personal journey for me. I’ve realised that our psychological strength is what makes us succeed. If I didn’t use the techniques that Mygrow teaches, I would have given up ages ago.”

Instead, Baker remains determined to, “put a psychologist in every person’s pocket.” The Mygrow vision is to bring psychological transformation to South Africa, helping to heal and empower the agents within the system.