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Salman Raza Of Razalution Bureau: Emotional Intelligence; What It Is, Why It Is So Essential, And How We Can Increase It

Respond, Don’t React. Reaction is impulsive, response is measured. It can be easy to react to emotional stimuli, especially if it is negative. When confronted with aggression, dominance, snark, or outright rude behavior, take a moment to identify the emotion you are feeling; what are other behavioral dynamics at play. This identification will help strengthen your emotional intelligence.

As a part of our series about “Emotional Intelligence, I had the pleasure of interviewing Salman Raza.

Salman Raza is a biomedical engineer, has an MBA in innovation management & entrepreneurship and a MS in strategic management. He is also a certified international auditor and consultant.

He has lived on four continents and worked in thirty countries. The diversity and experiences have given him an insight into working with different cultures, values, and personality types. Through his consulting company Razalution Bureau; he leads training and workshops on soft skills and leadership development. He is also author of Life’s Non Conformities: An Auditor’s Tale of Practical Application of Social, Emotional & Behavioral Strategies.

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 am one of six children born to two wonderful parents. We were, and still are, a very close-knit family. My father worked in a bank, and my mother tended to the household. We may not have been financially rich, but my siblings and I had a very rich upbringing in terms of values, culture, and togetherness.

My parents were very loving. They never forced us to do things because it was what they thought was right. My parents were inspirational and let us be ourselves and find our own paths. They let us ask questions when we thought things were unfair, and nothing (within reason) was banned in our household.

My father gave me self-confidence. My siblings and I felt secure in our mistakes and felt comfortable approaching my parents when we needed comfort or understanding. Don’t get me wrong, we did get a lot of punishments, and trust me, in those days, punishments were more real than just ‘sit in the corner for five minutes.’ Despite being an introvert, I was a very energetic and enthusiastic child, and I played a lot of sports.

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

I originally thought I would become a professional cricket player! Sadly, that did not pan out!

I explored a lot of options before finally deciding on Biomedical Engineering. It was a pretty new discipline in mid-nineties. Biomedical Engineering really attracted me because of the diversity of topics. It was perfect combination for my inquisitive mind (Human Anatomy, Physiology, Computing and all traditional electronic engineering subjects). So, I studied Biomedical Engineering (BSc and ME) and started work as a Biomedical Engineer in NHS hospitals across the UK. A year later I began working at a medical device manufacturing company as a Regulatory Compliance Engineer and then as a Medical Device Regulatory Auditor which I have been doing for more than a decade.

My keen interest in Business and Strategy, led me back to academia where I completed MBA in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and subsequently a Master’s in Strategic Management. Apart from academic qualifications, I’m a licensed practitioner of national and organizational cultural (working in association with Hofstede Insights).

Nowadays, I run a consultancy ‘Razalution Bureau’ where we aim to provide holistic business solutions.

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?

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with a lot of people who not only inspired me but also encouraged me to believe in myself. There have been numerous examples, starting from my dad, he has always made me feel comfortable for my choices. In our house, we used to say, there is no ‘Win or Lose;’ there always ‘Win or Learn.’ You only lose when you don’t learn.

Other than my dad and siblings, there are also a few other individuals who stand out: firstly, my university professor Mr. Naeem Janjua (RIP). During my first 2 years of my degree program, I wasn’t doing as well as I should have but he used to talk to me as if I were his top student. Even when I failed a few assignments, his encouraging tone always gave me the confidence to look at the bigger picture.

When I look back, I see that Mr. Janjua made me realize (without even saying it aloud) that ambition, desire, and perseverance are my superpowers. He made me see that what was important was to focus on the main goal and keep moving towards it and that the right vision and the right attitude is what makes you successful (not always talent or IQ).

Thirdly, I’d like to mention the author, Clayton Christensen. Even though I never met Clayton, just by reading his books and listening to his lectures has inspired and encouraged me a great deal. I learnt how to apply business decision making processes into my personal life, particularly ‘aligning resources to my life objectives’ which has been an instrumental life lesson.

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?

There are so many that I don’t know where to begin. I make a lot of choices every day where the outcome is not what I expect.

I did once fear for my life during an audit and I learnt that you must be aware of your response, verbal and nonverbal, at all times and that in conflict, tactful information gathering can give you ammunition for a peaceful outcome.

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’re right, it is big question and possibly it doesn’t have a right or wrong answer But, in my opinion, here are few key things:

  1. Identify your life vision (not only a career vision but from legacy perspective).
  2. Make a list of your priorities (this can change over the course of time); but this must be done in order of priority. So, for example in my case my current priorities are,
  • Family / Kids
  • Helping others including clients
  • Financial Security [find the bare minimum fee-earning work that supports myself and my family lifestyle].
  • Personal Development and Personal Care [Learning, Healthy lifestyle etc.]
  • Personal Luxuries (selfish things that only I enjoy — watching sports, TV shows, hanging out with friends etc).

3. Learn to allocate resources wisely.

No matter how rich or poor you are; or how efficient or effective you are, you will never have unlimited resources (time, money, capacity etc.). But you must allocate the best of yourself to the most important projects of your life. Any misalignment will take away from your goals and objectives.

4. Identify your superpowers (attributes that comes naturally to you).

E.g., I’m not talented or a genius and, in fact, a very slow learner, but I realized that I have a strong desire and don’t give up easily).

5. Stay humble and never let your ego mislead you.

When we are humble, we are teachable, and when we’re learning, we are progressing. When our egos takeover, we become overconfident that leads to arrogance, and when we’re arrogant, we’re not learning. When learning stops, progression stops; and that’s when we die (metaphorically of course!).

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?

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life,” has made a lasting impact on my own life. It really made me investigate my life’s purpose and define what that could be. I credit Christensen for helping me discover my joy.

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

There are so many; but here is one that I like:

Luck is when opportunity meets a prepared mind.’

If we’re not prepared, mindful and not aware of what we’re looking for, then opportunities come and go, and we don’t even notice. I can share numerous examples where people did not spot their opportunities because they were not prepared. I’m not suggesting that you must be a psychic, but more often than not, our inability to spot things around us cost us the bargain deal.

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

My team and I are now working on developing courses and workshops with hands-on learning. Recently, I delivered a daylong session at Rice University, in Houston on ‘Cross-Cultural Communication.’ The audience included leaders from diverse sectors attending a Global MBA program. Our focus was how to communicate with affiliate offices in India, China, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands. They all have different cultures and even though we all speak perfect English, I made sure everyone understood effective communication is not only about speaking the same language. I think by building awareness, my training helped attendees develop fruitful and profitable relationships with others, especially their colleagues and clients.

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 don’t consider myself an authority as such. I’ve learnt a few theories, applied them in my personal and professional life and share them as case studies. I’m still learning and want to invite everyone to join this learning community, so we all learn and grow together.

Having said that, because of the nature of my work, I meet thousands of people every year from different cultures and countries. I get to apply all the theories I have learnt on very broad segment of people. Therefore, you can say, having the opportunity to work with diverse people creates a unique value proposition.

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

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions, to differentiate between different feelings and recognize them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

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

Intelligence is accumulated through books and direct learning from teachers. Sometimes indirect learning plays a part as well, and you can build upon new skills and increase your intelligence by watching others. Emotional intelligence is culminated by daily experiences and shaped largely by your upbringing and communication style, i.e., how feedback is shared and received.

However, the good news is you can always learn and improve your EQ. For example, learn to channel your empathy and increase your capacity for emotional intelligence over time, no matter what your upbringing was like. But ultimately your life experiences are going to shape the foundation of your emotional intelligence.

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

Emotional intelligence is the bedrock for relationships, both personal and professional! Having a high emotional intelligence allows you to relate and interact with others in an authentic and meaningful capacity. High emotional intelligence can strengthen friendships and relationships. In terms of the professional world, having a high emotional intelligence is essential for authentic leadership.

Leaders are far more successful when they can observe, recognize, and adapt based on their own emotional field and the emotions and projections from colleagues. For example, a leader who is making a strategic business decision that may eliminate an entire department has to do so carefully to preserve loyalty, morale, and the overall functioning of the company. The decision, in this case, must be made, but using high emotional intelligence, the leader can deliver the news and create a safety net for employees impacted. If the budget does not allow for a safety net, the leader can at the very least tap into the emotions of those impacted and make sure they leave feeling valued and heard.

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.

While on-site at a company formerly audited by our competitor, I noticed something that startled me. There were three of in a meeting room surrounded by medical devices. I looked at the products and immediately realized the company was selling medical devices without the proper regulatory approvals. They had products on display in a meeting area that did not have the right certification stickers.

So, I interrupted the conversation and I told them what they were doing was illegal. They told me it wasn’t, and I countered that it was. I was told the devices were properly licensed, but I stood my ground, ignoring the obvious silent cues around me.

The CEO and quality manager left the meeting. I stood there defiantly, looking at the devices.

Suddenly the quality manager came back in and asked me to leave. I had never been removed from the premises before. I never thought in my wildest dreams something like this would happen.

I had offended the head of the company. I must have embarrassed the entire team with my questions, my antics, my body language, and the way I approached the situation. It was the most embarrassing and insulting experience of my life. Technically I was right and did nothing wrong from a regulatory compliance perspective. However, my communication style was horrible, and the company felt that they didn’t have any other choice other than to kick me out.

Conversely, years later, after learning the dynamics of EQs and numerous other soft skills, I now use empathy during communication. The bad news is the same but using genuine empathy, encouragement and optimism in my communication, the interaction becomes friendly and with no hard feelings.

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

The most successful leaders possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. By being attune to others’ feelings, emotions, and motivations, you can foster authentic and vulnerable relationships and build trust with your colleagues. That trust can turn into support for your endeavors. Authentic leadership attracts opportunity. Listen to your colleagues, learn about their hobbies and favorite things.

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

Emotional intelligence encourages you to listen, not just hear what the other person is saying, but really comprehend and read between the lines, the body language, and the vocal intonations. By taking in these elements, you can better understand others. You can relate to them. You can realize if your partner is angry, it may not be at you, nor does it mean he or she is an angry person. It just means there is anger within them. By not internalizing the negative emotions of others, you can better support your loved ones no matter what they are feeling. This will strengthen the relationship.

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

We spend so much time in a whirlpool of anxiety when we think we have been wronged, when we believe someone is upset with us, when we are worried, when we are going to fail and so on. It is no secret that chronic anxiety can lead to deteriorating mental health.

If we accept emotions for what they are and take presumption out of our day-to-day routine, we can live a more harmonious life with less stress and anxiety. Just remember, developing emotional intelligence is a lifelong journey.

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?

  1. Respond, Don’t React. Reaction is impulsive, response is measured. It can be easy to react to emotional stimuli, especially if it is negative. When confronted with aggression, dominance, snark, or outright rude behavior, take a moment to identify the emotion you are feeling; what are other behavioral dynamics at play. This identification will help strengthen your emotional intelligence.
  2. Flip the Script. Can you pinpoint why others act the way they do? Are there any hints or clues you can gather to help you see the world through their eyes? Maybe they are treated in the similar manner. Maybe the behavior is out of jealousy. Trying to see the other side, no matter how difficult, can be a very powerful tool.
  3. Label Your Feelings by Intensity. Are you feeling a low, medium, or high emotion? Imagine your friends throw you a surprise party. When you walk through the front door do you feel happy (low emotion), elated (medium emotion), or speechless (high emotion)? Or if someone has taken your seat while you board on a plane, do you feel surprised/disappointed (low intensity), annoyed (medium intensity) or outraged / want to punch them in their face (high intensity)? Once you recognize your emotional intensity level, your mitigated response should be aligned accordingly.
  4. Challenge Yourself to Notice Body Language. When you are watching a movie, television show, or commercial, or simply riding on the train, notice the body language of those around you. Can you determine what others may be feeling? Make it a game so you are continually practicing your skills.
  5. Trust Your Gut. Emotional intelligence and intuition go hand in hand. Be aware what your intuition tells you and give it a little thanks from time to time. The more you learn to trust your gut, the better your emotional intelligence will develop.

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?

Teaching emotional intelligence is a valuable asset that would not only benefit students but educators as well. I would say start young with teaching children that all feelings are okay, but all behaviors are not. Learning more about emotions and how to express them at an early age will give children a good foundation in Emotional Intelligence.

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.

I would want people to develop more self-awareness, and other awareness, so we can have more harmonious interactions.

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 :-)

Perhaps Warren Buffet, Simon Sinek or Thích Nhất Hạnh. I’d pick their brains for how to tame my ego without compromising self-respect and ensuring objectives are met.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow my website www.salmanraza.net / www.razalution.com and my social media pages: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salmanrazaauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ lifesnonconformities

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/salmanrauthor

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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