Why Your CEO (or Founder) Might Suck

by Rajkumari Neogy, Executive Coach, iRestart

As an executive coach to founders, CEOs and senior executives, I spend my days steeped in dialogue with individuals around team dysfunction, crucial conversations and employee stress. Explaining human dynamics in the workplace is what I do best. So, it’s only natural that when I saw the book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Jean Graves and Travis Bradberry, I grabbed a copy off the shelf for quick read to see if any new data around the science of relationships had emerged.

One sentence that truly caught my eye from a Harvard Business Review article called, Heartless Bosses, “CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace”.

I am not sure why this data point surprised me when I read it since I witness this on a daily basis. Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule, but the question begs, “How are so many leaders oblivious, don’t care or don’t know how when it comes to basic trust building skills?”

A few years ago, I read another HBR article titled, Why Leadership Development Must Be Done on the Job. Its core point was since 60% percent of the workforce is required to engage with 10 or more people every single day just to do their job, knowing how to be in relationship with others is essential and as important as being right when making a decision.

Handing a listicle like this one to your CEO on how to help improve their EQ will most likely have 0.01% impact. Why?

Our brain is designed to do two things: 1) belong and 2) form relationships. And our brain consists of two hemispheres that excel at very different things. The left hemisphere (LH) is incredible at evaluating, comparing, measuring, problem-solving and advice giving. The LH truly understands the world of binary and loves linear progression. The right hemisphere (RH) is nothing like the LH. The RH is all about relationships. Relationships with your co-workers, your family, your significant other and yourself. When you are self-aware, you are in your RH. When you notice you are hungry, or tired or frustrated, you are in your RH.

Daniel Goleman defines EQ as the ability to “recognize, understand and manage our own emotions. Recognize, understand and influence theemotions of others.”

This ability happens in the RH. If you want to be in relationship with someone (including yourself), you access your RH. If you’re problem-solving, you are in your LH. If you’re evaluating options for the most effective solution, you’re in your LH. If you’re backing up your points with data, you’re in your LH.

But herein lies the issue:

Organizations around the world value problem-solving. Promotions are based on how many problems we were able to solve in a period of time. Salaries are determined on our experience that showcases both quantity and quality of problems we have solved in the past. Due to these values, we spend most of our time throughout our life hanging out in the LH. Overtime, hanging out in our LH becomes so comfortable and familiar, that we begin to see the world as a vast and endless series of problems for us to solve. This can certainly be a very exciting place, but eventually, it also becomes an incredibly lonely place to live as it leaves us yearning for connection and bonding with others. Because CEOs primarily live in their LH, “70% of first time CEOs experience isolation, which negatively impacts their performance”, according to the Forbes article, Do You Feel Lonely as a Leader?

Feeling alone and isolated for long periods of time wreaks havoc on one’s mental landscape. Eventually, the pain gets so bad, that we develop a cornucopia of coping strategies simply to assuage the pain.

When our RH is rarely accessed, our relationships with others suffer, including our relationship with our self. We no longer workout, or eat well, or go for walks outside. It’s almost as if that ‘muscle’ atrophied from lack of use and then we start to ‘forget’ how to be in relationship with others. We don’t remember how to show concern for someone’s personal loss or how to listen to someone experiencing a difficult situation without immediately going into problem-solving mode. We might lose the ability to hear differing opinions and find ourselves defending our point view using data references from previous meetings.

Our RH allows us to listen more openly, to become curious to an idea you hadn’t thought of previously or simply take the time to understand someone else’s perspective by asking clarifying questions.

As I tell each and everyone of my clients during our coaching sessions: you need BOTH hemispheres!

So, the key is to develop a habit that masterfully vacillates between hemispheres moment by moment. The willingness to adopt this new way of thinking is your mindset and the degree in which you masterfully execute this balance during your workday is your skillset.

I work with clients all day long in rewiring their brain — specifically in building ‘new muscle’ in their RH. In essence, I take my clients to the RH gym once a week, where we bench press more RH weight, do a ton of RH reps and about 30 mins of RH cardio.

At the end of 3 months, all my clients are significantly more ‘defined’ and ‘buffed out’ in their RH. According to them, the results are life-altering.

If you currently find yourself in a similar situation and want to explore what going to the RH gym might look like for you, look for someone who understands both the neurobiology of team dynamics and who has spent time with boots on the ground. You’ll need someone who has strong business acumen and powerful relationship building tools.

You take the time to understand the market share, you get that you need an MVP that you can monetize, you know at what point to scale and you’re able to see how to 10x the business. You invest in the right people to make sure you hit your targets.

Rajkumari Neogy

Rajkumari Neogy is the creator of the iRestart coaching framework, the Disruptive Diversity Boot Camp and the author of The WIT Factor: Shifting the Workplace Paradigm by Becoming Your Optimal Self.

S/He is fascinated by team culture, especially in the tech arena and believes that every individual brings a superpower that often isn’t fully unlocked. S/He provides expertise is in epigenetic coaching, intelligent bias and the neurobiology of inclusive team culture.

Hir unique framework culminates from 6 powerful methodologies that facilitates change within organizations swiftly, sustainably and permanently. S/he weaves humour and vulnerability into science and psychology to tell the powerful story of our basic human need to belong, especially at the workplace.

Over the last 20 years, s/he has worked with organizations worldwide, including Slack, Hellosign, Slack, Glympse, Salesforce, Gainsight, Twilio, Ever AI, Trumaker, Walt Disney Animation Studios, HopSkipDrive, Wells Fargo, Shuddle, Cisco Systems, Facebook, and Amazon. In 2013 she founded iRestart to address issues of team dysfunction, imposter syndrome, and feelings of exclusion.

Holding a master’s degree in Transformative Leadership Development from the CaliforniaInstitute of Integral Studies, Rajkumari sits quite comfortably at the intersection of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB), technology, culture and empathic language for business.

Possessing a rare blend of techno-babble and touchy-feely, s/he believes that the qualities of passionate self-reflection and dedicated curiosity (two sides of the same coin) define true leadership.

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