Understanding and practicing emotional intelligence is an important skill for everyone to master. Being able to control emotions and using them to benefit yourself as well as others is the goal. What are the steps we can take to make this goal attainable? Educational Specialist, Kris Macc (Macchiarola), explains why emotional and social skills should be taught at an early age and how you can develop strong relationships with these powerful skills.
- 1:34 – The benefits of teaching emotional and social skills in the school system
- 3:46 – Why separating emotions from work is a negative
- 5:22 – Leveraging emotions to inspire others
- 8:03 – Creating a psychologically safe environment
- 9:42 – Understanding personality traits and communication style preferences
- 12:01 – How self-reflecting on emotions keeps us in check
- 14:59 – Why being the lead character in your life is important
- 18:07 – We are more alike, than we are different
- 19:47 – Creating mutually beneficial relationships
- 26:31 – It’s ok to be vulnerable
#NoApprovalNeeded – Kris Macchiarola
Full Episode Transcription :
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So Kris, tell us, tell us a little bit about your why. Like what is drawing you and what has drawn you to your profession recently and over your whole life. What is the reason you do what you do?
Well, I mean, we have to really go back to, it’s probably been about 20 years where I started as a psychologist for the school systems. And at that point I was exposed to emotional intelligence for the first time. But from a student and teacher perspective, we used to do train the trainer back then and we would go around the entire school faculties and teach them the emotional and social skills that they could teach the students because we knew that there were fewer behavior problems, lower absentee rates, and they did better academically. And so fast forward into my career in corporate where I spent close to 20 years and I was exposed to emotional intelligence from a business standpoint when I decided to go out on my own and thought about, all right, what are the things that I’m passionate about and how can I make a difference? Emotional intelligence and leadership development together were very much in my wheel house. And you know, I just seen that there is such a need with organizations and leaders that there are all these blind spots that exist. And it seems like people sometimes want to operate in silos, but that’s not realistic for the way that we work. And we don’t, uh, we don’t necessarily teach people these skills that they need to be successful at work. And if they didn’t get it at home, all of a sudden they’re put in these work environments they are working in teams, cross-functionally, matrix organizations and problems arise and they are not confronting them in a way that’s beneficial. You know, they, I like to say that they are politely being passive aggressive. And so that means that you know, they’re resorting to emails or they’re biting their tongue instead of actually having a conversation. And you know, one of the things I teach people is that conflict should be productive and then you should be having conflict. If your team is not having conflicts then that’s a problem.
Got it. And so I’m interested when question is, and I think back to where you started, which was in the school system and you’re working with, with kids and with teachers and then you saw the other side which was adult learning and corporate. What, what themes did you see that kind of overlaps and how can we apply what is going well in schools and education to what we can do better within the corporate landscape?
Well I think, you know, it’s very naive and I hear this all the time from business owners and business leaders that we can separate our emotions from work. That is not how we are wired from a neurological perspective. Our emotions are really impulses to act. They cue us into what’s going on in our environment. And so if we can learn to use them towards a competitive advantage, it’s a performance differentiator. When we can learn emotional intelligence and social skills and it helps us to be able to make better decisions, cope with stress effectively, build meaningful relationships and understand and express ourselves better. So why wouldn’t we want to know how to do that and use that to our advantage in the workplace?
You know, I think it mastering emotions and using them as opposed to them using you is, is a skill that is very difficult. I had a, a mentor and a friend of mine, Dave Logan, who wrote tribal leadership always tell this story. I remember that his dad taught him and he said, don’t get mad. Use mad. Right. And your point like we’ve got this tool chest, this arsenal of emotional weaponry, right. That can be, it can produce a competitive advantage. And you know, sometimes I think people, um, you can lead with outrage. You’d be outraged at a problem in the world and, and tackle that and that can drive you, um, or it can be more passionate, right? Or it can be money. So I don’t know, Kris, if you have a thought on that or maybe dive into that.
No, go ahead Kris. I’ll have a question after you answer that.
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think to your point, especially for leaders, we can leverage our emotions to help us deliver a passionate message to inspire others, to motivate them to motivate the team towards a common goal. When we, and when I see and I see the philosophy in some of the people that I coached, they’re not very good at emotional expression. So what happens is it puts those that we work with under stress because they don’t know how to read us. It may appear that we’re not approachable, when in fact we are, or it may also look like we’re not vested in a decision. And that can be a leadership derailer for people. So there’s, there’s a lot of layers to it. People mistakenly often think that when we’re talking about emotional skills, that’s just how you relate to others. It’s relationship skills. That’s only one component of it. And so we fail to realize that it affects every single thing that we do from the moment we wake up there. These aren’t just work skills, they’re life skills. And I hate, hate, hate when people call them soft skills because I think that that grossly underestimates their value, their power skills. And so if I can change, you know, anything, it’s to get people to refer to them as power skills.
Yeah. That’s a great mindset. Reframe there.
Yeah. Well I think it goes back to people, right? That’s what makes us actually human beings are the emotions though. So it makes us different than technology. That’s right.
Yeah. It’s our, it’s our humanness. And you know, one other thing I’ll add, I’ll add, it’s not just helping us with a competitive advantage. I’ll give you two good examples of how when we don’t use our emotions in a way that’s balanced and socially acceptable, it can cause a PR nightmare. So think about United Airlines where this was, I guess like, I don’t know, three or four years ago they had to forcibly remove the passenger who, because they had oversold the seats. And I think this was a physician, you know, he ended up like losing a tooth and there were cuts and scrapes and this was a global PR nightmare. So that’s one. The second one is think about Starbucks, and that wasn’t too long ago, I think it was in the Pennsylvania area where they were asking, you know, two men to leave because they hadn’t purchased anything. Obviously emotions got in the way. And the other part of that is that they’re not obviously understanding the values of the organization that’s not being lived. So if we had values and emotional understanding and expression and intelligence aligned, those situations would not have happened.
I completely agree. I mean, so I want to come back to something you mentioned before was around conflict. How do you, how do you see productive conflict in an organization or back to this concept of emotions around alignment with values? How do, what does that look like? And it’s when it’s being done properly.
Well, it’s, it’s where it’s safe to speak up psychologically safe to speak up. Far too often I work with organizations that will do quarterly or twice a year, annual surveys, you know, pulse of the employee. And most of these organizations fail miserably on the measure of do employees feel safe to speak up? So that’s part of it. We have to make it psychologically safe to have a dissenting opinion, to be able to respectfully disagree. If people are afraid to speak up, they’re not going to say when things aren’t going right and we can’t avoid big mistakes that way. So part of it is just making it psychologically safe. The other part is, I think of it as a coin. So on one side you have assertiveness, which is being direct with respect. On the other side, you have empathy. You need to be using those in a very balanced way so that you’re reading the audience, you’re tuned into their needs, respecting their perspectives, even when they’re different from your own, but you’re being firm and direct when necessary. And part of that is knowing when to speak up and when, when it’s okay to cave, you can’t speak up on everything. Right. Um, sometimes we have to pick and choose our battles, but, but I think it starts with psychological safety to speak up.
Sure. And so how do you educate leaders? How do you educate cultures? How do you, how do you create that environment from your standpoint?
Especially if there’s very different people on your team, you have, I think one of the biggest, one of the saddest things when you have brilliant ideas and very quiet person who doesn’t speak up, right? Maybe either even in an environment where it is relatively safe, they just choose not to. So how do you encourage that?
Yeah. For the, that there’s some really good questions there. So I think it’s helpful to have a good understanding of what the team dynamics are. So you know, what are the personality traits and communication style preferences of each person. And when we have an understanding of what that is and we understand what our personality traits and communication styles are, we can then learn to flex our style of communication to deliver the message in the best way possible so that it’s received the way we intend it to be received. So if I’m speaking to somebody who’s a direct communicator, I’m going to be direct in my communication. I’m speaking to somebody who needs a little bit more details. I need to be more detail oriented. Um, you know, sometimes, and I am a direct communicator so I have had to learn over the years to provide a little bit more cushion with my directness so that for those people that, you know, it comes across as a little abrasive, I’m, I’m getting a little bit of a softer approach. So that’s part of it. The other part is gaining an understanding of what our blind spots are, understanding what the team’s strengths and areas of opportunities are. But also to your point about there’s always people who are more outspoken and some people who are much more reserved. We don’t want to get into group think. And so that can be a tendency for teams to, you know, there’s one or two people that are always going to take the floor. And if we’re not careful, we think there’s a consensus. So, you know, there’s some really easy strategies where the leader can, you know, solicit input, pass out some sticky notes that people don’t have to put their names on it if they don’t want to. And everybody, you know, whatever the topic is, you’re going to write what your idea is and then we’re going to group them by similar themes and we’re going to talk about them as a team. But that way you’re really getting that input from everyone, not just one or two outspoken people.
Great insight, great idea. So from your standpoint, obviously I hear that you’ve done a lot of practice, a lot of learning on these topics, on these themes, on these behaviors and these actions. What would you recommend or how would you recommend someone you know, actually people in various stages of development on this topic of EQ? How obviously I think it’s, there’s some natural tendencies, but obviously from your standpoint it’s something that can be developed, can be cultivated. How would you recommend people begin that journey? Or if they’re on it already, how do they enrich it further?
So there’s lots of options. So there’s tons of books out there that are really good and that’s a great place to start. Um, as well as add to your learning. There are assessments that you can take. The one that, that I’m certified in, that I wholeheartedly believe in is the EQI 2.0 because it’s very scientifically valid and reliable. And I think for organizations that are going to be spending money on investing in their people in this way, I think that’s an important factor to consider. Um, you can hire a coach like me or have somebody facilitate a workshop. Those are great ways to start engaging and building some of these skills, building the awareness, giving people opportunities to practice. There’s podcasts out there, you know, there’s lots of different opportunities. You can do virtual webinars. Sometimes it’s not easy to get everybody in a face to face interaction. So there’s lots of options. The cool thing is where humans, we get an opportunity to practice these skills every single day. Some days we’re gonna succeed and some days we’re going to fail miserably, including myself. And so, you know, acknowledging that, that Hey, you know, sometimes our emotions are going to get the best of us, but how can, what’s our part in this process being really self-reflective, looking for the triggers and the patterns so that we can get better without that. And we’re not going to be prepared to choose the best response the next time. We’re going to keep repeating the same mistakes.
Absolutely. So for you personally, how do you like to learn it on a day to day basis? Kris?
I do a ton of reading. Um, I podcast, like I went to the gym this morning and I listened to an hour long podcast. It’s such a great way to gain some wisdom and pass the time and I don’t even realize I’m working out. So for me that’s really important. Um, and then things like this where you are having real conversations with people and sharing best practices and learning. And I am very much a thinker, so I love to be challenged. I love when people ask me tough questions that I can just sit there and ponder and reflect upon and think about. And, um, I love to have my, you know, my mind changed. I mean, sometimes I go on with strongly held opinions and then like, Oh, I never thought about it that way. You know? So being open, being open to other people’s opinions and learning, I think it’s important.
Cool. So I’m glad you mentioned that you listened to your podcast while you were working out, right? The idea of you’re blending the work and the, and the play or the work and the outside of work concept and learning together. I mean, we talked a lot about that with Scrimmage is the idea of learn when you play, play where you work, that’s all intersected. How do you see that kind of showing up in your life and how can other people bring that together in a way that makes their, their work, their life, their learning, their playtime, all more enriching? I know you’ve, you know, you can talk a bit about your book, but I’m sure there’s probably lots of examples in the interviews that you’ve done where you hear about that in people’s lives, particularly as this process of evolution, if you will. Of all those facets coming together and stages. I’d love to hear your thoughts on both that personally and also just in your research.
Yeah, I think that, you know, and I, I’m not sure that I was real good at this. I know I wasn’t good at it in my twenties or thirties. I’m in my forties and it becomes imperative that we claim the space. And so what I mean by that is we claim the space for living, making healthy choices. So I’m going to be a much happier person, a better mom, a better wife, a better leader when I can take care of my body and my mind. And so if that’s going to yoga or if that’s walking the track, if that’s spending time with girlfriends, uh, listening to a podcast, but doing those things that are important to me to evolve and be a better person and learn and grow. And I think that was what was very much evident. Um, you mentioned the book when I, I interviewed women from around the world for this book and all of them were in their forties. And so it became about being very intentional about being the leading character in your life and not feeling guilty for needing to take care of yourself because when we can take care of ourselves, we can be there for others. And that’s a hard thing, especially for women to do because, you know, we, for the most part are the ones that are, you know, sort of having the world on our shoulders with raising children and all of it, and then try to have a career and taking care of our parents or whatever. Um, so it can be a big challenge. I was unfortunately at a funeral this past weekend and one of my friends was there, thank you. And she’s, you know, her mother’s starting to suffer from signs of dementia and she’s the primary caretaker and she’s got kids and married and all this. And she’s like, I know I haven’t done any of the girls, you know, um, night outs and I, and she started crying and she’s like, I really need it. I’m like, you do, you’ve got to, you’ve got to find a way to at least claim two hours for yourself. We’re not even doing this monthly at this point, you know. Um, but it starts with personal boundaries and giving yourself permission. So.
Yeah. I’m glad you kind of touched on that too. Because I think there’s obviously a big part of life is personal development, personal growth, personal fulfillment. But I don’t think you’ve mentioned a few times now is that the network, the community, the aspect of coming together. And I think that in this world that we, you know, the world of technology enabled work, we’re more spread out. We can work anywhere, we can work any time, which is phenomenal from my standpoint. But at times, you know, we hear a lot about the lack of connection or the, the lack, the perceived lack of connection that people have because there’s this, this facade that people see on social media and not the real interaction of where people are in their journey. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on, on that and the interviews that you did. Because it sounds like that was a really key topic and that in this conversation.
So I love that you bring that up and I talk about this in the book and um, and the book by the way, is #NoApprovalNeeded. I have to show it to you because um, that is me. I had my back painted for it.
Love that picture. That’s cool. Love that picture. It draws you right in.
Um, but uh, my own journey started with this thirst for needing to connect with others. We’re in this world with all this technology and yet we’re more disconnected than ever. And my father died a few years ago. We had a big celebration of life for him. There were about 300 people that came. My sister had a number of women friends that showed up and I had hardly any. And that was a life changing moment for me because I recognize that this was mostly my fault. I had not been there for others in the way that I now needed people to be there for me. And so I had a choice, right? I could say like, this is awful. People weren’t good to me or I could make an intentional effort to reconnect with old friends and build new friendships. And so that’s what I did. I became a member of a women’s group. I started become very active on social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, reconnected with people from high school and middle school and college and graduate school and all these new friends from all over the world, which was, you know, part of how I was able to interview these women from every continent and what came out of the book was a very strong sense of connectedness. And, um, people realizing like, Hey, I’m not alone. I’m not the only one going through something. We’re more alike than we are different. And there’s just so many powerful messages there.
So how do we create more of that at work? From your standpoint, you know, you’ve been in corporate, you’ve been an entrepreneur, you’re coach organizations, you coach individuals. Like, how do we foster that, that, that the thirst, if you will, that you call it for people to connect at work, right?
Thirst and opportunity. Yeah.
Yeah. So what I tell people is when we think about our relationships, we need to think about them in terms of, well, first of all, they should be mutually beneficial. And so what I mean by that, sometimes that sounds selfish to people, but what I mean by that is we can’t be so concerned with others that we’re not also meeting our own needs, right? So sometimes we’re such givers and we’re not getting reciprocation. There should be some element of reciprocation there. Um, in order for it to be a healthy relationship, in my opinion. But I think that we need to think about it just like we would tackle any other project or task and that, what do I need to do to improve relationships or connect with people? So I need to show interest in them. I need to care about what’s important to them. I need to know about what’s important outside of work, what are their interests, what are their values? And really make an an, it comes down to making an effort. You know, there’s accountability. I don’t care what kind of problem it is or tasks. There’s always our own accountability. So, you know, I, I obviously coach a ton of people and recently was speaking to a woman and she’s not making any kind of effort at work to connect with others. She just does her work and leaves and she’s miserable, you know? And so we have to recognize we are social creatures. I don’t care if you’re introverted or not and I am somebody who considers myself an extroverted introvert so I can work around. But I do need that alone time. But at the same time, I still need to connect socially. And so I’m not saying that you need to be good friends with every single person you work with, but you need to have some kind of social support at work and outside of work. It is important for our overall wellbeing and it helps you to work more productively when you have good working relationships with people.
Yeah, makes a lot of sense.
Kris, do you feel that has to be in person, in video with audio? Can you, can you connect with someone via a Slack message?
I think you can. I mean, I think you can connect even through messaging. Obviously there’s more challenges there and we leave things open to misinterpretation when we’re just using, you know, writing. But I think, sure. I mean, I think I’ve built some really strong relationships on LinkedIn that started through just messaging and then, then we took the relationship offline where we had a zoom call or we met in person. Um, and there’s some people that I’m really close to that I’ve never met in person. I forget because we have calls like this regularly where we can see each other and you know, I know about their families, they know about mine. And so, um, I think it’s possible, but again, sometimes people aren’t comfortable with that. They think it’s weird. And, um, you know, one of my closest friends is Kellan. I met her through LinkedIn, I visited her family, she’s visited my family. We’ve done that multiple times. When I launched the book, she flew in for it. People about this was crazy. Awesome. You know? Yeah. But I mean it is the power of, of we can use this technology to our advantage and really then connect on a human level.
Right. I think that’s a really fascinating concept and I think that’s the, the really strange paradox, if you will, on some level that we people feel disconnected even though we are truly more connected than ever more, right? I mean we really are. I mean you could connect with people, family, friends, strangers, people with shared interests, curiosities across the world. And yet we struggle to feel that level of connection in our day to day lives. And I think it’s a really, it’s fascinating and I think EQ is a really important element of that in terms of how do we prime people for the be able to connect on a personal level day to day as well as be able to connect broader. And I think it’s just think about human psychology and evolution. You know, we’re, we’re kind of primed to be able to connect with only so many people. And now, and that’s the whole tribal concept, right? And now we’re able to connect with literally tens of thousands of millions of people and we have to still have the brain system that computes it in a way of hundreds. Right? And so I think to your, you know, EQ AQ, all these different pieces are how we’re going to be able to optimize our communication, our capabilities, opportunities, and how we work together and we live together. Right. So, yeah, that’d be cool.
So your other question, Nope. Okay. So from the standpoint of, of, um, where you see your career going next, Chris, how do you see that kind of evolving?
Well, given, uh, how I would look at my career so far it’s been defined by a lot of pivots. So I imagine there will be a lot more pivots. And I think that’s exciting. You know, for me it’s about being open to opportunities that maybe I never would have been brave enough to even consider myself for in the past. And now I’m like, Oh, why not? If so-and-so can do it, I can do it, you know? So I really have adopted that mentality.
How has that shifted for you, where did you develop that specifically from? Like that’s something that, you know, you obviously had to cultivate that awareness.
Yeah. Um, after my, my father died, I was working for a big pharmaceutical company at the time and they were going through reorganization and they eliminated five divisions and mine was one of them. I could have stayed. My, my bosses boss flew down from Atlanta, took me to lunch, just trying to get me to take on this hybrid role. And it just wasn’t something that I resonated with at a very deep level. And I knew I was going to be bored and, and I, I couldn’t, I couldn’t dismiss that. It was, it’s really important for me to feel like I’m being challenged and that I’m learning and growing in whatever I do and then I’m making an impact. So I chose not to, to do that and, and I chose to leave and went out on my own. And when I was very afraid initially and I’m, I was thinking like, well, is it because I’m walking away from the golden handcuffs or is there something more there? Met with my financial planner, she’s like, you’re good. This is a great time to do it. And there’s still all this fear. And I recognize that the golden handcuffs was only a very small part of it more than anything. It was the fear of being vulnerable, of fully being seen, of admitting like, Hey, I’m afraid of this risk. I’m afraid that people won’t want to buy from me, that they won’t see that there’s value in what I provide, that I’m going to fail. What if people laugh at me? And all these self limiting beliefs were there. And so I once was for the first time, I really, I think embraced vulnerability in my whole life and really pulled the layers back. And, um, and it was empowering.
How did you do that? What was the method by which you could kind of unpack those layers.
It was tons of self reflection. It was allowing myself to sit in that fear and really thinking through it. And then playing devil’s advocate with myself, like, all right, so what if I fail? Who cares? At least I will take a risk. At least I will have shown my kids that it’s okay to try something different. Not to go with just the safe prescribed route that would’ve been very easy to follow. And, and so it was really allowing myself to sit in that fear and not run away from it to actually move towards it, to lean in. And so once I did that, you know, I’ve been able to do that on so many other levels, whether it be delivering a keynote or writing a book, that was probably the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever done. Because now my words are in print for ever forever. And you know, especially with some very controversial topics that are in that book and I didn’t know how it was going to be received. And so when you write, obviously you’re thinking it’s on some level that someone will want to read what you’ve written. But when it gets published and I started getting people sending me messages that they’re actually reading it and they’re quitting these talk to me. I mean, I had a panic attack. I was like, Oh, god people are going to move me on a very different level now. Like, can I take this back? You know, there were, there was no going back.
Do you, do you share some of your vulnerable stories that you share in the book? Do you share those on your social channels as well?
I used to share a lot more. Um, and I have sort of gotten away from it to some extent. I mean, I’m pretty honest, like what you see is what you get. I just don’t divulge as much anymore. I think I got a little bit burnout, uh, with LinkedIn and, um, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is, but I, I recognize that I’m not posting as much as I as I was and it’s not, it’s not for fear. I think I just sorta got burnt out with it. Like I’ll come back to it. But, um, I dunno, it much more fun for me, like a couple years ago now I’m like, well, I just feel like everyone’s preaching on LinkedIn and so I don’t spend a lot of time on there anymore. I don’t want to be preached at, I want to learn. I can’t stand when people preach. And I feel like there’s a lot of that on there.
So where are you going now to access content and get that enriching experience?
Yeah, so I still go to LinkedIn. I just don’t spend as much time there. Facebook, um, I actually, the people that I really love on LinkedIn, I, it’s easier for me to see their content on Facebook, which sounds crazy, but they show right up on my homepage. I’m not having to scroll and scroll and scroll. I don’t have time for that, a podcast or I’m starting to really love podcast, documentaries. I’ve gotten really into documentaries. Um, so yeah, I don’t, it’s funny, I recently did the, um, StrengthsFinder and uh, intellection was my number one and input connectedness was number two. And I think input was number three. I don’t remember the other couples were, but it was so interesting. I’m like, Oh my gosh, that is so funny. That’s why I’m seeing all these documentaries and podcasts and you know, thinking about it and then obviously connecting with people all over the world is important to me.
Very cool. So where can the audience find you, Kris? It’s been a really fun show and really enjoyed the conversation and obviously we’re going to continue it, uh, on LinkedIn and elsewhere as we on more circles. But we’d love to hear for you to share the audience here where they can find more about you and what you do and your story.
Yeah, so lots, lots of ways. Have a couple of websites. My, my business is K Macc, K-M-A-C-C solutions with an s.com. My author website is Kris Macc, krismacc-author.com. So those are two areas. I have a Facebook group that’s #NoApprovalNeededBook and that’s a fun place because I post really cool stuff that you don’t necessarily see, um, in other areas on social media. Obviously I’m on Instagram, on LinkedIn. I’m, you know, I’m everywhere.
Awesome. Well, it’s been really fun chatting with you and to see you.
Likewise, thank you.
And see you soon.
Yeah. Thanks Kris. Really appreciate you coming on the show.
I appreciate it.
Have a great day.