Personal and Professional Change Over essay

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These authors add that with respect to this exemplary leadership quality, "Although a significant difference existed by gender, both men and women rated challenging the process as their least developed leadership skill" (p. 259). This also means that people must be willing to take personal and professional risks, including speaking up for what they believe in the workplace, but the cost-benefit analyses that are routinely used by winners can help establish the framework in which such pursuits are achievable.

Such intuitive decisions may be valuable in the workplace when someone's experience and intellect combine to produce consistently positive outcomes, but it is reasonable to suggest that many successful business leaders take their time in formulating decisions about many of the complex issues they encounter on a day-to-day basis, but in some cases, time is of the essence and what "seems more right" will have to do. People with fine-tuned senses of empathy, Goleman argues, can exploit this advantage if they want to, and the case of poker players readily comes to mind here. As essential element in using intuitive reasoning to achieve long-term personal and professional goals, then, also requires the ability as well as the wherewithal to "use these powers for good rather than evil."

Therefore, it is also important to know when to use intuitive decision making and when to solicit feedback from other stakeholders. For instance, as Goleman points out, "Intuition may play its biggest role in work life when it comes to people" (p. 53). In many cases, collaboration may be the only viable alternative for decision makers. For example, Goleman emphasizes that, "Social intelligence matters immensely for success in a world where work -- especially research and development -- is done in teams. One of the most important skills in management is the ability to read to human context, to be aware of what's in play" (p. 202). In some cases, it is possible to discern the prevailing feelings and moods in a given social or workplace setting when people are sufficiently empathic to discern frequently subtle nonverbal clues such as body language and tone. In this regard, Goleman emphasizes that, "Sensing what others feel without saying so captures the essence of empathy. Others rarely tell us in words what they feel; instead, they tell us in their tone of voice, facial expressions, and other nonverbal ways" (p. 136).

Such fine-tuned people skills are clearly the hallmark of effective decision makers, but once again, because everyone's worldview is unique and their perceptions of reality based on differing beliefs, the respective mental processes by which intuitive decisions are reached will involve infinite numbers of mental algorithms, but the successful outcomes will share the common feature of being right more than they are wrong because of the inherent values and ideals that form the basis for such decisions. In fact, a recurrent theme that runs throughout Goleman's book concerns the need to better understand the environment in which people live and work in order to know how to get what they really want.

One approach to fine-tuning improved perceptions of others in the workplace as well as in personal relationships is through active listening. According to Goleman, "Listening well and deeply means going beyond what is being said by asking questions, restating in one's own words what you hear to be sure you understand. This is 'active' listening" (p. 141). In many cases, personal exchanges are characterized by people's thoughts racing ahead in their thinking, formulating various responses to previous points while virtually ignoring what is currently being articulated in ways that will detract from their ability to respond appropriately. In this regard, Goleman notes that, "A mark of truly hearing someone else is to respond appropriately, even if that means making some change in what you do" (p. 141). This may make some people uncomfortable because it will require individual effort, but learning what others think and believe before formulating one's own decision represents an essential element in achieving individual goals (i.e., "keeping your eye on the prize").

While such an edge does not amount to cheating, of course, the author suggests that people who are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their condition will inevitably find them. For winners in personal and professional life, Goleman suggests that it is axiomatic that in order to improve something, it must first be measured. This tendency means that high achievers will seek out the quantifiable information and feedback that is needed to track improvements in performance, while low achievers will not only spurn such information and feedback, they will take great pains to avoid learning it in the first place. According to Goleman, people who aspire to personal and professional self-improvement should take careful inventory of their resources in order to formulate improved cost-benefit analyses. In this regard, Goleman reports that people who possess this competency are:

1. Aware of their strengths and weaknesses;

2. Reflective, learning from experience;

3. Open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning and self-development; and,

4. Able to show a sense of humor and perspective about themselves.

Not taking oneself too seriously is certainly sound advice, just as there is always a need for humor in personal relationships and stressful workplace settings. Unfortunately, few people possess the critical analytical skills to accurately assess their own personal strengths and weaknesses, and Goleman stresses the need to solicit feedback from others who are in a position to know an individual's personal strengths and weaknesses -- and who will be sufficiently honest to communicate them. For example, Goleman reports that, "In general, the ideal evaluation relies not on any one source but on multiple perspectives. The '360-degree' evaluation method offers feedback from numerous sources and can be a powerful source of data targeting the competencies that need to be improved" (p. 281). In other words, Goleman suggests that "if enough people call you a horse, you'd better buy a saddle."

Finally, other salient advice by this author includes being diligent, the importance of perseverance and not giving up, the need for loyalty and organizational commitment, as well as taking the initiative for positive change in the workplace as well as in one's personal life. In sum, Goleman would advise up-and-comers to "never give up, never say die and never quit trying," which of course is good advice for anyone. When these fine-tuned people skills are applied to the workplace, a number of positive outcomes can be achieved that might otherwise be unattainable, and these issues are discussed further below.


First, the readings make it clear that by using people skills and active listening, it will be easier for people to achieve their personal and professional goals by helping them keep their "eye on the prize." In many cases, people may become so caught up in their individual "struggle de jour" at work because of personality differences or other factors, perhaps at home, that they ignore their longer-term goals. It is easy to wander from the path to success, and while life may be a journey rather than a destination, it is also true that without goals, people are doomed to bounce from one thing to another in their lives like so many pinballs. By keeping focused on personal and professional goals, though, and making these realistic and quantifiable, it is possible to identifying opportunities for improvement and measure success in ways that mirror the best industry practices from the management literature. In any event, there is a need to measure what is being improved so that trends can be identified, weaknesses addressed and strengths built upon so that people can do more of what is effective and less of what is detrimental in whatever setting that is involved.

Second, in order to achieve anything, action must be taken. Nike's consistent theme for several years was to "Just do it!" And the readings consistently echo this theme as well. Indeed, in some cases, it would seem that doing something is always better than doing nothing at all. After all, if one initiative fails, lessons can be learned and something else tried until a successful outcome is achieved. This of course does not mean that there are limitless opportunities available for experimentation; in fact, in an increasingly competitive and globalized marketplace, there is little or no room for false starts. Nevertheless, by making reasoned and informed decisions, the likelihood of achieving success is improved, just as further opportunities for improvement will be identified in the process. By doing so in ways that consistently add value and worth, people can benefit themselves as well as the organizations for which they work.

Third, finely tuned people skills can help understand what issues may be troubling others, and an empathetic perspective can force people to look outside their narrow self-centered views in ways that can shed fresh insights into what others may…[continue]

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