In our world today, emotional intelligence has become more and more important in how we perceive, understand, and manage our emotions. Joining Patrick Veroneau on today’s show is Dr. Ben Palmer, the Chief Executive Officer of Genos International, a business that specializes in the assessment and development of emotional intelligence, employee engagement, and motivation. Dr. Palmer talks about the impact of EI, particularly in the workplace, and the powerful leadership approaches they have identified and developed, which are vital for leading in today’s challenging times.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Impact Of EI With Dr. Ben Palmer – Episode 109
On our episode, I’m going to interview Dr. Ben Palmer, who is the CEO of Genos International. He is the Developer and Creator of a Genos model of Emotional Intelligence. It’s a model that I’ve used for over a decade now. In terms of some of the companies that have utilized this model, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Walmart, Genentech, Pfizer, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, and many more. I was reading a feed of an organization that put out projections as to emotional intelligence being utilized in the workplace. They suggested that there will be a huge increase in its utilization between now and 2026. I’m not sure why 2026 was the date, but I would agree with the headline of that. Emotional intelligence becomes more and more important in our world around perceiving, understanding and managing emotions, either mine or someone else’s. You’ll hear many pearls that you can draw off from the conversation that I have with Dr. Ben Palmer of how important developing this skill of emotional intelligence is and we all have the ability to do it. With that said, let’s get into it.
Ben, I want to thank you for being on the show. I have been looking forward to this as somebody that practices the Genos model of Emotional Intelligence to be able to get you on the show and talk about it especially in this time that we’re in. Could you give us a little background in terms of how your interesting emotional intelligence first started to form, why this model, and then go into how does this impact us now and going forward?
Firstly, thank you for having me on. It’s a real pleasure to be here. All your readers will enjoy this segment on emotional intelligence. My interest and work began with me as a PhD student not knowing what I wanted to do, and this was 1996. Dan Goleman’s book lands of my table, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which incidentally is the most widely read social science book in the world and I fell in love with the concept. I was also doing my PhD in a neuropsychology laboratory with Professor Con Stough, who had an assessment background.
He encouraged me to start looking at the different models and measures of emotional intelligence that were around at that time. The book had become popular and there had been a bit of an explosion of different models and measures. I became interested in doing analysis inside of the market. I’ve looked at all these different instruments and which one I think is the best. That led to my own model. I was not impressed to say the least with what was available at that time both from an academic point of view in terms of the instruments not doing what they should have been doing at that time from a psychometric point of view, but also from a model point of view.
I always wanted to do applied work post my PhD. I was interested in helping people be more emotionally intelligent at work. A lot of the models at that time were in my opinion to be 15, 16 different variables in them. Imagine an emotional intelligence model that has self-awareness, self-actualization, optimism, happiness and the list goes on. If you’re looking to the history of psychology, models that are sticky, accessible, and practically useful. They’re usually four quadrant, small number of things and that’s what gives people the language of what it is you’re trying to help them improve. That was the past of the Genos model.
In regards to doing the assessment, it’s a quick assessment, relatively speaking to do that you don’t get fatigued when you do it. I remember that always being one of the things that interest me or that I enjoyed in the feedback that I was getting from people that have taken it. It’s not this exhaustive process.
If you look into the history of Organizational Psychology and instruments that organizations pick up and use, they’re often short, not long because people don’t have the time to fill out a 150-item survey. It’s a questionnaire. Ours is 42. As you point, it’s relatively quick to do, but quick doesn’t mean poor quality. Quick means some ways mean better quality because people can see. Particularly when they’re doing it online, they can see the length of the instrument. They can see how they’re progressing through it. That helps people slow down and consider their instance.
In looking at your history, you mentioned something as you looked at emotional intelligence and found it interesting. I did the same thing when I was going through my training as a coach through iPEC back in 2008. That’s when I was first introduced to the Genos model. I hadn’t heard of emotional intelligence. I didn’t know about Dan Goleman at that point. My background was in the biotech industry in sales and training. As I read this brochure around the Genos model, I thought, “This is a sales model. This is perceiving, understanding, and managing emotions or reading people and myself.”
This seems like common sense. That’s what drew me to it. What was interesting about that is after I had gone off on my own, I had been in the industry, I went to a large biotech company that I had worked for. I went to the sales director to go back in and do some training for them. The first thing he said to me at that point was, “You can come in here and do trainings on all the things that you want except for that emotional intelligence BS.” It’s what he said. That point was the resistance that I was running into with emotional intelligence that seemed weak, fluffy, and there wasn’t a lot to it but those that understood it realize that it’s the opposite and the strongest.Our feelings are so fundamental to who we are. Click To Tweet
It’s bringing strength and compassion together and using the pathway. The New Zealand Prime Minister does this exceptionally well. She’s an exceptional role model at doing it. Her popularity is through the roof. She has banished Coronavirus from her country. Emotional intelligence is about being angry but it’s about being angry in the right way, to the right degree, at the right time, in the right context, in a way that gets engagement not defensiveness.
Emotional intelligence is not just being angry, it’s being happy, optimistic, smart with feelings. If you think about feelings, they are fundamental to who we are. The first thing that happens biologically when something in our environment occurs is an emotion. That emotion starts to prevail and influence the way we think, behave, and perform. Being smart with feelings is an incredible skillset to have. It’s the difference between stimulus and reaction to stimulus-response, considered intelligent response. We need that in this environment that we’re in it at the moment.
I love those three things that you mentioned. The emotions are in the center of this but the behaviors, decisions, and performance. We can all think of, “If I’m angry, how do I perform? How do I behave? What choices will I make are not going to be generally the same as I’m in a place where I’m content, happy or satisfied?” Understanding that is important.
We’re not using emotional intelligence in the workplace to create some type of utopian environment where all everyone ever feels is happy, optimistic, satisfied, and valued. What we’re creating is a workplace that intelligently responds and uses emotion to make sure that the decisions, the behavior and the performance of the organization is optimized.
Ben, as we think about that now, we’re in this world where there’s much more of a remote setting in terms of the work that’s being done. How does developing this skillset play into that where you have more people working remotely? It impacts it.
We have more loneliness, anxiety, fear, and concern about job loss. As Josh Bronson said, quoting the CEO of Disney, “Leaders need to be the Chief Wellbeing Officers of organizations.” Now more than ever, we need emotionally-intelligent leadership because we’re having to firstly lead through a medium like you and I are discovering and talking with each other. Secondly, we’ve not only got to do that. We’ve got to lead through this medium of remote working where there is heightened anxiety, fear, concern, job insecurity, and that feeds into people’s decisions. Think about the way you think when you feel overly-stressed or concerned versus how you tend to think when you feel relaxed, content, and engaged for work. It’s a no-brainer.
In this environment, there’s an enormous need for leaders to be self-aware, empathetic, aware of others, and not only purposefully invest in their own wellbeing so that they show up, being able to project calm and confidence by way of example. Also, be able to see that a staff member is stressed or is concerned and help to best up whatever maybe the right intelligent choices around that stress and concern. It’s not about making them go from concerned to happy, although that might be one of the things that comes as an outcome, it’s about helping them make the right intelligent responses for that concern.
It takes much more effort if it’s through Zoom or over the phone where I’m not in-person with that person to try and do that.
One of the research studies that struck me in 2019 was on the extent to which emotional intelligence may be heritable or indeed developed with the environment. This research study looked at gene analysis and so on and came up with a conclusion. There were 46,000 people that they had in this study. It’s a massive sample. Ninety percent of our emotional intelligence is developed and about 10% of it is heritable. I am saying this to you and your audience in the context of think about that in terms of the opportunity it presents for you to develop your own emotional intelligence. It’s huge. Think about what it might mean even to be 2% or 3% more emotionally-intelligent. What would it mean to you to have a 2% or 3% uplift in your mood? What would it mean to you to get up out of bed in the morning and feel 2% or 3% better at jumping into work?
What would it mean to a basketball team, to an NRL team, to a football team to be 2% or 3% better at managing their anxiety in a close match? It’s the difference between finishing somewhere in the middle of the latitude, winning the grand final or finishing on top. The fact that it’s malleable and influenceable that we can develop that within our self. Research suggests on average at the moment in good emotional intelligence programs and improving it by 17% points, not 2% or 3% which I’m talking about. I wanted to put that figure into perspective. That’s what that could mean for people. It’s an incredible life journey.
There’s one study that I’ve used often. I had an affinity to it because it was from the pharmaceutical industry. It was done with Sanofi-Aventis that you were part of with Sue Jennings. I remember that study was around teaching these behaviors and these skills to managers who then had to teach it to those people that reported to them. The impact that they saw in regards to increase in sales was about 12%.
It was at that time when Sanofi had acquired Aventis. They were integrating. Sales were on the downward slope a little bit because of that integration. We focused on developing the sales manager’s emotional intelligence and got them also focused on developing their own people’s emotional intelligence. It improved revenue by 13%. I want to pick up on something you said that when you were showing or looking at the model, you thought it was a sales model. It is in some ways and it’s not in others.
When Sanofi were looking for a provider, they went through a procurement process and we were one of many people who applied to work with them. I’ll never forget sitting across from Sue Jennings and saying, “What we have to bring to your RFQ is not a sales program. It’s a personal development program based on emotional intelligence. My hypothesis is if we make people more personally effective, more self-aware, more empathetic, better at managing their emotions that their sales will improve as a result.”
She took a leap of faith and saw the sense in that. We improved revenue by 13%. Not only did we do it though, we improved it in comparison to a control group to make sure that it wasn’t the market or it wasn’t the fact that the integration was going better. In fact, if you asked her at the time of the integration, it was making things worse. The control group not only stayed flat but rebounded and Abbott came up. That was a groundbreaking study. That’s the thing about emotional intelligence. It’s role level and function diagnostic. What I mean by that is it’s relevant to any particular job that has an interpersonal component to it.
Having been in that industry for so long with many challenges that industry faces in regards to access with offices and healthcare providers. If I look back to my success in being able to navigate all those changes, it was because of this skillset of being able to navigate that environment. Being able to perceive what was going on around me. It’s not just in myself, but being able to see what was going on, and pick up on the cues around me. That is huge especially in this environment.
You were talking about this person that you were showing the model to. You can come in and do any training but not this emotional intelligence set. We don’t come up against that as much but we still do every now and then, although the world’s understanding of it has dramatically shifted. The World Economic Forum lists it as number 6 out of their top 10 job skills for 2020 and beyond. The big consulting firm, Capgemini, did a scan of the market, and 1,500 leaders at Fortune 500 companies asked them, “How relevant do you see emotional intelligence for the next few years?” They came to the conclusion through that research study that they did. They see demand for emotional intelligence increasing six-fold on average across industries. In some industries, eight-fold over the next eight years and this is what industry leaders are saying.
They’re seeing the world of artificial intelligence and automation are starting to take over a lot of the thinking component of jobs. What’s going to be left if is the human element, social persuasion, understanding how to engage in a motivated team. People are not going to be replaced. We’re always going to be there, but the people side of leadership is going to improve and increase so dramatically. They’re going to become the prize skills. What I do find in some organizations, not necessarily Sanofi per se, but there are a lot of organizations like Sanofi, BMW, Walmart, the list goes on, that did a lot of work with emotional intelligence in what I call its infancy in 2000s, by way of example. Let’s say from 2000 up until the global financial crisis of 2008.
The new pushback that I see is that BS, “We’ve done emotional intelligence. We did that in the 2000s.” I’m saying to organizations, “Have you replaced your car since the 2000s? If you haven’t, what would it be like to drive?” I use that as a metaphor to say, if you did emotional intelligence years ago, think about where it is now in comparison. The concept now has been around and it’s in its 3rd or 4th decade. Every 4 or 5 years, how we develop it, how we assess it, what we do with it is improving exponentially. Inside the organizations, if you’ve tried it a few years ago, come back and try it again because the efficacy of it, how is it sensed, developed, and brought into organizations now is much better than what it was back in those days.Being smart with feelings is an incredible skill set to have. Click To Tweet
That’s such a great point along those lines. When I do the workshops on it, not just on emotional intelligence, but most of the things I talk about is like reading about pushups and doing pushups. Intellectually, people say, “I get it. It makes perfect sense.” You’re not going to get any stronger intellectually knowing about this. It’s doing the work that you need to do this and practice this continually.
This is the essence of a good developmental program whether it be one-on-one coaching or a group workshop. There should be some content that should be about 10% of your program. There should be some discussion that should be about 20%. Seventy percent of what you’re doing should be the actual practicing of stuff. In my own coaching work, which I don’t get the chance to do as much as I’d like to anymore, but I do a lot of role plays. We’re going to talk to that person about such and such. I’m going to be that person now, let’s have the discussion. I’d encourage coaches to do a lot of roleplaying and reduce the coaching conversation down a bit and make it. Let’s have a conversation, let’s practice it out, let’s think about how you go out.
When you say that, I immediately think too of what’s coming with AI. That’s the perfect scenario of how to strengthen this muscle through AI. If we’re in scenarios roleplaying where we have to respond to a situation that has happened, that helps to build that muscle. It seems like a perfect environment for us when we talk about evolution of this. How do we get stronger at it?
AI is going to have an increasingly large role in helping to assess and develop our emotional intelligence. However, the thing about feelings is a lot of them are neurochemistry-based. That comes from interacting with other human beings or indeed other animals, like a lot of nursing homes have cats and dogs and things like that because they make people feel better. It’s a chemical interaction. While we might be able to go into a virtual world and interact, there may be some feelings that come with that. I don’t think it’s ever going to be the same as roleplaying with a real person, practicing with your colleagues. I don’t think that will ever be replaced. I see this lovely complementary world coming together in that sense.
There’s an enormous amount of money and research being poured into at the moment. Our understanding of discrete emotions, deep-diving down on specific feelings. Let’s take the feeling of concern by way of example. What does it sound like? What does it look like? What does it do in the body? How does it express itself? The reason for that is business wants to teach machines how to read feelings. Once machines can read feelings, there’s a whole range of different things they can do in terms of feedback, coaching, and so on.
At the moment already, there are listening devices in contact centers who are listening to a call between a customer service representative, let’s say at American Airlines, and a customer who’s rang up about an issue with their airline ticket or whatever. What that machine is doing is it’s listening to the emotional tone of the conversation. When that emotional tone starts to go the wrong way, it’s flashing up messages to the customer service rep to let them know the customer is getting frustrated.
Their frustration is elevated, we needed to change the script. It’s bringing up on-screen different options that the customer service rep can call on to change the tact of the conversation and de-escalate the situation. Some customer service reps don’t need that technology at all. They’re good at reading it and picking up on it but we’ve all been at the receiving end of one who hasn’t. Imagine the benefits that technology is bringing in terms of helping that particular person pick up on the emotional and change track a little bit. This is this lovely integration and what this world that we’re going to be going into is going to look like.
The extension of this is in the future and it’s already been written up and talked about. We say expanse of what technology in cars now that can read the emotional tone of the passengers. If you’re an Uber driver and you’re in a Mercedes Benz, it can tell you on your dashboard, “Your customer is not feeling comfortable with you driving. You need to pull it down a little bit and slow down or ask the customer if they’re okay.” This is an enormously wonderful world that’s coming in terms of this stuff. I don’t know about the ethics of it. I hope it catches up and we have the right policies around it. It’s an interesting world ahead of us.
I read a few different articles around the elevation of oxytocin around empathy. Do you have any thoughts in that in particular? The only time I had heard about oxytocin before was when my wife was pregnant. Her levels of oxytocin went up and it seemed interesting. This looked at how to artificially raise somebody’s level of empathy through a nasal spray of oxytocin.
There are things like that coming out. There’s a great Facebook post going around about all sorts of hacks that you can do more naturally to bring out the different neurochemicals of wellbeing, contentment, satisfaction, empathy and so on. There are two points that I would make here. Firstly, we’ve all got the biology for empathy. We’ve all got the mirror neurons and all the bits and pieces we need to be empathetic. What gets in the way of empathy a lot of the time is the context where in, time pressure, concern, being in a rush, overworked, and underpaid, the list goes on. All those things that are going around in our environment reduce our natural empathetic response.
If people want to be more empathetic, you can go grab the nasal spray or you can practice mindful listening. You can take six deep breaths before you meet with someone. If you sit there and take six deep breaths one minute before you meet with the person you’re about to meet with, you will be more empathetic, but there’s a real method to the breathing. You’ve got to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. It’s like yoga. Purse your lips, imagine yourself blowing through a straw, if you suck in for 2, you’ve got to blow out for 4 seconds and some version thereof. A minute of nice, big breathing like that engages your parasympathetic nervous system, biology for empathy, and sets you up to be empathetic.
Once you’re having a conversation with someone, if you remind yourself to steal your own thoughts and judgments, to be mindful, and to be focused on what’s being said. To be thinking about the next question, how you’re going to add to the conversation, or which parts of it you don’t like. Steal that a little bit and focusing on the listening. Your natural empathy will come out. One thing I would like people to do. Go into YouTube and put into Google four-minute eye experiment Amnesty International and watch that five-minute clip. Amnesty International did this wonderful experiment of bringing people together to sit opposite each other. They said, “We don’t want you to do anything other than sit opposite of each other.”
If you watch it, what you will see is what I’m talking about in action that when you bring a couple of people together who are complete strangers with different backgrounds. Ask them to sit opposite each other for four minutes, look at each other, and be there, their natural empathetic response immediately starts to come out. You will find it hard not to watch that without a dry eye. It will move you emotionally. It’s a great illustration of our natural biology for empathy and use it as a metaphor to think about how can you put yourself into the context for empathy because your empathy is already there, you just need to bring the right context in.
I will say the breathing is something that I’m familiar with, but not the 2:1 ratio.
Imagine blowing out through a straw. That helps with that 2:1 ratio.
Four-minute eye experiment?
Amnesty International, it goes for about five minutes. It’s an experiment that Amnesty did in Europe during the time when a lot of the conflict was happening in Syria and some of those countries. There was a flood of refugees across borders. They did it to help people connect with refugees and their situation. Not through talking but through empathy. Empathy is not something you say, empathy is something you feel and do naturally and unconsciously. That’s what that experiment shows.
Along those lines, Ben, is there a piece of research that excites you or helps to advance where this is going that you see?To develop emotional intelligence, you need to engage in activities that bring about emotions. Click To Tweet
The heritability is one. Secondly, now that AI can be developed, there are good analytical studies on that. The piece of research that’s struck me is not contemporary. It’s one of the first articles on emotional intelligence. In Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer’s seminal article on emotional intelligence, they did talk briefly about how you can develop it. One of the things that they talked about is you need to engage in activities that bring about emotions. They talked about how physical education in schools, arts, and dramas with these classes that gave that to people. You talked a little bit before when we were talking about artificial intelligence about your emotional muscle. I’d like you to think about if you want to develop your ability to perceive, understand, and regulate your emotions, then what they were saying is you need to engage in activities that make you emotional and engage your emotional system.
I am a bit of a fanatic of talent shows like America’s Got Talent because they move me emotionally. There’s something about young and old people getting up on stage and having to go. Sometimes, the authenticity of those stories is moving. In the 2020 AGT, Archie Williams, the person who was incarcerated for some 30 years incorrectly, a DNA analysis helped him get out of prison. If you haven’t, Archie Williams go and watch that particular performance. It was by no means technically the best performance of the season. It wasn’t a great technical performance from a singing point of view but from an emotional point of view and perspective in terms of how he connected with the crowd, not only on the night. It’s gone viral so it had 8 million or 9 million views on YouTube. Emotions serve to connect us.
That’s what you get in that particular example. Ask yourself the question, what moves you emotionally? I encourage people not only to engage in things that might move them in a positive direction like America’s Got Talent does for me, but that also moves you in a negative or an unpleasant direction as well. We’ve got to go through those range of things like I’m quite progressive in my politics but I don’t hide that to anyone. I love to listen to right-wing shock jocks and right-wing commentators. Steve Bannon comes to mind as a way of getting frustrated, moving my emotional muscle. That helps me. I like having that perspective, for one. It helps me appreciate the other side of the fence better. I don’t agree with it but I liked method, perspective, and having those emotional responses that are both good, the bad, and the ugly. All of those are important. That’s what moving that emotional muscle is all about.
That seems to be a mindful approach to two different viewpoints as you embrace it.
Perspective is one of the things that we’ve lost through our politics and we need it. Let’s take the news by way of example. Even if you watch a fairly reputable news channel, 80% of it is negative, anxiety-provoking, fear-creating, and stressful. To get a balance of perspective, I recommended people tune into the good news network. It’s a news channel totally devoted to good news. Why? To have that perspective as a reminder of all the wonderful things that are also going on in our world all the time. It’s a way of also going, “The world is not as bad as the news would have us believe.” There’s a lot of good going on as well. That helps to bring down that fear, anxiety and stress. It’s important to have balance, perspective, to be moving, and working your emotional muscles as a way of developing your emotional intelligence.
I’d love to get the citation on that heritability one because that helps us all to be able to suffocate that excuse that we can’t do it.
I like to be a realist. We all have limitations. I am never going to be the sooner I’ve learned so to speak with my emotional intelligence, that New Zealand prime minister I was talking about. I have developed my emotional intelligence out considerably but I also know my limits. I’m not going to be the next star performer from an AI perspective. The point is that as I was making it the outset almost of our conversation, that 2% or 3% off with, it’s life-changing for people and it can be game-changing for business. That’s the tagline of our business. A tagline is real. I love this work. I love it when I’m working with business leaders who I say, “How’s it going?” The morale of the team is better and the sales are up and good.
My relationship with my fifteen-year-old daughter or son, my wife and I are getting along better. That’s when I get people think. When you hear that life-changing for people part coming to life. For business, it’s such a holistic thing to do. You’re not only helping people be their best self at work, you’re helping them be more of their best self socially, romantically, and with their family more broadly. It’s a holistic thing to do. People who are better at home are better at work. People who are better on medically are better at work. It’s no doubt about that because you’re not bringing that baggage in with you as you come into work in the morning.
I love the way you say that because it is something that when I’m out there with organizations especially with the individuals in those organizations saying that this set of skills that you can develop is not something that benefits you while you’re here. This goes everywhere with you. It impacts every part of your life if you embrace it. That helps to get people to buy-in because what’s in it for me, I could say, I’m fine at work but my home life is horrible. If this is a way to improve that then I’m interested.
I like to get people to draw a circle or a pie that represents 100% of themselves and then get them to think about what percentage of that pie would you say is when you’re being your best self in life? Is that 50% of the time? Is it 100% of the time? Ask people to think about what do they like when they’re in their worst-self and to define that a bit. At what percentage of the pie would you say in a week you’ve turned up as your worst-self? For a lot of people, sometimes that ratio, their worst self is 50/50. Sometimes it’s 90/10 or 99/1. Even for those people who say 99/1, they’ll also say it’s the 1% of the time that brings you undone.
I was with the school principal and their school leader who was saying to me they had a perfect year. The school was going well. On one day of the year when they were a bit stressed and tired, they had a bit of an altercation with a parent. That one day, that one 10-minute interaction brought the whole year undone for them. That’s the point I like to make for this that there’s no end to finessing up your emotional intelligence. If it saves you from that one day, that one hour, that 110 minutes that you’re in your worst self is enormous in terms of its potential impact for you in that year.
I have appreciated this conversation. There are many different things here that are valued that readers can draw from. I can’t say enough of how honored and thankful I am that you were able to do this. With that said, what’s the best way for people to hear more about the Genos model and in the work that you’re doing?
We have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn group. We have our own webpage and we have a YouTube channel. Google and search Genos International, look at our LinkedIn group, webpage and so on. That’s the best way for people to connect and know more.
Thank you for your time.
It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me. I’m humbled to be invited on your show. Thank you.
- Genos International
- Emotional Intelligence Model
- Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
- Four-minute eye experiment Amnesty International – YouTube
- Facebook – Genos International
- LinkedIn – Genos International
- YouTube – Genos International
About Dr. Ben Palmer
Dr. Ben Palmer, OD is a Optometrist in Nipomo, CA and has over 11 years of experience in the medical field. He graduated from Pacific University College Of Optometry medical school in 2009.
He is accepting new patients. Be sure to call ahead with Dr. Palmer to book an appointment.