Jim Rembach is the creator of the Emotional Intelligence Customer Experience Design framework (EQCX) and the host of the Fast Leader Show. We recently asked Jim to elaborate on the concept of emotional intelligence and how it impacts leadership, and also to reveal some of the leadership-related wisdom he has learned from the leaders that have been featured on his podcast.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to create your podcast?
I grew up in a very racially diverse area in the suburbs of Chicago in a blue-collar home with two older brothers and one younger brother. Like so many of us, I was heavily influenced by my environment. Several of the kids in my class became high school dropouts. Of those that did graduate from high school, few went on to continue their education. I was falling into the same pattern.
Luckily, my parents moved away as my father pursued a job within the same industry, but with a different company. The environment that we moved to was dramatically different from the one that I left. There, most kids did graduate from college and many of them continued their education even further. And I eventually became the first one in my family to receive an undergraduate degree.
Despite majoring in finance and real estate, I was unable to pursue my initial desired path of becoming an investment banker. Because I had some experience working retail, I eventually found my way to working for a company called AutoZone. They were in a hyper growth mode and my opportunities to advance rapidly were very attractive. Eventually, I was able to find a job in their call center, which grew rapidly to 800 seats in two locations in only a few short months.
After a couple years in the call center, there was a change in AutoZone’s senior leadership and they decided to close the call centers. I enjoyed working in call centers so much that I decided to leave the company and pursue other opportunities. Over the course of the next few years, I ended up working in a few call centers for different companies. Being able to see firsthand the impact of leadership on the business, the customer experience, and employee engagement has been priceless.
But I’ve always had questions. Why do people do the things that they do? How do people find a right fit? How do you engage employees? How do you engage customers? How do you engage with colleagues? How can you make a greater impact? How can you help more people? All of these questions and my never-ending desire to find answers combined with the joy that I receive by recognizing others are some of the foundational reasons why started the Fast Leader Show podcast.
Because of my operational experience, I knew beyond intuition that having engaged employees generates engaged customers. I also knew that having a customer-centric focus in my leadership practices delivers a greater impact to the company and those within it. Oftentimes I refer to it as human-centric, because we are working both inside and outside the organization.
What are some of the most commonly-cited leadership mistakes that the guests on your podcasts have admitted to you?
There are a few that I find to be common. But with the storytelling format of the show, how people discover their mistakes and the circumstances surrounding their mistakes are unique to the individual. One of the more common mistakes that people cite is allowing fear to rule their decisions. People allow fear to prevent them from exploring opportunities within their existing role or new opportunities, standing up to others, expanding their current role, doing what they know is right, and enjoying themselves. Ultimately, fear is an internal restriction. Sometimes the fear is purely internally manifested, while sometimes the fear comes from external forces and yet we allow it affect us. For all of us, fear is something that we must admit exists and learn how to manage it.
Finish this sentence: “The main reason[s] that over 80 percent of leadership programs fail is…”
Learning is only the beginning, development takes time. People have to practice leadership skills and attitudes. And they must have effective coaching to be led to success. The high failure rate of leadership programs has been around for a very long time. Measuring the return on investment (ROI) in leadership training and development is considered to be an important element in human resources and beyond. The ROI of training and development is frequently a topic presented and discussed at conferences, workshops, and professional associations. Journals and media regularly present the subject with more and more emphasis.
Yet nothing is changing. Executives have come to expect ROI projections and estimates in requests for leadership training and development funding. Leadership educators now find that asking for return on investment information is commonplace, but they’re frightened to reveal the true results. And they should be.
What are some of the ways that you see people sabotaging their chances to get ahead in their career?
There are three key ways I see people sabotaging their chances to get ahead.
- Emotional Intelligence: People are not actively improving their emotional intelligence (EQ) skills. The evidence is very clear: those with higher EQ advance further and make more money over those with higher IQ. By not proactively improving your emotional intelligence, you are literally blocking yourself from moving onward and upward faster. You are costing you and your family a better livelihood.
- Blending In: People are not amplifying their uniqueness and exploring ways to use their uniqueness to add value to others. They are choosing to fit in, keep their head down, and not make waves to stand out above the rest. Ironically, this behavior increases the chances of you being affected by downsizing and reorganization. Career security resides in being unique. It’s your responsibility to reveal it.
- Coaching: Those that do not seek the support of a coach will be passed by those that do. All of the experts and masters of anything in the world have coaches. As individuals, we have blind spots to the things that are blocking us from obtaining what we seek. We all have unintentional blindness. A coach helps you to see what you can’t.
Could you give us some advice on how a leader can work on improving his or her emotional intelligence?
You can’t improve what you know nothing about. So there are two things to do. First, learn about the competencies you need to improve to increase your emotional intelligence. The next thing is to assess your emotional intelligence. Unless you know what you need to work on, you are not going to be efficient with your time and effort. Once you know what you need to work on, you must be willing to put in the practice to improve. Knowledge is not what improves your emotional intelligence. You must practice the new behaviors you’ll need to practice in order to experience any gains.
How does poor internal morale in a group or company tend to manifest itself in the external customer experience?
The symptoms of poor internal morale are presented in a multitude of different ways. The innocent victim in most of these cases is the customer. Poor morale can impact the customer experience by:
- Chronic problems experienced
- Poor product/service development
- Low levels of feeling valued
- Mixed messaging
- Cumbersome interaction processes
- Higher cost
- More time invested
All of these symptoms end up pushing customers to your competition. Causes of these symptoms are most often misdiagnosed as technology or process problems. What people fail to realize is that people design, implement, and support the technology and processes. So it’s people that are the problem. And when poor morale and engagement are present, people don’t work well with one another.
What are some of the most essential skills that leaders of the future will have to learn and master in order to be successful?
Leaders of today have to do these things now to be successful. The future is now. If you want to rapidly accelerate your progression to greater levels of responsibility and compensation, you’ll need to master these four vital skills.
- Perspective Taking: To be able to consider various points of view or assumptions about situations and people and to seek alternative options and choices. To view various situations through the eyes of others in order to better understand their behavior, positions, or requests.
- Decision Making: You can’t merely gain perspective. With all of your perspective taking, you need to be able to make a decision and set a course of action. Knowing when to convert all of the insight gathered into a plan is key. Make a decision and move forward. And let your perspective taking continue so you can make adjustments when needed.
- Persuasion: Nothing in an organization is done solo. You need to be able to persuade others of the merits of your decision so they work in concert to execute the plan. Being able to influence and persuade others to join you in the pursuit contributes to the outcome experienced.
- Platform Building: In today’s noisy world, it’s more difficult to stand out from the rest. But for you to receive more opportunities to obtain greater success, you must. Creating a platform enables you to get seen and to be heard. Without it, you are just one of many. If you’re serious about taking yourself to the next level, you can’t succeed without a platform.