How you can increase your Emotional Capital as a Leader

How you can increase your Emotional Capital as a Leader

Originally published in Forbes on August 29th 2019

By now, you’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence. But have you ever heard of “emotional capital?”

 

According to researcher Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D., “Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of energy, information, connection, and influence.”

Emotional capital (EK), however, is the make-up of all the skills and abilities that allow you to understand your own emotions, to recognize them in others, and to function with other people in a perceptive and rewarding manner.

Think of it as the ability to empathize with other people and to effectively communicate with them, leading you to develop and enhance strong, effective relationships. Emotional capital is the foundation on which all motivational and decision making leadership skills are based. Defined by the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, it is “the set of resources that inhere to the person, useful for personal, professional and organizational development, and participates [in] social cohesion, with personal, economic and social returns.”

EK is absolutely essential to leadership success. Self-awareness, empathy and assertiveness are prerequisites for building your own EK.

There are several competencies that make up emotional capital. Some of them include:

1. Self-esteem

2. Self-regulation

3. Self-motivation

4. Self-reliance

5. Relational agility

6. Optimism

Think of learning these competencies as a way of making “deposits” into your emotional capital account. These deposits will later be effectively spent in your quest to become the best leader you can be. Emotional capital is built over time and sustained by consistency. It is a booster for human, social and cultural capitals. You can help make emotional capital more useful and beneficial by thinking about ways to generate more of it, as well as ways in which it can be advantageously spent.

Let’s look at these competencies through the lens of emotional intelligence and discuss how you can increase them.

Self-esteem is your emotional evaluation of your self-worth, which is formed by beliefs and values within. You increase your self-esteem by accomplishing your short and long-term goals. These successes, no matter how small, all go toward increasing your confidence in yourself and your ability to operate successfully in the world.

Self-regulation is your ability to calibrate and control undesirable behavior. By being aware that there is an emotion rooted in unwanted behavior, you can address that root cause directly rather than dealing with the more superficial result (undesirable behavior). You are able to replace the undesirable behavior with something more beneficial.

Self-motivation is the emotional energy that pushes you outside your comfort zone, creates changes and motivates enthusiastic action. The best way to increase self-motivation is through inspiring self-talk and achievable goal-setting.

Self-reliance is the confidence to rely on your own abilities. It calls on you to make the best possible decision using all available emotional data. You increase your self-reliance by evaluating the best and the worst-case scenarios with flexibility and impulse-control management.

Relational agility refers to an empathetic “win-win” approach with openly communicated boundaries. The way to increase relational agility is to listen from a place of curiosity, emotional flexibility and mutual respect, rather than from a place of viewing situations as simple, isolated transactions. In other words, you need to delve into the complexities of things rather than just accepting them as presented.

Optimism is a positive emotional outlook that everything will be OK instead of worrying and thinking with a “glass-half-empty” attitude.

Increasing your emotional capital is just like depositing into a savings account. The more you deposit, the more you can take out. Relationships function exactly the same way. If instead of withdrawing emotions, you deposit them, you will get them back but multiplied. Remember, relationships are an essential component of your well-being and happiness.

Svetlana Whitener

4 Reasons Talented Employees Don’t Reach Their Potential

4 Reasons Talented Employees Don’t Reach Their Potential

No matter how talented someone might be, there is no guarantee that their talents will translate into top performance. The science of human potential has generally illustrated that an individual’s overarching competence cannot be fully understood unless we also account for their emotional make-up, preferences, and dispositions.

No matter how smart, knowledgeable, and experienced you are, there is generally a difference between what you can do and what you normally do.

This is one of the reasons why talent identification efforts fail: when employers focus too much on candidates’ potential — the best they could do if they were motivated to do their best — they forget that the critical outcome they should try to predict is what people are actually likely to do once they are in the job, in particular their typical performance. Just like you shouldn’t assume that what you see in someone when you meet them on a first date is what you will keep on seeing when you are married to them five years later, there will probably be a difference between what you see in candidates when they are applying for a job and what you see from them when they have been in the job five years later (though science can help you predict this, too).

If you think you’re under-performing at work, you’re probably right: because few individuals give it their best and are 100% motivated throughout sustained and continuous periods of their tenure (my colleague Marc Effron has written an excellent book on this subject). In fact, even if you think that you areperforming to the best of your capabilities, you’re probably wrong, as there is generally little overlap between what people think of their talents and performance, and how they actually perform. In fact, it is often the case that top performers evaluate their own performance more critically and harshly, whereas those who perform poorly think they are making a fantastic contribution to the company: self-awareness, it seems, is a critical component of talent.

The truth is that most people are not even bothered to try their best after they have been on the job for more than six months, a time-frame known as the honeymoon period. Although there are many reasons for this, here are four common causes of under-performance and how to address them:

  • Poor fit: Talent is mainly personality in the right place, which explains why most people will do better in some jobs, cultures, and contexts than in others. Organizational psychologists call this “person-job-fit,” and it is measured by quantifying the degree of alignment between a person’s attitudes, values, abilities, and dispositions on the one hand, and the characteristics of the job, role, and organization on the other.The problem is that even when organizations evaluate the candidate correctly, they are often not as good at evaluating the role, and particularly their own culture. This is why so many organizations see themselves as more inclusive, diverse, innovative, and prosocial than they actually are — it’s wishful thinking rather than accurate self-assessment. This obviously impacts a candidates’ perceptions of the role and organization, where it may take them a while to truly experience the culture and understand what the role truly entails and demands from them.What can you do about this? The only alternative is to do your homework and carefully vet the organization you are about to join, ensuring that you understand the job in question well to avoid being surprised. Luckily, sites such as Glassdoor, which function as a sort of TripAdvisor of workplaces, and increasingly of leaders, can help you leverage the wisdom of crowds — but they are obviously not perfect. Asking detailed questions of your interviewers, speaking to employees, and figuring out whether you have much in common with high-performing incumbents in the same or similar role should help you predict fit.Of course, in some instances your main contribution to the organization or role may be to not fit in perfectly — this is the benefit of cognitive diversity. However, it is safer to assume you will adjust and perform well when you see similarities between your profile and the profile of high-performing employees (in fact, this is how science-driven assessment tools are calibrated to increase predictive accuracy, namely by benchmarking against high-performing incumbents).
  • Disengagement: A common side-effect of poor fit is disengagement, though it should be noted that there are also other reasons underlying the prevalentlack of enthusiasm and motivation found in typical workplaces. In fact, one of the most common drivers of disengagement is poor leadership. As I show in my latest book, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?, management malfunction, particularly of the male variety, explains not just why so many people underperform at work, but also why talented and star employees quit their jobs, and even traditional employment altogether.The solution to this is not simple. You can’t just suddenly decide to replace your boss with a better leader — someone who inspires and mentors you, provides objective and constructive feedback on your performance, and gets you excited about work when you wake up every morning. Note that even if your boss is capable of doing all these things, they may not be engaged themselves, perhaps because they work for an incompetent leader (or someone who is not engaged). But even if you are not able to quit your boss, there are some proven hacks that will likely improve your engagement, and in turn your performance. For example, finding time to be curious and learn will make your job more meaningful. Connecting with your colleagues and nurturing the interpersonal aspect of work is also quite motivating. Finally, telling your boss that you are not engaged may also help, for they may be unaware of it and willing to do something to help you, especially if they value your talents.
  • Organizational politics: Although modern workplaces are generally fairer and more data-driven in their talent management practices than ever before, there’s still much progress to be made. Business leaders rejoice in the idea that their companies are meritocratic talent magnets, but the reality is that even when they are able to draw star performers into their companies, those stars will have to learn how to navigate the toxic and nepotistic side of any culture — including some basic degree of organizational politics.Unsurprisingly, much career and executive coaching focuses on improving people’s soft and political skills, and a person’s political savvy has been found to promote their career success irrespective of their talents and technical skills. In general, the more contaminated and corrosive the culture of an organization, the more parasitic individuals will rise, much like bacteria thrive in contaminated environments. You can see this in any organization when there’s a clear gap between individuals’ career success and their actual performance and talents.You can deal with this by being aware of the politics and partaking in them, though hopefully without selling your soul. In any event, it is naïve to think that you can let your talents speak for themselves. In fact, the more talented you are, the more enemies you will make — particularly in toxic and political organizations. And if things are hard to change, your best bet may be to change organizations, or at least units. Note that though all organizations are political, some are far less political than others.
  • Personal circumstances: The final reason is almost too obvious to mention, but in today’s ever-more-absorbing and 24/7 world of work, it’s easy to forget that people also have a personal and private life, and that no matter how engaged and talented they are, personal drawbacks and setbacks will often interfere with their career success. This is why there is so much discussion of work-life balance (even today, when the boundaries between work and “life” have been eroded). Good bosses and supportive employers will want to understand your circumstances, and you can be sure they will have a vested interest in helping you deal with them so you can deliver in accordance with your talents, and feel grateful and committed to them in the long run.

In short, you can always assume that your talents are necessary, but not sufficient to excel and impress at work. Optimizing your job so that it fits with your interests, beliefs, and broader life activities, and being alert to the invisible social forces that govern the dynamics of organizations, will ultimately help you perform to the best of your capabilities.

 

Harvard Business Review

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Here’s why your attitude is more important than your intelligence

Here’s why your attitude is more important than your intelligence

Psychologist Carol Dweck has found that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ

When it comes to success, it’s easy to think that people blessed with brains are inevitably going to leave the rest of us in the dust. But new research from Stanford University will change your mind (and your attitude).

Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.

Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.

Image: LinkedIn

Common sense would suggest that having ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset welcome setbacks with open arms.

According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,

Failure is information—we label it failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.’”

Regardless of which side of the chart you fall on, you can make changes and develop a growth mindset. What follows are some strategies that will fine-tune your mindset and help you make certain it’s as growth oriented as possible.

 

Don’t stay helpless. We all hit moments when we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. There are countless successful people who would have never made it if they had succumbed to feelings of helplessness: Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas,” Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a TV anchor in Baltimore for being “too emotionally invested in her stories,” Henry Ford had two failed car companies prior to succeeding with Ford, and Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC’s Cinematic Arts School multiple times. Imagine what would have happened if any of these people had a fixed mindset.

They would have succumbed to the rejection and given up hope. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back.

Be passionate. Empowered people pursue their passions relentlessly. There’s always going to be someone who’s more naturally talented than you are, but what you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion. Empowered people’s passion is what drives their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Warren Buffet recommends finding your truest passions using, what he calls, the 5/25 technique: Write down the 25 things that you care about the most. Then, cross out the bottom 20. The remaining 5 are your true passions. Everything else is merely a distraction.

Take action. It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. So why wait for one? Taking action turns all your worry and concern about failure into positive, focused energy.

Then go the extra mile (or two). Empowered people give it their all, even on their worst days. They’re always pushing themselves to go the extra mile. One of Bruce Lee’s pupils ran three miles every day with him. One day, they were about to hit the three-mile mark when Bruce said, “Let’s do two more.” His pupil was tired and said, “I’ll die if I run two more.” Bruce’s response? “Then do it.” His pupil became so angry that he finished the full five miles. Exhausted and furious, he confronted Bruce about his comment, and Bruce explained it this way: “Quit and you might as well be dead.

If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

If you aren’t getting a little bit better each day, then you’re most likely getting a little worse—and what kind of life is that?

Expect results. People with a growth mindset know that they’re going to fail from time to time, but they never let that keep them from expecting results.

Expecting results keeps you motivated and feeds the cycle of empowerment. After all, if you don’t think you’re going to succeed, then why bother?

Be flexible. Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.

Don’t complain when things don’t go your way. Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so there’s no room for complaints.

Bringing It All Together

By keeping track of how you respond to the little things, you can work every day to keep yourself on the right side of the chart above.

About The Author: 

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

 

WORD ECONOMIC FORUM

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You can Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence : discover how to do it

You can Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence : discover how to do it

Have you ever reacted to organizational change by rolling your eyes and quietly saying to yourself, “Here we go again”? Or by not so quietly telling others, “Haven’t we tried this before?

Changes at work can be emotionally intense, sparking confusion, fear, anxiety, frustration, and helplessness. Experts have even said that the experience of going through change at work can mimic that of people who are suffering from grief over the loss of a loved one. Because change can be so physically and emotionally draining, it often leads to burnout and puts into motion an insidious cycle that leads to even greater resistance to change.

No one wants to be an obstacle to change, instinctively resisting any new initiatives or efforts. It’s not good for you, your career, or your organization. Improving your adaptability, a critical emotional intelligence competency, is key to breaking this cycle. Fortunately, this is a skill that can be learned. In fact, in our work as coaches, it’s often a priority for our clients. They’re tired of feeling frustrated and angry about changes at work, and they want to be seen as adaptable rather than resistant.

Next time your organization introduces a big change, consider these four emotional intelligence strategies to help you embrace the change rather than brace for it:

Identify the source of your resistance. Understanding the underlying reasons for your resistance requires a high level of self-awareness. For example, if you’re resisting because you’re worried that the change will make you look incompetent, you can create a learning plan for the new skills you will need in order to be successful. Or, if you’re concerned that the change will interfere with your autonomy, you can ask the people leading the effort how you can be involved in the process. Even if you don’t like the direction the organization is moving, being involved in the implementation may help you regain a sense of control and reduce your urge to resist.

Question the basis of your emotional response. Our emotional reactions to change often reflect our interpretations – or “stories” – that we convince ourselves are true. In actuality, our stories are often subconscious and seldom in line with reality. Ask yourself: What is my primary emotion associated with this change? Is it fear, anger, frustration? Once you identify the emotion, ask what that’s about? What do I believe to be true that’s making me angry/fearful/frustrated? This type of questioning helps to illuminate the stories driving our emotions and influence our perceptions.

As an example, a senior executive in the transportation industry identified her intense emotional reaction as anger. As she continued to question the basis of her anger, she discovered an underlying story: she was powerless and a victim to the impending change initiative. With this new awareness she was able to separate her emotional reaction and “story” from the actual events. This allowed her to identify several options to take on new leadership responsibilities for a major aspect of the change initiative. With these new opportunities to take back her power, her mentality shifted from thinking that the changes were happening to her, to focusing on how she could take on a leadership role that would create new opportunities for both her career and the organization.

Own your part in the situation. It’s not always easy to fess up to the part we play in creating a negative situation. A self-aware person reflects on how their attitudes and behaviors contribute to their experience of the change. For example, let’s say that you’ve noticed yourself becoming increasingly and more immediately tense each time you hear of a new change. Practicing mindfulness will allow you to examine your feelings and how they are affecting your attitude. Any negativity or pessimism is going to impact your behavior, performance, and well-being (and not in a good way). By reflecting on how your initial reaction contributes to a negative chain of events, it’ll be easier to adjust your attitude to be more open to considering new perspectives, which will ultimately change the way you react to everything.

Turn up your positive outlook: Things may feel a little bleak when you don’t agree with a new change, but studies show that having a positive outlook can open us up to new possibilities and be more receptive to change. Asking yourself a few simple questions will help you think more optimistically. First, ask yourself Where are the opportunities with this change? And then, How will these opportunities help me and others? 

For example, one of our clients recently went through a major organizational change. Over the previous 18 months, he had led the turnaround and sale of a division for his former company and had just accepted a new role as President with a new firm. He knew this wasn’t something he would’ve been able to do a few years earlier. But he had worked hard to move from being a “problem solver” to an “opportunity finder.” He explained how our work together prepared him: “I was always playing defense, focusing on how to minimize our exposure or losses in any situation. As we began to shift my focus from how to minimize losses to find opportunities, everything changed. I shifted from playing defense to offense. I began to see opportunities that were invisible to me before. Now, it’s hard-wired into how I think.”

The ability to quickly and easily adapt to change is often a competitive advantage for a leader. Next time you feel yourself resisting, use the four approaches above to build momentum and psychological energy for you and others. Make the intentional choice not just to embrace change but to positively propel it forward.

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW-Kandi Wiens & Darin Rowell

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Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

Safetyism, Snowballs and Fragile Youth

By 

Book Review: Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt, 2018

We parent, teach and support. We want the best for young people. What we are seeing is a collapse of mental well-being. At the same time, events of intimidation, violence and witch hunts increase.

Lukianoff and Haidt take us on an evidence-based and carefully considered journey through modern parenting, teenage mental illness and education. They describe how we are losing the pursuit of truth and growth. Society is being pulled apart by partisan politics and intolerance. Young people are not coping well with this.

Most importantly, the authors detail what we can do to improve this situation. What they describe is American but the signs are global. The solutions are practical and immediately applicable in families, schools, universities and societies.

The book is excellent.  Three ideas:

Safetyism

Overprotective society, parenting and education is depriving young people of growth. They are missing the opportunity to engage skilfully with truth, diversity, risk assessment, empathy and situation agility (the authors use Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)). The i-Generation, born after 1995, suffers rapidly increasing rates of anxiety, self-harm and depression. They are poorly prepared for the challenges of work, relationships and politics.

The authors recommend using safety for physical risk only. They encourage us to help our youth take risks through free play, debate, conflict resolution and respect for truth. Social media must be limited – particularly for young women.

Snowballs

A school demands that student never touch snow because it may produce a dangerous snowball. Similarly, we have invited and expanded the concept of threat to include diverse views, free speech, “micro-aggressions” and “avoiding triggers”. Thus universities have, since 2013, experienced an alarming increase in mental illness and campus violence. Research from left-leaning perspectives is all that remains. Moderate views have been silenced. Social media helps us name and shame those who voice disquieting views. If that does not work, students increasingly resort to violence. All because someone touched the snow.

Fragility

Young people are complex adaptive systems. Genes create a rough template upon which the challenges of life – most specifically play and direct social interaction – work. We must play and practice to develop our neural wiring and the skills required to thrive. Jean Twenge shows that teen development is now delayed by three years. They are physically safe but mentally vulnerable.

The authors recommend that we rethink and look for proven wisdom. Treat our youth as antifragile. They have specific suggestions for parents, junior and senior school and universities. Much is based on teaching young people to own and master their emotional and cognitive responses. “Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.”

Bravo!

The Safety – Play Paradox

The Safety – Play Paradox

By 

Leaders must balance innovation with safety and disruption with predictability. Growth is not possible without risk. Zero harm will secure zero innovation. Too much risk and we bet the farm.

  1. When we feel unsafe we default to flight, fight and freeze reactions
  2. When we cause others to feel unsafe, we collapse their contribution
  3. When we feel safe and “play” together, we flourish and teams succeed

Safety is complex and can be unhelpful. The issue is confounded because safety perceptions and reactions are not conscious. They take over our conscious systems before we know it. The consequent behaviour is sub-optimal. No safety = no growth and innovation.

Stephen Porges recently published The Pocket Guide to Polyvagal Theory(2017).  We reviewed his work several times. He makes a complex neurophysiological concept coherent and practical. There are two powerful leadership ideas.

 

1.  Unconscious neuroception drives behaviour

We swing from relaxed parasympathetic tone to reactive, distressed sympathetic tone.

The sympathetic (“stress” system) gives us our FIGHT (anger and violence) and FLIGHT (fear and avoidance) reactions. These reactions are based on adrenaline (epinephrine), increased heart rate and blood pressure. They mobilise us for action – attack or defend. The reactions are automatic and not conscious. While helpful in early evolution, today we generally regret them (modern presidents excluded).

Parasympathetic activity is mediated by the Vagus Nerve (10th cranial nerve). It has two layers – ventral (new, myelinated and above diaphragm) and dorsal (old, unmyelinated and below diaphragm). The ventral (new) vagus slows the heart, increases heart rate variability and allows calm, curious and connected behaviour. This activates health, growth and empathy. This is the foundation state of good relationships, collaboration and team flow.

The dorsal (old) vagus collapses the vascular and digestive system. We collapse or pass out and may void bowel and bladder. This is not voluntary but it may save life in a violent or abusive situation when you are the prey. This is the FREEZE reaction.

Wild animals have well defined zones that programme behaviour. Furthest out is FLIGHT. When we approach this zone, the animal will run away. Next is FIGHT. If we enter this zone we can expect to be attacked. Closest in is FREEZE when the animal will play dead.

The lion’s FLIGHT zone is 35 to 50 m and the FIGHT zone is 15 to 20 m. This is for a human on foot. In a vehicle, the lion will allow you to come within a few meters. If you then move or stand up, it will attack you. You are in the FIGHT zone.  Knowledge that can save life in an open game-viewing vehicle.

When safety fails

Porges argues that FREEZE is common for those subjected to abuse or with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Afterwards they feel guilty that they did not fight back. In actual fact, the body (dorsal vagus) was protecting them from further violence – just as a mouse in a cat’s jaws will play dead. Understanding this facilitates recovery.

He shows how simple steps can build an understanding, sense of safety and recovery:

  • Long exhalations to increase heart rate variability
  • Prosodic voice (lullaby) or music (Johnny Mathis love songs), and
  • Counselling with prosodic voice and expressive faces

Porges claims to have improved the lives of over 200 children with Autism by using this as part of treatment.

Safety finds itself in direct conflict with health, growth, innovation and collaboration. Obsessive worry about missing a process, inappropriate connection or adverse consequences can push us toward FLIGHT (avoid), FIGHT (vote right) and FREEZE (give up). What is meant to protect can shut down our better selves.

Business success today needs risk, innovation, intense collaboration and disruption (not safe at all). These behaviours are much more like edgy play. They require both sympathetic activation and strong ventral vagus activity.

How does a leader balance innovation with safety and disruption with predictability?

Growth is not possible without risk. Zero harm counters innovation.

 

2.  Play as a platform for transformation

What might happen if we activate the ventral (new) vagus and the sympathetic system together? We will be highly activated and mobilised (sympathetic) while feeling calm, curious and connected (vagus). This is play. Watching young animals charge after each other, pouncing, posing, yelping and wrestling gives us great joy.

Play accelerates learning. It prepares the young animal for the challenges of hunting, defending and mating in a dangerous world. Without play survival is compromised. Play is facilitated by regular eye contact, prosodic communication and an expressive upper face – crinkles in the outer corners of the eye and centrally raised eyebrows. Play builds high trust community, family, and team.

Play is the state of an exceptionally high performing team. It is respectful, open, honest, provocative, demanding, pressing the limits, empathic, forgiving, and joyous. This is also found in the intimacy achieved in a loving partnership. Embracing risk with this attitude of play is the foundation of trust and the better world we know is possible.

Porges points out that the more we play the more effective adults we become. This is obviously true for physical skills. Far more importantly, this is how we develop our emotional intelligence and social skills. Play is a critical component of healthy childhood and adulthood. Working parents, anxiety about intimacy, and devices have dramatically dropped the time we spend in play. Play may be a cost effective solution to the suffering caused by mental health.

Sadly, our youth grow up with play on a device. This is not play and it does not activate the dorsal vagus. There is none of the direct reciprocity of eye contact, vocal resonance and facial expressivity. Nor is there movement and physical skill building. In most mental health disorders, play is absent or limited.

Leaders creating a better world must balance caution with high risk play. Breathe out, hold eye contact, smile, sing and play.