Corenet Summit Orlando 2012: Reflections and Learnings #2

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Here, finally are some further learnings and questions that arose for me out this year’s Corenet Summit in Orlando.

Monday, October 8.

The opening keynote presentation came from Bill Benjamin, founder of The Institute for Health and Human Potential. His focus: the importance of emotions in driving behavior, and the need to understand why and how people respond when they are under stress (and who isn’t these days?).

Bill’s message was obvious in hindsight, but it’s one we forget all too often: most leadership programs (and books) focus on technical skills and IQ as key to leadership success – yet when we recall outstanding leaders (including some of our own past bosses), we invariably identify people who touched us emotionally – people who have a high “EQ” or Emotional Quotient.”

He pointed out that people who fail as leaders typically are incapable of forming and managing relationships. They don’t manage change well.

But the most interesting part of the presentation was Benjamin’s focus on the amygdala – that basic part of the brain that drives feelings. We feel (the amygdala) before we think (the cortex). And when we are stressed, our ability to think rationally is reduced. Under stress we tend to tell people what we think they want to hear; we focus on compliance, which is a far cry from commitment. And as “followers” that’s what we do too – we fall into yes/no responses, and we comply with the first request we hear, rather than thinking through our options.

Benjamin then reminded us that Peter Drucker often talked about the importance of learning to manage yourself (you can never go wrong by quoting Peter Drucker!). And he wound up by offering a relatively simple formula for exercising control (over ourselves and others) in stressful situations: “SOS”

  • Stop (do something different, take some time out, disconnect)
  • Oxygenate (take a deep breath; carbonize your blood, minimize the impact of that amygdala)
  • Strengthen Appreciation (of the situation, of others – that releases dopamine, which is a source of positive emotion and well-being)

Remember, in stressful situations, when you and others are undergoing (or fighting) change, emotions are far more powerful, and important, than all the data and logic in the world.

So – that was the opening of the Summit. Heady stuff. With that new perspective on leadership and our own “uncontrollable” emotions, we all headed off to the breakouts, the expo, and the all-important hallway conversations that make up the most meaningful part of most conferences.

And I’ll pick up some more reflections in my next post. Look for it in another day or two as I squeeze time out my all-too-busy days for these important – and highly satisfying – moments of reflecting, absorbing, and learning from the Summit.

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