Confronting racial bias in the workplace is not just about policies and practices. Although they are important, something else is far more significant.
It is emotional intelligence, where “80% of your success lives,” according to Jamar Cobb-Dennard, a business broker at Indiana Business Advisors, who spoke about racial bias in the workplace in a webinar, Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself, for the National African-American Insurance Association, which represents 750 members across all sectors of insurance.
“The hippocampus part of our brain drives decision-making, and especially emotional decision-making, and 80% of our success actually comes from using our emotions to make decisions, versus 20%,” Cobb-Dennard said, citing research that Daniel Goleman explained in his 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence.
“You learn science. You learn English,” Cobb-Dennard said. “But he came out and said that's really just a small portion of what actually creates success for you personally, but also for organizations. For organizational success and for building equity, we've got to understand our emotions and then how to manage and understand the emotions of others.”
So, what makes up emotional intelligence? It rests on five pillars.
- Social Skill
(To determine your own emotional intelligence, you can take a quiz here.)
“Understand how you are feeling and be able to analyze your own emotions,” Cobb-Dennard said. “If you don't know that up front, journal. And find a good mentor who'll give you candid feedback. Also, 360 assessments will also show you very quickly how you may be feeling and how you're showing up in the workplace.”
Relating the pillar to the workplace, Cobb-Dennard said it is important to know a team’s emotional drivers.
“Ask them, especially with diverse teams,” he said. “You don't know what that person's experiencing after a day of riots. You don't know what that person's experiencing in some #metoo movement. You don't know what that person's experiencing after a Muslim travel ban. Ask them, but also be respectful as you do.”
“What's your emotional decision-making process?” Cobb-Dennard asked. “When you're faced with high-crisis situations or change, how are you working yourself through them? To be a better self-manager, start planning for the what if.”
He suggested creating Ben Franklin T-charts that place the pros and cons of decisions on opposite sides of a page.
“Understanding your emotional drivers. Why are you doing what you're doing? The strongest way to impact that is to visualize with emotions. Thoughts are things. When we create thoughts and especially visualize those thoughts with the emotion tied behind it, those thoughts become more real and draw us toward them.”
Visualize that next promotion and the next office by feeling what it is like to look out of the windows of that corner office. Feel what it is like to achieve the next level of success.
“But also feel what it feels like to fail and understand that feeling so that you can move away from it and toward the positive emotion,” he said.
“Think about decisions that you make as a professional and how those decisions impact others,” Cobb-Dennard said. “Don't just put yourself in somebody else's shoes. Get new shoes so that you can really start to understand other people.”
At the workplace, it is important to ask if there is a disparate impact on others because of some internal or external force. How is the same thing affecting other people differently?
But empathy can go beyond saying the right thing – it’s following up words with action.
“Instead of just that, let's flip that and let's start putting task force together not just to say, ‘We need to hire X number of women or this number of African-Americans or that number of Latinos,’” he said. ”But let's start to really think in allies. How are our organizations showing up in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion? And then how do we shift our value systems so that we are more inclusive and have a stronger culture overall?”
“Start to turn from yourself and start to turn outward to others,” he said. “Social skill, ask what's driving others, and start having ‘why’ conversations. Ask the questions so that not only you, but others, know that you care about their own emotional state.”
Cobb-Dennard added another aspect to emotional intelligence – consent. Although consent is usually associated with sexual relationships, it is two parties having consent to engage in some sort of activity with each other.
“The basis of consent is that these two individuals don't know what each person is thinking so they have to have active consent in order to engage in that activity,” he said. “That same premise of consent applies with diverse groups, because we don't know what somebody of a different race is thinking.”
Cobb-Dennard said that applies to a different gender, disability or other culture. Determine if it is OK to talk about the subject, rather than just barge out of somebody’s comfort zone.
“When we begin to engage emotional intelligence, we have to do so with consent and not the assumption that we automatically understand and have the right and the authority to act and lead in a way that may be incongruous to the person that's in front of us,” Cobb-Dennard said. “As we go into emotional intelligence, start to ask, ‘what are people thinking?’ Ask Socratic questions. Instead of giving them the answer, ask the questions first and allow them to tell you what they're thinking."
Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines. He was also vice president of communications for an insurance agents’ association. Steve can be reached at [email protected]
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