The resonant dentist

Jan. 1, 2004
Since October, we've been exploring Emotional Intelligence (E.I.). Research shows that 75 percent of star performers' success is the result of E.I., while just 25 percent comes from technical competency.

Bob Frazer Jr., DDS, FACD, FICD

Since October, we've been exploring Emotional Intelligence (E.I.). Research shows that 75 percent of star performers' success is the result of E.I., while just 25 percent comes from technical competency. "E. I. is our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships." It involves four key domains: self-awareness, self -management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Open-loop system

Last month, we reviewed brain research showing that emotions begin as a physiologic event in the limbic system (old brain) and then flow over neural pathways to the prefrontal cortex, where feelings are interpreted as emotions. Key to our understanding is that our biography — life experiences — determines how we interpret our emotions. One person's experience with happiness, fear, or reluctance, etc. is different from another's. Perhaps even more fascinating is that the limbic system is an open-loop system as contrasted to a closed-loop system like the circulatory system.

Closed-loop systems are self-regulating, whereas open-loop systems depend mostly on external sources for regulation. This means that we rely on connections to others for our own emotional stability. An example is a mother soothing a crying infant. Research shows that this open-loop is responsible for "interpersonal limbic regulation," where one person present with another in a monitored clinical setting can transmit signals that alter hormone levels, cardiovascular function, sleep rhythms and even immune function inside the body of another.

This has enormous importance both clinically and in our roles as leaders. Our emotions are constantly interacting with, affecting and responding to other people's emotions. Think of the last day when practically every patient you saw was irritable, nervous, fearful, or distrustful. Or the all of staff seemed to be having a bad day. How did you begin to feel even though you may have come in feeling terrific? How did that day contrast with the way you felt on a day when you saw those cheerful, relaxed, thankful, self-confident patients? Or when you worked with a staff that manifested those same emotions? When we work with clients on hiring issues, we spend five times more time and money on team selection than on training in order to attract and hire the right kind of staff. Remember — your staff's limbic systems are influencing yours and those of your patients! But research has shown that the most powerful influence on the emotional climate of any group is the leader. Your staff takes its emotional cues from you.

Author Daniel Goleman says,"When leaders drive emotions positively, they bring out the best in everyone. This effect is called resonance. When they drive emotions negatively, they spawn dissonance, undermining the emotional foundations that let people shine." So the emotions of the leader are particularly contagious. While lecturing to a specialist-sponsored study group, I said, "Each of us has the staff we deserve for that point in our own evolution as leaders." Later the specialist reported that that was precisely what he had observed in his referring doctors!

Moods impact the bottom line

Emotions are generally highly intense, but they pass quickly. Moods are less intense, sustained emotional states. A good example is a doctor we worked with some time ago with continual staff turnover. Team members seldom lasted more than two years. He always related plausible reasons: It wasn't his fault! She wanted more money, benefits, etc. But this dentist carried deep-seated anger, fear, and resentment. Life just wasn't fair. As we worked together, he came to understand that he had never dealt with most of the dissonant baggage he learned while growing up. He repressed it all, hoping he could somehow get beyond it. This client learned a much more comfortable way of relating and leading. In the two years that followed, an already profitable practice doubled its bottom line.

An organizational climate study by the University of Maryland found that for every 1 percent increase in service climate, there was a 2 percent increase in revenue! They also found the more emotionally demanding the work, the more important that the leader be resonant. How resonant are you? Next month, we'll explore other critical areas for resonant leadership and more ways to grow your E.I.

Dr. Bob Frazer Jr. is founder of the strategic leadership firm R.L. Frazer & Assoc., whose custom programs help dentists achieve top 5 percent status in both financial achievement and life balance (fulfillment and significance). Superb communication skills have propelled Dr. Frazer to a 27-year international speaking career in dentistry. To receive "7 Ways To Grow Your EQ," contact him at (512) 346-0455, fax (512) 346-1071, or email [email protected].

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