Dentists who get results

In this last of my series on Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) I would like to review the most significant and useful tools from this empowering work.

In this last of my series on Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) I would like to review the most significant and useful tools from this empowering work. Author Daniel Goleman (“Primal Leadership,” Harvard 2002) defines E.I. as “our capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and our relationships.” Studies on some 2,800 star performers done by Harvard and Rutgers show that 75 percent of high achievers’ success comes from E.I., while 25 percent comes from necessary technical competency. Every major dental purchase is first and foremost an emotional decision. Effective leadership demands emotional competency.

We’ve found that elevating E.I. is unequivocally the most predictable way to raise our clients’ and their teams’ influence and effectiveness. E.I. has four key domains and 18 emotional subcompetencies. The four domains are: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. It all begins with self-awareness, an understanding of oneself; our emotions, being able to label and understand what we’re feeling; having an accurate self-image, being realistic - understanding our values, goals and dreams; and knowing where we are headed, what we like and want. Goleman states, “The most telling sign of self-awareness is a propensity for self-reflection and thoughtfulness. For some, it means prayer or meditation; for others, it’s more of a philosophical quest for self-understanding ... Intuition comes naturally to the self-aware leader.” So, if you wish to be among the stars of our profession, you must begin here! It is indeed an inside-out process.

Every leader’s primal challenge is self-management. This provides our focused drive to achieve goals, especially when it comes to overcoming challenges and the dissonant (negative) emotions they often generate. It keeps us from the emotional hijacking which occurs when the seat of emotions - the amygdala or limbic system - becomes aroused. Brain scans show we become “hard-wired” neurologically to respond to emotions in a certain way. Reading about E.I. isn’t enough! We must practice new emotional responses. Our workshops always involve at least 75 percent real-life, scenario-based exercises. Early in this series, we explained emotions are part of an open loop system - i.e., you enter the emotional circuitry of another by merely being in that individual’s presence and that person enters yours. Thus, the most effective leaders are appropriately emotionally transparent. This is very important, especially for leaders (who are the primary drivers of the emotional climate of their group), so that people do not have to guess what you are feeling and why. Transparency with both your team and patients pays huge dividends.

Social awareness might best be described as a limbic tango - the ability to empathize - especially reading the face and voice of the other person for emotions. When you have limbic resonance, you harmonize through what is a symphony of mutual exchange and adaptation. Empathy is the necessary ingredient a leader uses to move people by articulating a vision eliciting optimism and resonance. It’s essential for leading both our team members and our patients to higher levels of success and health. Remember, empathy is not a mushy “you’re OK, I’m OK,” but rather appropriately expressing emotions, not suppressing them.

The triad of the above three domains comes together in the final E.I. ability: relationship management. This is where the most visible tools of leadership lie - i.e., conflict management, persuasion, collaboration, and teamwork. Leaders with competency possess large circles of influence and relationship capital to bring to every problem or opportunity. This is where the six styles of highly effective leaders - visionary, affiliative (people first), democratic (all smarter than any one of us), coaching (affirming and releasing potential), commanding (just do it!), and pacesetting (highest standards) - come in. Great leaders use all six, applying the right style at the right time through their social awareness.

Unlike I.Q., E.Q. (emotional quotient) can be raised through emotional-competency training, self-directed learning (SDLM) and coaching. In SDLM, defining your ideal self parallels our applied strategic planning, where you begin by creating a vision of the best, then step-by-step , you make that vision a reality. Richard Boyatzis proposes “Five Discoveries ... your Ideal Self, your Real Self, the current Gap between your ideal and real self, your Learning Agenda (including training and experimenting), and Supportive Relationships (support your change).” As one of our advanced workshop clients said, “You can’t get too much of this E.I. stuff!” It’s been a pleasure sharing it with you over these 20 months!

Dr. Bob Frazer, FACD, FICD, is founder of R.L. Frazer & Assoc., whose custom programs help dentists achieve top 5 percent status in financial achievement and life balance (fulfillment with significance). Thirty-one years of quality practice and superb communication skills have propelled him to a 29-year speaking career. For information on his “Building Emotional Intelligence Workshop,” 10/20-22 in Austin, or the new audio series, “How To Build the Exceptional Life and Practice,” contact him at (512) 346-0455, or e-mail him at

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