My wife and I had settled down to watch a movie and shortly after the movie started it began to pixilate. You know what I’m talking about? The movie stopped, the screen scrambled and we waited. And waited. And waited. Then the movie started up again and then it stopped, scrambled and we waited some more. Eventually we gave up and I called Verizon to see what the problem was. I was told that there is not enough bandwidth to handle all the people ordering that particular movie, so it scrambled. Then I thought of Abraham Lincoln.
It was New Year’s Day 1863 and as was the custom at the time, the White House was open to all visitors who wanted to meet the President. An overflow crowd crushed in to see the President and Lincoln had spent the day meeting people, hearing their stories and shaking their hands. Also that day the final administrative touches were completed on the most important piece of legislation he would ever sign – the Emancipation Proclamation. It was delivered to his office in the afternoon and as he sat down to sign it he picked up the pen, dipped it in ink and put it down again. He turned to the assembled dignitaries and said that his hand was tired from shaking so many hands that day and that he needed to rest it for a moment before he signed so that years later no one would ever look at the signature and think he had wavered.
Lincoln had huge emotional bandwidth. Years ago Daniel Goleman coined the phrase “Emotional Intelligence,” which refers to the depth of which a person understands himself or herself. I am suggesting that in addition to IQ and EQ a person needs great “EB” – Emotional Bandwidth – in order to be a great leader.
Emotional Bandwidth refers to the amount of emotional engagement that a person can sustain. It is the number of people and their emotions that a leader has the capacity to deal with at one time.
When we think of our days we know that the real strain on us is the number of people who are pulling on us, drawing from us and draining us. The question we ask as leaders is not, “How much do I know?” (IQ), or even “How well do I know myself (EQ)?” but rather “How can I deal with all these people?” (Emotional Bandwidth).
When General Dwight Eisenhower was commanding the allied forces in Europe during World War II it wasn’t the Germans who were draining him, it was Patton, Montgomery and Bradley. Leading those three strong personalities – each one a strong leader in his own right – was the true emotional drain on him and Ike’s great capacity for dealing with that drain along with the scores of other people demanding his time and attention was the key element in Ike’s success as a leader.
How is your Emotional Bandwidth? What is your capacity for dealing with the people in your life? When the people issues get too overwhelming do you draw back, shut down and close yourself off from the very people you’re called to lead. Are you emotionally pixilating because your Emotional Bandwidth is overcrowded?
I told my son last month that there are essentially four parts of every human being – the physical, the intellectual, the emotional and the spiritual. We live in a culture that overemphasizes the physical and intellectual and gives little attention to the emotional and spiritual. Great leaders know that truly great leadership requires them to be fully engaged in all four areas of their lives and they are comfortable growing and leading with the whole of who they are.
How can you as a leader increase your Emotional Bandwidth? The same way you increase the physical and intellectual part of your life: Diet and exercise.
Diet: Some people are not good for you – they are occupying too much of your Emotional Bandwidth with little or no benefit to you. These people are poison and they are killing you. You must eliminate them from your life. It sounds harsh (it is harsh) but sometimes we have to face the harsh reality and make difficult decisions. I am shocked at the number of bad hires I see leaders make and the amount of money it costs to get rid of bad employees once they are hired. But get rid of them you must and the sooner the better. As the saying goes, “No one ever says, I fired him too soon.”
Exercise: Don’t avoid engaging people on an emotional level – embrace it. Find people who energize you and engage with them in a significant way. Learn the art of emotionally engaging with and investing in people. This is a major investment of time in key individuals in your life, but it is time with people that feed your emotional health and increase your Emotional Bandwidth. Like any other growth it takes time and repetition, but in the long run you will know what it means to "stream" fully you without "emotionally pixilating" – and the world will see clearly the picture of the person you are and the leader you were meant to be.
Is this the year you get serious about retaining a coach?
Every business is a people business, every problem is a people problem and every solution is a people solution.
I can help you with your "people issues." My coaching is more like a tennis coach than a football coach. A football coach oversees a lot of players as a team; a group. My coaching is more like a tennis coach who works one-on-one with you – observing your strengths and weaknesses as an individual and helping you get the most out of your game.
If this is the time for you to consider a coaching relationship please feel free to contact me and discuss the various options of helping you "know who you are and be it."