Republished from AZ Magazine
IN THE DARKNESS of an August night in 2008, Joelle Hadley couldn’t see much, but she could hear the roaring.
She was camping on the Havasupai Reservation deep in the Grand Canyon when a summer thunderstorm set off raging floods that came crashing down Havasu Creek and the falls, destroying one, diverting another and creating two new ones.
The fast-moving, foaming waters threatened Hadley’s life and those of the people she was with, all frantic to find the quickest way to safety.
But one man changed the mood from frenzy to focus. The situation was dire, he told them. But when he did, he did so calmly. His demeanor allowed Hadley and her fellow campers to become calm and focus on surviving, which they did.
“One person’s calming effects allowed all of us to work better as a team,” Hadley said, reflecting recently on the devastating flash flood that reworked the landscape near Supai, a tiny town west of Grand Canyon National Park.
Hadley, now 43, had previously studied a concept called emotional intelligence, and she knew immediately that the man was relying on his emotional intelligence to get through a harrowing, desperate situation. And she did the same.
Emotional intelligence, first coined in a doctoral thesis in the mid-’80s, has made its way into mainstream literature over the years. It means different things to different people, but generally, emotional intelligence is a measure of how well someone identifies, assesses and controls his emotions and those of others.
The idea of emotional intelligence is rooted in science. It suggests that when the emotional part of our brain, the amygdala, feels threatened, it triggers a fight-or-flight response that can cause people to act irrationally. Acting in an emotionally intelligent way, one that is self-aware, and aware of the emotions and motives of others, can help to rewire our physiological responses in times of stress and crisis.
Hadley describes the effects of crisis — be it work stress, family drama or physical injury — as “shutting down” the best part of our brains.
“Pressure, stress, high demands, these are things that end up making us not be our best selves,” Hadley said. “That really is the heart of emotional intelligence. We’re all hardwired to kind of go into protection mode when we’re under stress and pressure, and when we do that, we turn off the ‘Captain of our Ship.’ That’s when we don’t do our best work.”
A man’s emotional intelligence once helped save Hadley’s life, and now it’s Hadley’s life work.
A onetime publisher for Phoenix Business Journal, Hadley, of Phoenix, splits her professional life between two companies. One, the Culture Coaches, is a management consulting group that strives to improve work¬place culture.
The other, the Southwest Institute of Emotional Intelligence, coaches people on how to manage their emotions in an effort to maximize leadership and performance, both personally and professionally.
“My mission is to have a grass-roots effort and spread this concept,” Hadley said. “It’s so great. It really does make people happier and makes them interact better.”
For Hadley, lives don’t hang in the balance. But, sometimes companies and careers do.
Hadley has seen that when people interact better in a workplace, it creates a more positive and creative working environment, allowing employees to flourish and companies to find success. Of course, the opposite is also true.
In the boardroom, one of her mantras is that soft skills produce hard results. This means that a manager’s interpersonal touch, her attitude and personality, can motivate or disenfranchise co-workers. Similarly, Hadley is also fond of saying that one’s IQ will get an employee in the door, but his EQ, or emotional intelligence, will keep him there.
Companies, including DMB Realty, Dial Corp., BlueCross BlueShield Association and Republic Media, which publishes this magazine, have brought in Hadley to teach seminars on topics including conflict management, team building and the “Three Es of Extraordinary Customer Experience.”
Bobi Seredich, Hadley’s business partner and longtime friend, said Hadley is a natural for this type of consulting. “She’s passionate about it,” Seredich, 41, of Phoenix, said. “She just has the right combination of being able to inspire, entertain and educate.”
But Hadley doesn’t just teach emotional intelligence. During her seminars, she openly discusses her personal struggles to become more emotionally intelligent, and she notes on her website that she is trying to become more flexible and adaptable.
She knows she’ll never be perfect. But she has also seen firsthand the difference emotional intelligence can make — both in an office and on a rapidly flooding campground in the middle of the night.
“It’s a journey where you’re always getting better,” Hadley said. “Part of being emotionally intelligent is being aware of that.”
5 ways to boost your emotional intelligence
Joelle Hadley is most often called upon by corporate clients who hope to raise their company’s collective emotional intelligence. She’s often confronted with leaders who don’t understand the negative impact their management style is having on their em-ployees — or with employees who don’t do a good job of handling the tasks and obsta¬cles that come their way.
But all kinds of people can benefit from improving their emotional intelligence, a phrase that describes a person’s ability to understand and control his or her own emotions and to understand and respond to the emotions of others.
Hadley has a few general tips on how to handle adversity with grace — to be able to acknowledge it, move past it and remain centered.
KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. Everyone has people and situations that trigger negative emotions. Know them and anticipate them.
STEM YOUR JUDGEMENT. Hadley said most people judge themselves by their intentions and others by their actions. Employ more patience and understanding. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
CARE FOR YOURSELF. Hadley uses the mnemonic HALT as a way to remember that when people are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, they are more easily irritated by things that would not normally be triggers. Proactively care for yourself and look for signs of those issues in others when you’re having a conflict.
GO AHEAD AND SOSS. For people in the middle of a crisis, Hadley recommends going through a series of steps to reduce stress. First, Stop and disengage from the activity or conversation. Oxygenate, or breathe. Strengthen your heart by thinking about something you’re grateful for in the moment. Then Seek information by asking powerful, open-ended questions.
LET SOME THINGS GO. Hadley advises letting go of the right to be right. She suggests that instead of convincing someone of your rightness, focus on the best possible outcome for both of you and put your energy into making it a reality.
Want to learn more from Joelle? Check out her amazing interactive course, Me Inc, at www.WeHelpWomen.com. Click here to get started with this course.