After the Webinar: Leadership EQ from the Inside Out – Q&A with Thom Dworak

Webinar presenter Thom Dworak answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Leadership EQ from the Inside Out.  Here are some of his responses.


Audience Question: What is the role of organizational culture in fostering emotional intelligence to its employees? 

Thom Dworak: I believe we should be doing it. A few years back, when I got to my third chief, they changed the promotional process. Gone were the normal psychological evaluations that they would send us to. What they built into it was what they call a leadership assessment, and it was entirely emotional intelligence based. My chief was a big believer in EQ. I might not even know what he was doing at the time. We were partners in the investigations unit and he was that guy who can get anybody to confess to him because he understood empathy, he understood how to get to that same vibe with somebody. Looking back, he was one of those few bosses that nobody ever complained about. He wanted those values brought into the organization, and it really helped balance out the organization.

This is one of the reasons why I asked the question about the mission statements. If we don't run the organizations by what those mission and values say, they're really not worth the paper they are written on. It goes back to developing people to their fullest. If I can make an officer, a records clerk better able to understand somebody, it makes the interaction easier, it makes our jobs easier, it makes our lives easier.


Audience Question: If EQ is just so logical, then why is not so common? 

Thom Dworak: If it's so logical then why is it lacking when we needed it most? It's primarily because of emotion. That amygdala hijacking, the survival mechanism in our brain is huge, and once it takes over. It's about the caveman and the professor. The caveman is system 1, it's the emotional system of the brain, it's the automatic response. System 2 is the thinking side of the brain, when we get put under high-level stress, that ability for cognitive decision making goes out the window because the pre-frontal cortex shuts down. 

If we can get better control of our emotions, if we train people in emotional intelligence so that they start to understand what the body is going through when they're getting ramped up, they're better able to control their emotions and the emotions of other people. We can draw people into our environment if we're calm, if we're not overly excited, we can draw them onto us instead of letting ourselves sucked into theirs.


Audience Question: What are your recommendations for dealing with people in your team or in your organization who are just bringing down the group? How do you work with those kinds of people and how do you get them on board a little bit? 

Thom Dworak: I'm a big believer in leading by example and bringing people over to the other side. We can grow emotional intelligence. We need to address the Debbie Downers for what it truly is. Ask them, "What is so bad that is going on?". There truly might be something, you can get an insight that there might actually be issues outside the workplace that are influencing the inside. And if we're being effective leaders we need to know this. 

It will take a tremendous amount of coaching, they might have racked up suspension days and stuff, and at a certain point, they're going to do what they have to not to lose any more time or money. Rather than spending time coaching them, here’s where's your motivational webinar's going to come in handy. We really need to get in there and start peeling the layers of the onion. You can ask, "You were an effective team member, you're not now, what's going on?". Really get them to re-focus, that why is a huge thing in each and every one of us.

Remember why you walked through that door – to be what you want to be. In the end, when you leave, the only thing you're going to take with you is that why. If I said I was a model employee my entire career, I wouldn't be truthful. There are times when you lose focus, and you get an attitude adjustment from a friend or something. Criminal justice isn't an easy career, especially if we see and deal with things and people that majority of the general public don't ever see. It really is a coaching effort. I don't know well many of managers are versed at coaching people rather than just addressing the problem through discipline. 


Audience Question: You talk about getting feedback from team members and getting a sense of how you're perceived in the organization. How do you really get honest feedback? How do you create a culture or relationship where you can really get honest commentary from folks? 

Thom Dworak: This is where relationship trust and mutual respect come in. When I got promoted, which is late in my career, I had babies — those who don't have a lot of experience in law enforcement. I've been a field trainer for most of my career and me with them is just like an extension of my career development. We made mistakes, we'll fix it if we can, but we're not going to lie about it. But I also told them is that if they see me going down the wrong road, whether I'm headed in a wrong decision or I'm getting worked up, tap me out — because I'm going to do the same to you. That kind of starts that process.

 I was having a bad hair day, maybe a couple of two or three in a row. I noticed one of the guys kept coming in sticking his head and he's like, "Hey Sarge, what's up?".  I go, "What's going on James?". At the end of the third day, he comes in and does the same thing.  And I 'm like, "Come in here, sit down, what are you doing?". He goes, "Well, they kind of sent me in to see what kind of mood you are in". And I asked, "Have I been in a bad mood lately, has it been that bad you guys have been noticing?". He goes, "Yeah, kind of. You aren’t been yourself". This is a kid who's got less than two years on, sitting with me who's 28 or 29 years in. And he's reminding me that I'm not acting right. We can establish those relationships, right? And so, I decided to stuff my mood and stop taking it on them. 

It happens to all of us. Part of this emotional intelligence is that you must practice it and you got to be aware of it. It really is intentional practice. When stress and life get in the way sometimes, we tend to forget, but those relationships can be had, but there needs to be trust and respect. When a feedback is given it must be accepted the way it was given, to make us better at what we do.


Audience Question:: How do I help a boss see the value and relevance of EQ? 

Thom Dworak: That it's going to help with interpersonal skills, not only a boss' interpersonal skills, it's going to help the team members. You're going to get fewer complaints. It's going to sound weird, but I am not a fan of standalone de-escalation training. De-escalation is a strategy, it cannot be a standalone check the box kind of class, same thing with procedural justice. But really, when you look at emotional intelligence when you look at the overall goals of what we want to accomplish, it just makes sense. It fits. It seems like common sense, but if it was, then everybody would be doing it. 

It’s really a way of combining de-escalation, procedural justice… and we didn't talk a lot about bias but really there's not a way to control bias. Or if there is, but that pre-frontal cortex that's the overriding factor. If we want to override implicit bias, we need to have the forebrain there so that we can self-assess and self-regulate those emotions to keep that amygdala from hijacking the system and giving in to the caveman.

It overall, makes the workplace better, we get better results, the people are more motivated, there'll be fewer complaints, there'll be more positive interactions, we're going to reduce stress, as well as the associated illnesses that go with it. Maybe it can even work in reducing PTSD and address other mental issues like suicide that come up from it also.


Audience Question: We teach thinking for change for our clients in probation, but we haven't really thought of this as a department for our officers, very few of us practice what we preach. What's your take on that? 

Thom Dworak: It's easy to understand… the caseloads, the pressure they get put on probation to… We got the playbook out, we need you to change your behavior, here's how you do it…. and it becomes almost matter of fact because we do it day after day. We'll need to take a step back, hit your own internal pause button, go back and re-assess your why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Is it just a job or do you really want to make an impact and change the lives of the people who you're involved with and responsible for? It can't be, "Just the facts ma'am", follow checklists, say all the right things, do all the right stuff. It's more than that. 

Take your mask off a little bit or get a smaller one. It helps to re-examine why we're doing what we're doing.  It's not that we don't want to help, it's just that the grind of doing and the frustration that come with it that makes you question if you're really doing any good. It helps to talk to other people. Take that step back, re-examine that why, examine yourself, "Are you just going through the motions, or am I really giving my best here?"

Click Here to View a Recording of Thom Dworak's presentation, "Leadership EQ from the Inside Out."



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