It took Eagles Quarterback Nick Foles Exactly six words to Teach a Major Life Lesson in Emotional Intelligence

Late last year, Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles took over for injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz when he suffered a torn ACL. Many believed the Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes had been devastated. But Foles proved otherwise, as he successfully led the Eagles through the playoffs and brought the city of Philadelphia its very first Super Bowl victory.

To say the past few weeks have been a case of déjà vu is a gross understatement. 

Once again, Wentz has gone out with a serious injury (this time to his back), and Foles has taken over. Since that time, Foles and the Eagles have won four consecutive games, including yesterday’s playoff victory over the higher-seeded Chicago Bears.

You don’t have to be an Eagles fan–or even a football fan–to appreciate Foles’s accomplishments. 

It’s more than the classic underdog story. To watch Foles in action is to take a class in leadership with emotional intelligence, the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

Case in point? 

Check out Foles’s postgame interview after yesterday’s playoff win. Asked what’s going through his mind in these high-pressure situations, Foles said this: 

“What I learned on those stages is just how to calm myself in a chaotic moment, when there’s … a ton of pressure. And just really simplifying in my head. Getting in the huddle, looking at the guys that I trust. Know that it’s all on the line for us and we’re just going to get the job done.”

Foles then summed up the lesson in six simple words:

“It’s just belief in one another.”

Foles’s comments may be inspiring, but they’re also backed up by serious research. For example, Google spent years studying effective teams and found that a single factor contributed most to their success: psychological safety. 

Google describes it this way:

“In a team with high psychological safety, teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea.”

There’s a simpler term for psychological safety, and it’s one that Foles used repeatedly through his postgame interview:

The word is trust. 

And great teams thrive on it.

That trust in your teammates, the belief that Foles speaks about, doesn’t come easily. But Foles used his experience in yesterday’s game to explain how you can build it.

Having admitted that things weren’t going well for the Eagles offensively, Foles gave his defensive players credit for helping keep his team in the game.

“They just kept coming and telling us: ‘We got you. We got you. We’re going to get you the ball back,'” said Foles. “They never turn; they never get upset.”

He continued:

“It’s about believing in one another–in the hard times. It’s easy to pat each other on the back when things are going well. It’s, hey, when things aren’t going well or when I [make mistakes], what’s going to happen? What happened today is I … made a couple of mistakes, but the guys were there to be there for me, to lift me up. The defense said they got me. And that’s what this team is about.”

That’s psychological safety. 

That’trust.

That trust, that belief–along with a leader who practices what he preaches and has learned how to stay calm under pressure–is part of what has made the Philadelphia Eagles one of the most dangerous teams in these playoffs.

And it’s what can help you and your team get the most out of one another–in good times and bad.

If you would like help getting your team to adopt the value of psychological safety, email me at jlmakela@gmail.com or phone 443-364-8341.


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The End of the Traditional Manager

For numerous years I have written, done keynote talks, seminars, and wrote a book Be The Manager People Won’t Leave. All of this effort stemmed from the knowledge that traditional management was dying if it hasn’t already died. If you continue to manage the same way has yesterday you will not be a manager in the future. At least with an organization that has a future.

The future manager may not resemble anything that we are used to. From a recent article published by the Gallup Organization here are the facts of the future of management

By nearly every measure, the workplace is rapidly evolving. Compared to decades past, today’s workplace is defined by:

  • More flexible workspaces: 74% of employees have the ability to move to different areas to do their work
  • More flexible work time: 52% of employees say they have some choice over when they work
  • More remote working: 43% of employees work away from their team at least some of the time.
  • More matrixed teams: 84% of employees are matrixed to some extent.

But this new fluid workplace isn’t just about the work environment. Workplaces are increasingly project-based, and employees today are attracted to interesting problems and meaningful work — not just a job title.

To be more agile in a project-based work environment, teams make more decisions without approval from above, which means non-managers must act more like leaders and think more “big picture” like executives.

But thinking and acting like a leader is what companies want in an employee. Organizations are looking for employees who can make independent decisions with confidence, problem solve with diverse peer groups, and manage their own time, projects, workload, relationships, and career path by themselves.

Implicitly or explicitly, companies often expect employees to “be their own boss” and do for themselves what used to be considered “management.”

This shift in the workplace alters what employees need from their manager. In short, a manager who is always visible, watching every minute and stopping by to ask if you got the memo is becoming obsolete.

What happens when people have more autonomy at work?

Empirical evidence shows a correlation to increased performance and engagement as well as more sensitivity to failure when people have more independence at work.

In other words, autonomy leads to increased employee performance and engagement,but employees still need manager support during difficult situations. Managers can’t offer autonomy and disappear.

As long as businesses employ people, they need leaders who can develop talented individuals. Even for flexible, temp, gig or alternative workers, the personal relationship they have with their supervisor is the most meaningful relationship they have with their organization.

But there are new rules for management, and traditional management practices often don’t work anymore.

For example, often managers assume that remote workers’ expectations are the same as in-office employees’, but there is one phenomenon that separates these two types of workers: isolation. Perceived workplace isolation can lead to as much as a 21% drop in performance.

The reality is that you can’t manage the modern workforce using traditional management methods.

Today’s manager needs to be a coach, holding employees accountable while encouraging development and growth.

With many of the details of management now being automated, what’s left is the most powerful tool a manager has — meaningful conversations.

Consider your favorite sports coach and how they communicate with their star players. They have a deep understanding of their players through hours of dialogue. They know what to say to motivate each player differently — who needs more feedback, who needs less. Over time, great coaches develop the trust and openness needed to have tough conversations under pressure.

Most managers, however, aren’t ready for this kind of personal approach to dialogue with their employees. Organizations can help by providing managers training on how to lead strengths-based, performance-focused conversations regularly with employees.

The Future of Management

Could management itself become decentralized?

Instead of having one “manager,” imagine your best employees interacting with a team of specialized managers — one a technical expert, another an interpersonal relationship guru, another a career coach, etc.

Different managers address specific roadblocks to performance, while also consulting with one another to make sure that they are seeing each employee holistically and objectively.

Of course, managers would still need to have tough conversations with employees when necessary, but they would stay in the background when their team is performing well.

The chance to be mentored by this management dream team dedicated to your long-term career development would be a powerful draw for talented job seekers.

Regardless of what the future holds, it’s worth considering unconventional ideas when it comes to management. Sometimes it is easy to miss how quickly business as we know it is changing.

The old rules no longer apply, and that means leaders need to reinvent management for a more autonomous workforce of the future.

6 Scary Numbers for Your Organization’s C-Suite

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Bill Gates

It’s not the things we worry about that get us in the end, but the things we take for granted. In today’s economy, perhaps more than ever, leaders are waking up to the fact that they can’t take anything for granted and the old rules no longer apply.

It can almost feel like, the more successful your organization, the more in danger you are. And that may be true.

For this reason, good leaders are always in search of evidence to disprove their assumptions and question their biases. So, in that spirit, here are six recent, inconvenient insights from Gallups workplace research that you need to know:

When I work with organizations these 6 things you and I will find the GAPs between what you think you have and what you really have.

1. Only 22% of employees strongly agree their leaders have a clear direction for their organization.

Despite extensive communication plans, presentations and memos, few employees think their leaders know where their organization is headed — and only 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them feel enthusiastic about the future.

One reason may be that most leaders do not include a significant number of people in shaping the vision of their organization. When people feel like they are a part of the process, they are naturally more enthusiastic about the outcome.

2. Only 26% of employees believe their organization always delivers on its promises to customers.

Most business leaders would agree that delivering on your promise to customers — in quality, delivery or experience — is necessary for success. And in today’s connected world, missing the mark can instantly damage your brand’s reputation.

If roughly one in four employees think their organization consistently delivers for customers, leaders should be worried about the long-term health of their enterprises.

3. Only 12% of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding.

It’s hard to imagine there was a time before every organization had an “onboarding” program. But despite its ubiquity in the corporate world, most employees are not happy with the experience.

A great onboarding program should do more than take care of paperwork; it should help new employees experience your unique culture, see how their work matters, know what’s expected of them, and help them picture a long-term career path with you.

4. Only 14% of employees strongly agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve.

The truth is that the traditional annual review is in need of serious overhaul. Fewer than three in 10 employees believe their performance reviews are fair and accurate.

One cause is that performance conversations happen so infrequently — and modern business changes so quickly — that when managers and employees finally talk, few of the goals or measurements make sense anymore. That said, there are things you can do to make performance reviews something employees actually look forward to.

5. 67% of employees say they are sometimes, very often or always burned out at work.

Burnout is a serious matter. Employees who are very often or always burned out are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.

Burnout impacts employee performance, retention, career growth and even family life. It is not inevitable, and it should never be celebrated as part of a so-called “hard-working culture.”

6. 51% of currently employed adults in the U.S. say they are searching for new jobs or watching for new job opportunities.

Not only are half of all employees looking for a new job, nearly half (47%) say now is a good time to find a quality job. So what do workers want in a job?

Many want flexibility and opportunities to grow. Working for a paycheck is not enough to retain great people. Today’s worker wants a job that fits with their life and allows them to develop their talents.

What These 6 Items Mean For Executive Leadership

So what does this mean for leaders? Business is moving faster than ever. The old ways of doing things aren’t working anymore. And today’s executive leadership needs to be more connected — in a persistent, “always-on” capacity — with the emotions, opinions and attitudes of their employees.

Are your employees waiting a year to figure out if they belong with you? Are they waiting a year to talk with their boss about their performance? Waiting a year to grow professionally? Waiting a year to stop feeling burned out? Waiting a year to know leadership’s vision for your organization?

If you leave your employees waiting, they are already leaving — and that should worry any leader.